And the Award Goes To …

Woodbury Animation student Lauren Gregorio named a finalist in KCET’s Fine Cut Festival of Films competition!

This year’s KCET Fine Cut Festival of Films will get a boost from one of our own. Il Bello di Nonna, a short by fourth-year Woodbury animation student Lauren Gregorio, has been named a finalist in the competition.

Fine Cut, a curation of short films from Southern California student filmmakers, received more than 350 submissions this year, with topics ranging from climate change to mental health to LGBTQ relationships. The collection will be broadcast on KCET as a series of four, one-hour segments beginning September 29. Prize packages valued up to $12,000 will be awarded to three winners in the categories of Documentary, Animation, and Narrative short films as well as one winner of the prestigious Jack Larson Southern California Student Filmmaker Award, which recognizes one student’s strength as a storyteller. Winners will be named at a private awards ceremony in late September. Ill Bello di Nonna is slated to air on Wednesday, Oct. 20, on KCET at 10 p.m., as noted in Variety’s article, “KCET’s 22nd Annual Fine Cut Festival of Films Reveals Finalists, Judges, On Air Schedule.”

We spoke with Lauren to learn more about her experience at Woodbury, her decision to become an animator, and what it feels like to be a finalist for Fine Cut.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you for the opportunity to share my story! I’m proud to be an Italian, Filipina artist planning to graduate from Woodbury in the Spring of 2022. At this time, I plan to pursue a career in design and visual development in the animation industry.

How long have you been interested in animation?

I’ve been interested in animation ever since I could draw at a young age. When I was little, I used to draw with my sisters (I’m a triplet!) and friends, creating worlds and stories in the process. The creativity in animation is what first piqued my interest. I was inspired by classic Disney animations such as Tarzan, and by television shows like Legend of Korra.  In particular, the artistic expression shown in these two productions sparked my love for art and animation.

What inspired you to pursue animation at the college level?

The possibilities within animation and art drove me to pursue a career in this field. Whenever my art was showcased, I was amazed by the powerful responses from my audiences. The influence animation has over storytelling is phenomenal. It’s why I want to create my own animated content to intentionally impact the audience.

What brought you to Woodbury?

A friend of mine first brought my attention to Woodbury. After attending one of Woodbury’s campus events, I loved the natural environment and community of the campus.

Have you had any internships? If so, please share your experience (s) and responsibilities?

I’ve completed two internships; One as a creator community intern at Tapas Media and the other as a visual development Intern at El Grupo Workshop, which I was introduced to by Woodbury adjunct professor, Alex Topete. As a creator community intern, I assisted with projects involving community engagement and feedback. I interacted with the community and helped foster a welcoming environment for creators. At El Grupo Workshop, as a visual development intern, I worked with other interns and the director to design and finalize artistic assets for an upcoming short film.

Currently, I’m in mentorship programs with both Netflix and Skydance Animation, where I’m getting practice-based exposure and learning more about visual development and production design. This has been an exciting experience for me since I am pursuing visual development as an artistic career.

Congratulations on being named a KCET Fine Cut competition finalist for your junior year film, Il Bello di Nonna. Can you share more about the film and its inspiration?

Having my film recognized at such a prestigious level is such an honor and means the world to me. It’s an opportunity to show not only my story, but my family’s story to a larger audience. It’s also the chance for my nonna to peek into my world and see all the hard work I’ve put into this film on a big screen!

Il Bello di Nonna is a short film about a boy who struggles to cook as his grandmother guides him through the process. The film marks both the beginning and the end of a generation, as one passes down family traditions. This is an experience I have personally encountered, learning the exact recipe that is shown in Il Bello di Nonna—a “tiella,” which is a savory quiche-like dish. My nonna always tells me that I am her “bella di nonna” and that I must learn these recipes to make for my family. I wanted to touch on the hidden truth behind this exchange. It’s a feeling I wish to share with both adults and children who may have or have yet to experience how powerful a moment like this can be.

What is your favorite aspect of the animation field?

I love that the animation field is so versatile and that I can experience and experiment with various mediums whether it is traditional 2D, or 3D. The amount of freedom is limitless and it’s exciting to see what I can achieve with each medium.

What projects are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of Il Bello di Nonna because it is the first project where I feel I was able to capture my voice and intention within the story and convey it to the audience.

Who among the faculty has been most influential in shaping your academic career?

I’m grateful to many Woodbury professors—especially Leslie Park and Jonathan Hoekstra for being very generous with sharing their knowledge and time. They introduced me to the depth of the animation industry and its powerful storytelling elements.

What stands out about Woodbury’s animation program?

The program is one of the highest-ranked animation schools in the country and is located in the best place for animation internships and careers!  Woodbury also has an amazing tight-knit community that pushes for excellence and offers the most advanced animation tools for learning animation techniques, like 2D, 3D, and stop-motion. I also love that classes are taught by industry professionals who I get to work with very closely since the class sizes are so small.

What experiences in animation have been most meaningful/relevant to you thus far?

When I was working on my short film, Il Bello di Nonna, I asked my cousin Ian Lao to compose the music. Having not worked with a composer before I was nervous about the outcome and what we would produce. To my surprise, the relationship between music and art is seamless. When I proposed my story idea, he easily was able to articulate it with sound—something I could not comprehend before I was part of the process. This exchange of artistic and narrative theory from both music and animation was extremely enlightening and meaningful.

What advice would you share with incoming animation students?

I would tell them to absorb everything they can! Don’t be afraid to ask professors about their experience or what they know about the industry. Asking these questions and making these invaluable connections are just as valuable as the courses you take.

For more about the award, judges, prizes, and list of all finalists, please see KCET’s press announcement, Southern California Student Short Film Television Series FINE CUT Announces Finalists and Episode Lineup for New Season Premiering Sept. 29 on KCET.

Last Updated on September 21, 2021.