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Academy Students Create Effects for the Breakout Success Sundance Film Fruitvale

Academy of Art University’s School of Animation & Visual Effects’ students helped contribute to the Sundance Film Festival winner Fruitvale, starring actor Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, whose last day of life is depicted in the movie.

Fruitvale is the film world’s 2013 breakout success at Sundance, following 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. Both of these independent, low-budget, first-time films share at least one creative element: key contributions from students in Academy of Art University’s School of Animation & Visual Effects.

Catherine Tate, an Academy instructor who served as visual effects supervisor for Fruitvale, enlisted the help of her students to develop effects for several key sequences in the film. She says the circumstances were similar to those that led to Academy students contributing visual effects to Beasts of the Southern Wild. “These films have no budget for effects,” she explained. Without the efforts of the students “they wouldn’t even have effects,” she said.

Fruitvale is the first feature film by Ryan Coogler, a 26-year-old Oakland resident who both directed and wrote the screenplay. It’s a dramatic recounting of the last day of Oscar Grant, a young man who was fatally shot by Bay Area Rapid Transit officers in January 2009. After Fruitvale was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, distribution rights were purchased by The Weinstein Company. There’s Oscar buzz for next year circulating already.

Harvey Weinstein explains why The Weinstein Company acquired Fruitvale: “I was completely amazed by this incredible film. This earth-shattering story is one that needs to be told, and we are honored to be able to share Oscar’s story with audiences everywhere. I was totally blown away by the cast, and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with such a great group of filmmakers.”

One early review of the film said, “The director’s debut is an agonizing, complicated and accomplished character study that lends a voice to a soul too soon taken.”

The Academy congratulates Catherine Tate and her team of students, who worked long hours on what she calls, “an unbelievably accelerated schedule” to help finish Fruitvale in time for the Sundance Festival.


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