George Mason University

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Graduation profile: From almost dropping out to being all in

May 14, 2018   /   by Buzz McClain

Donovan Jones (left) and his fraternal twin brother DeShane are graduating from film and video studies program. Photo by Ron Aira.

The cap and gown have been purchased, the final projects have been handed in and Commencement is approaching. But walking in the procession with cohorts in the George Mason University Class of 2018 almost didn’t happen for Donovan Jones.

“I considered dropping out multiple times,” Jones said.

Jones, a Film and Video Studies major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, minored in Entrepreneurship in the School of Business. In fact, it was his ambitious, entrepreneurial mindset that made him reconsider higher education.

“As a freshman I thought, ‘I could be so much further than I am right now if I didn’t have school to hold me back.’ Honestly, [school] was easy,” he said.

But Jones found valuable inspiration in the form of supportive classmates and Mason professors who inspired him to challenge himself.

“I’m glad I stayed,” he said. “The opportunities and people I connected with and just being around the ‘FAVS family’ has definitely been life-changing.”

Among those opportunities was being assigned to the position of assistant director of FAVS director Giovanna Chesler’s 10-minute short called “The Pick Up.”

“It was a real film set, with 40-plus people,” he said of the experience that thrust him into a leading role in the production. “I had to learn a lot very quickly.”

The experiences on all of the film lab projects he participated in, combined with the classroom coursework, contributed to Jones’ successful completion of his own films, about a dozen in all. Along the way, he won FAVS’ annual Digital Pitch Competition for the best presentation of a proposed film. He added the $500 prize to the $500 he raised through an Indiegogo campaign to help budget his senior thesis film, a dramatic, somewhat autobiographical short called “Running.”

Meanwhile, Jones continued to work in key production roles on music videos produced by a Washington, D.C., firm, House of Wealth, and helped FAVS professor Benjamin Steger produce a documentary television series called “Vibrations” which looks at the impact of artists, cultures and music in locales around the world.

Jones is hoping “Vibrations” leads to more travel opportunities. His study- abroad journey over spring break with his entrepreneurship classmates to Colombia, where they observed how local businesses benefit the surrounding communities, opened his eyes to how an entrepreneur can create social change for good.

Travel, he said, “gives me insight on how I can influence the world in some way.”

Jones came to Mason after graduating from St. Georges Technical High School in his hometown of Middletown, Del. He and his fraternal twin brother, DeShane, arrived at Mason together, studied filmmaking together (DeShane is the film editor to Donovan’s directing producer) and will graduate together.

“I think [Mason’s FAVS program] was definitely what I needed to launch a potential career,” DeShane said. “I was afraid of this major because I knew nothing about making movies. I just knew I liked watching them.”

“Donovan and Shane Jones bring vision, integrity, diligence and an entrepreneurial spirit to making films that matter,” said Steger. “Whether it be via the creation of non-profit public service announcements, music videos, documentaries, interactive videos or fiction films, they aim to change the world for the better through the cinematic medium, and I fully expect them to do so.”

After graduation, the Jones brothers are likely to start a film production company.

“I will look to start training in broadcast engineering while looking for other opportunities to work with digital media and content,” said DeShane.

As for Donovan, “I want to be doing what I’m doing, because I’m doing what I love,” Donovan said. “I want to do what I love until I’m good at it. I feel like it can get me to the place I want to be.”


Topics: Graduation