BYU animators win 12th ‘student Emmy’

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BYU students brought home a first place ‘student Emmy’ award at the 2013 College Television Awards in Los Angeles.

“Estefan” is a six-minute, 3-D, short film about the world’s best hairdresser who is faced with the challenge of defending his honor and reputation when a new client presents him with her bald head.

(Photo courtesy
A shot of Estefan, the latest ‘student Emmy’ winner from the BYU Center for Animation. (Photo courtesy BYU Center for Animation)

Lauren Oppenlander, the original writer for the film, came up with the idea of an arrogant barber who had a bald client that would not leave until he received a haircut to his satisfaction. The idea of the barber evolved until the storyline became “Estefan.”

“I remember Jeff (the director) and I would suggest new jokes and funny situations, but we’d be shot down because everyone else agreed ‘Estefan wouldn’t do that,’ so it kind of evolved into it’s own thing,” Oppenlander explained. “Pretty soon everyone knew Estefan as well or better than I did.”

The film’s producer, Lauren Taylor, has been involved in the creation of “Estefan” since its early stages. Taylor’s involvement included working with directors and department leads to ensure that the team was hitting its deadlines.

Winning the student Emmy means great things for Taylor and her fellow students. “The award plus our experience working together as a team, and problem solving together, as opposed to alone on a personal project, really prepares us to enter the industry,” Taylor said.

Directors and co-creators of the BYU Center for Animation, R. Brent Adams and Kelly Loosli, have been helping animation students develop films for years. Adams teaches a collaborative senior film class where animation and computer science majors work together to create short films. Although the class primarily targets seniors, sophomores and juniors will often work on the project.

“Education is about awarding individuals, but this is a collaborative, interdisciplinary experience (students) have to fight through,” Adams said. “It’s all about compromises. Sometimes we might not use the best ideas, but we will use the ideas that will help the most students. The goal is to create a bunch of really good portfolios.”

The Center of Animation, established in 2008, has worked with students to help them develop industry-level experience.

Loosli said he also recognizes the benefits that come from this opportunity.

“(Students) develop employable skills working on the film and gain great working relationships with their peers,” Loosli said. “They certainly gain confidence that they can compete at top levels.”

“Estefan” is not available for viewing online because it would disqualify the filmmakers from entering more prestigious film festivals.

The film took about two years to finish because of the expensive and intensive workload. A team of approximately 40 students worked on it.

“Industry-quality animation costs about $1 million per minute. Finishing a short film is hard to do, especially year after year,” Adams explained.

Over the past 10 years, BYU students have won 12 student Emmys for their films. Previous films have helped open doors for students because studios have began to show greater interest in BYU students and to ask more about the program. Former students are now working with Blue Sky Studios (the makers of “Ice Age”), Disney Interactive and other top studios nationwide.

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