Born in 1999 in Los Angles, Isaiah Ferguson is a consummate, prolific and award-winning artist-animator-musician. He will be graduating from Santa Monica College in Spring 2019, and has already been accepted into some prestigious BFA programs in animation. Below are Isaiah’s most recent works, video portfolio, awards list, artist statement, samples of entire videos, photos and some of his drawings.
MOST RECENT ANIMATION: Inauguration Day by Isaiah Ferguson, 2017. Outstanding Animation Award and The Creative Vision Award, Providence Cinema Arts Focus Program 2017 Film Showcase, Disney Studios Theatre. Description: Short animated video piece based on a true story of a family’s uncle detained at LAX Airport and deported after a signed executive order preventing green card holders from entering the United States
VIDEO PORTFOLIO: Samples & Snippets of Animations by Isaiah Ferguson (created 2013-2016).
Scroll down for Isaiah’s Awards, Artist Statement, and for more Videos and Photos.
Isaiah Honored at the Obama White House, Oct. 3, 2016, as Finalist in the 3rd Annual White House Student Film Festival for his Film, A Vision, an Animation with Live Action
A Life-Changing Memorable Moment at the Obama White House
by Isaiah Ferguson, February 12, 2019 – Personal Story Writing Sample
On November 4, 2008, at the age of nine, I was surfing cartoon animations on YouTube when, all of a sudden, my mom screamed, “Obama won!” I ran downstairs and danced around the living room with her. We turned on the TV and watched Obama’s acceptance speech. My dream of living to see person who is Black, like me, become president of the USA, had come true. Never would I have expected that, eight years later, in October 2016, at the age of seventeen, I would be honored at the White House, face to face with President Barack Obama, for my own animation work, in a life-changing moment that would make me believe I can achieve greatness as an artist/animator, despite the obstacles to success which artists of color invariably face.
In 2014, my animated PSA, Tech and Me, won Honorable Mention at the First Annual White House Student Film Festival. A year later, my animation, Go Make a Difference, won Honorable Mention in the Second Annual White House Student Film Festival. In 2016, my film, A Vision, an animation with live-action, was selected as a Finalist in the Third Annual White House Student Film Festival, co-sponsored by American Film Institute (AFI).
This qualified me to spend two days at the White House, where I met President Obama and was photographed with him and the other student filmmaker honorees. It is a moment in my life that deeply impacted and empowered me.
During the plane ride from my home in Los Angeles to Washington DC, I was filled with excitement and anxiety over being at the White House and meeting President Obama during his last weeks in office. Would I stumble and knock over a 150-year-old statue of Abraham Lincoln? Would I accidentally step on First Lady Michelle Obama’s toe? Would I stutter when speaking to President Obama? These were some of the concerns that made it difficult for me to fall asleep on the plane.
I attended the two-day-long film festival at the White House with my brother, Rafael, who is an environmental engineering student at Johns Hopkins University, our mother, the artist Lili Bernard, and our father, civil rights attorney Franklin Ferguson. The White House provided VIP passes for the four of us. Weeks before the festival, we were made to go through an intense screening process. Upon entry into the White House we were met with heavy security. There were secret service men everywhere, in all-black armor, carrying semi-automatic weapons. Once inside the White House, I made friends with several of the other student filmmaker honorees who hailed from all over the country. I also met and spoke with several famous and influential people at the White House, including actors Ty Burrell and Alfre Woodard, the creators of the TV series Stranger Things, Adam Savage, Representative John Lewis, and the artist Chuck Close who made a polaroid photograph of me, which was displayed at the White House and which he later mailed to me as a gift.
One of the first personalities whom I met inside of the White House was the Obama’s dog, Sunny, whom I enjoyed petting. The second day of the film festival coincided with South by South Lawn (SXSL), during which various famous creatives gave talks and performances. I sat in the front row of white wooden chairs as the rapper Common performed, followed by Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio interviewing President Barack Obama live on stage, a few feet away from me, on the problem of climate change, which is a subject that I addressed in my film at the festival. I felt at home in the Obama White House.
Of all the exhilarating and dreamlike moments at the White House, the most memorable one was the instant I met President Obama up close, face to face. Prior to meeting him, I was sitting with my mother and the other filmmaker honorees on the White House backyard lawn, in the front row, watching the band, Lumineers, perform live. White House staffer, Adam Garber, the film festival organizer, told us to follow him back inside into the White House building, where we had been earlier in the day. Once inside the fancy room with the painting of Abraham Lincoln, Adam began arranging us in order of height for a group photo we would be taking with the president. My breathing changed and I began sweating nervously. My chest expanded with air which I let out in deep gasps of excitement. I saw beads of perspiration on the brows of other student filmmakers, their eyes bugged in anticipation. My knees trembled. Would I be able to even stand? It was surreal. Out of body.
