Gil Kenan

Animated director Gil Kenan's rapid rise from unknown film student to Oscar-nominated filmmaker was the stuff that dreams are made of for anyone struggling in Hollywood. Born on Oct. 16, 1976 in London, England, his family moved to Tel Aviv, Israel before settling in Los Angeles, CA. Though an avid filmgoer - he cited "E.T." (1982), "Gremlins" (1984) and "Back to the Future" (1985) as early influences - he never conceived of making movies for a living until later in life. He did pursue theater acting, but the 1994 Northridge earthquake swallowed up the play he was working on. It was then that he decided to go to film school, later attending the University of California, Los Angeles, where he won the school's Spotlight Award for "The Lark" (2002). This 10-minute short, which combined live action on digital video with stop-motion animation, helped kick in the door for Kenan. A week before graduating with his master's, Creative Artists Agency signed him as a client, distributing his short to every producer in town.