Kalee McCollaum laughed a bit when she got to use the phrase all filmmakers hope they’ll get to say one day.
“I would like to thank the Academy — I never thought those words would come out of my mouth, seriously,” the Brigham Young University grad said Thursday night as the short film she directed, “Grendel,” won the Gold Medal in the animation category of the 46th annual Student Academy Awards.
Students and faculty at BYU’s Center for Animation learned last month that “Grendel,” an 8-minute animated film about a friendly dragon dealing with unfriendly new Viking neighbors, was one of three winners for the Student Academy Award in the animation category.
On Thursday, at a ceremony at the Samuel L. Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills, Calif., they learned “Grendel” won the Gold Medal.
When presenters Phil Lord and Chris Miller — the guys who made “The LEGO Movie” — called her name, McCollaum invited the 13 BYU crew members in attendance to join her on the stage.
She thanked her fellow BYU students “who worked for so long and so hard on ’Grendel,’ and who trusted me from the beginning to direct the film to what it is now.” She singled out composer Christian Walker, sound designer Jared Richardson and producer Austin Rodriguez.
McCollaum also thanked the BYU faculty, the donors to the animation program, her family and “all the understanding families of everyone who worked on the film.” She finished by thanking the Academy — the same academy that gives out the Oscars — and the other filmmakers in her category, adding, “I’m so humbled to have our film stand next to theirs.”
Lord and Miller joked that “no one ever thanks the presenter.”
“I opened three envelopes, I got two paper cuts,” Miller said.
“Grendel” was one of 16 films to receive a Student Academy Award. Gold, silver and bronze medals were given out Thursday night. All 16 become eligible for the Oscars, in the animated short, live-action short and documentary short categories.
There were 1,615 entries from 360 colleges and universities around the world. Categories recognized include narrative, documentary, animated and alternative/experimental productions by American and international college students.
Past winners of the Student Academy Award include Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, Patricia Riggen and Robert Zemeckis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.