Earlier this year, the SVA Alumni Society announced its 2021 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Fifty-nine SVA Students were awarded $40,500 worth of scholarships for their original projects. Over the next few weeks, SVA will be highlighting some of the many outstanding projects. Today’s featured thesis project is by Fin Handel (BFA 2021 Animation).
Handel’s thesis project is the animated short film Following the Comet, about a young man’s understanding of the world around him as a comet approaches Earth. A meditative film, Following the Comet grapples with ideas of nature, life and death, and the beginning and end of all things.
Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?
Following The Comet is a self-reflexive piece. It’s all about me. I wrote this film over the summer of 2020, right after the pandemic started going into full blast. I was going through a lot of changes in my life and I had to express that somehow. I figured this film would be that outlet, writing about my anxieties and thoughts about the world.
What most surprised you once you started working on the project?
I was pretty surprised at the recognition I got for my story. I wasn’t too sure about it, but I had many people relating to it or understanding it more than I had thought, initially. I’m kind of a nervous artist, so I want people to like my work, but at the same time, I can’t help but make things in my own weird way. Lately, I’ve been trying to tell myself to make things for my own satisfaction and hope that those who like what I do will stick around.
What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?
Living and studying in New York City was incredibly inspiring. I’m back home in New Jersey now, but I miss the city a lot. There’s a very special way of life that exists there, where it’s all a bit scary and exciting. I miss most riding my bike down Manhattan along the Hudson River right before sunset. There’s nothing like it.
What is something you learned at SVA that you’ll always take with you?
At SVA, I learned to encourage myself to be who I want to be. I’ve had tons of professors and friends who range in their beliefs, how they teach, how they work, whatever their style is. They all try to imprint a bit of themselves onto their students. I keep a bit of everything I love about them with me in my work and life, so it becomes something all of my own.
Was there a teacher or course that was essential for you?
Yes, I have a few teachers I would like to thank—first, Stephen Gaffney for really encouraging his students. I’ve never met someone more eager to teach, always coming to class with a smile on his face even if the world was on fire. Gaffney would treat his students like a family. Secondly, Daniel Riccuito is beyond eccentric and enthusiastic about everything that exists in the world. He is the most welcoming person I have met in my life, always happy to exchange ideas, encourage critical thinking and push for a deep analysis not only into art but into life in general. I felt very understood in the presence of both of these mentors.
What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?
Things might start complicated and confusing, and they might stay that way for a while, but with time things will start falling into place. As you get older, life becomes a little more challenging, but you’ll find that you’re always just on the cusp of being able to handle anything that is thrown at you.
For this year’s SVA Alumni Scholarship Awards, 59 students were chosen from a pool of hundreds of applicants. They were granted scholarships worth more than $40,000 for projects as varied as design products, animation, painting, and photography. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of last year’s recipients, click here. To Support the Talent this year, you can donate online at sva.edu/give.