When President Obama emerged in front us, in what seemed like out of nowhere, the room filled with screams of awe. The majority of us were artists of color. We cried tears of joy and hugged one another in disbelief, as the president approached all of us, shook our hands and greeted us. He said he was proud of us, that we are the next generation of influencers. He thanked us for inspiring the nation through our art. His words made me feel important, like I mattered. His gaze was sincere and indicated that he genuinely cared for us. In that instant, standing before him, I felt the essence of his great humanitarianism. The White House featured me abundantly in their official videos and included an on-camera comment of my little sister, Zion, in their farewell video to the president. Per my invitation, the following year, in 2017, Adam Garber spoke at my high school. All of this happened as a result of the years of hard work that I put into my art animation.
Moment Immediately After Isaiah Met President Obama at the White House, October 3, 2016
Isaiah Ferguson Artist Statement
MY PERSONAL INSPIRATION
Nature, music and current events all inspire my creativity and are reflected in my drawings and animations. The earthly inspiration which influences my art and animation the most, however, is the work of great artists. High on the list of artists who inspire me are Charles Schulz, as well as my mother, Lili Bernard, and her visual artist peers. I am also deeply inspired by personal relationships that I’ve formed on my own with other great creative minds such as Britt Allcroft, creator of the Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends animated TV series and films. I have also been greatly inspired by my art and animation instructors, during the five years that I was a student in CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) Animation After-School Program, the four years that I was a high school student in Providence High’s Cinematic Arts Focus Program, and the two years I’ve been as a fulltime animation student at Santa Monica College. My art and animation instructors at these institutions have all nurtured my creativity and artistic growth. I have been accepted by a number of topnotch BFA programs in animation. I look forward to further developing and refining my creativity academically, so that I may be prepared to most effectively navigate a lifelong career as a producer of cutting-edge animation.
ARTISTS WHO HAVE INSPIRED ME
Charles Schulz’ autobiographical “Peanuts” motivated me, at an early age, to create my own cartoons about contemporary life. Schulz’ ability to convey his feelings and complex human emotion through gestures drawn with the simplest of lines, and through dialogue written with minimal words, deeply inspires me. The distinct personality traits of his well-rounded subjects and his comical storytelling provide excellent examples for me in terms of character and script development. I aspire to do what Charles Schulz mastered: to make cartoons that are relevant and relatable to children as well as adults. Charles Schulz said, “Good cartoon drawing is good design.” As a current 17 year-old whose mother is an exhibiting artist, I’ve grown an appreciation for how “good design” can impact an artwork. Since we were toddlers, my mother has taken me and my five siblings to literally hundreds of art exhibitions and has provided us with access to the studios of dozens of famous artists, including Mark Bradford, Henry Taylor and Charles Gaines.
I feel that I was born to be an animator. I have always also appreciated the craftsmanship of such masterful works of art, like classic Walt Disney movies and shorts, as well as the original Nickelodeon cartoons. My all-time favorite animated series, however, is Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. At the age of ten, I reached out to the creator of the series and films: Britt Allcroft. I have since enjoyed the privilege of speaking with her in person, and remain in contact with her and her daughter/manager, graphic artist, Holly Wright. Britt Allcroft’s genius, in ascribing human qualities to animated trains, parallels her compassion which is reflected in her work. It is an honor to personally know Britt Allcroft and to be able to benefit from speaking with her and her daughter about their animation work and my own animations.
MY ANIMATION WORK and HONORS
When I was six, I began making live-action videos with toy trains and action figures as subjects. My siblings assisted as production crew. At the age of ten, I started to teach myself digital video editing. I used Microsoft Paint and Windows Movie Maker to make my first digitally animated videos. By the age of twelve, I made over 50 of these simple animated short videos. Upon turning thirteen in 2012, I was interviewed on Good Day LA Fox News for my animation in the BAILA Con Duende art exhibit at the Watts Towers Art Center. That was the year I enrolled in animation classes at CalArts CAP, in which I have been a student for five years – complimented by my four years as a student in Providence High School’s Cinematic Arts Focus Program. Since October 2015, Driver Digital Inc., in New York City, has contracted (paid) me to create original animation and musical content as part of their production team for Mattel Inc.’s Thomas & Friends Official YouTube Weekly Web Series. I normally use Adobe Flash for most of my animation work, however, I have some rudimentary experience producing stop motion. I desire to learn CGI and am confident that CalArts’ Character Animation Program can best teach it to me.
