Alexander Tyson, 21, displays his Emmy.

Alexander Tyson, 21, displays his Emmy. (Andrew Shortall)

Alexander Tyson takes great care of his prized possession, surrounding it in bubble wrap inside the box it was mailed in about six weeks ago.

Most people have a hard time believing it's an Emmy until he pulls it out of its protective shell, Tyson said.

The 21-year-old La Cañada High School graduate won the 2009-10 Northern California Area Emmy from the San Francisco/Northern California chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his work as an assistant editor on Mark Kistler's "Imagination Station" — a public television show that taught kids how to draw in 3-D.

"I went into it without really thinking it was actually going to make it," said Tyson, a junior at Columbia College Hollywood in Tarzana said. "I thought it was just some gig that I would get some experience on."

The show was a collaborative effort between a group of students from the ITT Technical Institute, who were picked to help edit the 26-episode series, and student from Ferris State University and San Jose State University students who helped with the animation.

Serving as an assistant editor on the project, Tyson met weekly deadlines and held regular telephone meetings with the producer to make sure everything was on schedule.

"Alex's involvement with this project separates him from other students who did not have these opportunities," said Jonathan Hayward, dean of the ITT Technical Institute, where Tyson graduated as salutatorian with an associate's degree in information technology.

Tyson said he first discovered his passion for film and editing as a senior at La Cañada High. Now, at 21, he already has experience working in television and film, helping to edit "Down and Out in Cannes," a documentary film that appeared in the 2010 Delray Beach Film Festival in Florida.

Tyson is currently working on preparing a demo reel to get him more exposure and career opportunities down the road. He said he hopes to attend USC's School of Cinematic Arts after he graduates with his bachelor's degree in cinematography and television. His dream is to become an underwater cinematographer.

"He certainly is taking the right steps and gaining the necessary experiences to position himself as a well-qualified candidate in that field," Hayward said.

Still, Tyson acknowledged the long road ahead.

"There's always something new I have to learn," Tyson said. "I can't ever be satisfied with what I know. You always have to stay on top of it because it's always changing."