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Filmmaker and BA (Hons) Animation Production alumnus S Miyazaki standing with his framed British Animation Award.

British Animation Awards: Graduate animation Cortex wins Best Undergraduate Student Film


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The winners of the prestigious British Animation Awards 2024 (BAAs) have been announced at London’s BFI Southbank. Now in its 28th year, the BAAs are anything but sheepish as they celebrated the best in the business with an impressive gala presented by comedian Henning Wehn.

The much-anticipated biennial event saw two graduate animations from Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) nominated for the Best Undergraduate Award, Moonseeker and Cortex. Cortex won the category, with director Sena Miyazaki accepting the award on the night.

"I really didn’t expect to win," he says. "It was an incredible surprise."

Cortex is the story of a desperate man as he undergoes an experimental trial with a new technology, called CORTEX, embarking on a journey through his mindscape to reconstruct his memories and modify his past trauma.

On the inspiration behind the animation, Sena explains, "The idea for Cortex originally came out of lockdown. I was alone with my thoughts a lot and my only escape was into creativity.

"I was thinking about the lack of support and assistance for people who are struggling with their mental health, and the powers that new technologies can have over us and our reliance on them, especially in countries like Japan."

Since making Cortex, Sena graduated from AUB and is working in Manchester as a background painter on a new Disney show, due to be released this summer.

"I’ve always been super motivated and driven," he says. "As well as studying at uni, I also took some additional online courses to really hone my specialist skills.

"In 2022 – my third year at AUB – I was working on Cortex and had a rough idea of what I wanted the story to be, but I hadn’t quite got it. So, I took a short course in visual storytelling at GOBELINS in France, where they mentored me for a couple of weeks to develop the story.

"I’ve also taken short courses with the artists that I really admire. A lot of artists run their own courses and it’s a great way to make industry connections while you’re still at uni. It’s also a great way to emulate a specific studio if you’re looking to work there in the future.

"I also reached out to artists to ask them for advice. This led me to finding more events that I could go to, more workshops I could join, and more portfolio reviews. Events like the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France are amazing to go to for meeting artists and people in the industry. I recommend everyone goes there if you’re looking for a career in animation."

Regarding his next steps, Sena says he'd like to find a better work-life balance, but he'd also like to more of his own work, including more feature films.

"At university, you have the time and creative freedom to produce what you want," he says. "That’s not so easy once you’re working.

"I feel like this award is an accumulation of all the hard work I’ve been doing over the last few years. I’m just so grateful for everything, the opportunities I’ve had and the support from AUB and from the industry too. I’m still not sure if the news of the award has really sunk in for me yet. I do know that the 2022 me would be really proud of everything that’s happened, and especially proud of this award."

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