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MIFA: Is It Still Important to Attend?

AWN managing editor Rick DeMott surveyed a wide array of international professionals and asked them their opinions on why they attend MIFA.

MIFA, the international market for animated film held in conjunction with Annecy, took place this year from June 2-6, 2003. AWN wanted to know what professionals feelings were on the expo? We asked why they attend, what business they do at the market and what advantages MIFA gives them over other events. We got responses from professionals across the globe, working in different areas of the animation industry, and here is what they had to say.

Naomi English, global sales manager, Cambridge Animation Systems. Photo courtesy of Naomi English.

Naomi English, global sales manager, Cambridge Animation Systems. Photo courtesy of Naomi English.

Naomi English, global sales manager, Cambridge Animation Systems

English has worked at Cambridge Animation Systems for the past three years as global sales manager. Prior to Cambridge, she was involved with a hardware solutions company in Australia for five years.

MIFA is one of the few festivals where the business and the animation art are catered for. It brings the artists, the producers, the distributors, the buyers and the tools of the trade together under one festival. It is a wonderful place to network with the animation community and to see what is going on with the new and established filmmakers, production companies, service studios and animation manufacturers.

As we exhibit at MIFA each year, not only can we demonstrate our new products and releases, we have the ideal opportunity to meet with our reseller partners, to build on existing customer relationships and to develop new customer relationships. MIFA's role in the animation community is no longer just centered on the European markets. As we have seen each year, an emerging number of international studios and representatives are coming to MIFA, which gives the festival a wonderful global flavor.

MIFA is the biggest animation trade show closest to England and is tightly focused on our target market. The setting of Annecy is also a lovely advantage.

Christopher Panzner, writer/producer, TEVA. Photo courtesy of TEVA.

Christopher Panzner, writer/producer, TEVA. Photo courtesy of TEVA.

Christopher Panzner, writer/producer, TEVA

Panzner started his career as the technical director for the inventor of interactive television shopping, the Home Shopping Network. In 1988, Panzner moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in multimedia as assistant art director for the inventor of the colorization process, Color Systems Technology. He set up a subsidiary of CST, CST Interactive, in Paris, in 1991, to colorize black and white French films and was hired away later that year as a software consultant by Pixibox, then Europes biggest producer of television animation and the inventor of the first industrial cartoon production software, now called PEGS. In 1993, he became the managing director of the Luxembourg-based studio, Luxanima. Panzner joined TEVA in 2001, and has been instrumental in the financing and/or the making of five features there in 2002-2003, including Belleville Rendez-vous.

It's an occasion to catch up with virtually everyone in European animation (and the North American "regulars"), formally and informally. The atmosphere is much more relaxed, people make more time for you in general and the "appreciation level" is higher since it's exclusively animation. Annecy's such a beautiful place, too.

This past MIFA was incredibly fun and productive for us. The genesis for a lot of our partnerships is MIFA since there are many more creative people (who shy away from MIP-TV or MIPCOM). Normally, most producers are preparing a pilot for Cartoon Forum or MIPCOM Junior, and just starting to show their projects around, looking for partners and asking for creative input on projects that are fairly far along in development, but whose financing phase may have only just started. There are also a lot of independent artists and/or new companies looking to get their projects off the ground and MIFA is a good place to start generating interest. We are a high-quality studio/co-producer, so we make a good fit (with the financing available to French studios).

Cartoon Movie, MIP-TV and the Cannes Film Festival precede MIFA, which is the last festival before summer vacations start. So, normally, we conclude a lot of deals in Annecy and prepare for the double whammy of Cartoon Forum and MIPCOM.

Seth Piezas, Fluid. Photo courtesy of Fluid.

Seth Piezas, Fluid. Photo courtesy of Fluid.

Seth Piezas, president, Fluid

Starting his career, Piezas worked in broadcast commercials, feature visual effects and interactive games for such companies as LucasArts Entertainment and Tippett Studio. While at Pixar, he served as a member of PING, an internal group devoted to production process improvement and strategic developments. Among his Pixar production credits are Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. He left Pixar in September 2002 to found Fluid as a production management operation catering to the growing computer animated feature market.

Our business model relies entirely on fully animated features. We felt MIFAs animation focus would create an ideal atmosphere to meet quality production and distribution partners from all over the world. Specifically, we are interested in meeting companies that are designing themselves as remote production centers. Traditional animation is mature in this way. We expect it to be a significant part of CG animations future. However, it may take a long time to mature.

Everything in this business comes down to relationships. MIFA, combined with Annecy, created a perfect environment to meet professionals in an atmosphere where everyone was enjoying and celebrating animation. It was simple. MIFA has a specific focus on animation with an emphasis on the international scene. We are completely immersed in the North American market, and MIFA provides the opportunity to catch things that we might otherwise miss.

Attending MIFA helped Cartoon Saloons Skunk project immeasurably.  Cartoon Saloon.

Attending MIFA helped Cartoon Saloons Skunk project immeasurably. Cartoon Saloon.

Ross Murray, administrator, Cartoon Saloon

After graduating with double honors in Economics and Sociology from NUI Maynooth, Murphy decided he wanted to make his filmmaking hobby a career and promptly joined Cartoon Saloon. Since then, he has worked to help the Saloon develop its range of services and its own projects.