Three of my short animations won awards in all three consecutive White House Student Film Festivals: Honorable Mentions in 2014 and 2015, and Finalist in 2016. The Los Angeles Times featured a story about me for this accomplishment. As a Finalist in the 2016 White House Student Film Festival, I spent two days in the White House during the first week of October 2016 with my parents and brother, who is a Johns Hopkins sophomore. My film was one of 27 films selected out of hundreds of submissions for this year’s festival. More exciting than seeing my film displayed in the White House Theater and on a giant screen on the White House Lawn was meeting President Barack Obama up close, in person, inside the White House, and being photographed with him and the other student filmmaker awardees. I met many other famous people at the White House, including legendary artist Chuck Close, who made a larger-than-life-size Polaroid portrait of me, which he bestowed to me, and which the White House featured on their social media posts. The White House also featured close-ups of me as a finalist in the festival in their West Wing Week episodic and in the festival recap video.
Other awards that I’ve won include Outstanding Animation Award and The Creative Vision Award, Providence Cinema Arts Focus Program 2017 Film Showcase, Best Animation in the 2016 Notre Dame High School Student Film Festival; Outstanding Animation and Outstanding Short Film in the 2015 and 2016 Providence Media Showcases screened at Disney Studios Theater; three Official Selections at the 2015 Comic-Con San Diego International Children’s Film Festival; Official Selection at the 2015 Los Angeles Student Film Festival; and screenings in several CalArts CAP film showcases. I also won the Providence 2016 Visual Arts Spirit Award. I am hopeful that these accolades I’ve earned in my youth, which reflect my passion, are indications of the success that I will reap as an adult producer of original animations. My dream is to become part of the creative team at either Disney Studios or Nickelodeon, as well as produce my own independent work. A college education in a top-tier animation program would help me to form that future.
Scroll down for Isaiah’s drawings and more of his animations and musical compositions.
DRAWINGS by ISAIAH FERGUSON (click on images to enlarge)
SOME SAMPLES OF ENTIRE CARTOON ANIMATIONS by ISAIAH FERGUSON 2012-2016
A Vision by Isaiah Ferguson, Created July 2016, Finalist in the 2016 White Student Film Festival.
DayTime Drama by Isaiah Ferguson, created May 2016. Official Selection 2016 Providence Media Showcase, Disney Studios Theater.
Insta Tree by Isaiah Ferguson 2015. Outstanding Short Film 2016 Providence Media Showcase, Disney Studios Theater; Official Selection 2015 Comic-Con San Diego Children’s International Film Festival, 2015 CalArts CAP Animation Showcase where it was screened at the RedCat Walt Disney Theater in Downtown, Los Angeles, CA in June 2015.
Church Survival Guide by Isaiah Ferguson 2015, Best Animation, Providence Media Showcase, Disney Studios Theater, Burbank, CA, June 2015. Official Selection, 2015 LA Student Film Festival, El Portal Cinema,n North Hollywood, CA.
The Box by Isaiah Ferguson, created November 2015. Outstanding Animation 2016 Notre Dame High School Student Film Festival; Official Selection 2016 Providence Media Showcase, Disney Studios Theater.
Go Make a Difference by Isaiah Ferguson 2015 won and Honorable Mention Award in the 2015 White Student Film Festival. This is the second year in a row in which he won an Honorable Mention in the White House Student Film Festival. Go Make Difference was also an official selection of the 2015 Comicon Student Film Festival San Diego, the 2015 L.A. Student Film Festival and the 2015 Providence Media Showcase at Walt Disney Studios.
Tech and Me by Isaiah Ferguson, 2014, Honorable Mention, 2014 White House Student Film Festival. The theme of the festival was for students grade K-12 to address, in a 1-3 minute video, how they use technology in the class room and or how it impacts their future.
Thomas & Friends: Secrets of the Stolen Crown: Since October 2015, Isaiah has been contracted (paid) by Driver Digital Productions in New York City to create musical compositions and animations for Mattel Inc.’s official Thomas and Friends YouTube series. Here is a compilation of four of the episodes. Isaiah is named in the end credits.
Isaiah’s SoundCloud Page: Click here to listen to Isaiah’s orginal musical compositions.
