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Inspector 42 wins top drama, top director awards

BYU’s Theatre and Media Arts Department won two “student Emmys” over the weekend, both for the same short film.

The BYU student film Inspector 42, a live-action film about killer shirts, took home the awards for best drama and best director Saturday from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.

The “Directing Award” is one of the most prestigious honors handed out at the College Television Awards ceremony.

“We believed in the project so much,” said Inspector 42 student producer Lyvia Martinez, a senior from Arecibo, Puerto Rico. “But it was great to hear that after all of our expectations and all of the hard work we put into the film, someone else found the value in our work and in the art that we’d created.”

Recent grad Nathan D. Lee won the Directing Award, which was the top student Emmy for directing in all categories.

“I tend to keep things pretty calm and reserved a lot of the time, but when I heard the news I was ecstatic,” Lee said. “It’s exciting but there’s also a measure of responsibility that I feel comes with it. It’s an honor and a privilege and a gift to have been awarded something like this.”

Saturday was a big day for other BYU student film projects as well. BYU’s Center for Animation brought home its 10th student Emmy in seven years for its film X-ing(Read more here.) and BYU music student Richard Williams landed the best music composition award to bring BYU’s 2010 haul to four. (Read about Williams here.)

Lee says Inspector 42, a movie about killer shirts set in the 1950s, was inspired in part by a little tag he found one day in the pocket of a new shirt. The tag said, “Inspected by 42.”

“I remember standing there thinking, ‘Somewhere in the world, this is someone’s job,’” Lee said. “This guy exists somewhere. There is an Inspector 42. What on earth does a shirt inspector do? What is the life of a shirt inspector?”

In Lee’s vision, Inspector 42 works at a shirt factory where the motto is “Think Shirt Safety.” While on the job, the inspector lets a couple of shirts pass inspection that really shouldn’t because he’s trying to meet a quota. Those shirts end up terrorizing the people who wear them and causing a few fatal accidents.

The 20-page script was shot in Salt Lake City in just under two weeks and includes the work of about 50 students on set, crew and cast combined. The movie was shot on 35 millimeter film and runs about 30 minutes in length.

“The quality of mentoring students by TMA film faculty and the commitment and determination on the part of the students to create works of excellence are bearing fruit in the national film conversation,” said Rodger Sorensen, chair of the TMA Department.

Both Lee and Martinez said the film would have been impossible to make without the generous help of faculty and resources from BYU’s TMA department, including the help of faculty mentor Jeff Parkin.

“We could not have made this film if we were not at BYU,” Lee said. “It just couldn’t have happened.”

Paris Barclay, a well-known TV director and producer (NYPD Blue, ER, Cold Case, NCIS) had this to say about Inspector 42 at the awards ceremony:

"About compelling, emotional and insightful programming: I honestly believe this film is about as good as it gets. It can go toe-to-toe with any episode I’ve done, certainly, and most of what you see on your television screen. It presents a moral conundrum for the hero and, I’m quoting again from the Academy, ‘in a compelling, emotional and insightful way.’

“And not only does it do that, but I have to say that I watch a lot of films by a lot of young filmmakers, but this, the casting, the performances, the shot selection, the look, the pace the feel, the period, art direction, the production design and most importantly the emotional payoff of this film showed a talent to be reckoned with.

"So, this award honors outstanding achievement in directing for comedy, documentary, drama or narrative series. So this goes across the board. This is basically our best director award. I want you to take another look at this most impressive film.

“This entire film plays like jaw-droppingly awesome episode of The Twilight Zone. It is really great. It talks about honesty in our lives and in our society. It’s brilliantly written by the director and his writer-producer partner, Lyvia Martínez. Ladies and gentlemen, the directing trophy and $1,000 cash award goes to Nathan Lee of Brigham Young University."