Stanford Student Film Earns Oscar Nomination | NBC Bay Area

Stanford Student Film Earns Oscar Nomination



    It's likely a first for Stanford. A student film nominated for the most prestigious film recognition possible: An Oscar. The filmmaker is a Palo Alto man who went from student to teacher. Ian Cull explains how the big nomination caught him off guard. (Published Friday, Jan. 23, 2015)

    PALO ALTO – J. Christian Jensen's film "White Earth" has earned him a number of awards that are proudly displayed on his shelf at home.

    The film even made it onto a short list for an Oscar nomination.

    It was a nomination he considered so unlikely, he didn't even wake up to watch the Academy Awards announcement live.

    "Fortunately my dad, who lives in Utah, did wake up and he was watching the live stream announcement. Gave me a call right after it happened and told me that way,” Jensen said.

    Immediately after his name was announced as a nominee for Best Short Documentary, Jensen's phone started ringing.

    "It's exciting that the story's getting out, and a little bit further than I thought it might have,” he said.

    That story is a 20-minute documentary Jensen made as part of his master's thesis at Stanford.

    White Earth shows the story of people who've flocked to North Dakota from around the country to make money in the oil industry. It's specifically told through the eyes of their children.

    “A naive look at what's happening through the eyes of these kids that are kind of sitting on the periphery and watching all this world changing around them."

    Since the film was nominated, White Earth will now be shown at a few hundred theaters across the country in a limited release.

    He also signed a deal with Vimeo so people can watch it online. All this means he’ll actually make some money from his work.

    "Compared to the feature length films it's pretty miniscule, but as an independent film maker you take what you can get and you're happy with it,” he said.

    Jensen believes it's the first student film out of Stanford to be up for an Oscar. The film was completed in 2013, and shown at film festivals in 2014. Since its completion, Jensen has started teaching a film class at Stanford.

    Next month he'll attend the Academy Awards with his wife.
    "She's super excited, she's planning on what dress she's going to wear and I guess I'll have to get a tux that fits me,” Jensen said.

    He'll now have the title Oscar nominee follow him forever. Adding another award to the shelf, would be a plus.

    “I think it'll be a fun ride and I'll enjoy it while it lasts I guess.”