Growing up in India, Eaza Shukla, 22, was enveloped by family, friends and culture. When she moved to Sarasota in 2014 to attend Ringling College of Art and Design, those familiar anchors were gone, and she felt lonely and out of place. “The most I knew of America was from TV shows,” she says.
Her homesickness inspired her bronze award for her animated short film, Re-Gifted, the heartbreaking story of an unwanted decorative egg that is repeatedly passed along to a new owner without ever finding a home. Shukla and 18 other student filmmakers from schools around the world received their awards in October at a ceremony at Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. This year, the competition received 1,582 entries.
Shukla spent hours every day working on the short film for her thesis in computer animation. Her approach to the theme of isolation was a risky filmmaking move because it turned away from a tidy, happy ending. “I just tried to take all of the feelings I’ve ever felt about being isolated. I was living far away from home and struggling to fit in,” she says about her award in the Domestic Film School Animation category. “I wanted it to have emotional impact.”
Shukla’s bronze makes 14 Ringling computer animation students who have won a Student Academy Award, a contest of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Last year, two Ringling graduates won a gold for their four-minute animation, In A Heartbeat.) All student Oscar winners are eligible to compete for the 2019 Oscars, which takes place in February.
Shukla graduated recently and moved to California to work in a design studio. The news of her award has left her excited and shocked. “I used to look up to all of my upperclassmen when they went on to get nominated and win and I can’t believe that I am one of them now,” she says. “It was a lot of hard work and persistence. It really did pay off in a great way.”