Meet the filmmakers was uneventful. I twittered some choice quotes.
Michael Fukushima of the NFB introduces Competition 1 Filmmakers
My primary goal for the day was to meet Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes to discuss our conversation scheduled for 7:00.
Small fortune shown and that encounter happened a full eight or so hours before we were to go on.
The International Showcase screened in the afternoon. Our film was included. There’s a clear distinction between the films of Competition 1 and the Showcase films. Most of the showcase films had something to recommend them, but fell short of in one or two areas.
The program begins with “Paperman” from the Disney studio. Whenever I see one these Disney or Pixar pieces for the first time, it feels like I’ve already seen it. Not in that good Joseph Campbell kind of way, either. It’s an inconsequential film, and sad that so much talent, labor and money has gone into so meaningless.
The talk with Smith & Foulkes went well. We’re doing an encore on Saturday.
Short Competition 2, beginning after the 9 o’clock hour, was a bit of a trial after 12 hours of hustle. The program included several strong films. And several head-scratchers. Micheala Pavlatova’s “Tram” had a lot going for it. A sexual fantasy of female trolly driver, I wonder how this film would play if it were made by a man.
Joseph Pierce returned with “The Pub” utilizing a similar rotoscoping technique from his “Family Portrait”. It’s an exciting approach.
The evening ended with a very long Dutch film “The Monster of Nix” by Rosto. This is an expensive looking, unintelligible piece. The few parts that do make sense, make the viewer grateful that the rest of it is a gobbly muck.
In the morning I tried some Television Animation Conference panels. Tough going. Especially the French woman who -with stereotypical chauvinism -asserted that animation would likely not exist today if not for it’s “creation” in France. A mythical creation that has no proof in the fossil record and would have very little bearing on the development of the art even if some undiscovered film surfaced to bear witness to the Franco-falsehood.
So that kind of bothers me.
Otherwise, a kind of lovely day.
Early dinner with Liesje Kraai, Anna Humphries, Brett Thompson and Morgan Miller
The first screening of the Festival was the feature “Wrinkles”. This four-walled for Oscar eligibility last year and I missed it. It’s a Spanish film about a guy moving into Alzheimer’s who gets sent to an old folks home.
Atypical subject matter for the technique. The illustration style is pleasant -sort of a mid-90s Eurocomic look -and has the potential for expressive and human animation. The whole effort is solid, if too long by 30 minutes.
I was asked to say some words on Tissa David before the shorts competition first screening.
The bit was recorded, though the first sentence or two was chopped off.
Short competition 1 was even. The first two films established a theme of “bodies”. Johanna Rubin’s “Meat + Love” kicked it off. It’s a stop motion film of kissing, the faces formed with cuts of meat and giblets. Disgusting, sure. But smart and charming.
This was followed by Paul Bush’s “Lay Bare”. This is, essentially, a pixellation shot in close ups of several bodies. Birthmarks and moles and belly buttons animation through quick cuts. Also wins you over with charm -but goes on a little too long. A second chapter opens with a baby, full face. The audience let out and audible “Awww”. It was loud, but not loud enough to cover my internal “Ugh”. The filmmaker presents this second part as a heavy-handed thesis, dropping in some text (in a poor, poor typeface -the other theme for the night) to drive home his point. How much more elegant and profound this film would be without that.
Those two films set the tone and the standard for the evening. A program of solid films -about half a little too long, as always; and many with terrible typographic decisions. But all good and possibly made better in context.
Tissa David lived a life -was a person -worth eulogizing in heartiest way.
Her fans would create opportunities to sing her praises, as we have for the past few decades.
From “The Great Frost” based on Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”. Design by Seymour Chwast
The canon of work bears repeating. The first woman to direct a hand drawn animated feature, “Bonjour Paris” for Grimault (Lotte Reininger’s cut out films preceded it). A string of marvels with the Hubley Studio: “Eggs”, “Cockaboody”, “Dig”. Her sequence in “Everybody Rides the Carousel” will bring a man to tears. The titular heroine of Richard Williams’ “Raggedy Ann & Andy”. Michael Sporn’s “The Red Shoes” and “The Marzipan Pig”. Her elegant take on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
I knew her from working together at R. O. Blechman’s The Ink Tank. There she did stellar work with his delicate line, “The Soldier’s Tale” being a stand out.
Self Portrait as Fossil from Hubley’s “Dig”
At The Ink Tank, as with Hubley, she animated commercial after commercial.
She easily could have been a journeyman animator. There are dozens of highly skilled men who knocked out commercials of quality for everything from Apples to Zebras. These are artist who should be celebrated for the skill they brought to the craft. Tissa, though, she brought artistry. To the corniest bank commercial, she infused the stuff with soul.
Her artistry, that’s what we’ve raved about for ages. Her life, that’s what is truly amazing.
She could tell stories of walking (WALKING) from Budapest to Paris at the height of the Cold War, sneaking past the borders without papers or passport. She could tell you how her first job, her dream job, in New York at UPA came in part due to her lack of English. When Grim Natwick asked her, “What is animation?” She responded in pigeon, “Animation is animation.” The Swede laughed, “I’ve been asking people that question for 30 years and that’s the best answer I’ve heard.”
The events are something, to be sure, they are the result of the way she chose to live her life.
When I first started work with R. O. Blechman, he was somewhat paralyzed. A commercial was coming in and he needed Tissa to animate it. Tissa was on vacation. In Hungary maybe, or Paris, or Holland. Or maybe just Virginia. Or some other far flung corner of the globe.
