May 22, 2012

Bringing “Reality” to the Student Oscars

Hench-Dada Alum Wins Student Academy Award

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has had a long tradition of winning student Academy Awards. This year, Amanda Tasse, John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts alumna and current Ph. D. student of the Interdivisional Media Arts and Practices, kept the tradition alive by winning in the “Best Alternative” category for her stereoscopic 3D film The Reality Clock. The film was originated by a grant from the Sloan Foundation Animation Grant.

Amanda Tasse

When asked about how her time at SCA helped her prepare for The Reality Clock, Tasse replied, “I started the film in Hench-DADA and finished it in iMAP Media Arts + Practice. Hench- DADA is one of the most forward thinking animation programs in the country. It exposes students to traditional industry style techniques and work, experimental and expanded approaches to animation, visual FX, and live-action. I started Hench-DADA as a painter, installation artist, and sculptor thinking I would only make super experimental abstract work. 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 3D. 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 and the Academy Foundation. Each year over 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 might not otherwise get critical attention because of their unorthodox storytelling or production means.

A screenshot from  The Reality Clock

"Creating the film in steroscopic 3D added a significant layer of complexity," continued Tasse. "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 (photography, stop-motion animation, live-action), which of course can't be easily fixed once shot. I learned so much about stereo through making the film. Of course, many of these lessons were learned through hours logged behind my computer thinking, wow, now I totally know how to do this better next time. I guess that's always part of the learning curve.”

In 2009, Hench-Dada student Emily Henricks won the silver medal in the alternative category for her film Multiply.

For more information on the film, please visit: