Back from the deadCENTER

oklahomaSpent a long weekend in Oklahoma City at the deadCENTER Film Festival where “Christmas Day” ran twice in a short film program.

The festival itself is well run (even though they ran out of goodie bags by the time we registered -that’s more probably more indicative of its popularity than anything else) and offers a good mix of intelligent programming.  “Intelligent programming”, for example, our film was featured in a series called “Love, Sex and Death”.  Leah Shore’s “Old Man” was a stand out in the stand out program called “Vamps, Ghouls & Haunts”.  These themes make it easier on the audience and are offer a fair platform to the films by presenting them in a league of related work -even if they are just third cousins, twice removed.



Festival director Lance McDaniel told me that most of the shorts programs were already reaching sell-out by the first day.  Our first screening pretty much filled up the 100 plus seat multiplex theater despite the fact that only two filmmakers were in attendance.


Despite Oklahoma’s well-known primitive stances on human rights issues like gay marriage and the gleeful ignorance of some of their highest elected officials, it’s clear that some strong civic voices in the state are pushing back in an effort to build a community which is representative of the 21st Century.  This has begun with a successful urban renewal project that includes renovated parks, a river walk in the style of San Antonio, a botanical garden and arts outreach programs.

Not insignificantly, the festival inaugurated an “Equality” program this year.  A few of these films were produced regionally.  The entire program, especially the the local films and moreover the audience response was moving.  It gives hope that universal access to equal rights under the law may not be as far down the pipe as certain lawmakers would like.


The projection and venues (I was in three venues and six screens -the Festival taking over half of well-run multiplex) were all good.  The library, pictured above, had a fairly small screen in a very nice lecture hall and the blu-ray image spilled off it.  Despite that the environment was appropriate for “Out of Print” -a documentary on books and their future.  That film, edited by the always brilliant Tom Patterson, took the “Best Documentary” prize in a field that included some very stiff competition.


There were jam-packed parties every night in different locations.  But I’m old and they were too loud and too crowded so I didn’t spend much time at any.  The kids would have loved them.

I had a good time, met some great people and saw some exceptional work.  This is definitely a festival for serious film makers.  A more than worthwhile experience.

Ottawa International Animation Festival – Day Two

It’s not hard to forget that it’s work.

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.

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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.

Ottawa International Animation Festival -Day One

rThUneventful day on Wednesday.

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.

Old Man

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.

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.