Miles from the glitz of the 85th Academy Awards, a group of university students will be waiting, with crossed fingers, to learn if multiple Oscar-nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild wins.
Not just because of an Oscar pool. Thirty-three students from San Franciscos Academy of Art University worked for months to craft most of the post-production visual-effects for the independent feature.
Staged in a poverty-stricken Louisiana bayou, Beasts is up for four Oscars, including Best Picture a coup for a film made on a shoestring $1.5 million budget, without name actors and relying on baby pigs to be our monsters, said the films producer Josh Penn.
The fantasy drama, narrated by an imaginative 6-year-old called Hushpuppy (played by Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis), was no easy visual feat, encompassing explosions, relentless flooding and stampedes of pig-like creatures called aurochs.
Students worked from 10 to 40 hours a week as part of the academys Compositing in Production class dubbed Studio 400A, an advanced elective wherein students offer free visual-effects work for low-budget films.
Finding out about this class was a revelation in an industry geared towards Iron Man 3′ and The Avengers, said Mr. Penn. Big-name visual-effects houses didnt even want to talk to us, he said, let alone offer a price quote. The film was funded by a series of grants from non-profit group Cinereach and the San Francisco Film Society before being picked up by Fox Searchlight for distribution.
Every filmmaker we work with has no money. We arent getting offers to work on Transformers and we wouldnt take them on even if we did, said Catherine Tate, visual-effects instructor at the academy.