Serge Bromberg Says Goodbye to Annecy
Invariably, when people discuss animation festivals, one name comes up most often – Annecy. In conversations large and small, where moments of great enjoyment are recounted alongside moments of sheer frustration, talk of Annecy is different from talk about any other event. Those lucky enough to attend on a regular basis murmur in hushed tones about shared joys and perceived indignities like neighbors reminiscing about riding out a tornado crammed into their storm cellars. Those that have never attended hope one day they’ll get there – those that have attended begrudgingly yearn for the day they’ll return.
Standing front and center, in the crosshairs of the industry’s gaze, for the past 14 years, has been artistic director Serge Bromberg. No one else embodies the triumphs and tribulations of the festival more than Serge. He has been the central artistic voice, the person who puts himself out there, without flinching, without breaking, doing his best to satisfy and properly represent a vocal, moody, conflicted and often terribly annoying community of artists, studio execs, producers, distributors, educators, government officials and rowdy-ass disaffected French youth.
He brought the festival kicking and screaming into the modern age of entertainment, integrating a variety of drastically needed and critically important commercial segments while still embracing, at its core, the celebration of the magical art and craft of animation. Not an easy job. Often a thankless job. And always a vitally important job.
After 14 years at the helm, this past June, Serge announced he was stepping down as director. Former NFB producer Marcel Jean, himself a well-respected industry pro, has taken over. I got a chance to speak to Serge the day before the news became public. He shared his reasons for leaving, his future plans and the impact his efforts have had on the festival.
Dan Sarto: It’s a tough job being a festival director.
Serge Bromberg: No, it’s not tough.
DS: It’s demanding?
SB: No. I would say it’s like being a tight-rope walker. As long as you don’t realize that there is emptiness underneath you, it’s just walking.
But then, there are so many responsibilities, so many issues to deal with that, at some point, you feel that the only way to deal with all those things is to apply rules, to apply strategies, techniques. And after 14 years, you realize that even though you’re changing the festival every year, doing different things every year and are still enthusiastic, you’re using the same techniques to do it.
It’s like somebody who does sun-painting, and he loves sun-painting and people say, “Oh, that’s great, you’re sun-painting.” And after 10 years, he’s done 10 years of sun-painting and thinking well, what should I do now, what can I invent? I think that at some point in life, you decide that there are other people, younger or from different areas of animation, that would be better or would bring new ideas, new dynamics. Probably you don’t know when but at some moment, you feel it inside, that the moment has come.
I’m not leaving. I will be there next year. I will be doing different things, but I will be very, very active in the festival. This is a love story. I’m not quitting the festival, I’m not angry in any way. On the contrary, I love this festival. I think it’s a fabulous festival. But my successor [Marcel Jean, who hadn’t been announced at that point] will certainly bring fresh air, and if they need a face to represent the festival, I’ll still be there.
DS: What are your plans now? What’s next for you?
SB: Well, something unexpected happened over the last five years. I directed two feature films, documentaries, but one of them [Inferno] has actors. Bérénice Bejo is in the first one. She actually climbed the stairs of the Cannes Film Festival for the first time for my film, which was an official selection in Cannes in 2009. Last year I did a feature film about A Trip to the Moon restoration that took 12 years of my life.
So, I would like to do another film. All filmmakers know how much energy it takes to make a film. There is very little room for anything else. But besides that I have my shows. I’m touring throughout the world with silent films, playing the piano. My company, Lobster Films, produces TV shows in France, documentaries for television, short-films. Plus I write books. And I have three kids. So, it’s enough to fill a lifetime.