BYU animation program winning awards despite canceled film festivals, lack of funding

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Animated film festivals are going the way of other social gatherings — most are indefinitely postponed or canceled — but that hasn’t stopped the BYU animation program from winning awards.

The Game Developers festival was canceled, but Intel University Game competition was broadcasted online. BYU took home the top two prizes for the 2020 showcase.

BYU animation students were awarded the top two prizes for its video game “Avast Ye,” featuring pirate ants. (Screenshot from BYU Animation Vimeo)

Brent Adams is the founder of the animation program at BYU, and he said the program has come a long way. “(The award) is one of the two most prestigious awards that a college can win and most of the schools that are invited to compete are graduate programs,” Adams said. BYU’s program is for undergraduate students.

According to Animation Program Director Kelly Loosli, it’s not just animation students that make films and games great. “We have the Animation Center, where students outside the program can get involved if they are interested and have ability,” Loosli said.

Two animated films, class of 2019’s “Death and Delilah” and class of 2020’s “Salt,” are set to be submitted to the Student Academy Awards. Last year, the Academy awarded BYU a gold medal for its film “Grendel.” That was BYU’s sixth award.

“We are proceeding as usual,” Loosli said. “Then we plan on just putting our films online so everyone can see them.”

Before, festivals had a rule that films could only be eligible to compete if they were not published online. Under unprecedented circumstances, most festivals have forgone that rule. Animation professors have opted to not worry so much about submitting to festivals and are instead considering the future of their students.

The program as a whole is small and struggles to fund itself. “If the (Animation) Center was endowed, we would have the funds to send students and faculty to festivals,” Loosli said, “But with limited funds, we are mostly focused on finishing our projects, submitting them where and when we can,and working to help our students get jobs in the industry.”

“Because it takes a lot of work and time and money to submit to festivals, we actually submit to very few lately,” Adams said. “We have found that they don’t open enough doors for the students to justify the expense.”

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