The Fourth Annual Cecil Awards

Last Thursday saw the return of the most prestigious award ceremony of the show biz calendar, the very glamorous Falmouth Animation & VFX Awards for Student Excellence. Otherwise known as The Cecils.

Students arrive on the red carpet

The award ceremony, now in its fourth year, has evolved from humble beginnings. The first annual Cecil awards, named after the anatomy skeleton that resides in the studio, was a far less illustrious affair than today's extravaganza of glitz and glamour and took place amongst a hubbub of excitement and artistic tension in 2011.  Since then the awards have gone from strength to strength and are now internationally recognised as the place to be seen on the red carpet.  They have recently been compared to that other well-known award ceremony, the Oscars (during a conversation in the canteen over coffee and cake last Tuesday).

This year’s awards were hosted by a treasure of British animation, known to his students and show biz pals as ‘The Silver Fox’: Falmouth University’s very own Animation & VFX course coordinator Derek Hayes.  Mr. Hayes was assisted by that well-known connoisseur of gold sequins and tutor of animation history and theory Ann Owen.
Derek and Ann marvel at the wonder of modern technology

The evening kicked off with a screening of third year films, the content of which was so varied and diverse that it had the audience laughing (My Pet Rock, The Boer), and crying (Crocodile Tears), marveling in awe at the wondrous effects (Out of the Dark, Luminosity), feeling good about life (Reaching for the Stars, Friends are like Umbrellas) and occasionally also cowering in fear (Sliver of Silver, Skinnister). The highlight of the screenings was a beautifully made CGI third year film The Heart of the Tree, which tells the story of Hare, Hyena and a tree with a secret heart.
The award winners were selected by the Academy Board but this year nominations from students were also invited and taken into consideration. 

Highlights of the evening included:

Yasmin Down for Success in the Field of Career Development.  Yasmin sadly couldn’t be with us in person as she is already working in her new job at Travellers Tales Games, but was able to join us by Skype and her award was presented by boss Stephen Bate.
Yasmin and her boss Steve on the big screen

Jake Teal winner of the award for Unexpected Excellence in Theory. The award appeared to be quite unexpected too.

Jake celebrates his win
Two of the most coveted awards of the evening were the prizes for the fancy dress, which went to second year Charlotte Grant, who came as beloved anime character Totoro, and third year Joshua Smyth in an extremly shiny suit (and who also won an award for unofficially mentoring our second year students).

Our three Angels of Animation this year were:

First Year: Jack Ghigo, whose indomitable spirit, sense of humor and hard work has been a shining light to all those around him.

Second Year: Lokii Rayne, who in her role as producer has steered her fellow students expertly through many of the trials and tribulations of the second year (and was also a contender for the fancy dress).

Third Year: Alex Papanicola  (also sadly unable to be with us in person but now a veteran of the Skype presentation).  Alex is a master of Flash and has introduced a new word to the animation lexicon: to ‘pap’ something, usually a storyboard or an animatic, meaning to geesh it up a bit, inject pace and/or comedy timing.

Alex is now an old hand at receiving his awards on Skype.

And this year the Academy Board awarded a special student-time achievement award, The Wizard of Technical Jiggery-Pokery, which went to one of the future stars of the VFX industry Joshua Bainbridge.

Josh is clearly impressed with the quality of his award

The grand prize, the magnificent Skull D’Or, was presented by our special guest, Aardman’s Luis Cook, and went to third year student Darren Smith. Darren was sadly unable to hold the trophy himself due to having recently broken both wrists in a motorcycle accident (which proved to be are mere minor hiccup to his studies - his devotion to his work was such that he had already finished animating and needed only to wave at the screen with his cast whilst giving directions to his sound designer). He was nevertheless suitably blown away just to be able wear the accompanying sparkly-shiny medallion on his head.
Darren can't quite believe that he has won the prestigious Skull D'Or

Darren has consistently proved to be a 2D animator par excellence and has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement to the other students on the course. He has been a student union representative for the last two years and received the highest number of student nominations for a Cecil award.  Darren also has a very fine beard. The Academy Board concurred wholeheartedly with the student vote, and we all look forward to seeing his name in the credits of many an animation masterpiece. 

Aardman's Luis Cook and veteran martial arts cinematographer Frankie Keung
Winners Freddie Horton and Emma Walsh (left) with friends from the course.
Derek Hayes, aka 'The Silver Fox'
Other winners this year included:

Katie Wyman - The Going Viral Award for Internet Blogging

Ben Wardle - The Degas Award for Progress in Life Drawing

Eline Lindaas & Elizabeth Horne - The Award for Stupendous Storyboards

Laura Andrews - The Work Ethic Award for... erm... having a good work ethic.

Adam Wesson - The Master Prop Builder Award

Anthony Gardener - For Marvelous Modeling in the Face of Extreme Adversity

Alex Watkins - The Master Rigger Award

Joshua Smyth - For Unofficially Mentoring the Second Years

Stu Whitten - For Marvelous Matte Painting in the Face of Extreme Adversity

Freddie Horton - The Monet, or is it Manet, Award for artistry

Emma Walsh - The Award for Excellent Produceryness

Congratulations to Darren, and to all the other winners and non-winners alike. It has been a whirlwind of a year, full of frenetic creativity and artistic endeavour and we, the staff, have loved every second that we have worked with you (well most of them anyway). You are a continual source of inspiration to us and it is a pleasure to tutor you all. 

To those who leave us now - go forth and show the world what you can do. 

And to those who stay with us for another year or two, and to those who will be joining us in the autumn we have just one thing to say...

... The Cecils 2015!!!


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