Confessions of a Festival Juror
Our Two Cents
Finally, I would like to impart the selection committee's "two cents" of advice on building a better production, which probably is more appropriate for a course on animation design than an essay on the selection process. However, I present these pointers with the hope that they may help first-time artists design a production that is successful in festivals.
Be sure to give your work a professional-looking title sequence, avoiding overly pretentious titles; after the second day of viewing, the committee met the screening of films bearing deeply philosophical or cutesy titles with a deep sense of trepidation. Avoid using long opening titles, which slow the pace of your production at the time when you most want to grab the viewer's attention and run with it.
Avoid cycling images or using holds for long periods, especially at the beginning of your film. By the time 30 seconds had elapsed, the committee members began considering whether a production should be turned off. If nothing engagingin terms of character design, story line, sound, and so forthhad occurred by then, it was likely to suffer a premature death. By creating even a speck of interest, a film was likely to linger for at least two or three minutes. By then, we expected a building of interest; if not, an entry was likely doomed.
Some themes, visual elements and sounds were greeted with a high degree of skepticism. Probably the most difficult theme for a first film to pull off was one of alienation, where a solitary character appears in murky light in the confines of towering, prison-like walls, accompanied by heavy music or breathing. We saw this kind of production many times, but almost without exception the result was rather unaffecting. On a similar note, student and first-time entrants often seemed too timid or inexperienced with their subject matters. Traditionally sensitive or taboo subjects, such as Christ, extreme poverty, fetuses, etc., evoke strong reactions and demand a high level of control, yet these subjects commonly appeared in heavy-handed "statement" films. Likewise, there were many instances where "cheap effects" like gore or sex were used, apparently to get the viewer's attention (but with opposite results). If you have a strong inclination to make a film involving sensitive or difficult elements, be sure to study many other "recognized" works made on similar subjects. On the other hand, students should be careful about using derivative imagery and story lines, particularly if they have been heavily influenced by a teacher. Off the top of my head, I can think of two films that were omitted from competition because they very clearly bore the reflections of a master animator.
Character design and animated movement were probably the areas in which most of the films excelled; however, in too many cases we saw productions that looked fantastic but had nothing else going for them. We often had the feeling that an artist had no passion for his or her subject, or for some reason could not articulate those feelings through movement, sound or other important aspects of the production.
Our Two Cents