BYU students have been cleaning up at the student Emmys for years now, but never like this.
Three Brigham Young University student-made films brought home a record haul of five student Emmys last weekend from the 33rd College Television Awards. The three first-place wins also set a new mark for the school's film programs.
Their spoils from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation included best comedy for "Mr. Bellpond;" best children's program for "My Hero;" and second place for best documentary for "I Am Not My Body."
A. Todd Smith, director of "Mr. Bellpond," also won best director, and Mark Williams, director of "I Am Not My Body," won the Seymour Bricker Family Humanitarian Award.
This year, however, several different BYU students were recognized for their work.
Best comedy winner "Mr. Bellpond" tells the story of Mr. Bellpond, who mysteriously loses his wife but is told she may still be alive. In order to receive more detailed information, he must compose a new masterpiece.
"The experience of losing my father very highly influenced how my wife and I approached the story," Smith said in a press release. His wife, Amy Leah Nelson, worked as a writer and production designer on the set. "For a film to be good, I feel like the director has to have a very personal connection to the film. I hope anyone that has a personal loss or grief can have a personal connection to Mr. Bellpond."
Smith said the film is about "grieving, overcoming grief and having the hope to move on."
The documentary "I Am Not My Body" almost didn't make it into the running at all, according to Williams. The film was ready to turn in prior to the deadline, but for some reason the audio wouldn't work. It finally was synced, however, and submitted three minutes prior to the final submission time.
The film follows 9-year-old Marius, a Romanian child who lost his parents in a house fire and suffered third- and fourth-degree burns on 75 percent of his body. Two BYU interns met him during a study abroad to Romania and helped move him to the United States to receive attention in a San Diego hospital.
Williams wanted to film this documentary to highlight Marius' incredible attitude about life and tell his story of recovery.
"He's a perfect example of how we always have a choice of how we are going to react to the circumstances in our lives," Williams said.
Marius was able to accompany Williams to the festival, with financial help from the academy, and was surprised when the film also won the humanitarian award.
While Williams told the story of another person's life, director and writer Brandon Ho highlighted some elements from his own life in the story in the comedy "My Hero."
"Basically the film is about standing up for who you are and being proud of who you are regardless of what others might say or how they treat you," Ho said.
The film is set on a playground, where Ho said his first experience with a bully took place when he was younger. Ho also cited an experience he had at a church dance where his friends had poor attitudes about the event. He thought to himself, "Of course it's not fun for you because you aren't doing anything to have fun." This is when he realized he needed to break from this group of friends.
In "My Hero," the main character, Kevin, has to make his own decisions about whether to fall to peer pressure or maintain his own interests in comic books and action figures.
Ho worked with student producers Erin Anderson and Brandon Habermeyer, along with a cast full of children, to make the movie a success.
"I believe that 'My Hero' is just a fantastic little piece, not because of everything I did, but all the work the cast and crew put into it," Ho said. "My goal was to get it out and recognized and win some awards. ... This is my way of giving back to everyone that came to work on the set."
Ho also commended the professors in the film program at BYU and said they truly care about the students and are talented and thoughtful. He also said overall, the film program at BYU is absolutely amazing.
"The thing I love about it is it gives you the opportunity to work and be on film sets and productions," Ho said. "(The faculty) really encourage that. It's really helpful in that it gives you experience you can use."
To view two of the winning films, BYU's Final Cut Film Festival will be showing "Mr. Bellpond" and "My Hero" Friday and Saturday at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. each night in the Pardoe Theatre at the Harris Fine Arts Center.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company