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24 May 2011

Jenny Lee - Director - Jericho Films

Jenny Lee - Director - Jericho Films

Jenny Lee is founding director of Jericho Films and founder of Zion Social Enterprises, a not-for-profit community interest company that uses creativity for impacting society and transforming lives. She founded the I Will Tell international film festival that provides a platform for filmmakers from around the world to come together and tell their stories. Jenny was born in Trinidad and Tobago and moved to the UK at the age of 19. She graduated from the University of Bristol in Mathematics and Philosophy and worked in the financial services as an actuarial consultant and international project manager for 12 years before moving to the third sector to focus on using creativity to change lives. She enjoys writing, reading, travelling and all things creative. Her favourite pastime is ‘liming’ with her very large extended family.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be many things, but mostly a nurse and an oceanographer. A nurse because my auntie who lived in England was a nurse, and an oceanographer because I saw a documentary about beached whales and decided I would help them - even though I didn't even know how to swim at the time.

How did you get involved in the media?

It's a little strange. I saw a TV programme called Faking It, in which a hairdresser pretended to be a TV director and fooled all the experts. A little voice kept saying to me you could do that. I spent 3 days dismissing it and laughing with my friends about it until finally I gave in. There was a filmmaking course on that weekend that somehow made its way to my inbox and so I started from there. It was one of those courses where they tell you if you want to make a film you just go out there and make one - and I believed them - and they were right, but it may not be the easiest way of getting into the business.

You had a successful career in the city. Good move?

Well, I take two steps at a time on my way to work now. It's an excellent move for so many reasons. It's great starting from scratch, putting a team together and watching what was just an idea in your head come to life. Most of all I suspect it's because I have finally started on the track of doing what I was created to do. A good friend of mine says I am on the axis for my praxis.

How has your faith shaped the aim and values of Jericho Films?

It has made a huge difference. My first film production company was called J'Ouvert Films in commemoration of a wonderful tradition from Trinidad and Tobago where people get together to use music, dance and creative expression to raise issues of national importance. Much of it is inspirational. Some of it is a little dubious.

I now understand better though that it's not enough to shine a light on the things we don't like but we must actively seek to break down the walls and rebuild on a good solid foundation, so in a sense that's what Jericho Films and Zion Social Enterprises are attempting to do together - break down walls and rebuild lives.

And still that does not fully capture the difference that faith in Jesus makes. It comes out in lots of little and some big ways, that are too simple and yet too profound to explain fully in words.

Did you rehearse your Oscar speech as a child….?

No. It had never entered my thoughts really but maybe I should get working on that.

What's your joy in the 'I Will Tell' Film festival?

Joy - oh, was I supposed to be having fun? Seriously, it would have to be the opportunity to show truly inspirational films, meet fantastic inspirational speakers and then watch as the lights go off in people's heads.

As a bit of a movie buff what's your favourite movie and why?

Definitely The Matrix (the first one only). It broke through new barriers in cinematography and story-telling, the directing was superb, it's a film that even die-hard realists who hate fantasy and sci-fi would love, and it's a wonderful allegory of salvation and living in Christ.

Can film effectively communicate change?

Yes. It has, it does and it will continue to do so. Any form of story-telling has the power to effect change by teaching, inspiring and influencing. In fact, did you know that if Jesus came in our time he would be an independent filmmaker? Films are particularly potent because they stimulate your visual and auditory senses while you're in a darkened room where no one can see you and your defences are down, your emotions heightened and your entire focus is on the screen in front of you.

Shameless but serious plug - we are distributing a powerful documentary at the moment, called We Need To Talk that is genuinely changing lives.

What is your dream for society?

That we will become united with the single vision and purpose of showing the love, goodness and mercy of God towards each other.

What is your biggest achievement thus far?

It's that I am still doing what I believe God has asked me to do.

Tell us a joke

I am awful at telling jokes, but I'll tell you a story about my eight year old nephew who is one of the funniest people I know. His mom was once driving without her seatbelt. She saw a police officer and immediately grabbed the belt to secure it. He shouted from the backseat: "Why do all old people do that?" She gave him that look as if to say you are cutting a fine line here and he immediately corrected himself by saying: "Oh sorry, Mom, I mean why do all elderly people do that?"