For the third year in a row, BYU student films have won multiple student Emmys from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, with this year’s haul being the largest ever.
On Saturday night, BYU student films and filmmakers won an unprecedented five awards at the 33rd College Television Awards.
Student film “Mr. Bellpond” won the student Emmy for best comedy, “I Am Not My Body,” won the 2nd place documentary award, and “My Hero,” won for best children’s program. Meanwhile, “I Am Not My Body” director Mark Williams won the Seymour Bricker Family Humanitarian Award and “Mr. Bellpond” director A. Todd Smith got the nod for best director.
See the list of all the winners here.
“It’s a huge honor to be a part of the BYU film program because of the success they’ve had in the past and the success they’re continuing to have,” said Smith, who is now pursuing his professional filmmaking career. “This just shows that BYU filmmakers have excellent stories to tell.”
Want to see BYU’s winning films? Both “Mr. Bellpond” and “My Hero” will be screened during Final Cut this weekend. Click here for more details.
Last year the BYU animated short “DreamGiver” won two student Emmys, while in 2010, the live-action drama “Inspector 42” brought home awards for best drama and best director.
BYU’s years of success at the College Television Awards have never produced three first-place finishes like this year, which includes Smith’s best director nod.
Smith co-wrote “Mr. Bellpond” with his wife, Amy Leah Nelson Smith, while they were engaged. They married in between production days on the film, which follows the story of a man who mysteriously and tragically loses his wife.
The film is set in the 1800s and follows Mr. Bellpond’s efforts to emerge from despair when someone comes forward with evidence that his wife may yet be alive. The mysterious informant tells the hermit of 23 years that he must compose a new masterpiece if he wants more detailed information.
Shooting mostly took place in an empty period home in Ogden, a major challenge given the 160-mile roundtrip drive from Provo for students and their production equipment. In addition to writing the film with her husband, Amy Smith also did all the production design, which included the monumental task of creating a home that felt and looked every bit like the home of a hermit living in the 1800s.
“It was a difficult and stressful film to make, but it was definitely worth it,” she said. “Of course, I am in love with the director, so that helped.”
A. Todd Smith said the film is about grieving, overcoming grief and having the hope to move on – subjects close to his heart ever since his father passed away in 2006.
“The experience of losing my father very highly influenced how my wife and I approached the story,” he said. “For a film to be good, I feel like the director has to have a very personal connection to the film. I hope anyone that has had personal loss or grief can have a personal connection to Mr. Bellpond.”
Film faculty Tom Russell served as an adviser to “Mr. Bellpond” and said the film displays some of the highest quality student work ever produced at BYU.
“The design is terrific, the performances are very strong, and at every point it’s just a really fine film,” he said. “I hope A. Todd gets to make a lot more movies so I can go and see them.”
Documentary winner: With love, from Romania
BYU’s documentary student Emmy winner “I Am Not My Body” is about Marius, a 9-year-old boy who suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns on 75% of his body in a 2007 house fire. In addition to the pain and injury Marius suffered from the fire, including the loss of both eyelids, his nose and all of his fingers, Marius also lost both of his parents.
[WARNING: THE FOLLOWING VIDEO CLIP INCLUDES GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF A BURN VICTIM]
With the help of two BYU students who met him during a study abroad trip to Romania, Marius moved to the United States and received numerous surgeries. Those surgeries continue today.
Director Mark Williams learned about Marius through a network of friends and knew immediately that he wanted to tell the story of his recovery and ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
“The fact that the [Academy] Foundation would see something in our film is completely humbling and a complete honor,” Williams said. “It proves to me the amazing power of the story and how it resonates with people.”
The Foundation was so impressed with the documentary that they arranged for both Williams and Marius, who now lives in San Diego, to be at the award ceremony, where Williams was awarded the Seymour Bricker Family Humanitarian Award.
Williams, who graduated during the summer with a degree in Communications, did the documentary as part of his Honor’s Thesis and was advised by broadcast professor Robert Walz.
“Mark went to great personal expense and effort to travel all the way to Romania to shoot this story,” Walz said. “He’s very bright and a very hard-working student. The recognition he’s receiving is a great tribute to his ability.”
Winning one for the kids
Another winner Saturday was “My Hero,” a children’s film about a 10-year-old boy, Kevin, and his action figure friend, Super Hero.
Kevin, who loves comic books and action figures, reaches an age where kids start to make fun of him and he must decide whether to own up to his interests or give into peer pressure and follow the crowd.
“The message of the film is that you should be proud of who you are,” said Brandon Ho, who wrote and directed the film. “We often worry too much about what other people think. We shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are and we shouldn’t let other people determine how we feel about ourselves.”
The film takes on bullying issues directly, as the main character is bullied for his interests. Ho said part of the story comes from his own experience. He once tried to prevent a bully from picking on another child and ended up getting beat up by the bully. In the film Kevin does the same but walks away unhurt.
“This was a special project for me; It was the culmination of everything I’ve been learning and studying here at BYU,” he said. “This was the film where I really got to take my education and put it into practice and see if my theories really were reality or if they were just nice ideals to have.”