I stumbled across Jenka’s blog after she wrote, How the Internet Killed the Rock Star (…not the way you think). I was impressed by Jenka’s ability to communicate complex ideas clearly. Whether it’s digital strategy, transmedia experiences or music and video promotion, Jenka understands how people think and why they do things. As you can imagine, this is a pretty good trait for a strategist.  


Sarah: This isn’t what you currently do, but I really want to know how you became a circus manager!
Jenka: Like the preview for “Water For Elephants” says: “I don’t know if I picked that circus, but something told me that circus picked me.” The circus I worked for is more akin to Cirque du Soleil than Ringling Bros. The only animals being abused there are humans. How did I end up there? Long, long ago, I used to work in fashion PR, and used to stage manage fashion shows. An old friend of mine had become a fashion designer, and in 2005, she asked me to stage manage a runway show she was doing at a Valentine’s-themed party where the circus was performing. That night, the director of the circus asked me if I’d want to be their production manager. And I said yes.

Sarah: Really, being in the circus is only one of the cool jobs you’ve had. Can you tell us about some others?
Jenka: Well, I just outed myself as having worked in fashion PR, too. Although, that really wasn’t so cool at all. Before people were using the term “social media,” what I do was being called “culture marketing.” Which sounds cool. I used to be the marketing director for a big music festival. I’ve worked with a lot of musicians. But the coolest job I had was probably in high school when I used to get paid to be a photographer at Artists For Humanity. That was cool.

Sarah: With your current job, you still manage to find the time to write insightful blog posts over on social-creature.com. Are your posts mostly inspired by the work you do, or do they come from all over?
Jenka: They generally come from a deep fascination with culture and identity. Between the culture of my Russian-Jewish family and the culture of urban, east coast America, I spent my youth in two very contrasting environments. In college, I minored in bioanthropology, which is the study of evolution of human behavior — same as physical traits evolve, behavioral traits are the results of evolutionary forces, as well. To me, it all ties into the same thing: exploring the human operating system. Why humans do what they do. Now, it’s actually gotten to a point where people will send me their ideas for posts they think I ought to write. I got that Malcolm Gladwell article about social media from last year sent to me by like four different people telling me I should write about it. I wish I had the time to get to it all!

Sarah: You’ve also just launched a fiction project called MirrorLAnd. How long have you been working on that?
Jenka: I started writing MirrorLAnd at the end of 2005 — same year as I joined the circus. For a long time, it was kind of a half-written idea about this 21st version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but set in LA, and in the underground circus culture. It was just collecting dust in the corner of my hard drive. And then in 2009 I developed this idea for how I could release it online — in serialized installments, incorporating the real art and artists from the west coast culture that inspired the story. So that was when I really got serious about finishing it and bringing it to life. It’s got 12 chapters, and with one released each month this is basically an experiment I’m committing to for a year. I’d love for it to get published as a graphic novel. We’ll see what happens!

Sarah: In your day job, what’s your favorite project you’ve worked on over the last year?
Jenka: My favorite project from last year is something that I worked on with a music client of mine. Last summer I saw a beyond-epic 9-minute video, called “The Apple Tree,” featuring VFX shots, action clips, and dance sequences from like 700 different movies in a mind-scrambling montage scored to music by The Glitch Mob. The first time I watched it I had to hit pause every 30 seconds just to catch my breath. Among the clips used in the video were a handful from Tron: Legacy. So the Glitch Mob and I teamed up with Khameleon808, the auteur behind the Apple Tree, and the result was this video:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98HvZZHA81M]

It got picked up by Wired.com, and singled out by the Sean Bailey, the head of production at Disney. I hear there’s talk of The Glitch Mob doing something official for Disney soon. For my crimes in coming up with the idea for this whole thing, Wired called me a “social media maven.” Which is kind of embarrassing, but it’s Wired. So you gotta take that and rub it all over yourself.

Sarah: If someone was looking to follow in your digital and transmedia strategist footsteps, what advice would you give them?
Jenka: Well, I’ve had a really circuitous route to get to where I am now — from managing a circus, to promoting festivals, to working with bands. It’s hard for me to direct people in my footsteps since they’re really kind of all over the place. But ultimately all that weird experience has contributed to getting me here. And furthermore, it’s an asset. My perspective and my frame of reference are so much broader because of the experiences that I’ve had and what I’ve gotten to learn through them. I think that’s probably the key. Being able to learn something new from all the work you do. Curiosity is probably the best asset you can have in any creative field. Exploring and synthesizing diverse ideas. Not a lot of ways to go wrong with that. I think if you really want to do what I do, you’re probably already involved in some aspect of doing it. You probably can’t help yourself. Other valuable advice for the road: the trick to sounding like an “expert,” is just having a unique opinion. Also, don’t get good at something you don’t want to do.

Thanks to Jenka for answering all of my questions! If you’d like to read more from her, you can check out her blog, read her graphic novel or follow her on Twitter