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Woodside director qualifies in film semifinals

Perhaps it was not a gold statuette, but a young Woodside filmmaker can now count making the semifinals at the Student Academy Awards among his accomplishments.

San Charoenchai, 24, a graduate of Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology, submitted his 8-1/2-minute computer animated piece "Big Shot" to the competition, run by the same organization that hands out the Oscars. It fell just short of making the finals.

"I sort of just threw it in there hoping something would happen," Charoenchai said, noting the piece was his senior thesis. "I'm glad that I at least got some kind of response."

Charoenchai, who has been animating by hand for years, said he dreams of taking the style to new places.

"I really want people to look at animation in a different way from kids' stuff," he said. "Get away from the whole PG or G thing, sort of create something with more depth to it and less of the cartoony eyes."

"Big Shot" tells the somewhat fictionalized story of Charoenchai's rise from a child to an egotistical film director.

"What most animators do is have two or three characters and put them in a situation and have a funny ending," he said. "I wanted to do something more unique, which was to have a whole lifetime, how a life develops even though most of it is lying about my life. It makes people question what is real. It's a lot more engaging than a Pixar kind of thing."

Since graduating last May, Charoenchai has been working at UV Phactory, an animation studio in SoHo.

"We just finished this music video for Bjork," he said. "The 'Wanderlust' video."

Charoenchai said the work is interesting, but not like his film school projects.

"It's a little bit different because you're working with so many other people. You're basically a tool for them to create what they want to make," he said. "It's good for discovering how other people are thinking. But in the end, if you want to do your own project, you have to sort of get away from that somehow."

Charoenchai is also a newcomer to Queens. Born in New Jersey and raised largely in Singapore, he lived in Brooklyn for a year before coming to Woodside in November.

"It's nice," he said. "It's pretty quiet. It's not as expensive as living in the city."

For the foreseeable future, the young animator said he will continue to learn as he works on music videos and other projects. But he plans to make his own feature films someday. In the meantime, those interested in Charoenchai's output can peruse his earlier animations online at YouTube.com.

"If I ever make something [else], I'll put it on YouTube," he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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