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And the Oscar goes to: Moorhead High grad wins Student Academy Award

Devon Manney is a 2013 graduate of Moorhead High School and a 2017 grad of the University of Southern California. He worked 12-16 hour days on his award-winning film "Cradle." Special to The Forum1 / 3
Devon Manney, center, appeared in last summer's Act Up production of American Idiot with, from right, Jenny Shaw, Devon Solwold, Nick Brandt and Maddy Timm. Forum file photo2 / 3
"Cradle" is a Student Academy Award-winning animated short which tells the story of a veteran living with amputation following his days in the service. Special to The Forum3 / 3

LOS ANGELES — May I have the envelope please?

A Moorhead High grad has earned a Student Academy Award for an animated short film he created.

Devon Manney, a 2013 graduate of Moorhead High School, is one of only 17 students in the nation honored this year with a Student Academy Award.

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Manney — a 2017 animation studies graduate from the University of Southern California — was honored for his animated short film "Cradle." The film was one of 1,587 entries from 356 colleges and universities around the world.

Manney says he was in shock when he got the news.

"You can't really prepare yourself for something like that," he says. "I think I just kind of walked around and even cried a little bit when I got the news. It was a wonderful moment."

"Cradle" tells the story of a young veteran and his struggle to move forward after losing both arms in Iraq. Manney says like many people of his generation he's been fascinated with post 9/11 America and while in a "creative zone" his sophomore year he had the idea of using phantom limbs as an artistic metaphor. He even interviewed amputees to get firsthand knowledge of the experience. But after working on the 14-minute film for 12 to 16 hours a day, he says the film became more "personal and grounded."

"It stopped being a big overarching theme and more about the characters of this man, his wife and daughter and how they came together after trauma," Manney says. "The goal was to really tell a story."

Manney has been telling stories since he first fell in love with animation at the age of 9 or 10.

"I thought to myself 'I can do that!'" he says. "None of what I was doing was very good, but I realized you don't have to be at Nickelodeon to work on animation."

By the time he was at Moorhead High School he continued dabbling in animation and also participated in speech and musical theatre where his creative interests flourished.

"None of this would have been possible if I hadn't grown up where I did, gone to the school I did and been surrounded by family and teachers that really supported the arts," Manney says.

After getting into the prestigious USC School of Cinematic Arts, Manney hit the ground running, winning numerous awards and fellowships. He even won a national award for editorial cartoons his junior year just one semester after taking it up. By his senior year, however, he knew he had to concentrate on "Cradle" which would become his senior thesis. He says he knows it's not the kind of film that people will be "super excited to fork over money to see." But commercial success isn't necessarily what Manney is seeking.

"I'd love to have a lot of people get a chance to watch it," Manney says. "But even if it touches one or two people in a profound way or makes them feel emotionally whole, that's what's important. That's why I love creating. You hope for that kind of reaction."

As nice as it is to win a Student Academy Award, the honor also means "Cradle" is eligible to compete for a 2017 Oscar for Animated Short Film. Manney says it's possible it could win, but not likely since it's being judged against 60 or 70 films from big names and studios.

"More than anything, it's just one more opportunity for people to look at it and see if it connects with them," he says.

Manney is hoping to get "Cradle" involved in film festivals and available for online viewing by 2018. He'll also spend the next few months working on directing and developing films — some could be seen by large audiences while others might not. But that's okay with Manney.

"I'd rather work with two people who believe in a story we're telling," Manney says. "I love telling stories. I put everything physically and emotionally into them. If that means I need to eat PB&J's to save up money to do that, that's okay."

For more information, visit Devonmanney.com.

"Cradle" trailer from Devon Manney on Vimeo.

Tracy Briggs

‘The Great Indoors’ with Tracy Briggs appears every Thursday in The Forum. For more information go to her blog at thegreatindoors.areavoices.com.

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