Fall Film Festival Debuts Inspirational Student Work

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A scene from the Studio X project, Stars. Image courtesy of Becky Johnson.

Academy of Art University’s Morgan Auditorium had its doors open on Nov. 16, as members of the Tea Time Animation Club welcomed everyone to this year’s Fall Film Festival. Enthusiasm ran throughout the rows, while students loudly discussed what they were about to see and the hosts handed out light up accessories. This annual event is to showcase students’ work to their peers and for their fellow film industry students to get inspired.

Horror was a strong theme throughout the night. There was everything from flying, glowing masks to a vintage inspired stop-motion of Dracula and a mummy. The complexity in the animation, detailed movements in stop motion and the visual effects in the films all gave students an idea of what to strive for.

One of the first shorts shown was SuperFuzz by David Towles-Moore. A ninja and an evil teddy bear battle around a house for a prized object. Towles-Moore animated the impact of the blows between the two characters enough to where the audience groaned along with the injured opponent and the subject matter brought out laughs. Another short that was featured was Stars by Han Zhang. This traditional animation is about a man and a little girl selling glowing stars from the night sky. It is a message of hard work, love and making the best of what you have. So many emotions happened in this brief animation: happiness, fear, love and kindness.

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A scene from the Studio X project, The Chaplain. Image courtesy of Becky Johnson.

The highly anticipated debuts of Lizzie Zhang and Nan Li’s Wishing Box and Jeremy Breslau’s The Chaplain were shown. Wishing Box proposes the idea that money and materialism is not the most important kind of wealth; kindness, love and compassion are the most valuable. The Chaplain is a bit darker with suspense and action. In the film, which was worked on by Studio X students, a girl is chained to a bed, thrashing in her sleep. The scene switches between her subconscious and reality. A man seems to take this pain from her in a force that we cannot physically see. 

The night’s host, School of Animation & Visual Effects First Year Studies Online/Onsite Coordinator Shaun Featherstone spoke about the key elements to the film industry today. “As big as the animation industry is getting, it’s still extremely personality-driven,” he said. “I think wonderful things about what we do with Studio X. The collaborative nature of the shorts program is everyone is working with everyone else.” The ability to collaborate and have a voice in projects is essential to great work.

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A scene from the Studio X project, Foodie Cats. Image courtesy of Becky Johnson.

Featherstone shared advice with the audience about how to get their shorts into festivals. “Make it quirky, make it memorable, make sure that the audience doesn’t go away scratching their heads,” he said. “It needs to be a complete film.” Having complete work allows the audience to see your full potential. Quirky elements connect back to the creator’s personality. If you capture the audience with unique ideas, they will return. For future Fall Film Festivals, the School of Animation & Visual Effects is open to all genres and types of films: shorts, comedies, dramas, horrors, etc.

Before the event began, students were asked why they think it is important for students to showcase their work for others. Aleisha Marmon said, “I think it’s important that we go to these things because you feel inspired afterwards. You’re encouraged to be at that level and one day have your work being shown.” Another student, Sady Fofana shared, “It helps them with their portfolio to get their work shown. One of the main reasons is to help other students get inspired and get their work out there [and] shine.”