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CalArts alum wins big at South by Southwest Film Fest

‘Thompson,’ story about two boys growing up in Newhall, wins Grand Jury award

Posted: March 27, 2009 1:41 a.m.
Updated: March 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims of Valencia with their jury award for Best Short Film. Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims of Valencia with their jury award for Best Short Film.
Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims of Valencia with their jury award for Best Short Film.

A Valencia man whose short film tells the story of two teenage boys growing up in Newhall won the prestigious Grand Jury Award at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

"I was just so honored to be included in the festival," said Jason Tippet, a graduate of California Institute of the Arts. "But the real award is knowing that people connected to the film."

Tippet's "Thompson" documents two boys who make their ways through harsh changes and approach their uncertain futures after high school.

"It's a real story that people can relate to," said "Thompson" producer Elizabeth Mims, a film student at CalArts. "The film's simplicity and honesty is what makes it so unique."

The award was given to the best out of 30 short films nominated in the category from across the country.

Thousands of fans, film enthusiasts and industry professionals visited the festival, which ran from March 13 to March 21 and showed multiple screenings of nominated films throughout the week.

Screenings of "Thompson" sold out to packed houses by day, and at nightfall Tippet and Mimms rubbed shoulders with some of the film industry's most elite members at cocktail parties held for the nominees.

"The festival took such good care of us," said Tippet. A highlight of the event was when the festival commissioned a helicopter to fly the film nominees to lunch with some of Hollywood's biggest directors at Troublemaker Studios, the private studio of "Sin City" director Robert Rodriguez.

"When we got to the luncheon they set up, we had no idea our favorite directors would be eating with us," Tippet said. Among his notable lunch companions were directors Richard Linklater and Morgan Spurlock. "It was a memory of a lifetime."

But one of the things he enjoyed most was watching how people received "Thompson."

"People were coming up to us saying that they felt they knew the two boys in the film personally and felt connected to them. That's the moment that everything came together," he said.

More than 1,000 attendees watched as Tippet and Mims were presented the highest honor awarded in short films at the awards ceremony March 17, which was accessible to nominees and film professionals only.

Both Tippet and Mims recall the winning moment as "scary but amazing" as the pair accepted their honor and were given the prize of software for future film projects.

Tippet and Mims plan to collaborate on another documentary this summer, while they also entertain new film festival offers.

"Thompson" has been acclaimed at film festivals in festivals in New York, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Athens.

"We worked hard and had a lot of fun making this movie," said Mims. "And that passion is what it's all about."


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