The Television Academy Foundation announced the winners of the 42nd College Television Awards or “Student Emmy’s” earlier this week and BYU students once again claimed the top spot in the best animation series and the best commercial.
This year’s animated short story was Cenote, a heartwarming story about an axolotl named Axel who becomes trapped in a cenote (underwater sinkhole) by mythical magic. Axel is helped by a human named Memo who helps him return to his family. BYU animation student Andrew Pettit served as the film’s producer with fellow students Daniel Villanueva Avalos as director/writer and Samantha Barroso as director.
While the students say winning such a prestigious award is important, they say they're more grateful for formative experiences at BYU that have strengthened their faith and prepared them to serve and lead.
“One thing that's really unique about the BYU animation program is the way the gospel is woven throughout it," said Barroso. "Logically, we should not have been able to finish the film given the amount of time that we had and what we needed to re-do. It was nothing short of a miracle. I prayed so much for this project and it's brought me a lot of joy."
Dozens of students were integral in bringing the film to life – skills from animation, design, commercial music, and computer science were required to produce the film. This is the 20th time since 2003 a BYU animation film has been featured at the Student Emmy’s.
BYU AdLab students swept the “Best Commercial” category. The winning commercial, eBay – Dear Vanessa, was inspired by the experience of the director and writer Andrew Rhee’s parents, who immigrated to the United States. The commercial details an elderly immigrant who purchases a second-hand VHS player to play old family recordings. He writes a thank you letter to the seller for helping him relive the memories of journeying to America and raising his family.
"My BYU experience shaped me to excel in more ways than I even expected," said Madi Hill, who produced the commercial. "The fact that I was able to study what I loved while being able to focus on my faith is something I don't take for granted."
The other nominations for the “Best Commercial” category were also submitted by BYU students. Made to Last was directed and produced by Luke Roberts and written by Hailey Skinner. Another commercial, Play Your Way – Dungeons & Dragons was directed by Taylor Garrett with Savannah Butler and Alex McBride as producers and written by Stephanie Blackham.
Another short film created by BYU student Albert James May was among the nominations for the “Best Drama Series” category. The film, Maggie on Stratford Ave., was written and directed by May and produced by Marcus Weatherred.
Being nominated for a prestigious award for a project he worked on at BYU is special, says May, who credited his professors and fellow students who helped bring the film to life.
“While at BYU I was taught by professors who cared about me and my success,” he said. “They pushed me to grow and stretch my craft, and they strengthened my spirit. I’m grateful for the guiding hand of mentor professors Jeff Parkin and Courtney Russell and administrators Kyle Stapely and Grant Gomm for their constant support of this project.”
In total, 13 BYU students were nominated for awards from The Television Academy Foundation, the most nominations received by any university.