A key scene in “I Live Here”, the 17-minute student film by Shane Watson, seemed to be ripped from the headlines: a white police officer’s encounter with a black man quickly escalated to gunfire.

“The Jason Stockley verdict came out, the timing is randomly at the right time, but wasn’t ever planned because you can’t really plan on that when you’re making the film because it takes so long to complete the process,” said Watson. “That’s what I came to film school for, to write about this situation happening to black people.”

2017 is turning out to be a special year for Watson, who formerly lived in Belleville and O’Fallon, IL. Watson recently received a master’s degree from California College of the Arts. “I Live Here” was his thesis film which was nominated for a student Academy Award. Previous winners include Robert Zemekis who won a Best Director Oscar for “Forest Gump”, South Park co-creator Trey Parker, and the prolific movie director Spike Lee, one of Watson’s heroes.

“I’m like speechless about it because when you think Spike Lee, that’s somebody whose movies I’ve watched a lot of,” said Watson. “It’s exciting to be mentioned in the same realm as those filmmakers.”

In a Facetime interview from California, Watson said that the student Academy Award winners will be announced October 12.

“They’ve already announced the top three. I’m not one of them and that’s fine. Congratulations to the three that made it.”

Despite that bit of disappointing news, Watson said he just received word of his first film festival acceptance letter for “I Live Here”, but he’s not allowed to talk about it yet. Meanwhile he’s writing future film projects, ready to do the work to become the filmmaker he wants to be.

“I know I don’t look super excited. I’m not a person that gets super excited about a lot. But it was like something I did not expect to happen.”