PROVO — Defective shirts and lovesick armadillos helped BYU students scoop up a handful of awards this weekend, including a 10th "student Emmy" for the university's Center for Animation.
The animated film "X-ing" (Crossing) won third place for the story of Stubbs the armadillo. Stubbs must decide whether he should stay true to his recently road-killed love Delhia or move onto the new, cute armadillo named Roxy.
To see a clip, click here.
The school also won two student Emmys for a live-action film, "Inspector 42," produced by BYU theater and media arts students. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation honored the film with awards for best drama and best director.
"This is an exciting time for BYU's film program," said faculty mentor Jeff Parkin, the film's executive producer. "The caliber of the students we have is excellent, the kinds of stories they want to tell are excellent, and the quality of the production value that they're interested in creating is very strong."
He credits the success of "Inspector 42" to the hard work of director Nathan D. Lee and producer Lyvia A. Martinez, who would often write three and four drafts of the screenplay a week, because, "at the end of the day, a good story trumps everything," Parkin said.
"Inspector 42" follows a 1950s shirt inspector who lets faulty shirts out of the factory in order to meet his quota and is then faced with the decision of confessing when his shirts are involved in serious accidents around the city.
To see the trailer, click here.
"Sitting there at the gala on Saturday night, I was completely unsure if we'd win or not," Lee said. "I believe in our film and am very proud of it, but there are a lot of great films out there. (So winning) certainly was unexpected and an extraordinary honor and a joy."
The honor was well deserved, according to Paris Barclay, a well-known TV producer and director who presented the best director award.
"I honestly believe this film is about as good as it gets," he said. "It can go toe-to-toe with any episode I've done, certainly, and most of what you see on your television screen."
Martinez credited their success to the classes at BYU, which is where the screenplay was born, as well as Parkins' thorough mentoring.
"(There was a) great balance of not being too coddled and not being left completely alone," she said.
While "Inspector 42" hurdled the challenges of extensive hair, make-up and costuming to create the period look, the five-minute, computer-animated "X-ing" had the challenge of losing several lead students when they accepted jobs at movie studios midway through the year-and-a-half-long project.
"Now, the (BYU animation) program is successful enough that ... the studios know who they want to hire and when they're available," said R. Brent Adams, director of BYU's Center for Animation. "As soon as they are, whether it's December or April, bang, they're gone."
The producer and director for "X-ing" are now at Pixar and DreamWorks, while other students were hired on at Disney, Adams said.
It's Adams' No. 1 goal for the students, but it makes finishing the films a bit more complicated, he said. Juniors and pre-animation majors wind up with more advanced roles.
For example, then-junior Stacey Bethers got an instant promotion to lead lighter when her predecessor was snatched by Digital Domain.
But her experience lighting shots to highlight motion and enhance emotion helped her get a summer internship with Pixar, and she has already been talking with several companies who know she graduates next week.
"Each film that we make, each award that we win definitely helps BYU a lot," Bethers said. "There's still a lot of competition, and it's very, very difficult to break into these studios, but we're getting there."
BYU's 10 animation 'student Emmys'
2009: "Pajama Gladiator"
2008: "The Lion and the Mouse"
2007: "Las Pinatas"
2005: "Pet Shop"
2005: "Faux Paw"