It's Raining Pegbars! A Profile Of Animation In Vancouver
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Citizen Harold (1971) by animator Hugh Fouldes was also helped by the NFB. © National Film Board of Canada.

In the waters off Vancouver's coast, nestled between the mainland and Vancouver Island lie the Gulf Islands. The animators who live on these islands are the ones I envy most! Living in relative isolation, close to nature -- what more could one ask for in order to find the inspiration and focus it takes to make a film? Gail Noonan, who took festivals by storm with Your Name in Cellulite (1995), recently completed Lost and Found and claims to have employed the entire population of Mayne Island during its final coloring stages! Richard Reeves, on Pender Island, has made two well-received scratch-on-film animations. He takes the ferry over to Galiano Island to teach animation classes at the Gulf Islands School of Film and Television, a boot camp for young film and video makers. On Gabriola Island, Claire Maxwell telecommutes to the NFB to direct her animated CD-Rom for Heritage Canada. Jill Haras also calls Gabriola home on the weekends.

Festivals And Screenings
Local independents and students now have a great new venue for their work: the Vancouver Effects and Animation Festival. The first installment got off to a great start last July, with a wonderful lineup of films. The Vancouver International Film Festival always screens animation, but never all in one program, which is an inconvenience. However, I did have the pleasure of seeing When the Day Breaks programmed alongside the perfect feature film compliment. If I had seen it at an animation festival instead, the imagery would have washed away a few films later.

There are a few smaller festivals in the region and the Pacific Cinemateque programs animation on a semi-regular basis. However, the most reknowned annual animation screening event remains Spike and Mike, which attracts advanced ticket sales and waiting lines around the block! Last fall, four independent animators programmed the Celebration of BC Animation -- a 25-year, 72 film retrospective. It was a wonderful event and well attended by the studios and indies alike. But we need more!

It's Their Fault!
Al Sens and Marv Newland both completed short personal films in 1999, which screened last fall at the Celebration of BC Animation. Dreamtime by Sens is abstract and spiritual in intent -- quite different from his political commentaries. The imagery is a flow of delightful, fancy-free animal characters dancing around the screen, but the film seems to be more about rhythm, color and the pleasure of making art than anything having to do with the animals themselves. Sens made this as a personal film, with hopes that it would also appeal to children.

Newland's International Rocketship does creative spots for other companies like this Christmas ID for Cartoon Network and "Bears" ad for Nintendo. Christmas ID Cartoon Network. "Bears" Nintendo.

Marv Newland's latest film is called FUV. In his characteristic rubber-hose style, Newland portrays a simple character who holds the world in his hand. He tries to give it away, but everyone around him is too busy talking on cell phones. Finally, he finds a customer willing to pay for it. The pace of the film is slow, almost comtemplative, in contrast to the quirky, abstract imagery. Says Newland, "I don't know what to make of it, but people seem to like it."

Both Dreamtime and FUV are truly exceptional films -— examples of how mature independent filmmakers think about their medium. I find it heartwarming to look at the context in which these films were made. In a city where indie filmmakers created the first snowball for what is now an industry avalanche, Sens and Newland went back to their roots and essentially did their own thing.

Nihilistic? Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Special thanks to Mark Freedman for providing background information.

Leslie Bishko is an independent computer animator and Director of the Computer Animation Program at VanArts. Her experimental film Gasping for Air (1993) has screened extensively in the US, Canada and Europe. She has published articles in Animation Journal, fps magazine and is on the board of directors for ASIFA Canada.

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