Cary Joji Fukunaka

Credit: Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

UC Santa Cruz alum Cary Joji Fukunaka won an Emmy Award for direction of HBO's 'True Detective' series.

UC Santa Cruz alumnus Cary Joji Fukunaga picked up an Emmy Award Monday night (Aug. 25) in the category of “Outstanding Director for a Drama Series” for the HBO series "True Detective."

The up-and coming 37-year-old director, writer, producer, and cinematographer triumphed over a highly competitive field of colleagues, including the directors of "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards" and "Boardwalk Empire."

“This is awesome….I’m at a loss for words,” said Fukunaga, after the voiceover noted that his first job in Los Angeles was working as a camera production assistant for the video of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.”

Hosted by "Late Night's" Seth Meyers, the star-studded 2014 Emmys took place at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre.

One of the most highly praised new shows of the year, "True Detective" premiered in January, starring actors Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

In addition to his role as director, Fukunaga also serves as executive producer of the HBO series.

Fukunaga graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1999 with a B.A. in history. He first gained notice when he received the best "Directing, U.S. Drama" award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival for his debut feature film "Sin Nombre."

He wrote and directed "Sin Nombre," based on his own firsthand experiences with Central American immigrants seeking a better life in the U.S.

Two years later, he followed up with "Jane Eyre," his take on the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte. That film featured Australian actress Mia Wasikowska (Tim Burton’s "Alice in Wonderland," "The Kids Are Alright") and Irish actor Michael Fassbender (Quentin Tarantino’s "Inglourious Basterds," HBO’s "Band of Brothers").

Fukunaga is currently editing his next film, "Beasts of No Nation," starring British actor Idris Elba ("The Wire"), which is scheduled for release in 2015.