NYU Tisch Alumna, Chloé Zhao, Makes History at 2021 Academy Awards

Zhao is the first Asian woman to take home the award for Best Director

Chloé Zhao (TSOA), an alumna of NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Graduate Film program, made Oscars history at the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday, April 25, becoming the first Asian woman to take home the trophy for Best Director for Nomadland, her haunting feature exploring the lives of van-dwelling modern-day nomads in the American West. A woman of color had never before won the Oscar for Best Director and Zhao is only the second woman to do so in the show’s 93-year history.


also won the award for Best Picture, marking two Oscar wins for Zhao, and one for her collaborator and former NYU classmate, Mollye Asher (TSOA ’99, ’14), producer for Nomadland. Nomadland cinematographer Joshua James Richards (TSOA) earned a nomination for Best Cinematography and is also an NYU Tisch Grad Film alumnus. Zhao, Asher, and Richards all met and started collaborating while studying at NYU.

Shaka King (TSOA ’13), Judas and the Black Messiah director, was also in the running for Best Picture along with Zhao, and made history with the first all-Black producing team for a Best Picture nominee. King also entered NYU’s Grad Film program in 2007 with Zhao, Asher, and Richards—marking four NYU alumni from the same class among the 2021 Oscar nominees.

NYU’s Grad Film faculty remembers the Class of 2007 as particularly close-knit, intense, and competitive, often breaking the mold set by earlier filmmakers. Zhao and King’s former professor Jay Anania says “if you put a piece of string, a toothpick, and an egg on a table, they could figure out what to make out of it.”

Nomadland has dominated awards season with a slew of wins including the top DGA honor and top BAFTA awards for Best Film and Best Director.

The Academy Awards recognize outstanding film achievements and are the most prestigious in the industry. In total, 11 members of the NYU community were nominated for 15 awards. An additional three NYU alumni and faculty worked on Oscar-nominated projects, including Cary Anderson (TSOA ’89), who co-executive produced The Trial of the Chicago 7, nominated for Best Picture; Cathy Ang (STEINHARDT ’17), who acted in Over the Moon, nominated for Best Animated Feature; and Robert Szanto (TSOA ’10), who served as a U.S. production consultant for The Father, nominated for Best Picture.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the award winners at Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center on Sunday, April 25 in an unprecedented ceremony reimagined due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Below is the full list of NYU-related Oscar nominees:

Best Picture

  • Mollye Asher (TSOA ’99, ’14), Producer, Nomadland
  • Shaka King (TSOA ’13), Producer, Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Marc Platt (LAW ’82), Producer, The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Douglas Urbanski (TSOA ’79), Producer, Mank
  • Chloé Zhao (TSOA), Producer, Nomadland
Best Director
  • Chloé Zhao (TSOA), Nomadland
Best Original Screenplay
  • Shaka King (TSOA ’13), Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Kenny Lucas (LAW), Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Chloé Zhao (TSOA), Nomadland
Best Film Editing
  • Alam Baumgarten (TSOA ’80), The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Chloé Zhao (TSOA), Nomadland
Best Cinematography
  • Joshua James Richards (TSOA), Nomadland
Best Production Design
  • Mark Ricker (TSOA ’95), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 
Best Live Action Short Film
  • Susan Ruzenski (STEINHARDT ’85), Feeling Through
  • Sofia Sondervan (SPS ’93, TSOA ’95), The Letter Room
About the NYU Tisch School of the Arts
For over 50 years, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts has drawn on the vast artistic and cultural resources of New York City and New York University to create an extraordinary training ground for artists, scholars, and innovators. Today, students learn their craft in a spirited, risk-taking environment that combines the professional training of a conservatory with the liberal arts education of a premier global university with campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai and 11 academic centers around the world. Learn more at www.tisch.nyu.edu.
via: https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2021/april/nyu-tisch-alumna–chloe-zhao–makes-history-at-2021-academy-awar.html

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