The School of Visual Arts’ Alumni Scholarship Award program, sponsored by the SVA Alumni Society and funded by donations from SVA alumni and friends of the College, provides new generations of artists with opportunity, recognition, and motivation as they transition into working among their fellow alumni as creative professionals.
We sat down with three recipients of the 2023 Alumni Scholarship Awards from BFA Animation, BFA 3D Animation and VFX (formally BFA Computer Art), and MFA Computer Arts to find out about their thesis projects and how their experience as students over the years has helped inform their final year at SVA.
Scholarship recipient, Yunge Wen’s (BFA 2023 Animation) thesis film Off The Box addresses the high suicide rate among students and young adults caused by the violence and pressure to constantly stay positive and outperform others. In a school run by machines, students must perform better than the others, or they will be pushed into a giant toilet and flushed away.
The inspiration for this film came from Yunge’s observations growing up in a highly competitive environment. Off The Box alludes to a society in which achievement is valued above all else. “I hope this film could encourage those trapped in this situation to reexamine our values and priorities, and live a happier life.”
We asked Yunge to reflect on their years as a BFA Animation student and their own creative growth during that time.
“SVA provides a safe and supportive environment for me to cultivate experimental ideas and develop them into full-length short films. Through my time at SVA, I’ve built a portfolio that aligns with the current industry pipeline but also honed the skills to pursue a long-term career as a director.
If only I could turn back time and relive my freshman year, I would start brainstorming film ideas at least one year earlier than usual. Collecting visual references, designing characters and backgrounds always takes longer than we expect, and good time management habits are essential for achieving our goals in any project.”
BFA 3D Animation and VFX
No Photography, the 3d animated thesis film by Grace Redclift, Vincent Wang, Kaifu Tan, and Lance Haug (BFA 2023 3D Animation and VFX) is a love letter to the art of filmmaking. Their focus in its conception and creation was “to entertain the audience with solid cinematography, lighting, design, and animation.”
The film follows a high-tech thief on the perfect heist when a peculiar tourist insists on taking pictures of every exhibit. This sleek and stylish short ends in disaster as the museum’s security guard returns from his coffee break.
The group mainly put their Alumni Scholarship funds towards their sound artist. “Music and sound is very important,” says Redclift. The short is packed with physical comedy in a lavish museum set making the sound design critical to selling this comedic heist.
As a whole, the team speaks fondly of their time at SVA. They feel prepared for the professional world thanks to the guidance of the industry professionals teaching here. Not only were they able to experience the entire production pipeline, but also benefited from the networking and industry insight that was readily available.
With this knowledge in tow, the team has professional plans in their fields of expertise with Redclift aiming to become a lead look development artist, Wang in character design and animation, Tan working as a pre-visualization artist and storyboard artist, and Haug pursuing a studio or freelance career in 3d animation and/or 3d character rigging.
No Photography’s bright and energetic character animations paired with a professional soundscape and polished visual storytelling delivers and exhibits all the hard work the team put into its creation. The team is proud of their film and so are we!
MFA Computer Arts
In the MFA Computer Arts program, Xinyu Sun, Chenyi Zhu, and Yingyu Zhu received the Alumni Scholarship Award for their thesis project Night Market a short film about a little girl suffering from cancer who leaves the hospital at night to explore a city populated with friendly monsters. The film uses a hand-drawn style that complements the story’s tone, which is both fantastical and moving.
The group’s inspiration for the film is based on a study about children with serious ailments. Zhu stated, “In the study Understanding the Perceptions of Children Battling Cancer about Self and Others through Drawing by Munir Moosa Sadruddin and M. Hameed-ur-Rehman, children were asked to draw a picture of the world they knew, and many young children have painted incomplete bodies but happy faces… so we tried to create a world with monsters to describe how children with cancer see the world.”
To realize this goal, the group applied for the Alumni Scholarship Award and were chosen as recipients, which is aiding their work in many ways. States Zhu, “With the scholarship, we were able to hire a talented music composer. The right soundtrack can elevate the emotional impact of the project, making it more engaging and memorable… moreover, the scholarship provides us with more resources to help cover other production costs like TV Paint software. With the right resources, we can focus on our creative process, improving the quality of our animation project and on creating a high-quality, engaging, and memorable film that resonates with our audience.”
The projects covered in this article will be screened for the public at events hosted by their respective departments. BFA Computer Art hosted online industry screenings from Monday, April 17th – Sunday, April 23, and will hold a screening for friends and family at the SVA Theatre on Saturday, May 20. BFA Animation’s thesis screening will be held on Saturday, May 13 at the SVA Theatre, also streamed live via Twitch and YouTube. An exhibition will be on display at the SVA Flatiron Gallery & Project Space from May 13 through June 6. MFA Computer Arts will hold thesis screenings on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11, also at the SVA Theatre and an exhibition will be open at the SVA Chelsea Gallery from June 1 through June 17, with a reception to be held on June 8.