BYU film students win five student Emmys

Mark Williams poses for a portrait with his second place trophy from the College Television Awards for his documentary film "I am not my body" on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. Williams's film also won the Humanitarian Award. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

PROVO -- Film students at BYU are celebrating their recent wins at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation awards over the weekend. BYU films took home five College of Television awards, nicknamed the student Emmys, including Best Comedy, Best Director, Best Children's Film, second place for Best Documentary and a humanitarian award. This is the most awards BYU students have won at a College of Television awards night.

Recent BYU graduate Mark Williams took home the Bricker Humanitarian Award, which honors students whose films reflect a socially relevant or humanitarian theme. Williams directed the film "I Am Not My Body" which tells the story of Marius, a young Romanian boy who was burned in a house fire and suffered third- and fourth-degree burns on 75 percent of his body. With the help of BYU students, Marius was able to come to the United States and receive much needed treatment.

"He had a choice as to how he would respond to this tragedy, and he chose to be happy," Williams said. "Once I heard about his story and just how he has chosen to be happy despite all the horrible things that happened to him it totally resonated with me. When I started this project it was the height of the economic downturn and I wanted to tell a story that could uplift people."

"I Am Not My Body" also took home the second-place prize for best documentary.

The film "My Hero" was named best children's movie, while "Mr. Bellpond" received the award for best comedy, as well as best director for A. Todd Smith. The film follows the story of a man who mysteriously loses his wife.

Smith is in Cambodia working to begin a film institute and was unavailable for comment, but his adviser, Tom Russell, says Smith's work wasn't just visually pleasing but also had a strong message.

"It is easy to mistake gloss for substance and a lot of filmmakers can make something look really pretty, but having something to say is another thing," Russell said. "It is a personal story. He has experienced loss on a personal level. It is a little long for a student short film but really, really powerful. It is very funny but has a really sweet theme about an individual trying to cope with loss. He did a really fine job with having something to say that clearly resonated with the judges."

Russell says the awards give students a running start in a difficult industry to break into. He also says winners of the best director award often have been hired to produce episodes of network television shows.

Jeff Parkin, an associate professor in Theatre and Media Arts Department at BYU, says the awards not only speak well for the students involved but also for BYU in general.

"I think it says that we are making progress in terms of the caliber of our work and making progress in actually getting our work out there," Parkin said. "I had a woman at the awards tell me that BYU is just really moving up the ranks in terms of respectability and our films are becoming films that they are really excited to see when they are submitted."

"Mr. Bellpond" and "My Hero" will both be screened at the Final Cut Film Festival held at BYU on Friday and Saturday.