14 UNCSA connections to 2023 Oscar-winning films

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, are regarded as the most prestigious and significant awards in the entertainment industry. With wins from the comedy-drama film "Everything Everywhere All at Once," psychological drama "The Whale" and German-language anti-war epic "All Quiet on the Western Front," the 2023 Academy Awards was a year of firsts and comebacks. And UNCSA made a strong appearance in the night's award-winning films.

Here's a list of all the 2023 Oscar-winning films with UNCSA connections — in alphabetical order.

Avatar: The Way of Water 

“Avatar: The Way of the Water” won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. The highly anticipated sequel to the blockbuster film “Avatar” that premiered in 2009 follows Jake Sully, Ney'tiri and their family as they explore the regions of Pandora. And when an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.

School of Filmmaking Picture Editing & Sound Design alumna Kristen Spaulding (B.F.A. ‘17) was a visual effects coordinator on the film. Spaulding's previous work includes being a post-production assistant and coordinator on the SyFy series “The Magicians” and script supervisor for the comedy short film “Permanent Press.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" was awarded Best Costume Design. The highly anticipated film premiered last year as a sequel to "Black Panther," which was the first Marvel film to have a Black director and predominantly Black cast.

Several alumni have connections to the film, including School of Design and Production alumni Chris Diamantides (B.F.A. '99) as a makeup artist; George Augustus Lee (B.F.A. '86) as set designer and Samantha Kingsland (B.F.A. '13) as additional stitcher. School of Filmmaking alumni connected to the film include Tyler Blythe (B.F.A. '11) as the sound mixer: second unit; Joseph Blankinship (B.F.A. '14) as the matrix head technician: second unit; and Matthew Petrosky (B.F.A. '00) as camera operator and Steadicam operator: second unit.

Diamantides’ recent makeup work includes “Black Adam” and “Devotion.” Lee’s set design work can be seen in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “The King’s Man.” Kingsland’s stitch work is featured in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” and “The Menu.” Blythe’s sound mixing is featured in “Hawkeye” and “Black Widow.” Blankinship’s work is featured in “Creed III” and “Loki.” Petrosky’s camera work is featured in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “The Walking Dead.”

Everything Everywhere All at Once

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" was the night's big winner, taking home seven awards — the most in Oscars history — including Best Picture. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, the film is a sci-fi action adventure that follows an exhausted Chinese American woman named Evelyn as she struggles to cope with everything, including her rocky marriage, tattered relationship with her daughter and the family’s failing laundromat.

Alumni connections to the film include School of Drama alumnus Timothy Eulich (B.F.A. '03) who served as the stunt coordinator for the film. Eulich's stunt work is also featured in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "Stranger Things.” Additionally, School of Filmmaking alumni Sam Ogden (B.F.A. '11) served as the set designer and Alex Bickel (B.F.A. ‘04) was the colorist for the film. Ogden's set design work can also be seen in Netflix's hit series, "Outer Banks” and Bickel’s additional work includes the films “Ladybird” and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.”

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

"Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" won Best Animated Feature Film. With the help of stop-motion legend Mark Gustafson, the critically-acclaimed film reimagines Carlo Collodi's classic tale of the fabled wooden boy Pinocchio, who is magically brought to life to mend the heart of a grieving wood carver named Geppetto.

School of Design and Production alumna Jessica Moretti (B.F.A.' 10) was the set designer for the film. Moretti's additional work includes the animated films "Missing Link" and "Wendell & Wild."

Top Gun: Maverick

The second installment in the Top Gun franchise, “Top Gun: Maverick” won the Academy Award for Achievement in Sound. The film picks up 30 years after the first film and follows Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as he leads TOP GUN's elite graduates on a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen. During his assignment, Maverick is confronted by ghosts of his past, including the son of his late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose,” who happens to be one of his trainees.

Filmmaking alumni connected to the film include Emily Rayl (B.F.A. ’16) as an apprentice editor, Christopher Frith (B.F.A. ‘13) as an additional assistant editor (uncredited) and Evan Scott Russell (B.F.A. ‘15) as a production assistant. Recent work for the three alumni includes Rayl with “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and “Copshop;” Frit with “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” and “Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation;” and Russell’s with “Ladybird.”

Discover our filmmaking alumnus that was nominated for a 2023 Academy Award.

Did you catch a connection to a 2023 Oscar win that is not included on this list? Send us an email and we will update the story.

by Natalie Shrader

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March 14, 2023