Celebrating Our Media Stars

The globally streamed Academy event honored the future of media


The historic Castro Theatre. Photo by Bob Toy.

On Friday, May 15, the first-ever Academy of Art University Media Awards were held at the historic Castro Theatre. The exceptional event saw the Schools of Motion Pictures and Television, Multimedia Communications, Acting, Web Design + New Media, Animation and Visual Effects, Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media, Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media, Advertising, Game Development and Visual Development join forces to recognize their department’s brightest stars.


Photo by Bob Toy.

“This is a particularly great night, because we’re going to be live streaming to around the world,” said James Egan, executive director of the School of Motion Pictures and Television. “We have countries like French Guiana, Italy, the Philippines, China, France, countries all over the world. We’re thrilled. Puerto Rico is going to be watching, so it’s going to be an international, worldwide streaming [event]. Family and friends of all the nominees will be watching. This will be the first time we’ve done this.”

During a preshow reception held at the Academy’s auto museum, Best Documentary nominee Carly McCarthy expressed her excitement for the evening.

“We’re all celebrating filmmaking, as a whole. … Everyone’s worked so hard for so long, and to just be able to have an event like this is pretty cool,” McCarthy said. “Especially at the Castro Theatre, cause it’s historical and a really cool venue. I’m excited to even just see 30 seconds of my clip up on that screen.”

David Diaz, who was nominated in both the Best Motion Picture and Best Screenplay categories for Between the Sun and Me and Best Achievement in Editing for How to Lose Her, shared that he was looking forward to seeing the projects from all of the nominees. “You don’t get to see everything that everyone makes, you know, so [I’m] interested to see snippets from what other people are making just to get a feel for the school. You want to see everyone at this school do really well,” Diaz said.

Diaz, who graduated in Fall 2014, offered up some advice to current students. “Work with everyone,” he said. “There’s so many students here and there’s so many different personalities and things that you need to figure out. You also need to figure out who you are as a person and what type of films you want to make, and once you find people that want to make those same films, it makes getting people’s visions out a lot easier and comfortable and happy. Film is supposed to be fun, that’s why we’re here.”

The AAU Media Awards kicked off live right around 7 p.m. with an introduction from Egan and Director of the School of Multimedia Communications Jan Yanehiro, who hosted the event alongside Academy students Eric Bryant, D’Andrée Galipeau, Keah D. Moffett and Connor Smith.

After the announcement of the first few winners, the President of Academy of Art University, Dr. Elisa Stephens, took to the stage to welcome everyone and to deliver a heartfelt message to the night’s nominees. “For all of you that are nominated tonight, I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart,” Dr. Stephens said. “You deserve to be recognized for all your achievements. You inspire us all. This night is yours.”

The School of Acting recently wrapped up their production of Hair, and the AAU Media Awards audience was treated to a live performance from one of the cast members and Best Performance by an Actress in a Class Scene winner Katie Meehan, who sang “Aquarius.” Following the show, Meehan said her performance was “a lot of fun and really exciting. The crowd gave me some good energy.”

It was quite the homecoming for writer and director Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), who was recognized for her contribution to the cinematic arts with an honorary doctorate from the Academy.

During her speech, Cholodenko, an alumna of San Francisco State University, reflected on the Castro Theatre. “It’s a beloved institution; it’s a great kind of icon of the bygone era and all that. And it was still, you know, living.  People actually came here and watched movies.


India Jarvis, Best Performance by an Actress in a Student Film nominee for 'Between the Sun and Me,' and David Diaz, Best Motion Picture and Best Screenplay nominee for 'Between the Sun and Me' and Best Achievement in Editing nominee for 'How to Lose Her,' at the preshow reception. Photo by Bob Toy.


James Egan, Executive Director of the School of Motion Pictures and Television; Diane Baker, Executive Director of the School of Acting and Harry Winer, Media continued on 4 M.F.A. Directing Track Head for the School of Motion Pictures and Television at the preshow reception. Photo by Bob Toy.


Honorary doctorate recipient Lisa Cholodenko addresses the audience. Photo by Bob Toy.

