January 8, 2018
Still images of short films Dreamweaver and Cuddlefish

“Cuddlefish” and “Dreamweaver” are two films created by School of Visual Arts & Design students that are ending 2017 and beginning 2018 on a winning note. Both films from the 2017 cohort of the Character Animation program have been selected for national, regional, and local awards and screenings.

Character Animation is a specialized two-year track of the Emerging Media BFA offered by the School of Visual Arts & Design. The students apply as sophomores or transfer students and a maximum of 30 are selected to begin the program as juniors. A highly selective program, many students reapply if they are not selected at first. “We’re not just trying to build a team of people that will create a film, but a team that will work together made up of compatible strengths and abilities,” says Cheryl Briggs, MFA,

Once the cohort has been selected, the students pitch their short film ideas to each other before narrowing it down to four to work on for further development. Those expanded final four are then pitched to the faculty and seniors before everyone votes on what will be the cohort’s two projects. Students then move forward with production by midterm of the first fall semester. Finalizing the story, production and development coincide with the immersive learning in the program. In a normal class of 30, this means 15 students write, animate, produce, and coordinate an entire short film from idea conception to submission in film festivals. This particular cohort is only ten students per team. “They did everything – they were exceptional,” Briggs comments. Past cohorts also set up GoFundMe pages to subsidize costs and recruit composers to assist in musical scores.

It isn’t uncommon for the program’s students to win local awards or be selected for regional screenings, but to be recognized at the national scale is something momentous. Selection for film festivals can also depend on the funding the students raise – fees just to submit to the festivals can range from $15 dollars to $125, and each festival might get over 800 submissions. “The awards are great, but the screenings speak volumes … most can only screen 50 to 100,” says Briggs. The short films, always under 10 minutes, were completed and submitted for the 2017-2018 screenings and awards circuit.

“Cuddlefish” is a comically epic saga about a clumsy Viking sailor as he faces off against a deep-sea cephalopod who has fallen in love with the Viking’s sailboat anchor. The film has won Best Animation Film of the 2017 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards and Best Student Film from the 5th Annual Studio City International Film Festival, also in Los Angeles. “Cuddlefish” has also been selected for 11 screenings so far. The ten students from the cohort who worked on “Cuddlefish” are Jared Bittner, Shanique Brown, Tyler Burns, Brianna Jaeger, Jenin Mohammed, Rachel Nainstein, Alexis Planer, Marchand Venter, Thomas Vinas, and Connor Waugh.

“Dreamweaver” is based on Chippewa folklore, following a young Native American girl’s determination after her nightmares turn out to be the many-armed Dreamweaver calling to her for help. The film has won Best Animation Film (Student) of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, 3rd place at the MYHERO International Film Festival in Santa Monica, California, and a finalist of the 42nd Annual American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco. It has been selected for 15 screenings nationwide. Completing the cohort, the students who worked on “Dreamweaver” are Oluwaseun Ademoye, Kendal Drewke, Kelly Herbut, Erika Johnson, Grace Monsalvatge, Kelvin Nguyen, Katherine Ryschkewitsch, Erich Schulz, Sami Sokolis, and Jessica Wrubel.

“We really promote the team-building aspect and how you can accomplish much more with a team,” Briggs says. Briggs has been with the program since 2009. “What makes our program stand out from others is that aspect of working with the same group of students for the two-year period – that’s a very rare find.”

The core faculty that comprise the program include Briggs, JoAnne Adams, Darlene Hadrika, Phil Peters, and Stella Sung who build on the foundations from the first two years of SVAD coursework.

Alumni of the program go on to work in modeling and simulation, continue in graduate programs, or the ultimate dream – working for a larger animation studio such as Sony, Universal, or Disney.

Accolades for the films so far include:

“Dreamweaver” (2017)

  • National Awards
    • Winner Best Animation Film (Student) May 2017 of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards
    • 3rd Place Winner MYHERO International Film Festival (Santa Monica, CA)
    • Finalist of the 42nd Annual American Indian Film Festival (San Francisco, CA)
  • Regional Awards
    • Best Inspirational Film of the 2017 15 Minutes of Fame (Palm Bay, FL)
  • Local Awards
    • Finalist of the 2017 Central Florida Film Festival
    • Nominated for Best Animated Short of the 2017 Orlando Film Festival (Orlando, FL)
  • National Screenings
    • Official Selection of the 2017 California International Shorts Festival (Winter) (Hollywood, CA)
    • Official Selection of the 2018 Green Bay Film Festival (Green Bay, WI)
    • Official Selection of the 2017 Anchorage International Film Festival (Anchorage, AK)
    • Official Selection of the 26th St. Louis International Film Festival (St. Louis, MO)
    • Official Selection of the 2017 Red Nation Film Festival & Awards – The Authentic Voice of American Indian & Indigenous Cinema (Los Angeles, CA)
    • Official Selection of the 2017 KIDS FIRST! Film Festival
    • Official Selection of the 2017 SIGGRAPH Faculty Submitted Student Work Exhibit (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Regional Screenings
    • Official Selection of the 2017 Melbourne Independent Film Festival (Melbourne, FL)
    • Official Selection of the 2017 Urban Film Festival (Miami, FL)

 

“Cuddlefish” (2017)

  • National Awards
    • Winner Best Animation Film May 2017 of the 2017 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards
    • Winner Best Student Film– 5th annual Studio City International Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA) November 2017
  • Local Awards
    • Winner of the December 2015 Film Slam Enzian Theatre FilmSlam (Orlando, FL)
    • Nominated for Best Animated Short of the 2017 Orlando Film Festival (Orlando, FL)
  • National Screenings
    • Official Selection of the 2018 Green Bay Film Festival (Green Bay, WI)
    • Official Selection of the 2017 Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival
    • Official Selection of the 2017 KIDS FIRST! Film Festival
    • Official Selection of the 2017 SIGGRAPH Faculty Submitted Student Work Exhibit (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Regional Screenings
    • Official Selection of the 2017 Out On Film, Atlanta LGBT Film Festival
    • Official Selection of the 2017 15 Minutes of Fame (Palm Bay, FL)
  • Local Screenings
    • Official Selection of the 2017 Central Florida Film Festival

 

Viewings of the upcoming 2018 cohort films “Night Light” and “Ukelayla” will be on April 23, 2018 at the Center for Emerging Media.

Watch all of the short films created by Character Animation students here.


Category: Highlight, Student

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