Young Guns 18: Jess Colquhoun

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie Posted on Nov 18, 2020

Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18

2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!

Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.

In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.

We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.







When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?

I first heard about Young Guns this year through my production company Stept Studios who kindly suggested I check it out and I’m very grateful for the recommend.

You're a first-time entrant — congrats! What made you enter this year?

This year was my first time applying and truthfully, I thought I should wait a year to build upon my portfolio further, but I’m very glad I gave it a shot. Despite feeling hesitate to submit, Stept Studios encouraged me to try this year even though I feel I haven’t reached the caliber of work that previous creatives have shown. This is my first time applying and I would definitely recommend others to go for it.

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?

I try to balance passion projects and professional work and I'm always looking for opportunities to combine the two, so I submitted a range of films that show this– from projects I shot myself to commissioned work with clients. Most of the work features stories that I discovered initially, and then I would seek out a platform or develop further with Stept Studios who brings new possibilities to my projects.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?

I’m so thrilled and beyond grateful to be chosen as one of the winners this year! I admire so many of the filmmakers nominated, so it’s a huge honor and a great boost of confidence and motivation to keep pushing forward.

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

‘Sundays At The Triple Nickel’ is one of the most special projects I've worked on as I feel incredibly fortunate to share Majories story. It begun as a passion project years before we actually ended up shooting, but I immediately knew there was a film after discovering her jazz shows in Harlem and the legacy she’s building. The shoot was a really intimate and moving experience for the whole crew as we were kindly invited in by her family and the whole community at The Triple Nickel.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?

‘Sundays At The Triple Nickel’ is my most recent film and the project that defines the kind of work I hope to keep creating. I’m inspired by real life and people, and stories told with a truthful and intimate lens that feel emotive and impactful. I enjoy the creative process of discovering and developing how to tell different stories, and finding the right medium and designing a distinct voice for every project rather than creating with one particular style in mind.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

My brother Rob Colquhoun is definitely my main mentor and influence. He’s a multi-creative who never sits still. He is always learning new skills and pushing his passions across music, graphic design, collages, animation, the list goes on… His drive to create and his curiosity has been a big impact on me– we challenge each other to keep evolving and taking risks.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

So many! Savanah Leaf (YG17) and Niclas Larsson’s (YG17) work is beautiful and gives me all the feels.

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?

This year has definitely been a whirlwind of experiences and challenges, but of immense growth and perspective. I’ve held onto my love of cinema and creating to stay inspired and to feel hopeful throughout this time, and I've seen it as a great lesson in patience and perseverance.

Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

If I’m lucky, I’ll still be chasing the same dream to create films that resonate and stay with you for as long as possible.

Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?

A huge thank you to Young Guns for this opportunity– I’m so grateful to have been nominated alongside such an incredible group of filmmakers and to be selected as a winner is an added bonus. I encourage all creatives to believe in their work and put it forward, becasue you never know!


"Jess’s films are a beautiful tapestry of human stories that need to be told. Stories that reveal the passions and emotions of a great storyteller, and are beautifully captured in a naturalistic yet cinematic way. The biggest highlight of Jess’s films and documentaries — commercial or not — is that they become true tools of human empowerment. Jess has a great ability to discover amazing and compelling stories and craft them to serve a higher purpose — inspiring change, breaking old standards, awakening opportunities or highlighting the importance of being part of the community."

Cristina Rodriguez Reina
SVP, Executive Creative Director
McCann New York

"What I love about Jess is that every piece of film she creates is absolutely dripping with personality, brimming with humanity, and bursting with heart."

Genie Gurnani
Executive Creative Director
VIRTUE Worldwide

"Jess Colquhoun’s work masterfully encourages the audience to be curious. Her poetic approach to unravel stories is magnetic and evidence of a deep dedication to celebrating humanity. This is a significant and thrilling body of work that sheds light on politics, representation, and reality. I have no doubt that everybody in her audiences would walk away mesmerized by magical moments she has created on screen."

Gracia Lam
Young Guns 8 Winner

"Jess has a genuine and honest interest in who she’s documenting, it is this ability that draws you in as a viewer. Her choice of subjects of young women, youth culture, women in general reveals the storytelling material of empowerment and hope."

"The human interest in the forefront shows the deep connection that she has with her subjects. I could feel her passion for her storytelling and the “branding” isn’t overpowering."

"In what feels like an exercise in reverse psychology the branding seems to take a secondary role but ultimately through Jess’s story telling naturally emerges into its own spotlight."

"This Young Guns Winner is a natural filmmaker and storyteller!"

"A well deserved Young Guns winner!"

Lynda Churilla
Photographer & Director
Young Guns 1 Winner



Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 18 Archive



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