Amanda Deering Jones ’01 believes she made one of the best decisions of her life when she decided to become a theatre major at Graceland University. With an already developed interest in film, the Sarasota, Florida, native grew up in the Community of Christ and aware of Graceland. When it came time to choose a college, she knew she wanted to go somewhere with smaller classes and better access to faculty. A visit to Graceland offered a feeling of comfort and familiarity.
Amanda now works as a script supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, but she fully recognizes that she didn’t get there on her own. “I was lucky enough to be at Graceland during the Kate Musgrove era,” she explains. “She completely transformed the department, and it was the best possible training I could have received.” Amanda also acknowledges her classmates in the theatre department. “We felt like we struck gold as a crew, and they remain very important people in my life. Most especially, I met my amazing husband, Jay-Vincent ’00 at Graceland.”
While great training is important in the film industry, connections are often credited for lifting people to success. For Amanda, it was a Graceland connection. Michael Lewis ’90 was president of the Alumni Board at the time she graduated, and she gives him credit for connecting her to her first film job. “I am one hundred percent certain that I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help.” And where she is now has made a difference – both in her life and those touched by her work.
Having spent nearly her entire career in animation, Amanda feels fortunate to have worked on films that have made an impact on people. Most recently, she has produced the short film Borrowed Time in her off time over the course of five years.
The film has been an official selection for many awards over the past two years, has won seven so far, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2017. “The success of Borrowed Time is beyond thrilling, and the experience has changed my life,” says Amanda. But she says the deeper purpose to affect and reach people has made all her hard work worthwhile.
Amanda doesn’t stop at film when making a difference, however. In her personal life, she has spent the last several years trying to move toward a zero-waste lifestyle. “My husband and I have made great strides, and I try to share what I learn with everyone I know, because most of the changes are pretty easy to implement; it comes down to a choice and voting with your wallet.” Like the Graceland Sustainability program, which has developed since Amanda graduated from Graceland, Amanda sees waste as a big issue. She intends to do more in the future to help the world move away from single-use waste, and she and her husband have recently added seven chickens to her brood (two dogs and one cat) to get their own farm fresh eggs.
Amanda and Jay-Vincent are alumnus with productive careers who are making a difference in people’s lives through their vocation and through the choices that they make.