Best in Show: “Deep Breath” by Keyty Ashcraft, Savannah Jones and Maria Najarro, from Lawrence High School.
Best Drama: “The Little Things” by Andrew Lougren, Nathan Mennel and Clark Topjon, Olathe Northwest High School.
Best Horror/Suspense: “Deep Breath” by Keyty Ashcraft, Savannah Jones and Maria Najarro, LHS.
Best Comedy: “Title” by Eddie Loupe, Andrew Stussie, Joe Ryan, Mitchell Eifler and Liam Reynolds, LHS.
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy: “Last Man on Earth” by Eddie Loupe and Andrew Stussie, LHS.
Best Feature/Miscellaneous: “Planet Earth: 2808” by Andrew Shepherd and Jon Harget, Olathe Northwest.
Best Documentary: “Freeling” by Andrew Lougren, Olathe Northwest.
Best Experimental: “Choices” by Matthew Aiello, Blue Valley C.A.P.S.
Best Animation: “From the Farm to Your Table” by Bailie Richards, Lauren Fleming, CJ Roush, Kal Farley, Emory Hubbell and Michael Peterson, LHS.
Best Music Video: “Sail” by Grace Powell, Blue Valley North High School.
Best Original Music Video: “Everything In This Life” by Nathan Mennel and Darien Pentilin, Olathe Northwest.
Best Editing: “High School” by Madeline Webb and Ceci Fyock, Mill Valley High School.
Best Cinematography: “Last Man on Earth” by Eddie Loupe and Andrew Stussie, LHS.
Best Story: “Deep Breath” by Keyty Ashcraft, Savannah Jones and Maria Najarro, LHS.
Best Acting: Nickels Nickelsen in “The Little Things,” Olathe Northwest.
Fan Favorite: “The Road” by Bailie Richards, Lauren Fleming and CJ Roush, LHS.
When the Focus Film Festival began in 2006, a total of four high schools entered 11 films into the competition.
Since then, the festival has grown tremendously with young directors from 14 schools in northeastern Kansas entering nearly 80 films into this year’s edition.
The seventh annual festival, sponsored by Lawrence High School, concluded Sunday at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass. Jeff Kuhr, who teaches film at LHS, credited the festival’s growth to the student organizers.
“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work,” Kuhr said.
The organizers, Bailie Richards, Lauren Fleming and CJ Roush, all seniors at LHS, agreed. They went to business after business looking for sponsors and raising support for the event.
The trio also managed to win a few awards along the way. “From the Farm to Your Table” won Best Animation, and “The Road,” the story of a runaway high school girl, won Fan Favorite.
Lawrence High took home a total of eight awards, including Best in Show, won by Keyty Ashcraft, Savannah Jones and Maria Najarro, all juniors. “Deep Breath,” which won them professional film editing software, was a dark exploration into the troubled life of a girl whose mother mysteriously vanished.
“It’s just amazing; we put so much hard work into it,” Ashcraft said.
The festival presented 16 awards and played each winning film to the audience. The films explored a variety of themes. There was “Planet Earth: 2808,” directed by Andrew Shepherd and Jon Harget of Olathe Northwest High School, which depicted two warring groups in a futuristic Earth. “The Little Things,” directed by Andrew Lougren, Nathan Mennel and Clark Topjon of Olathe Northwest, was about a young man who commits suicide.
Kuhr said the festival was special because it portrayed youths’ experience in the world.
One of the festival judges was Debra Granik, director of the award-winning independent film “Winter’s Bone.” Two years ago, Granik spoke to Kuhr’s class and has been a supporter of the festival ever since. Although she did not attend the event, she wrote detailed reviews for the filmmakers, giving them rare feedback from an acclaimed professional.
But the most invaluable support came from Kuhr.
“He’s definitely one of those teachers that are well-deserving for all the praise they receive,” said Roush.
“And deserves much more,” added Richards.
“He’s been the most inspiring person in my life in high school,” said Fleming, who will study film at Kansas University next year.