You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

John Lasseter, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Mitchell Fete Student Academy Award Winners

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.

The Academy’s Dawn Hudson and Cheryl Boone Isaacs flank Emily Kassie. Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

“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


Foreign Film

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)

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Rami Malek, Robert Pattinson and John

    Robert Pattinson Praises Fans for Raising Funds for Go Campaign: ‘It’s So Sweet’

    Robert Pattinson is giving back, but he’s even more impressed that his friends and fans are joining him in the fight. “It’s amazing,” Pattinson told Variety on the black carpet outside Neuehouse in Hollywood at the Go Campaign’s annual gala. “And they’ve done it every year. It’s kind of — it’s so sweet and I [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Al PacinoKirk

    Martin Scorsese Saluted by Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino at Santa Barbara Film Fest Gala

    Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Pacino saluted Martin Scorsese‘s dedication and risk-taking at his Santa Barbara International Film Festival tribute, while the filmmaker spoke about the importance of “individual artistic expression.” More than 300 people attended the black-tie gala on Thursday night in Scorsese’s honor at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, where festival exec director [...]

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Screen” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis

    Holocaust Experts Debate 'Jojo Rabbit' at Museum of Tolerance Screening

    With its comedic, cartoonish portrayal of Nazis, Taika Waititi’s satirical Hitler youth tale “Jojo Rabbit” has polarized critics and audiences alike. And that division continued to be stirred at Tuesday night’s screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where Liebe Geft, director of the museum, moderated a heated panel discussion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content