Oscars truimph for Teesside University graduates with Ex Machina win

WHEN the Academy Award for Visual Effects was announced in Hollywood a big cheer went up in Teesside where several people who worked on the winning film, Ex Machina, learnt their craft.

The critically acclaimed movie tells the story of programmer Caleb Smith who is invited by his employer, the eccentric billionaire Nathan Bateman, to administer the Turing test to an android with artificial intelligence.

Teesside University graduates Sana Jamie and Natalie Rocks, who both achieved first class degrees, were involved in the visual effects for the sci-fi thriller and Andrew Whitehurst, Visual Effects Supervisor on the film who collected the Oscar, was one of the speakers at this year’s Animex festival at Teesside University.

Blair Stent, a Digital City Fellow at Teesside University and founder of film production company The Office Above, also worked on Ex Machina. He was responsible for remotely operating several cameras at once, making sure they moved precisely, together and individually.

Teesside graduates were well represented at this year’s Oscars. Phil Shoebottom, who graduated with a BA (Hons) Creative Visualisation, worked on Inside Out, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. There were also graduates who worked on Star Wars, The Force Awakens, which was nominated in the Best Visual Effects category.

Ellie Serafin, Principal Lecturer and Section Head for Animation and Visual Effects at Teesside University, said: “We had strong representation at the Oscars this year and it is fantastic to be able to celebrate the success of our graduates who have worked on such high-profile films.

“Our students are passionate about what they do and it is great to provide them with the skills and foundations to go out and succeed in the industry. To have their work contribute towards an Oscar is an incredible accolade for them as individuals and for us as a university.”