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February 25, 2019

A Great Night for USC at 2019 Academy Awards!

By SCA Staff

(From left) Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, alum Evan Hayes, and Shannon
Dill pose with the award for Best Documentary Feature for Free Solo

Trojans were celebrating last night at the 2019 Academy Awards Ceremony, with four alumni taking home Oscars: Rayka Zehtabchi '16 won in the Documentary Short Subject for Period. End of Sentence; John Ottman '88 won Best Film Editing for Bohemian Rhapsody; Evan Hayes '02 won Best Documentary for Free Solo; and Ludwig Göransson '08 won Best Original Score for Black Panther. Two alumni from the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, Miguel Jiron (Story Artist) and Ben Hendricks (CG Supervisor), both contributed to Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

Black Panther was helmed by the iconic alumni pairing of Marvel President Kevin Feige and wunderkind writer/director Ryan Coogler, and both received love when Black Panther creatives took home awards in three categories: Costume Design (Ruth Carter), Production Design (Hannah Beachler, with Set Decoration by Jay Hart), and Göransson, an alumnus of the USC Thornton School of Music, took home Best Original Score. Carter and Beachler were the first African American women to win in their respective categories, also receiving the first non-acting awards for African American women since 1984 when Irene Cara won Best Original Song for “Flashdance… What a Feeling.” Black Panther, one of the biggest films of 2018, is a victory for Feige, who is at the height of his career and has set new bars for what can be achieved within the comic book/superhero genre. And, of course, it was another tremendous leap forward for Coogler, whose first two films out of USC, Fruitvale Station and Creed, were also considered groundbreaking successes.

Producer Melissa Berton (left) and Director/Alumna Rayka Zehtabchi pose with
their Oscars for Best Documentary Short Subject

Another powerful film, Period. End of Sentence, took the Oscar in the Documentary Short Subject category, with director Rayka Zetabchi, who graduated from the BFA in Film & Television Production, accepting the award for a creative team with several Trojans (see more about their story here), including cinematographer/editor Sam Davis ‘16 (BFA Production) and executive producers Helen Yenser (MFA Writing, May 2019) and Douglas Blush, who teaches at the School. The film shines a light on the important issue of women’s menstrual health. Set in rural India, where the topic of menstruation is often taboo and women don’t always have easy access to basic sanitary products, it follows a group of women as they set up a business manufacturing and selling pads. It’s the first time that an SCA alum has won one of the short categories since 2005 when Ari Sandel won for West Bank Story.

John Ottman posing with Oscar for Film Editing

John Ottman, who graduated with a BFA in Film & Television Production, is celebrated as both a composer and editor and frequently holds both jobs on big-budget production. He won the Film Editing Oscar for Bohemian Rhapsody. Ottman also won the ACE Eddie from the American Cinema Editors for Bohemian Rhapsody earlier in the month.

Free Solo, the National Geographic film that won the Documentary Feature Oscar was produced by Cinema and Media Studies alum Evan Hayes. The film chronicles the ascent of free climber Alex Honnold as he scales Yosemite’s El Capitan without safety harnesses.