Jon Jenkins: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Design

You submitted nominations for the best and brightest emerging Valley creatives, and the results are in. Presenting the 2015 Big Brain finalists.

Leading up to the announcement of winners at Artopia on May 9, Jackalope Ranch, Chow Bella, and Up on the Sun will introduce the finalists. Up today is Jon Jenkins.

"Phoenix is a secret," Jon Jenkins says as he sits in First Draft Book Bar, a pair of Phoenix Art Museum sunglasses hanging from his shirt pocket and the newest issue of Cereal magazine next to him on the table.

The 26-year-old filmmaker and photographer left his home state of Florida seven years ago to attend Scottsdale Community College's film school, known as one of the top programs in the nation, and got swept up in Phoenix's arts community.

"This place is sweet," Jenkins says. "This place lets you do whatever you want to do."

See also: Announcing the 2015 Big Brain Finalists

Jenkins' interest in film started developing around age 11 in the skate parks of Jacksonville. His parents' Sony Hi8 in hand, he documented his friends and was inspired by local skate video legend Tyler Shields, who since has become a well-known photographer in Los Angeles.

Jenkins' first big break came at 16 when the wheel company M1 Urethane hired him to create an internationally distributed skate video, before the days of YouTube, when it took more than the click of a mouse to share a video across the Internet.

Since then, Jenkins has worked on projects ranging from a profile of Roosevelt Growhouse to a behind-the-scenes look at a Teen Vogue cover shoot.

"It's like you're getting all these little pieces to figure out how to get where you want to get to," Jenkins says. "I feel like everything is for a reason."

But Jenkins is adamant that his interests have evolved since his skate video days, and watching any of his more recent films proves it. He's kept some of the lo-fi techniques he learned through those early videos but has developed a more ethereal quality in his work.

"[My style] is always changing," Jenkins says. "Kind of like a copycat in some ways . . . not copy it to a T but get really inspired and make something similar just to prove to myself I can do that style."

Jenkins credits this development in part to the creative community and "entrepreneurs of art" he's worked with in Phoenix. From living at Combine Studios, a multi-use live and work space in downtown Phoenix, to working with local talent and mentors like multidisciplinary artist Steven Yazzie and Greg Esser, artist and founder of Roosevelt Row CDC, Jenkins has realized success comes from collaborating with the community.

"I've realized local projects get a lot more traction, like hits, just positive projects in general," Jenkins says. "Projects that are not making my name bigger on the Internet basically are the ones . . . that do the best."

Jenkins says his next step is to get representation and consider trying out a bigger city, but he may come back one day. This city, he says, has relit his passion for art.

"I'm not going to abandon Phoenix at all," he says. "Everything I want to film now, I want it to be positive, and it's all in front of me. Like Roosevelt Row, it needs to be documented. It's really inspiring."

The 2015 Big Brain Award winners will be announced on Saturday, May 9, during New Times' Artopia, an evening of food, drink, art, and music at Monarch Theatre. For details and tickets, $25, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.

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