First, start here: http://www.awn.com/articles/columnists/animation-pimp-greetings-st-helena
dum dum dum dum dum dum dum
Did you know that Somerset Maugham said that beauty is a bit of a bore?
art should rip off our panties, makes us squirm and show the skid marks of our existence to all.
toot toot tootsie good bye
Oh come on! How long does it take?
Ten years have passed since that I wrote that. How's internal selection going?
Let me tell ya:
"Is he just giving us all the finger?" said someone to someone about someone during the something something animation festival.
"God, why on earth did he choose this?" told the other one to another one that's not the same someone at the something animation festival.
"Are you drunk?" I've asked myself watching a few competition screenings over the years whilst wondering why I selected a few of the films.
Was no easier when we had a selection committee. I got ripped all the time for their choices. Didnt bother me. I just blamed them. Hell, half the time I agreed with the rippers. Cant do that no more. S'okay. Bullets bounce off me like raisins off a Prius.
Used to get to me till this one year. We do post-festival surveys. 40% want more commercial work. 40% want more indie work. 20% like things the way they are. I realized then and there that what I was doing was just fine.
Pretty much everyone thinks they can do selection better. I go to Annecy and other festivals and can't understand what the committees and juries are thinking. But...what you and me are doing is presuming there are good and bad ways of doing selection.
I saw this line Nietzsche wrote about how "philosophers think their theories are objective, dispassionate and rational. They're hypocrites... [they are passionate, prejudiced, and subjective]."
It's a description that aptly fits festival juries/committees. Today, you won't find many animators who will question that label. Some feel that selection IS dictated solely by bias and irrationality. They're right, but not in the narcissistic manner that they're thinking - ie. they don't like me. they never like my films. boo hoo. No... in fact, generally their/my subjectivity and irrationality go far beyond YOU. We/me/you are moved by the events of our days, moments, months, life. How we woke up that day. Is there an illness in the family? Are we/me/you experiencing some chaotic shift in our lives. Do we/me/you need to take a dump?
Festival committees and judges are not these detached demi-Gods standing above and beyond us mortals. They are just everyday folks, as biased, passionate and flawed and well-meaning as you and your films.
I have two simple guidelines:
Do I ever want to see this film again?
Can I imagine this thing on a big screen in front of an audience?
Mostly...its instinct....it's using your senses...your gut...whatever you want to use...I dont break films down logically...giving marks for technique, concept, design, story, originality.... I use my experience of watching films for 20 years...but more from just having lived 44 years. I don't like systems. I don't like checklists or detailed notes (as some of my colleagues do). I do NOT subscribe to the religions of Disney, Blair, Lassiter, Quays, Parn, McLaren or any animator. There is NO bible. There is NO correct way of animating despite what some of your teachers tell you. In fact, check their track record. I bet you'll find that the bulk of those who preach the Disney/Blair/Lasseter religions have either never made an independent film or never had one at a festival. Most of them are myopic shysters whose idea of a well-rounded education is to show students a limited side of animation (pretending that independent/personal/experimental work either does not exist or has no value). Forget "those who can't do, teach." Those who cant teach, preach. They are the loudest moaners of the selection choices of the something something animation festival. Interesting that many of these same student and preacher films dont get into any other festival either.
Most of these films are technically and structurally sound - like a well-made bench. Yes...it's umm.. great....it looks nice and safe... but YAWNNNNN... where are YOU in the film? Where is your voice? Cause I aint hearing YOU? How can you be absent from your "own" expressions? These are fraud films. Also called calling card films... made to impress someone else (preacher? parents? Recruiter? granny?). made to un-offend. Youd be a good employee somewhere for someone who likes to make films of idealized childhoods they experienced through spielberg and lasseter movies themselves fantastical wanks of old worlds that even spielberg and lasseter only tasted through movies. You're aping a simulacrum Nothing. Zero. Zilch.
It's not an either/or thing either. I find many independent/experimental/personal films to be self-indulgent tripe. The worst of them have no sense of humour, preach, or are just made the same old way by the same people. One of the biggest mistakes an artist can make is finding their room in the house of art. They find their voice and then just stick with it, rarely changing or questioning it (yes, my own writing can be accused of that, mostly by me). In the end, these 'independent' animations simply become tired calling card films that show no individual growth of the artist/person.
Me. Well, I love the technically unpolished...love sloppy, unpredictable, strange and raw and childlike (oh how I loath people whose main critique of a film/drawing is that "my child could draw it".... Clearly they are not artists because as some guy, not me, said, "scratch an artist, you surprise a child," Kill the child, you've killed the artist). I'm like Columbo. I want to see your fingerprints all over the weapon. I want you to be the sloppiest, bloodiest fucking killer in existence. I will take messy, flawed films (e.g. Phil Mulloy's work, the late Helen Hill's Mouseholes, J.J. Villard's Son of Satan, Stephen Irwin's Moxie and Black Dog) that bear souls, that show proof of a human touch trying to make some sense of the world, trying to articulate a deeply personal experience, not allowing technology, preacher teachers, Preston Blair or "proper" aesthetics to dictate and direct their voice. I will always take the sloppy joes over those achingly crafted and polished works that show no evidence of human touch.
I make no apologies for refusing to have a system (outside of having categories). A system invariably restricts and reduces. A system is detached from the context of continually shifting values, tastes, beliefs in the world. A system is death to the selection process and the artist. A system tries to label things with words or numbers and believes we can grasp what is true in those things through those words and numbers. Our society has gotten away from using our senses, trusting our instincts, our gut. We have become drowned by voices today. Every second we are being told what's what. We become so adrift in a sea of preaching voices that we are losing sight of ourselves. I struggle with the voices as much as anyone, but I'm just stupid and stubborn enough to sometimes tell them to shut the fuck up so that I can figure this thing out on my own. Let me succeed or fail through MY senses, MY values, MY experiences, not yours.
Artists need to have similar faith. Yes, you should be open to feedback from your trusted friends and colleagues, but in the end it's down to you. If you are satisfied with the work that's all that matters. Sure... I guess if every festival rejects your film you might want to reevaluate... but really it boils down to your feelings. If you accomplished what you set out to do, then that should be all that matters. Are you going to make your own values or spend your life following those created by others? If you can stand by your work, great. Don't make films to win over judges or audiences or recruiters. It's bound to fail.
As Woody Allen said after boning his not-really-my-adopted daughter, "the heart wants what the heart wants."
Maybe Pascal said it better, "The heart has its reasons, of which reason is ignorant."
(kudos to Mike Ward for inspiring discussions about the sensual and Olivia Ward for strong feedback)