MIFA is important because it is focused only animation so you get to talk about the solutions and problems from all angles. There are students, writers, designers, animators, script editors, producers, directors, colorists, etc., so if you look, you will find.

Partnership is the best thing for a studio like ourselves. And I think, that in such a focused environment, it helps create and foster those relationships. You can test the water much better - at other events like MIPCOM and MIP-TV sales are the main target of the people attending, so they are often under intense pressure to reach targets. At MIFA, you can bring a project, throw it out there and get a response. For us that was invaluable this MIFA with our project Skunk, which we are presenting at Forum this autumn.

Tapaas Chakravarti, DQ Entertainment. Photo courtesy of DQ Entertainment.

Tapaas Chakravarti, DQ Entertainment. Photo courtesy of DQ Entertainment.

Tapaas Chakravarti, managing director/ceo, DQ Entertainment

Chakravarti is the head of the Hyderabad, India-based cel animation company, which produces programming for television, feature films, the Internet and CD-ROMs. The company was formerly known as Dataquest Management & Communications Ltd.

MIFA is immediately after MIP-TV in a serene, relaxed atmosphere for follow-up on MIP discussions. Very serious people come here for one-to-one relaxed and detailed meetings in a holiday atmosphere. This ensures serious business deals. You can take a weekend off after MIFA in one of the most beautiful and hospitable places. You meet many youngsters, aspiring animation people with original ideas, great relaxed parties and its less expensive. MIFA is more European business-oriented and you meet serious buyers and sellers from France, Spain, the U.K. and Germany.

Joan Vogelesang, president/ceo, Toon Boom Technologies. Photo courtesy of Toon Boom Technologies.

Joan Vogelesang, president/ceo, Toon Boom Technologies. Photo courtesy of Toon Boom Technologies.

Joan Vogelesang, president/ceo Toon Boom Technologies

Prior to joining the Toon Boom, Vogelesang was coo of Qsound Labs, Inc., an audio technology firm. Before then, she was vp of business operations at Hitachi Data Systems, Inc. Vogelesang also worked for Philips Electronics Ltd. for 10 years where she held the position of vp, product line management. As the first female vp, she supervised 380,000 employees, She came to Toon Boom in 1998 as coo and, in 2003, was appointed president and ceo.

MIFA is recognized as the European Animation Festival and Market. Therefore, it attracts all the players, big and small, of the animation industry, that are mostly based in Europe, creating an ideal environment for business opportunities. It is critical for Toon Boom to attend as our presence in Europe is expanding, and MIFA gives us the opportunity to meet with existing and potential customers. We have pulled out from all the other events as exhibitor -- the other shows didnt turn out as productive as MIFA. MIFAs advantages are: the event is focused, it is well-established and well-organized, creating a favorable environment for business and the combination of the festival with the market draws a lot of talent and expertise, making the whole event worthwhile and stimulating.

Andrew Fitzpatrick, chairman, Monster! Distributes. Photo courtesy of Monster! Distributes.

Andrew Fitzpatrick, chairman, Monster! Distributes. Photo courtesy of Monster! Distributes.

Andrew Fitzpatrick, chairman, Monster! Distributes

In addition, to being chairman of TV brand firm Monster! Distributes, Fitzpatrick is a director at several other companies, including Planet Rock Ltd., which produces the successful music series, Planet Rock Profiles. Prior to Monster!, he ran the Don Bluth companies, which included Europes largest animation studio, employing more than 420 people, for 10+ years, holding various positions, including that of chairman, prior to the companys take-over by Newscorp.

MIFA is the only industry event attended by such an interesting mixture of broadcasters (though not enough these days!), distributors, producers and first-time filmmakers. Its combination with the festival enables distributors to meet with emerging creative talent and it enables these talented individuals to spend time with buyers in a way which wouldn't be possible at a major market.

It provides an opportunity to acquire great new programs for distribution, as well as opportunities to meet with buyers. We've already made two sales resulting from meetings at this year's MIFA, and are close to a third. MIFA is pretty unique in being a market attached to a festival.

Jiang Toon Animation is an emerging animation firm in China. © Jiang Toon Animation.

Jiang Toon Animation is an emerging animation firm in China. © Jiang Toon Animation.

Alexandre Rousseau, vp, international business development/supervisor, overseas projects, Jiang Toon Animation

Rousseau represents Jiang Toon Animation in China. The 5-year-old company specializes in the pre-production, production and post-production of animated features, episodics and Webisodics. It has facilities in Shanghai, Wuhan and Chengdu, China, with its business development unit located in Montreal, Canada.

There aren't enough shows exclusively dedicated to the business of animation for us to ever consider not attending MIFA. Furthermore, current conditions force us to inspect every nook and cranny for opportunities, although I cringe a little at the comparison. Annecy is neither a nook nor a cranny, and its festival, setting and ambience lend it a certain dignity - an augustness if you will - unsurpassed by comparable events. If only they'd improve their damned cooling system.

Rick DeMott is managing editor of Animation World Network. Previously, he served as the production coordinator for sound production house BadaBing BadaBoom Productions and animation firm Perky Pickle Studios. Prior to that position, he served as associate editor of AWN.

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