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'Soar' Sails to Victory on Film Festival Circuit

Over 100 students collaborated on Alyce Tzue’s stunning animation that follows a young girl who builds a flying machine

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A scene from 'Soar.' Courtesy of Alyce Tzue.

Academy of Art University alumna Alyce Tzue is flying high on the success of her 3-D animated short film, Soar. Since completing the movie she worked on for three years as an animation graduate student, she and her team have submitted Soar to 30 high-profile festivals. 

“We’ve been focusing on quality over quantity,” explained Tzue, who works as an animator for virtual reality game-maker Oculus. “There’s a shortlist of festivals you need to win for the sake of getting into the Academy Awards.”

Soar has not only been accepted by a number of festivals on that list, it’s also been racking up honors. At the BAFTA U.S. Student Film Awards in Los Angeles this past June, it was one of eight finalists among 800 submissions from elite film schools across the country. And at the prestigious Palm Springs ShortFest, also in June, Soar won Best Student Animation and was runner-up for the Audience Award for Best Animation Short. (The Palm Springs event is known as “the Sundance of short film.”)

“It’s been a really exciting and humbling experience,” said Tzue.

Earlier this year, Soar won Best Animated Short at the USA Film Festival in Dallas. It was also an official selection at the Cleveland International Film Festival and has been accepted by the upcoming Rhode Island International Film Festival. Tzue is waiting to find out if Soar will be an official selection at the Toronto Film Festival and the Los Angeles International Shorts Fest. 

Soar tells the captivating story of Mara, a young girl who finally fulfills her dream of building a flying machine that works when a miniature boy drops out of the sky and lands in front of her. She helps him repair his damaged machine, which is part of a fleet of whimsical, winged vehicles on a special mission that’s revealed at the end of the film. In addition to stunning animation, Soar also features original music by Jack Gravina.

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Harriett Barren, Palm Springs Film Festival Director of Development; Ginny Foat, Palm Springs City Council; Alyce Tzue; Anson Yu; James Egan, Executive Director of the School of Motion Pictures & Television. Courtesy of the School of Motion Pictures & Television.

Tzue is proud of how many students collaborated on the project. “Over 100 people touched it and we were able to make something cohesive that doesn’t look like a student film,” she said. “All the work that went on behind the scenes is part of movie magic.”

 

Chris Armstrong, executive director of the Academy’s School of Animation, said Tzue’s creativity, motivation and management skills epitomize what the university looks for in a student. “Alyce was a brilliant worker and knew what she wanted and how to get it,” he stated. “She was the driving force behind this project, not just the creative part, but also the collaboration. It’s one thing to come up with a great idea and another to see it through to the end.”

Although Tzue is thrilled with how well Soar has been doing and would love the chance to compete for an Oscar, she recognizes that winning isn’t everything. Getting to watch the diverse creations of other filmmakers has been just as rewarding. “The best part about being invited to participate in a particular program is seeing all the passion and love that went into all the other films,” she said. 

Tzue added that the Academy helped her prepare for the rejection that’s inevitable when submitting to festivals and to focus on the process instead of the end result. “The selection criteria is very unpredictable,” she explained. “While I was working on this project, I came to appreciate the process, which includes both victories and failures. I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the awards in the world.”

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Courtesy of Alyce Tzue.

After Tzue is finished with the film festival circuit, she wants as many people as possible to see Soar. She’s exploring different ways of making that happen, including finding a distributor or organizing a large online launch in the hopes her film will go viral. Whatever route she chooses, Soar’s exciting journey is sure to continue. 

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Courtesy of Alyce Tzue.

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Courtesy of Alyce Tzue.

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Courtesy of Alyce Tzue.