Bringing ‘reality’ to the student Oscars
The USC School of Cinematic Arts boasts a long tradition of winning Student Academy Awards. This year, Amanda Tasse MFA ’09, an alumna of the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts and current PhD student in the interdivisional program in Media Arts and Practice (iMAP), kept the tradition alive at the 39th annual Student Academy Awards by winning in the “Best Alternative” category for her stereoscopic 3-D film, The Reality Clock.
Funded by a Sloan Foundation Animation Grant, the film is an experimental animated portrait of an elderly watchmaker as he struggles to accept the influence of early stage dementia on his identity and sense of time.
Shot in full stereoscopic 3-D, using time-lapse photography, pixelation, live-action and stop-motion animation, The Reality Clock immerses the viewer in the internal experience of the character, expressed through metaphors of a clock, house and morphing landscapes.
Tasse attributes much of her success to time spent in the animation and digital arts division and iMAP, both of which helped to prepare her for the film.
“I started [at the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts] as a painter, installation artist and sculptor, thinking I would only make super experimental abstract work,” Tasse said. “However, I deliberately integrated traditional animation and storytelling techniques into The Reality Clock, hoping for a balance which I believe makes the work communicate more strongly.
“Within iMAP, I developed art and thematic story elements within a transmedia framework — I designed an interactive animated environment, a small picture booklet and the stereoscopic 3-D,” she continued. “A lot of the thematic research into dementia helped me apply for and get the Sloan Award for Animation, which was a huge help with making the film.”
The Student Academy Awards is a national student film competition conducted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Foundation. Each year, more than 500 college and university film students from all over the United States compete for awards and cash grants, with films being judged in four categories: animation, documentary, narrative and alternative. (The “alternative” category represents films that may not otherwise get critical attention because of their unorthodox storytelling or production means.)
“Creating the film in stereoscopic 3-D added a significant layer of complexity,” Tasse said. “While not my first stereo film, it is the most ambitious one given the amount of media layering and visual FX that were required, and the fact that I used captured, rather than computer generated media, which of course can’t be easily fixed once shot. I learned so much about stereo through making the film.”
In 2009, Emily Henricks MFA ’11, a student in the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts, won the silver medal in the “alternative” category for her film, Multiply.