campus news

UB student takes unexpected path to win film award

Jessica Fisher pictured with the characters from her film.

Jessica Fisher with some of the clay figurines from her stop motion short film, “Not so Ordinary.” The film won the “Best Animated Film” award at the 2023 Buffalo International Film Festival. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published May 9, 2024

“Majoring in biological sciences was always an easy choice for me, but while taking this documentary class, I realized I also absolutely loved being behind a camera. ”
Graduating senior Jessica Fisher

Ever since high school, Jessica Fisher's path at UB was planned to a T. She would major in biological sciences and attend graduate school to become a dentist. However, once she arrived, she soon found an unexpected path forward. Fisher now has turned to her talent using polymer clay and her camera to create stop-animation films, Etsy shop items and an entertaining TikTok channel, @Jaygotclay.

Biological sciences was her first love, but Fisher felt a tug on her heartstrings when she took a film class during the spring semester of her first year. She continued to major in biological sciences but took courses from the Department of Media Study whenever she could — just for fun.

At the beginning of her junior year, she rented a UB camera for coursework in DMS 105: Basic Documentary. She used the camera to make her first film about her best friend Maddy Eberhard, a member of the USA National Sled Hockey Team. Suddenly, she felt the momentum of her dreams changing while also recognizing that her love of science remained intact. “Majoring in biological sciences was always an easy choice for me, but while taking this documentary class, I realized I also absolutely loved being behind a camera,” she says.

Fisher says she grew up in “a very science-based family. My mom and dad both work in health care, my brothers majored in biology and my oldest brother is now in medical school.”

After devoting her first two years to biological sciences, she took the leap in 2022 and applied for a second major in media study. “When I added the second major, my creativity blossomed,” she recalls. “The balance between the arts and the sciences works great for me. I found switching back and forth between biological sciences and media study always got me equally excited to return to the other.”

Her brother, Chris, was tuned in to her eager spirit for the arts. As a Christmas present in December 2022, he gifted her “DragonFrame,” a stop motion animation software.

Shortly after learning the software, she created “Not so Ordinary,” a stop motion short film about a ramen dumpling boy and his adventures outside of his bowl. Fisher explains the premise of the film: “From cereal to pasta, the dumpling’s taste for adventure is not satisfied until he realizes that his ramen bowl was the perfect place.”

Fisher’s ability to hand-craft the clay figurines, combined with her storytelling, filming and editing skills, made the piece incredibly unique. “My brother, Joseph, worked on the sounds of the film with me and it turned into something really special for both of us.”

Video still from Jessica Fisher's claymation stop animation, "Not so Ordinary.".

The world premiere of “Not So Ordinary” took place at the 2023 Buffalo International Film Festival and to the Fishers’ surprise, the film won the “2023 Best Animated Film” award.

“Winning the award further ignited something in me,” says Fisher. “It felt like it was a sign that I was on the right path, and it ended up being the extra push I needed.

“The fact that my film meant something to somebody else and they liked it meant everything to me to keep going.”

During her time at UB, Fisher also connected with Sama Waham, assistant professor in the Department of Media Study and an international award-winning director, producer and cinematographer. “One day I talked with Professor Waham after class and from there we formed a bond. She took me under her wing,” says Fisher.

Fisher’s experience continued beyond her own films when Waham invited her to work on a project, a feature-length film that Waham had started filming in 2023.

“I was struck by her eagerness to learn, intellect and insightful contribution during in-class discussions,” Waham explains. “Jessica’s exceptional professionalism and delightful personality made me hire her as one of my first student assistants and interns.

“Her devotion, work ethic and brilliant energy were just remarkable on set, despite the demanding tasks and nature of work on these projects,” she adds. “Jessica is, by far, one of the most diligent and committed students that I have ever had the pleasure to meet and mentor.”

This month Fisher will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in both biological sciences and media study with a concentration in production. She has her sights set on being a director and animator, and plans to continue to hone her skills by taking an animation class and applying to competitive MFA programs for fall 2025.

Fisher was eager to share some parting advice to UB students. “Follow your heart. Talk to your professors if they do things you’re interested in doing and ask them about their stories. You might be surprised where it takes you.”

In addition to her studies, Fisher is very involved on campus. She is a member of Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), a College Ambassador and was featured in the college’s “Wingin' It!” video series in which current students give “hot takes” on a variety of topics. She also works at the Regal theatres.

Her clay art and films can be found on YouTube, TikTok, Etsy and her website.