Full Focus: How a campus film festival built a friendship

72 hours spent working together cultivated creative success

The Journal's video editors partly credit the Focus Film Festival for their great teamwork.
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Jonathon: As a Film and Media minor, I knew entering university that I wanted to get involved in extracurricular activities that fostered my interest in making videos. Little did I know that, now, as a third-year student, I’d be the video editor at The Queen’s Journal.

In a lot of ways, it all started at the 2019 Focus Film Festival, where I met my current Journal assistant editor, Lauren. When we first met, we could never have imagined where we’d both be today.

When we first met, we could never have imagined where we’d both be today.

The Focus Film Festival is a Queen’s-run filmmaking competition that takes place each January. In the span of 72 hours, 15 to 20 groups of Queen’s students are challenged to write, shoot, and edit a short film. Students are put into groups based on their preferred filmmaking roles, meaning you’re often paired with people from various faculties.

Each year, the festival has a different theme that the films must follow. From clichés to a popular song—or, in our case, a movie quote—groups are awarded based on their use of the theme at the viewing gala two weeks after the festival.

Lauren and I—who were strangers to one another—were put into the same group at last year’s festival. At the time we didn’t think much of it. We were too busy getting straight into our film, as well as getting to know our five other group members.

After a night of brainstorming, we came up with a plan for the weekend. Our team’s movie quote was “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” from the classic film Gone with the Wind.

After spending the first day on the screenplay, we prepared for the 12-hour shoot at my house the following day. The work was intense, and forced our team to move efficiently and productively, sitting around the set for our single break, eating Chinese food, and getting to know one another. In a lot of ways that was the point of the festival: building relationships around a collective goal.

Following three days of hard work and collaboration, we came out of Focus 2019 satisfied and fulfilled, having created a film we were proud of and strong relationships with our team members, despite being strangers a few days prior.

The festival built upon our love of filmmaking, and motivated both Lauren and I to continue pursuing film-related extracurriculars. That’s why we both independently decided to apply for Journal video positions a few months later.

Lauren: Jonathon and I both applied to be video editors for The Journal, unaware of one another’s plan to do the same. This past summer, Jon officially began his position as a video editor, while I casually contributed a couple of videos and news articles. When I applied to officially become a part of The Journal this September, I had no idea that Jon was already on staff.

When we saw who the other member of this two-person team was, we couldn’t believe that we were reunited with a friend from Focus. I knew I was in for a great year making videos because it was a pleasure working with Jon the year before. At our first meeting at The Journal House, we walked in and greeted each other like old friends rather than new co-workers.

Our friendship has thrived under these unique circumstances. Jon and I have never had to “break the ice,” whether last year at the festival or in our current roles. When we first met at Focus in 2019, we jumped straight into filmmaking without a moment to spare. And when we randomly reunited as the sole members of The Journal’s video team, we already felt comfortable with one another. Wasting no time with formalities, we dove straight into our work, filming a video our first weekend as Journal staff together.

Working as video editors at The Journal is a lot like making a film at Focus. “Write. Shoot. Edit. 72 hours.” is Focus’ slogan, and that’s also a pretty accurate description of our jobs as Video Editor and Assistant Video Editor. The only thing that’s different at The Journal is that we’re trying to make a new time-crunched video every week.

“Write. Shoot. Edit. 72 hours.” is Focus’ slogan, and that’s also a pretty accurate description of our jobs as Video Editor and Assistant Video Editor.

Producing videos together is an experience like no other. Each project is a challenge that we embrace. Our common love of filmmaking combines a passion for creativity, problem-solving, self-improvement, and concentration.

Making weekly videos for The Journal has taken the two of us on plenty of adventures so far. This ranges from running what feels like miles with cameras and mics in our hands on Homecoming while chasing Queen’s Bands all over campus to trusting a taxi driver who didn’t “believe in GPS” to drop us off at a correct filming location in November to staying up until 4:30 a.m. on a weekly basis trying to perfectly edit ground-breaking videos—like the one we made about sushi burritos.

Whether we’re attending the election night parties of Kingston’s federal candidates, making arts and crafts in my apartment for an animated video, or rocking out to a local band’s single song for the 10,000th time while editing their music video, we make the most of each new experience.

I’ve got to admit, making these weekly videos is hard work. It’s weird work. It’s exactly the kind of work that I want to be doing right now as a 19-year-old film student in Kingston, and I’m thankful to be doing it with Jon. He has a talent for keeping his cool in high-pressure situations, and I’m glad it’s contagious.

We found our rhythm within minutes of working together this year, and that is 100 per cent attributed to our shared Focus experience.

Both: While our production budget is currently zero dollars, we both put a lot of time, effort, and care into each video we make as if each were a million-dollar blockbuster. And with the wide array of tasks involved in video-making, whether it be mastering the use of microphones and lenses, or honing our editing and direction, it’s rewarding to see our abilities grow each week.

While our production budget is currently zero dollars, we both put a lot of time, effort, and care into each video we make as if each were a million-dollar blockbuster.

In our opinion, Focus Film Festival is the ultimate showcase of the best part of the Queen’s student community. The Queen’s community is big enough that there are a variety of great opportunities, while it’s also tight-knit enough that by participating in your interests, you’re likely to cross paths with others who share your passions again.

We both participated in Focus Film Festival again this year. While we weren’t assigned to the same group, we had a blast making new movies and meeting new friends.

We didn’t know what to expect at the first Focus Film Festival, or what working at The Journal would be like. But after a heavy weekend of filmmaking followed by a semester of creating weekly videos, it’s cultivated and solidified a creative alliance neither of us expected or saw coming.

It’s proved to be something we now can’t imagine our university careers without, and this is just the beginning—stay tuned.

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