Alumnus edits award-winning documentary

Sundance film guide describes it as “a masterpiece filled with hope and the potential to affect change”

May 1, 2012

By Maria Lovelette ‘13

As a computer geek at Saint John's University, Paul Frost never expected to make his mark in the film industry.

Yet in hindsight, the 2002 SJU graduate in computer science recognizes that his liberal arts experience laid the foundation for his career.

Frost is the editor of an award-winning documentary at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The festival showcases American-made films and highlights low-budget, independent films.

Frost's documentary, "The House I Live in," won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize and was described in the Sundance Film guide as "the definitive film on the failure of America's drug war."

The film guide also describes it as "a masterpiece filled with hope and the potential to affect change."

"The House I Live In" explores the deep issues regarding the 40-year War on Drugs, a campaign that has accounted for 45 million arrests in the United States. This film discusses the policies in the United States that have led to drugs being cheaper, purer and more available today than ever. 

As a student, Frost immersed himself in different cultures through study abroad in Greece and Italy. He also spent a semester studying foreign language in Salzburg, Austria. After graduating from SJU, he continued his education at the Concordia language villages where he worked on editing videos with kids at the German language camp.

That experience sparked an interest in film-making and led to a six week program at The Edit Center in Manhattan, N.Y. These experiences helped prepare him for a career in film editing when Eugene Jarecki approached him to work on "The House I Live In."

Many of the courses Frost took at CSB and SJU also helped with that preparation by opening his mind to issues of social justice in the world.

 "From the very start of my gender course, as well as the theology and Judeo Christian heritage courses, I found an environment that fostered open discussion of issues of social justice," he said. In relation to his time abroad, Frost said, "Spending a significant amount of time in a foreign country is one of the opportunities I value most about my liberal arts education at CSB and SJU, because it taught me to question policies and practices that I had long since accepted and that for many have become the status quo."

For Frost, the ability to question the status quo, combined with his commitment to social justice and his computer skills, enabled him to challenge a 40-year-old government policy.

 "In working on The House I Live In, I came to realize that very often, it's not the horrific ends we should be on the lookout for, but rather the machinations that lead up to those ends.

 "When I graduated from SJU with a computer science degree, I couldn't imagine that I would ever make a career of editing. Now I cannot imagine doing anything else."