Student media productions usually pale in comparison to Hollywood’s, but the BYU Center for Animation has a heritage of working on a higher playing field. It received its 15th and 16th Student Emmys at the College Television Awards in April.
The short film “Owned” won best animation and has also received a nomination for a Student Academy Award. Another short animation, “Chasm,” won best use of music.
Seventeen BYU animation students flew to L.A. to attend the College Television Awards for the first time. For composer Richard Williams, who wrote the score for “Chasm,” it was his second visit. Williams received his first student Emmy in 2010 for composing the score to another animation titled “Mashed.” When “Chasm’s” producer, Megan Lloyd, approached Williams last year he was excited to compose for another animation.
“I really wanted to do it because it was grand and epic,” Williams said. “In your classes you don’t get opportunities like this.”
Williams recently found success, but in the beginning he was rejected by the BYU School of Music four times. He continued to work toward his dream of composing commercial music and was admitted to the program during his fifth year of school.
“Owned” is the story of a cocky gamer, Jeff, who loses his undefeated online video game record to, unbeknownst to him, a baby who clumsily batters the controller. Wesley Tippetts, co-director of “Owned,” came up with the story after losing an online game to a young boy.
More than 40 students had their hands in “Owned”. From March to December 2013, they worked on it for six hours a day, six days a week and near the end pulled numerous “all-nighters.” Each student has an area of expertise; Garrett Hoyos, the lead texture artist, had to work in collaboration with the team to pull it off.
“That’s the nice thing about our program,” Hoyos said. “We don’t care about taking credit; we just want to make a nice film.”
The producer of “Owned,” Daniel Clark, recently interned at Pixar and used his experience to set the project up as if it were a Pixar production.
“It was pretty much on-the-job training in school,” Hoyos said.
They took on an unprecedented load. Most student animations have one to two environments and have one or two characters. “Owned” involved four environments and five characters.
The animation faculty wanted to scale the project back, but the students believed they could complete the project. They followed Clark’s and Tippetts’ vision to create a complex and award-winning film.
Kaleb Goulding, an effects artist, said he would spend six hours working on it and then go home thinking about the problem he couldn’t solve that day.
“I enjoyed the experience, but I was glad it was over,” Goulding said. “If I could do it over again, I would have balanced my life a little bit better.”
Their sacrifices have paid off. Since the College Television Awards, many students in their program have received internships and jobs. More recently, “Owned” was selected as a finalist for a Student Academy Award. The academy will announce the winners on Saturday, June 7, at 6 p.m.