Tom Perlmutter and Canada’s Venerable NFB
DS: I’ve seen a number of those projects.
TP: Well, when I arrived, we were working with emerging filmmakers in a very expensive way, and I said there must be a better way of doing things, to give them the experience they need without costing so much. It can be more efficient and they can learn better. So we set up a program called Hothouse. For three months, we bring together six animators from across the country. First there’s a selection process, and then they’re placed in the animation studio in Montreal for that three months. Now the big difference from a student project is that they are produced like Oscar films. We’ll bring in a leading animator to act as a mentor for the process. Every element of it has the best talent in terms of sound design, in terms of music, in terms of any part of the digital imaging. They’re being pushed. Everything is being pushed. They have to come together to figure out how to be effective story tellers in a short, short format, from thirty seconds to two minutes. It’s extraordinary and the work’s available on line.
DS: Didn’t Patrick Doyon’s film come out of Hothouse?
TP: Yes. One of the Oscar nominees this year, Sunday, by Patrick Doyon. He began in Hothouse, and then graduated to doing Sunday in that sense. People are attracted to this because they want to do auteur animation. There are not a lot of places to go first of all.
DS: No there isn’t.
TP: And there isn’t a real economic model for it as a short form animation…
DS: Not at all.
TP: And so what you have is that our system, in a sense I think for many filmmakers, the Film Board is their kind of Holy Grail, where they can come and do it and work there.
DS: When you look at the NFB, your job, what gives you the most sense of personal satisfaction?
TP: First, I have to say that the most profound sense of satisfaction is the sheer amazement and astonishment that I see when I sit down in a screening room and watch some of the work. When I go onto the set and watch Michèle work on the pinscreen and I’m literally blown away by the work. I just sit there and my insides go all kind of funny because something’s happening to you. You’re in a relationship with a work of art. You feel it transforming you as you’re sitting there. And I think, God, we’ve created a place, an environment where that kind of magic happens. Second, I always love this, is to sit with an audience in smaller communities across the country. I do that, I regularly go out. And I’m sitting there, maybe in Prince George in Northern BC, or maybe in the Arctic with the Inuit community, watching films with them and how they respond to it in completely unexpected ways, ways that open their eyes to how important this work is to the people whom you want it to be important to. Those two things are the sheer joys of what I do.
Dan Sarto is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Animation World Network.