He hadn’t known much about the human eye, good or bad. But that didn’t stop U of G undergraduate Adam Mosher from winning first prize in a film contest to teach online viewers about age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

This month, the third-year student in English and philosophy won $10,000 for his 55-second animated film, Eyes. His entry — the only animation among 40 short films submitted from around the world — caught the eye of judges for the first-time contest by AMD Alliance International.

Winning the contest means Mosher will be able to pay off some student loans. More than that, he’s glad to have had a chance to draw other eyes to the major cause of vision impairment in people over 50.

“It could have been a contest about anything, but this is expanding awareness of a disease that affects millions,” says the Tottenham, Ont., native. “It feels great to win, but the thing that feels much better is winning for that cause.”

AMD is a progressive retinal disease that causes loss of central vision. Genetics and environmental factors like smoking or a high-fat diet play a role, says Mosher, who has no personal connection with the disease. “Losing your vision can be a scary thought.”

There’s no cure and only limited treatment, so early detection and prevention are key — the main message in his film.

Calling Mosher’s work “creative, sharp and powerful,” Wanda Hamilton, CEO of AMD Alliance International in Toronto, says other entries were also artistic, but “Adam was brilliant in conveying the disease in less than three minutes.”

After spotting an online ad about the contest, Mosher spent about 100 hours creating his animated short; entries were limited to three minutes or less. He says thousands of people have viewed the YouTube film.

He’s heard from numerous viewers, including a teen whose mother’s AMD hadn’t been caught early enough. “It made me realize I was getting the message out there.”

AMD Alliance plans to use the contest videos for promotional campaigns, including AMD Week in September and a viral online campaign involving its member organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

For Mosher, winning the contest has also rekindled his passion for film. In high school, his hobby films won a course award. He entered U of G planning to become a schoolteacher, but says he’s thinking about pursuing film and animation after graduation.

“I’m going to be looking for opportunities to do that,” says Mosher, who plans to use his contest winnings to buy a video camera.