Alumnus wins Academy Award for animation

by James M> Hunnicutt | 6/21/96 5:00am

Up there in the spotlight with Mel Gibson, Nicholas Cage and the other winners of awards from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is recent alumnus Zack Lehman '95, who won this year's gold award for best animation film in the Academy's student category.

"I just won the Student Academy Award," Lehman nonchalantly said in a recent telephone interview. And with a hint of sarcasm he added, "I won the gold, I won it all baby."

Lehman made the 12-minute clay animation film, titled "Patronized," as part of his senior fellowship at Dartmouth two years ago.

He was named a finalist in April, and in May the competition was narrowed down to two. The finalists were flown to Hollywood for, as Lehman put it, a "week of all different kinds of VIP events," and on June 9 the Academy announced Lehman's victory for the gold award for student animation films.

A $2,000 prize accompanied the award, but Lehman said the contacts and notice were far more valuable.

"I was on Entertainment Tonight ... I was interviewed right and left," he said. "Studios have been calling me, pretty much all day long."

Lehman currently attends Harvard Law School and said he plans to stay there and graduate rather than immediately enter the movie business.

But after law school, "it's up in the air," he said.

Lehman said he is considering opening a studio where he could act as a director and hire others to create commercials, or a 30-minute animation film he has been considering.

Film Studies Professor David Ehrlich, who was Lehman's advisor, called "Patronized" a "fine film ... with perfect synchronization of music, words and dialogue."

"It's about an artist who can't get any funding," Lehman said. "It's a satire about censorship."

Lehman said he imagines the subject matter of "Patronized" is what won the gold for him.

Leslie Unger, publicity coordinator for the Academy's Awards Administration Office, said the same members of the Academy who vote on the regular awards also vote for the student nominations.

"Clearly, it showed qualities that other films did not," Unger said of "Patronized."

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