The 88th annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, February 28 and SVA Close Up caught up with two 2015 BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects graduates, Nick Manfredi and Elizabeth Ku-Herrero, whose film, Taking the Plunge (watch below), won a 2015 Student Academy Award. (Marie Raoult and Thaddaeus Andreades were also directors of the film.) We asked them about their trip to Los Angeles to accept the award, how the experience changed their perspective and what they’ll be watching for on Sunday night.
What stands out from your attendance at the Student Academy Awards in L.A. last year?
NICK: Attending the Student Academy Awards was an experience that I will never forget. It was so amazing to see all of the other films that won, and to be in the company of a group of such talented and friendly filmmakers. The events they planned for us during the week included a tour of DreamWorks Animation, a visit to the Academy Film Archive, a Governor’s Luncheon and a side trip to Walt Disney Animation Studios! The most memorable moment for me was a dinner that the Academy set up with filmmakers from our given fields with producer Bonnie Arnold, editor Darren Holmes, and legendary animator Andreas Deja!
ELIZABETH: I think my biggest take away was a realization that now is the time. With platforms like Netflix and YouTube, if you want to make something and you’re in the position to do so, then just do it. The Academy inspired me to keep pushing. One can dream and dream, but nothing happens until you get to work.
Did the experience change the way that you think about the film and animation industry?
NICK: Yes, it was refreshing to see how much all of the live action filmmakers seemed to appreciate and respect the art of animation. It was really nice to be in rooms with people from all spectrums of the filmmaking industry and feel like we were welcome among them. It really was an eye opening experience that made me feel like anything is possible!
ELIZABETH: I’m personally very driven to see animation recognized as more than just a genre, but as a medium. Also, as animation is a small niche within the film world, I was very pleased to find that the animation industry includes so many extremely kind and open-hearted individuals, as it is such a strenuous and collaborative art. I feel I have definitely chosen the right field.
Have you seen this year’s nominees for animated short films? Do you have a favorite?
NICK: I have seen the trailers for all of them, but I have only watched Prologue and Sanjay’s Super Team. Those two films are beautifully done and I enjoyed them immensely! Prologue shows the amazing artistry of Richard Williams and his masterful use of perspective and movement. Sanjay’s Super Team was such a great creative effort to share a story about religion, but told under the guise of a superhero action sequence. So I think that they both have good chances of taking home the Oscar.
ELIZABETH: Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow was a personal favorite. There’s a sort of subtle madness to his films with extremely powerful undertones. I think World of Tomorrow really captured that for him, as it seemed to take our world of absurdities and obsessions and force them within a shell of a human being. I also enjoyed Sanjay’s Super Team. As a first generation American, I very much connected with the struggle a child faces with acceptance, understanding and appreciation of one’s heritage.
Seth Boyden’s film An Object at Rest, another Student Academy Award winner, made the short list of animated shorts that advanced for Oscars consideration. You met Seth while you were in LA for the Student Academy Awards. Any insights about Seth’s film?
NICK: An Object at Rest is witty, beautiful and funny. It was Seth’s senior thesis film at CalArts that he decided to create after being inspired by a fossilized rock he found while on a walk. Seth is an extremely talented and kind individual who loves what he does. Meeting and becoming friends with him and the rest of the SAA winners was really the greatest takeaway from the whole experience.
ELIZABETH: I cannot say enough kind things about Seth. He is an artist that really seems to be driven by his love of the world around him and he creates simply for the love of it. On top of that, his film is simple but powerful. Visually and cinematically it is a thrill to watch. It was inspired by his own childhood memories.
What will you be watching for at this weekend’s Academy Awards?
NICK: I will be watching for Patrick Vollrath and Henry Hughes, who are both nominees in the Live Action Short Film category and fellow SAA winners, and also rooting for Pete Docter’s Inside Out for Best Animated Feature, Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Visual Effects, and hoping that Leonardo DiCaprio finally takes home an Oscar this year! I mean the man froze to death and let Rose sit on the big floating door, I think it’s only fair.
ELIZABETH: In truth, I have not followed the Academy Awards much throughout my life. There are so many wonderful things being made in this day that is impossible to recognize them all. I’m inspired by stories that say something different or really force individuals to question a norm in their life. I look forward to powerful work being honored and for progressive films to be recognized.