Though the Academy Awards are still months away, the Samuel Goldwyn Theater was adorned with giant Oscar statuettes as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated the winners of the 42nd Student Academy Awards on Thursday evening in Beverly Hills.
The Awards honored the 15 students whose films were voted on by Academy members from among the 33 finalists announced in August. After spending the week sharing their work with each other, meeting industry professionals and touring the Academy archives, the winners were joined by family and friends as the gold, silver and bronze medal placements in each category were revealed.
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs kicked off the awards ceremony, noting the record number of entries received this year (1,686 films from 282 domestic and 93 international colleges and universities) as well as the fact that this was the first time that submissions were completed online.
“Fast and Furious” actress Michelle Rodriguez then took the stage to present the foreign film winners.
“Having grown up in a multicultural household, I know exposure to other cultures can make one’s life richer,” Rodriguez shared as she introduced each film.
Ilker Catak nabbed top honors for his film “Fidelity,” based on the uprising in Turkey in 2013.
Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter was on hand to present the winners for animation and alternative film, and took a moment to reminisce about his own experiences as a two-time Student Academy Award winner in 1979 and 1980. (His son, Bennett Lasseter, also picked up the bronze for his narrative film “Stealth.”)
“One of the greatest things about the Student Academy Awards was the week spent with the other winners, because they became lifelong friends,” Lasseter explained. “One of the things that I learned from the Student Academy Awards was seeing my film with a real audience. To hear the reaction of the audience filled my heart. It made me realize that’s exactly why I want to do this for a living, and I never forgot that throughout my entire career.”
Alyce Tzue received the gold medal for her aviation-themed animated film “Soar.”
Daniel Drummond of Chapman University took home the top prize in the alternative category for his film “Chiaroscuro” and, like many of the night’s winners, made sure to take the opportunity to thank the Academy during his speech. “I’ve always wanted to say that,” he chuckled.
Roy Conli, Don Hall and Chris Williams, the directing and producing team behind “Big Hero 6,” revealed the breakdown of the documentary winners. USC student Alexandre Peralta received the gold medal for his doc “Looking at the Stars,” which centers on a ballet school for the blind in his native Sao Paulo.
“Straight Outta Compton” actor Jason Mitchell presented the final awards of the night in the narrative category. Earlier in the evening, Mitchell told Variety that he felt a special connection to these filmmakers who are just breaking into the biz.
“I feel like I’m sharing this with them because I’m still at the beginning of my career,” Mitchell explained. The thesp also teased the filmmakers onstage, saying that he hopes they’ll soon be writing roles for him.
The final gold medal award went to Henry Hughes for his narrative work “Day One,” based on his own experiences working with a female interpreter while serving in Afghanistan.
This year’s honorees join previous winners who have gone on to achieve great success in Hollywood, including Pete Docter, Lasseter, Spike Lee, Trey Parker and Robert Zemeckis.
Here is the complete list of winners:
Gold: “Chiaroscuro,” Daniel Drummond, Chapman University, California
Silver: “Zoe,” ChiHyun Lee, The School of Visual Arts, New York
Gold: “Soar,” Alyce Tzue, Academy of Art University, San Francisco
Silver: “An Object at Rest,” Seth Boyden, California Institute of the Arts
Bronze: “Taking the Plunge,” Nicholas Manfredi and Elizabeth Ku-Herrero, The School of Visual Arts
Gold: “Looking at the Stars,” Alexandre Peralta, University of Southern California
Silver: “I Married My Family’s Killer,” Emily Kassie, Brown University
Bronze: “Boxeadora,” Meg Smaker, Stanford University
Gold: “Day One,” Henry Hughes, American Film Institute, California
Silver: “This Way Up,” Jeremy Cloe, American Film Institute
Bronze: “Stealth,” Bennett Lasseter, American Film Institute
Gold: “Fidelity,” Ilker Catak, Hamburg Media School, Germany
Silver: “The Last Will,” Dustin Loose, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
Bronze: “Everything Will Be Okay…,” Patrick Vollrath, Filmakademie Wien, Austria
(Pictured: Nicholas Manfredi, Elizabeth Ku-Herrero, John Lasseter, Alyce Tzue and Seth Boyden at the Student Academy Awards)