"On the surface, it seems like the perfect scenario: aspiring filmmaker gets hired to follow and observe a working director, producer, writer, whatever," said the Florida State University film school grad. "Really though, if you're working for someone else in the same field how can you simultaneously be working for yourself?"
Jenkins said the experience was helpful in showing him the "filmmaking process from an insider's point of view," which he admitted was crucial to helping him navigate opportunities later down the road. But, he said, "a job like that demands so much of your energy, sometimes even your passion, that there's little left to direct towards your own work."
After two years of working at Harpo Films in Los Angeles, Jenkins made the decision to leave.
He told Deadline that at the time, he felt like he knew "important people," but had no real idea how to get his own career off the ground. In 2007, he moved to San Francisco. To make ends meet, he picked up a job at a local Banana Republic clothing store. Oddly enough, he says, it was this job that actually fueled him to get his career going.
As a shipment supervisor for Banana Republic, Jenkins told Filmmaker Magazine, he would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to be at work by 5:30 a.m. Then, when he got off around noon, he would drive to a nearby cafe and write. "Working around non-film people every morning on this job, getting the muscles going, having a dialogue with real people and not about 'projects' was a great way to start the day, open up the brain and get some positive energy going."
Taking advantage of the flexibility, Jenkins used his time at Banana Republic to work on his first feature film, "Medicine for Melancholy," which was released in 2008. "In fact," he says, "several people I worked with there are in the film, another shot the still that became the poster."
The film was shot in 15 days on a $15,000 budget and financed by Jenkins' college friend and fellow filmmaker, Justin Barber. It debuted at SXSW and was eventually acquired by IFC Films. The romantic drama had a very short run in theaters, but it jump-started Jenkins' career.