Derek Tsang graduated from University of Toronto Scarborough in 2001 with a degree in sociology – but he always knew he wanted to make movies.
The Hong Kong resident is now an actor and director, and, this weekend, his film Better Days is up for an Academy Award for best foreign language film.
“When I found out about the nomination I was actually bumming out on my couch and then all of a sudden, the phone started ringing,” Tsang says. “People were starting to congratulate me and that’s really when it hit me – and I just jumped on my couch, I was just jumping around you know, screaming.
“It was definitely a very exciting and special moment.”
Tsang is not the first U of T alumnus to receive an Oscar nomination. In 2014, for example, Faculty of Music alumnus Owen Pallett, the renowned indie singer-songwriter and violinist, was nominated for his contributions to the score of Spike Jonze’s film, Her, while former Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering student Andy Koyama was up for his role in mixing the sound of the film, Lone Survivor. Acclaimed filmmaker Atom Egoyan, who graduated from U of T’s Trinity College, also received two nominations for his 1997 film, The Sweet Hereafter.
If he wins, Tsang will follow in the footsteps of such alumni as composer Mychael Danna, who graduated from U of T in 1986, and won an Oscar in 2013 for best original score for the film Life of Pi – and actor Donald Sutherland, who received an honorary Oscar in 2017.
In 2019, Domee Shi – whose proud mother, Ningsha Zhong, is a longtime U of T staff member – received the Oscar for best animated short for Pixar’s Bao.