Carson School senior’s animated film wins awards at area film festivals

A scene from "Negative Spaces," a film by Michaela Wadzinski.
A scene from "Negative Spaces," a film by Michaela Wadzinski.

Carson School senior’s animated film wins awards at area film festivals

calendar icon26 Oct 2018    

Michaela Wadzinski
Michaela Wadzinski

Lincoln, Neb.--Michaela Wadzinski’s advanced project, “Negative Spaces,” has been winning recognition at several film festivals recently. Wadzinksi is a senior film and new media major in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.

The film won the Best in Animation Award from Ron Clements at the Sioux City International Film Festival in September. Clements, who is originally from Sioux City, has worked at Disney for 45 years and co-directed and co-wrote “Moana,” as well as other Disney films such as “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Hercules.”

Wadzinski got to meet him and his directing partner, John Musker.

“I was really excited to hear that I won it. I was very surprised,” she said. “I got to talk to both of them for a little bit, and they both gave me some advice, and that was really nice.”

“Negative Spaces” also won Best Animation at the South Dakota Film Festival, also in September.

“I was very excited about that,” she said. “They had a best student animation category, too, and I wasn’t in that category, so that was neat."

In all, her film has been accepted to eight film festivals, including the Celtic Animation Film Festival, Open World Animation Film Festival and the Kansas International Film Festival.

“I’m glad it’s successful and that it’s resonating with people,” she said. “That’s always what you wish for.”

“Negative Spaces” is a six-minute, live action and animation hybrid, Wadzinski said.

“All of the backgrounds are live action, so we filmed on a table with all these notebooks, and I put animation over the top of that,” she said. “Stylistically, it’s what happens when your sketchbook drawings come to life. The story focuses around this little ballerina character who just gets brought to the world, and then a lot of hard things happen to her, and she has to learn to believe in herself.” 

Associate Professor of Film and New Media Steve Kolbe is not surprised by Wadzinki’s success.

“Michaela is one of those harder-to-find students that is incredibly dedicated to consistently learning her craft—never giving up,” he said. “For years, I have been impressed by her ability to always take ownership of her work and to always give her best.  However, even more impressive has been her humble ability to take critiques, criticism and feedback from her mentors and peers—she is genuinely open to the back-and-forth of creative expression and storytelling. She worked with a longtime friend of mine at her Academy internship this past summer, and I, of course, heard nothing but great things about her talent and consummate work ethic.  She has fantastic hand skills and understands the ins and outs of both live-action and animation production.”

Last summer, Wadzinksi received a prestigious internship from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation in traditional animation, where she worked at Bento Box Entertainment, which produces the animated Fox television show, “Bob’s Burgers.”

“They had me doing whatever I could essentially,” she said. “They were kind of spreading me around to different positions so I could learn a lot of different things, so I spent a couple of days with the design team seeing them design for new episodes coming up. I spent a lot of time with the post team and would watch the episodes back with them and look for errors in the animation and things like that. I worked on a music video, and I did some retake animation. I sat in a lot of the meetings.”

Wadzinski said she learned a lot.

“It was interesting to see how they do things because you never really know until you’re there,” she said. “There’s a lot of positions that I never thought of that existed, like just the way the color department works specifically and the design department were really different than what my perception of them was, so that was really interesting, and it was just cool.”

The experience was invaluable.

“I gained experience, and I also gained a better understanding of what I want to do, which helps me pitch myself as I move forward or how I brand myself,” she said. “I feel like I just have more experience and more confidence, which is good.”

Wadzinski is working on two upcoming projects, including her capstone film, which is live action, as well as an independent study project, which is animated.

“I’m doing a bit of both,” she said.

Kolbe said she is ready to take the next steps in her career.

“She is a confident and successful leader,” he said. “In short, Michaela is ready to take the next step into the industry she has been training for these many years.”