35th Annual Student Academy Awards

Awards Ceremony

Following a week of entertainment industry meetings and events, twelve talented young filmmakers were honored at the 35th Student Academy Awards. The ceremony was hosted by Academy President Sid Ganis and featured trophy presentations by Academy Award® nominees Jason Reitman and Caleb Deschanel, as well as former Student Academy Award winner and Emmy® winner Todd Holland.

Each of the winners gave their first “I’d like to thank the Academy” speech (well, the first one that wasn’t just in front of a mirror) and clips from each of the winning films were screened for a standing-room only audience in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Video Highlights

Academy President Sid Ganis recaps the Student Academy Award winners’ week in Los Angeles. During the week the students met with Academy members and dined with the Academy’s Board of Governors, where one student noted “it’s like speed dating only everyone is an Oscar® winner.” The student filmmakers also visited the Directors Guild of America, where they met directors Jake Kasdan (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”) and Billy Ray (“Breach,” “Shattered Glass”), and had the opportunity to sit down with several members of the American Society of Cinematographers for a roundtable discussion.

The week culminated in the 35th Annual Student Academy Awards ceremony where the winners were presented with trophies from renowned filmmakers Jason Reitman, Caleb Deschanel and Todd Holland.

2008 Student Academy Award Winners


Shih-Ting Hung

Gold Medal Award: Shih-Ting Hung, University of Southern California

“Viola: The Traveling Rooms of a Little Giant” – Seven-year-old Viola, trying to discover the world, puts solitude in her suitcase and begins her dreamy journey.

Shih-Ting Hung was born in Taiwan and raised on a fisherman’s island, Pescadores. She attended National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, which she considers her favorite city in the world, and earned her MBA in fine arts in 2003. Shih-Ting currently attends the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

Phoebe Tooke

Silver Medal Award: Phoebe Tooke, San Francisco State University

“Circles of Confusion” – A meditative, experiential record of the filmmaker’s return to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Phoebe Tooke grew up in New Orleans, and her family still resides there, so it is no surprise that she chose Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the city as the subject of her film. Phoebe graduated with a degree in sociology from the University of Vermont in 1995. She went on to study film at San Francisco State University and has been living in San Francisco for the past 13 years.


Nicole Mitchell

Gold Medal Award: Nicole Mitchell, California Institute of the Arts

“Zoologic” – A fussy zookeeper maintains strict order in his zoo by arranging the animals to his liking.

Born and raised in Cupertino, California, Nicole Mitchell received a BFA in character animation from California Institute of the Arts in 2007.

Tatchapon Lertwirojkul

Silver Medal Award: Tatchapon Lertwirojkul, School of Visual Arts, New York

“Simulacra” – In the vast galaxy, there is a robot planet on which every natural living thing is extinct – or is it?

Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Tatchapon Lertwirojkul graduated from the Architectural Department of Chulalongkorn University in March 2001. Tatchapon currently attends the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Evan Mayfield

Bronze Medal Award: Evan Mayfield, Ringling College of Art and Design

“The Visionary” – It isn’t easy to make the transition from glasses to contacts.

Evan Mayfield, originally from Fairhope, Alabama, graduated in 2008 with a degree in computer animation from the Ringling College of Art and Design.


Laura Waters Hinson

Gold Medal Award: Laura Waters Hinson, American University

“As We Forgive” – Two Rwandan women come face-to-face with the men who slaughtered their families during the 1994 genocide.

Laura Waters Hinson recently received her Master of Fine Arts degree in film and media arts from American University in Washington, D.C. This film is Laura’s thesis project and first full-length film. “As We Forgive” has been in production since the fall of 2005.

J.J. Adler

Silver Medal Award: J.J. Adler, Columbia University

“Unattached” – The modern Orthodox Jewish community of New York is up in arms over a “singles crisis.”

New York City native J.J. Adler graduated from Columbia University in 2004 with a BA in Film Studies. She currently attends Columbia University School of the Arts Film Division and expects to graduate in 2009.

Brian Davis

Bronze Medal Award: Brian Davis, University of Southern California

“If a Body Meet a Body” – Workers and their day-to-day tasks provide insights in to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office and laboratories.

Brian Davis is from Crozet, Virginia, a small town outside of Charlottesville. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in Media Studies in May 2002. Brian is currently a MFA candidate at University of Southern California.


Rajeev Dassani

Gold Medal Award: Rajeev Dassani, University of Southern California

“A Day’s Work” – A simple job escalates into a violent misunderstanding when an American family hires three immigrant laborers to help them with a move.

Rajeev Dassani, from Raleigh, North Carolina, graduated in 2002 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in communications. Rajeev, an identical twin who likes to paint, draw and write short stories, completed his film “A Day’s Work” for his thesis at the University of Southern California.

Eric Yang

Silver Medal Award: Z. Eric Yang, Florida State University

“The State of Sunshine” – Two siblings who illegally entered Florida from China must engage in prostitution to pay off their smugglers.

Originally from Shanghai, China, Eric Yang attended Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where he received a BA in materials sciences in 1996. In 2003 Eric graduated with a MA in Communications from the University of Memphis and went on to study film at Florida State University.

Melanie McGraw

Bronze Medal Award: Melanie McGraw, University of Southern California

“Pitstop” – Thoughtful, introverted, 12-year-old Maggie feels invisible sandwiched between her eight rambunctious siblings on a drive across the desert.

Melanie McGraw grew up in Hyattsville, Maryland. She graduated with a BA in English from Brigham Young University in 1993 and went on to study film at the University of Southern California.

Honorary Foreign Film

Rajeev Dassani

Reto Caffi, Academy of Media Arts, Cologne, Germany

“On the Line (Auf Der Strecke)” – A security guard is secretly in love with a clerk in a department store’s bookshop.

Reto Caffi hails from Berne, Switzerland. Reto graduated from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland with degrees in English literature and journalism, and completed his Student Academy Award film while attending the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, Germany.

  • Awards Ceremony

    Caleb Deschanel and Phoebe Tooke

    Jason Reitman, Caleb Deschanel and Todd Holland presented the winners with their trophies at the 35th Student Academy Awards ceremony.

  • Video Highlights

    Melanie McGraw and Sid Ganis

    Watch Academy President Sid Ganis’ video blog for the 35th Student Academy Awards week.

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  • Winners

    2008 Student Academy Award Winners

    View bios for the 35th Annual Student Academy Award winners.

  • Film Clips

    A Day's Work

    See clips from the top award-winning films.

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