So it was a big part of my day-to-day when I lived in San Francisco and I was a student and I was young,” she shared. “I had no idea it was going to be this bellwether for what I was going to do with my life and start a filming career. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Becoming a filmmaker is the last thing I thought I’d do.

“It’s an interesting full circle, because  … when I went to graduate film school, both of my short films screened here, and the premiere of  High Art, my first feature film, was here and it was an amazing experience, so it’s like coming home. And here I am coming home again.”

Later on in her speech, the acclaimed writer and director discussed the role of vulnerability in the lives of creative people. “Vulnerability, it can really derail you or it can propel you forward, what I think ultimately is that it’s fear and self-doubt masquerading as something real. It’s the inner-critic kind of run amuck, and it takes no prisoners and no one, really no one, no matter where you are in your career, no one is immune to it.

“Here’s what I’d like to tell you from my experience. No matter what phase you are in your filmmaking or creative project, get friendly with that voice inside your head that tells you that you’re inadequate or ill-equipped, that you’re pretentious or unworthy, out of your league, that you suck and that you’ll fail and understand that there’s nothing true or special or original about that voice, that everyone hears the same voice and that your job is to transcend. I think if we see our vulnerability as a source for raw, creative power that we might come to see that the most imaginative and provocative and emotionally honest work comes from that tender, delicate little place within us that’s closest to our hearts. I really firmly believe that it’s our best and truest source if we allow it to be.”


James Egan and Jan Yanehiro close out the AAU Media Awards. Photo by Bob Toy.

Throughout the evening, there were great moments of surprise and delight by the winners, as well as enthusiastic speeches. Following the ceremony, Yanehiro shared that was one of her favorite moments of the night. “When the awardee was announced, giving their thanks to their moms, yes, their instructors, yes, their friends, and recognizing that it took a village to do that one effort, so I love that part, really. I thought it was just lovely,” she said.

The inaugural AAU Media Awards was an impressive feat for all of the departments involved. Congratulations to all of the night’s winners and nominees.


Katie Meehan performing "Aquarius" from 'Hair.' Photo by Bob Toy.


David Diaz and Alejandra Trevino (not pictured) win Best Motion Picture for 'Between the Sun and Me.' Photo by Bob Toy.


Jia Liu received a special award for her extraordinary contribution to future generations of artists. Photo by Bob Toy.

Award Winners


Best Documentary

The Missed Education: Finding My Identity – Keah D. Moffett


Achievement in Cinematography

Explorer Bones – Pawan Tangsritrakul


Achievement in Directing

Between the Sun and Me – Nanako Fukui


Achievement in Film Editing

Mom’s Coming – Liang Xia


Achievement in Game Design

Magic Masks – Fred Lin, An Chung, Richard Dickerson, Haoyu Zhang and Yulong Tao


Achievement in Motion Graphics

Wizard of Oz – Sam Ong


Achievement in Production Design

3 Stages of Art – Seung Taek Lee


Achievement in Sound Design

Dolae – Pearl Wright


Achievement in Visual Effects

Crow – Ilgi Candar


Best Animated Short Film

Soar – Alyce Tzue


Best Branded Content

The Drunken Walk – Marcus Pettersson, Zachary Charters and Nick Drexler


Best Commercial

The Hunt – Ursula Burgess


Best Media Segment

Kinect Art – Taiko & KungFu – Kao-Cheng “Andy” Lin


Best Motion Picture

Between the Sun and Me – Alejandra Trevino and David Diaz


Best Music Score

A World Just for Her – Lily Jarvis


Best Music Video

“We Are Stars” – Yuito Kimura and Nanako Fukui


Best On Camera Female

Sizzle Reel – Sophie Gallegos


Best On Camera Male

Sizzle Reel – Eric Bryant


Best Original Screenplay

Barefoot – Galih Sakti


Performance by an Actor in a Class Scene

Carnal Knowledge – Dario Musumeci


Performance by an Actress in a Class Scene

Days of Wine and Roses – Katie Meehan


Performance by an Actor in a Student Film

How To Lose Her – Elijah Silva


Performance by an Actress in a Student Film

Between the Sun and Me – India Jarvis