A next-generation Lasseter and 14 other young cinematic upstarts are following in the footsteps of previous winners such as Pete Docter, Spike Lee and Robert Zemeckis.
Fifteen students. Five categories. All Oscar. This fall, the Academy revealed a roster of Student Academy Award winners — plucked from 1,686 films delivered by 375 colleges and universities — to follow in the footsteps of such previous winners as Pete Docter, Spike Lee, Trey Parker, Robert Zemeckis and John Lasseter. Lasseter, who won student Oscars in 1979 and 1980 while at California Institute of the Arts, has a son, Bennett, among the 2015 crop of winners.
All were presented medals during a September ceremony at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The award doesn’t come with tickets to the grownup Oscars, but some of these students might make it there anyway: Past winners have gone on to receive 47 Oscar noms and have won or shared eight trophies.
Animation Silver Medal
Film: An Object at Rest
"It would be super fun to work with the Coen brothers. Their film O Brother, Where Art Thou? is my favorite film of all time. They're the masters of developing character and stylized filmmaking."
Foreign Film Gold Medal
"In 1999, I was a student in Istanbul, and I went to the theater to see this film with Tom Cruise called Magnolia. I didn't really like the film at first, but there was something to it, and I became fascinated by it. Paul Thomas Anderson became my personal hero."
Narrative Silver Medal
Film: This Way Up
"A director I really admire is David O. Russell. I would love to have his career because he's constantly working with really great actors and doing great character work. That's definitely something I'd love to be doing."
Alternative Gold Medal
"My dream team would be Roger Deakins shooting — that's a given for any film. Jake Gyllenhaal starring — I love how he puts himself out there. And I would like to have Denis Villeneuve whispering in my ear about the directing craft."
Narrative Gold Medal
Film: Day One
"The first movie I saw was The Little Mermaid. I lived on a military base, and it was a big ceremony to watch a movie. They start with the national anthem, and everyone rises. It's incredibly interactive — everyone's yelling and talking at the screen."
Documentary Silver Medal
Film: I Married My Family's Killer
"I remember telling my parents that I wanted to do documentary film, and they said, 'Oh, thank God you're not going to pursue acting.' They were relieved because I had a bit of an acting career before I kind of got into this, so for them it was a step up."
Animation Bronze Medal
Film: Taking the Plunge
"My parents knew I was going to be an artist before I did. I was always, always, always drawing. I completely ruined the house because there were art supplies all over the place, and they were always complaining about how many pens I had. I just needed them around me."
Narrative Bronze Medal
"The earliest movie I remember seeing was My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki. It was on Laserdisc in Japanese, with no subtitles. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old, but I still somehow got the story. That movie really captured my imagination and inspired me to start writing."
Alternative Silver Medal
"The last movie that affected me was Mad Max. The dust cloud scene where the humans are on the bike flying behind the car was amazing. I'm a VFX artist, so when I see a movie I try to catch mistakes or [bad] technique. But that movie looks perfect."
Foreign Film Silver Medal
Film: The Last Will
"I'm sad that I didn't get the chance to meet Philip Seymour Hoffman; I think he's been one of the greatest actors of our time. I'm named after Dustin Hoffman, so I hope I can meet him or work with him."
Animation Bronze Medal
Film: Taking The Plunge
"The first film I saw that resonated with me was a Disney film called The Great Mouse Detective. The villain in the film is so great, and there's still something so interesting to me about a retelling of Sherlock Holmes done with mice."
Documentary Gold Medal
Film: Looking at the Stars
"The last movie I saw that resonated with me is Love & Mercy. The scenes in the studio when they're recording are so natural and so amazing."
Documentary Bronze Medal
"One project I really want to do is focused on dictators and seeing the world from their perspective. I would love to hang out with Kim Jong-un, and we could do some karaoke, play some ping-pong and skip over to Russia and hang out with Putin."
Animation Gold Medal
"Two directors I really admire are Brad Bird and Kathryn Bigelow. He is such a master storyteller; he has experience up the wazoo, and I need to ask him 100 questions. She is an amazing female director and has broken so many ceilings and has transcended a lot of obstacles."
Foreign Film Bronze Medal
Film: Everything Will Be Okay
"I would love to work with Daniel Day-Lewis. I just saw Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs, and she's always amazing. I also want to meet Harvey Weinstein one time, just to see what it's like."