Lost Girl by Isaiah Ferguson, 2013. Isaiah started creating this paper-cut stop-motion animation when he was 12 years old. He completed it, on June 1, 2013, after just turning 13. Official Selection 2015 Comic-Con San Diego International Children’s Film Festival; Official Selection 2013 CalArts CAP Film Showcase.
Isaiah Interviewed on Fox News Good Day LA for his Animation in the BAILA con Duende Exhibition, at the Watts Towers Arts Center, Aired Live on September 26, 2012
Scared Your Pants Off by Isaiah Ferguson, Created Dec 2010 at the age of 11.
TUGS Animation Test by Isaiah Bernard Ferguson – Published 7-28-2012 – Isaiah’s age when created: 13 Years Old
3 Wishes by Isaiah Bernard Ferguson – Published 8-2-2012 – Isaiah’s age when created: 12 Years Old
Seed-D Delivery by Isaiah Bernard Ferguson – Published 2-20-2012 – Isaiah’s age when created: 12 Years Old
Dramatic Guy by Isaiah Bernard Ferguson – Published 2-25-2012 – Isaiah’s age when created: 12 Years Old
Brick Wall by Isaiah Bernard Ferguson – Published 2-7-2012 – Isaiah’s age when created: 12 Years Old
Differences by Isaiah Bernard Ferguson – Published 7-13-2011 – Isaiah’s age when created: 12 Years Old
Smiling Car by Isaiah Bernard Ferguson, Published 2-26-2012, Isaiah’s age when created: 12 Years Old
LINKS to ISAIAH’S ONLINE PRESENCE:
Los Angeles Times Story on Isaiah’s White House Student Film Festival Wins (published Sept. 24, 2016): http://www.latimes.com/socal/burbank-leader/news/tn-blr-me-white-house-film-20160913-story.html
Isaiah’s Artist Web Page: http://lilibernard.com/site/about/my-childrens-talent/isaiah-bernard-ferguson/
Thomas & Friends Official YouTube Channel (Isaiah is a hired web series production team member): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVKXDhi02s8oVctLvdXaf4zw9pa68POLh
Isaiah’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/bernuson
Isaiah’s SoundCloud Profile: https://soundcloud.com/hkporterbedt
Isaiah’s FaceBook Public Artist Page: https://www.facebook.com/thetuggsterintensifies – FaceBook
White House West Wing Week Episodic (Isaiah’s featured in this offical White House video as a film festival finalist, and spent 2 days in the White House), October 9, 2016: https://youtu.be/zgkWW6wy8aY?t=1m16s
Group Photo With President Barack Obama, 2016 White House Student Film Festival, October 2016: https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/14572379_10210523208417148_3350490101803477450_n.jpg?oh=cf2ef9963ef006f027328c16c33915d8&oe=58BE0920
Chuck Close Creates Polaroid of Isaiah at White House, October 3, 2016: https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/14485019_10154790890959238_7493496444086155012_n.jpg?oh=84d96ed62568392415b5963b17963a3b&oe=58F8DCC8
2016 White House Student Festival Official Recap Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edQnguudWSk
2016 White House Student Festival Winners: https://www.whitehouse.gov/filmfest
2016 Notre Dame High School Film Festival (Isaiah won Best Animation) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hltLvH_Ydw4&list=PLQcXthTxdz5GR9jyoa4tsjjV35yEH5UrS
2015 White House Student Film Festival Official Youtube Channel (Isaiah won Honorable Mention): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r56ikj__9aU&list=PLRJNAhZxtqH-LWvhsyQDbE-F0RRETGDlz&index=196
2015 Comic-Con San Diego International Children’s Film Festival: http://www.comic-con.org/cci/2015/childrens-film-festival
CalArts Cap Students Screen at Comic-con San Diego 2016 Children’s International Film Festival: http://blog.calarts.edu/2015/07/09/calarts-cap-students-screen-films-at-san-diego-comic-con/
2015 Los Angeles Student Film Festival: http://www.indiewire.com/2015/05/l-a-student-film-festivals-finalist-announced-event-happening-this-saturday-171193/
2014 White House Student Film Festival Official Youtube Channel (Isaiah won Honorable Mention): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5DQkqH0hBg&index=7&list=PLRJNAhZxtqH8GgDYtGJWfDidcAnaeX2fs
Fox News Good Day LA Interview, September 2012: https://youtu.be/a75y2mNWT3Q?t=1m16s