She would take maybe four months out of the year to travel. Visit family. Visit friends. Live a life away from the lightbox and the pencil test screenings.
Upon her return to work she was fully dedicated in a way unlike anything I’ve seen. She could create a complete and vital film from an exposure sheet and a stack of paper. Then she would explain to you how she did it.
I doubt there has been any greater teacher of the art in the past 30 years.
Her primary attribute, in my opinion, is devotion. Just as she would attend morning service daily (my Jesuit upbringing bridged an immediate connection), she was fully devoted to her craft. She was fully devoted to her family. And she was fully devoted to living a fruitful and productive life.
Even twenty years ago, Tissa would talk with an Old Transylvanian weariness about how she would soon be dead. First I’d say, “You animators live to be 100″. And she would reply something like, “Why would you curse me with such a thing?”. Soon I’d say, “So when you die, can I have your apartment?”
“I would love for you to have my apartment. But you know, it’s not that simple.”
From John Canemaker’s book on Raggedy Ann and Andy
Tissa left this world last night. The treasures she has given us.
I have a hardened eye towards animated films based on “real audio”. Generally the picture drags down the audio; the audience would be better served listening to a radio play.
Sometimes it works.
Leah Shore’s “Old Man” opened the Genart Festival yesterday. Culled from hours of phone recordings with Charles Manson, her take is visceral and exciting, mostly avoiding simply serving up the voice track.
Of course, it helps that the voice track is a largely incoherent, insane ramble.
Here’s the film’s website. http://oldmanmanson.com/
It was paired with a difficult romantic comedy which was geared towards an audience who isn’t me (I guess I’m not the right Gen).
What was strangest, to me anyway, was the emphasis the festival presenters put on the “parties”. Most of the packaging gave them equal billing “Seven Films, Seven Parties”. The guy who introduced the film (he was from ABC[?] radio) was also particularly excited about the party.
So I can’t say much about the Festival itself -an awkward pairing of short and feature, an embarrassing emphasis on periphery and the product- but I think “Old Man” is an excellent piece of work.
There’s something unnerving about the Brothers Quay.
Not their work so much, but them. But their work is tied so closely to their work some of that inscrutability might transfer.
Ron Magliozzi, Associate Curator at the MoMA where “Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets” opens this week, introduced them with the claim that their work is “indecipherable”.
Lenica, Borowczyk, Joseph Cornell, Bourgery & Jacob, and the rusting flotsam of 19th Century genius can provide a more than sufficient cypher to break the code.
Some of these influences are presented at the MoMA. The Brothers generosity in citing work they like -Alexander Alexieff, Yuri Norstein, Igor Kovaleyev, Pritt Parn -contributes to a very personable engaging show.
Typically, the personal life of an artist doesn’t particular interest me. The twins are so synchronized, for such a long time, examining their work -especially the illustration, painting and prints -constantly calls back the question of penmanship. Film, their primary medium, demands many hands. A two headed author of a film is common. All of the work is signed under the “Brothers” name, with no clue into the division of responsibility.
They did give one insight when discussing disagreements. They don’t argue, never have disagreements. Collaboration is process of “distilling differences.”
The show runs through January with all sorts of screenings too.
Sara Calagero, with whom I worked for several years, would spend her downtime cutting peg strips.
I didn’t even have to ask her (and I asked her about almost everything) before she offered: “You never want to run out of peg strips.”
If you insist on ignoring physical production, you’ll never need them.
Otherwise, you can never have too many.
We’ve been working on several sequences for a film on a composer/musician. Some them involve animating her paintings in a semi-abstract, expressive manner.
For these, Kelsey has roughed the animation digitally and is animating based on those on paper with paint.
This is a little how some folks who do paint under camera will pencil out their actions first.
We’re painting on a smaller field -the originals are notebook sized and have visible brush strokes, so this should help mimic that look. It will help with buckle, too. Even though we’ve decided on a 64 pound charcoal paper stock (for texture), the bigger the field, the worse the buckle.
What to do about the project that’s not particularly interesting creatively and doesn’t offer enough pay to make it interesting?
I try to take “how much not enough money?” and weigh that against “how creatively uninteresting?” I suppose creating a numeric scale for this would be the best thing. With work for the Mitt Romney campaign being a flat ZERO in the interest scale and $1000 being and ZERO on the not enough money scale.
Admittedly, if Mitt came knocking with a bag full of $100 bills I wouldn’t think twice. That’s how you bring jobs back to America!
The scale would make everything scientific, at least. Then the potential client could be turned away with a polite, “I’m sorry to inform you that your project has been evaluated as a 7 on the Farnsworth scale…”
The difficulty comes in with other factors. The personality of the potential client. The ease of production. The status level.
Status level. Doing work for a “7″ slated for Sundance has added value. A “7″ destined for the client’s bat mitzvah -not so much.
The possibility of future work and relationships factor in. It actually happens -rarely -that helping someone on an uninteresting, poorly paying project leads to decent work. Predicting the future is impossible. Someone who has a track record, and who is in a position to contract projects with regularity would grade higher than a person with no track record and no prospects.
I think I’ll use this number scale in the future.
The first two factors money/interest rate from 1 to 10, the rest 1 to 5.
That gives a range of 6 to 40. Maybe the threshold can be 25.