By Lia Abbate
Hello, everyone ~
It’s with a very heavy heart that I’m blogging to you from Ottawa. It’s a gorgeous day and the fall colors are out. Everything is in place for a great experience at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and The Animation Conference. Sadly, we received word during the course of the morning of the tragic accident in which a double-decker bus collided with a train during the morning rush hours. Six lives were lost. Our prayers go out to the families and loved ones of all who were affected by this tragedy.
The festival is celebrating its 24th year of existence and so many of the participants return year after year that it feels like you’re part of an extended family here. If Chris’s sensibilities are any indication, we’re a dysfunctional family with a sarcastic mean streak, many skeletons in the closet, and a twisted sense of humor. I cannot wait to see what films he’s lined up for us!
There are myriad reasons to make this festival a priority. The people, the access, the films, the attitude, plus you’ll be inspired by the city itself. The festival venues include some of the finest museums in Canada: The National Gallery of Canada, The Arts Court, The Museum of Nature, and St.Brigid’s Centre for the Arts (the last two are the new venues this year. OIAF in a church? Why not?) Nothing like the Group of Seven to get you back to reality after hours inside the screening rooms.
The Opening Ceremonies for the festival are set for this evening. But first, we’re spending time at The Animation Conference - a separate 3-day event (with a separate admission pass) for industry professionals that focuses on the business of animation - that kicked of this morning.
TAC: The Animation Conference – Day One
Did you know that you can book ten minutes to pitch your projects one-on-one with execs and producers from companies and networks in both Canada and the U.S. here? Check out the details on their website. Now you have no excuse. At last count they had 33 people listening to pitches during four sessions over the course of the day. When I got there around 9:15, they were up and running. I was surprised to see some lonely pitchees sitting at attention at their tables just waiting to hear what you’ve got...
Case Study: Oh No: It’s a Writing Invasion!
The gentlemen in this panel, the creatives on “Oh No! It’s an Alien Invasion”, were the brave souls who kicked off the conference. I’m happy to say that it was a veritable love-fest on how they’ve been able to use their writing room – what they termed “writing summits” - through the creation and production of 80 episodes (and counting) of their animated series with a great deal of success. The big takeaways were 1) trust and problem-solving attitudes within the room are key, 2) the group should include not just the producer, writers, directors, story editors, but also networks reps as well to avoid future pitfalls and increase their investment in the process, and 3) have about 8 ideas ready to pitch before you even enter the room. 3 to 4 lines each is fine.
Presentation: Ontario Media Development Corporation
There are all kinds of incentives to produce your content in Ontario. I just wanted to introduce you to these knowledgeable women who are eager to answer your questions.
Keynote Speaker: Gary Maavara of Corus Entertainment
A special award for extreme professionalism in the face of devastating circumstances - and my undying respect - goes out to Mr. Maavara, who did not flag for a moment n his enthusiasm whilst sharing the number of ways Corus is working to support Canadian entrepreneurs in the media. I decided not to take a picture of him when he mentioned discreetly that his niece was on the bus, was not hurt, but had lost five of her friends today in the accident.
Case Study: American Indies
This is where the hat derby begins! Check out that great Budweiser number that Chris is sporting, a great beginning entry for the American team. Oh yes, and this panel hit upon a wide range of topics circling around the concept of how do you keep your indie business going. Youtube? Netflix? Apps? The ultimate answer is whatever works and whatever you do, the most important things are to be funny, create strong characters, and give the client something they will like, no matter the platform.
Case Study: Bounty Hunters
The best thing about this panel was learning that the showrunner, Eric Horsted (based in California), and the director, Cory Morrison (based in Ottawa), met each other for the first time in person here on this panel. Such is our world of digital interconnectivity and international co-productions. This was a fascinating case study of an animated series initiated by the voice talent and created by their management company who then sold the concept to a network which had never produced animation before. It makes sense when the talent is Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, and the network is Country Music Television – whom the creatives could not praise enough for their giving them a blank page on which to create and great specific guidance in the process.
Panel: STEM & TV
Linda Simensky of PBS was not able to make it to the festival for the first time in over fifteen years of attendance. She is dearly missed. Soldiering on, the group discussed how they are working to incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math into their series storylines. Putting this into practice can range from creating everything on a graph paper background to remind us that math is everywhere in the new Peg and Cat to taking us down inside the body in the Magic School Bus (Larry Jacobs gleefully showed us an edited version of the animated journey intercut with the real life upper body endoscopy film that he had been sent by Scholastic for reference. So we got a little Science as well).
Now it’s time to run out for the Festival Opening Ceremonies. More tomorrow…