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FSU film student wins prestigious Student Academy Award

FSU film student Shae Demandt gives a speech as she accepts her Student Academy Award in Beverly Hills Oct. 11. (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
FSU film student Shae Demandt gives a speech as she accepts her Student Academy Award in Beverly Hills on Oct. 11, 2018. Her film "Reanimated" took top honors in the Alternative category. (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

And the Student Academy Award goes to… Shae Demandt!

The Florida State University junior, an animation and digital arts major in the College of Motion Picture Arts, earned congratulations and recognition as she received the award at an Oct. 11 ceremony in the famed Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Demandt was one of only 19 student filmmakers from around the world to win a 2018 Student Academy Award. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Demandt the top honor in the Alternative category for her documentary, “Reanimated.” The film is now eligible to compete in the 2018 Oscars.

“Winning this award has been very surreal,” Demandt said. “The awards week in Los Angeles was one of the best weeks of my life. It was incredible to meet amazing and talented people from all over the world and get the chance to experience their art on the big screen.”

Shae Demandt attends the 45th Annual Student Academy Awards in Beverly Hills. (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
Shae Demandt attends the 2018 Student Academy Awards in Beverly Hills. (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Demandt faced a lot of competition. Students from 400 colleges and universities submitted more than 1,500 entries. The Miami native is the ninth FSU film student to win a Student Academy Award in the history of FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts.

Demandt made her documentary as part of a film class last spring. “Reanimated” focused on the long-shuttered Miami Marine Stadium, once a prized and popular 6,500-seat venue for boat races, concerts, rallies and sporting events.

The architecturally distinct structure, featuring a cantilevered folded plate roof, was condemned following Hurricane Andrew and closed in 1992. The abandoned concrete structure on Virginia Key, located off the coast of Miami on prime real estate, became a colossal canvas for graffiti artists. They painted virtually every inch of the stadium with bright murals, messages and motifs.

Growing up in Miami, Demandt and her family were intrigued by the stadium’s history and ongoing efforts to restore it. She loved the building’s contradictions: a barren cement behemoth gleaming with vivid art.

“Artists brought it back to life with murals and other random weird art pieces,” Demandt said. “It’s a mixture of many different styles in one giant building. It’s literally a museum of graffiti.”

Demandt wanted to bring that museum of graffiti to life in a film. She envisioned personifying the Miami Marine Stadium in a way that would make the building a living, breathing presence on screen.

It was an ambitious vision, and Demandt wondered if she could make it work. Her classmates Anisha Gupte and Geena Hernandez helped film the documentary, and more importantly, they reassured her.

“Shae had a great vision for the production, and she explained it to us before we filmed,” Gupte said. “She wanted to make it seem like the stadium was breathing and had people rushing through it, so we treated everything as if it were alive.”

In her acceptance speech, Demandt said she had a vivid imagination as a child, and as she grew older she realized a lot of adults leave that part of childhood behind when they join the "real world." Now, she's glad to nurture her imagination at FSU's film school. "I realized filmmaking could be the medium where I relive my childhood fantasies." (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
In her acceptance speech, Demandt said she had a vivid imagination as a child, and as she grew older she realized a lot of adults leave that part of childhood behind when they join the “real world.” Now, she’s glad to nurture and explore her imagination at FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts. “I realized filmmaking could be the medium where I relive my childhood fantasies.” (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Demandt started planning her production in early 2018, and she felt FSU’s film classes prepared her well for the project.

“I put together a 20-page documentary proposal, explaining the story and vision, what would be filmed and how I’d make it happen,” Demandt said. “A production class covered the paperwork needed for a film project, and that was valuable because Miami had a lot of permits.”

Demandt was able to get supervised access to the condemned stadium for only 30 minutes, and that created a frenetic shooting schedule for the student filmmakers. Each grabbed a camera and raced through the building to get the shots that Demandt envisioned.

“It was such an adrenaline rush,” she said. “We had three people on three cameras, all split up, and we were just running.”

Gupte said that quick pace for filming left her with some unforgettable memories.

“I’d be filming, and then out of the corner of my eye I’d see Shae running past me, and then Geena would suddenly race through from another direction,” Gupte said. “It was a great experience, super fun. We filmed cool art with our best friends, and what could be better? We were doing what we love with people we love.”

Demandt joins an elite international club of past Student Academy Award winners. Members of the group have gone on to receive 46 Oscar nominations, and they’ve won or shared eight Academy Awards. The list of winners includes Spike Lee, Pete Docter and Trey Parker.

View her acceptance speech at the 45th Annual Student Academy Awards.

Shae Demandt was one of only 19 student filmmakers from around the world to win a 2018 Student Academy Award. (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
Shae Demandt (back row-right) was one of only 19 student filmmakers from around the world to win a 2018 Student Academy Award. (Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)