2013 Ottawa International Animation Festival – Day Four

This year the Festival was a little compressed. I think having the awards on Saturday is a good idea, but that means the programming gets crammed into -essentially- two days. Saturday feels like a lost day, and Sunday we’ll be taking off. It’s a good format and I’m sure the scheduling will be cleaner if they continue with it.

It should also be noted that the projection at this festival is universally good. Having been through a hundred or so screenings over the years, there have only been a few instances of bad projection (all at the same venue). That’s an accomplishment. Each year well over 200 films screen at least twice each, these are spread over a half dozen venues. A filmmaker can be assured that their work will be given great treatment by the technical team.

I sat in on a “Meet the Filmmakers” today. The program we represented was universally good. Members of the audience, as always, wasted time on repeated questions and uninteresting nonsense but all the directors had revealing things to say about their work. Except me, I just blathered and hid my ignorance with big words.

Eric Goldberg gave a talk at St. Brigid’s Church -a new location this year. He was followed by the creator of Cartoon Network’s popular “Regular Show”. Both of these talks filled the pews.

I had Tom Sito sign his new book: “Moving Innovation: The History of Computer Animation”. I like “Drawing The Line” a great deal and look forward to reading this one.

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The stations of the cross seem appropriate decor for an awards ceremony. This year’s may not have been as bad as falling for the third time, but it was no Veronica wiping your face, either.

Many of the award selections for short form films fell somewhere between poor and laughably atrocious, but the audience award for “But Milk Is Important” was well chosen. Filmmakers Eirik Grønmo Bjørndrn & Anna Mantazaris made a nice piece and should be encouraged to make more. It may be a difficult road for them, but let’s hope they continue on it.

The non-jury “Best Canadian Animation” went to “Two Weeks – Two Minutes” by Judith Poirier. This is cameraless film using printmaking techniques. I liked it a great deal. There a world of graphic designer films that this fits in to. I may start thinking more about these types of films. They don’t consider themselves “animation” -and they might not be, but I think they go back to Saul Bass and to Len Lye and probably even earlier.

The show wrapped with what started as a funny bit -one of the students from Japan singing to his work.

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As it went on (far too long), it began to feel more and more like a minstrel show -a young man doing an Oriental Step-n-Fetchit routine. Maybe next year’s theme for student projects can explore the line between self-effacing and self-debasing.

2013 Ottawa International Animation Festival – Day One

An overriding excuse -I’ve been busy lately.  In bed at 3 am, out a 7 am (or later and earlier) kind of busy.  This, of course, is my own fault.  Trying to accommodate the world.

Multi-week sleep deprivation is a similar sensation to attending a film festival.  A soft cloud develops around your head, sunlight grows a sharpened edge, a long red light seems like a good time for a little nap.  Rollercoaster programming of a good festival, though, will make you angry and elated and raise you out of the even-keeled funk of the working world.

The festival in Ottawa unfurls so that it’s possible to be slowly drawn into the movie-haze unaware, in my current state I hit it in full fog.  The Television Animation Conference precedes the film programming by a day.  This is mostly dull stuff about animation as a product.  Movie making as money making, producing art as though it were manufacturing widgets.  But still, there is always something interesting.  Yesterday that was a panel that included Titmouse impresario Chris Prynowski.  His work as an animator is impressive and his studio produces work that exceeds the quality of any other making series for American television.  As a speaker he’s engaging and articulate.  He’s honest about the process and clearly know what he’s talking about.  A lot of people hide behind abstractions and broad figures when discussing work -it hints at a mere surface understanding of what it takes to make something.  Prynowski’s self-effacing discussion of the top to bottom details of his operation is possibly the most engaging thing I’ve seen at any TAC.

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This year the event is being held at the Museum of Nature.  It’s a nice venue.  Cocktail parties surrounded by dinosaurs.

Two screenings in the evening: the French/Belgian feature “Approved for Adoption” and the competition shorts #1.

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It might be a new “thing” in European animation, and it’s not a good thing, to “toon shade” CGI models so they look like something from Xtranormal.com.  There was a short in competition that did the same thing.  It’s made even worse by the drawn sequences in the film that are generally pretty attractive (same is true for the short).

For me, the highlight film of the short program was Edmunds Jansons’ “Choir Tour.”  The story is no great shakes but the design and animation are both terrific.

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The look utilizes contemporary drawing tools -likely Illustrator or Photoshop or some such thing in a pleasing and expressive fashion.  The animation is idiosyncratic and exploits the design.

Julia Pott’s “The Event” also ran.  There’s a lot to like about this film, and I’ve seen it several times.  It holds up (and in some ways improves) with repeat viewings.  I wish I could pinpoint why it leaves me a little cold.  It’s a good piece, though.  Strange to say, it felt a little out-of-place in the program.  Usually an apocalypse like this would be one of many in a competition selection- last night it felt like the only one.

Joanna Priestley’s “Split Ends” is attractive.  It feels like some of the graphics within it could form the basis of an interesting film.  She’s working in shape and abstraction to the point where they near representation.  Maybe this experiment will get pushed further in a future work.

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.