Carolyn Giardina reports on the growing popularity and importance of the eDIT 9. Filmmaker’s Festival in Frankfurt, Germany.
Last month, the wildly successful eDIT 9. Filmmakers Festival: Art and Science of the Moving Image a project of the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education and the Arts and the Hessian Institute of Private-Sector Broadcasting (LPR) under the patronage of Udo Corts, Hessian minister of science and the arts was staged in Frankfurt. The city has a population of 670,000 and is Germanys finance and transportation center. It also holds a passion for the filmmaking industry.
The state of Hessen supports eDIT Filmmakers Festival in the strong conviction that the combination of innovation technology and its creative use as presented in this festival makes for one of the most promising future industries of our society, explained Udo Corts.
The festival program is presented in cooperation with the Visual Effects Society (VES), and VES founder Tom Atkin who has worked closely with eDIT since it formed a relationship with VES in 2001, and is a co-director of the event, working in close collaboration with Frankfurt-based festival directors Sebastian Popp and Rolf Kramer.
eDIT 9. counted several thousand attendees, visiting from Germany, as well as Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Croatia, the U.S. and U.K. Event organizers hope to see in grow, but not lose its intimacy. Its like family; its really fun, Atkin explained.
Each year, Festival Honors is one of the highlights of eDIT. This years Festival Honors presentation was held during a gala at the Cinestar Metropolis theater and attended by an estimated 1,500, including Hessian Prime Minister Roland Koch. This festive event boasted a red carpet entrance, awards ceremony and party featuring musical guest Marla Glen.
Previous recipients of Festival Honors include Roland Emmerich, Michael Ballhaus, Dante Ferretti, Dennis Muren, Vilmos Zsigmond, Phil Tippett, Peter Greenaway, Marco Müller, Tom Rolf, Bill Plympton, Emir Kusturica and other skilled storytellers.
This years recipients were Ray Harryhausen, who pioneered visual effects through such classic films as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and Argonauts; and filmmaker Terry Gilliam, whose body of work includes Monty Python and Brazil.
This year, an additional special achievement award was bestowed on Andy Serkis, the talented actor who gave the motion capture performances that were the basis of CG characters Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Kong in King Kong. On this special award, festival organizers said Serkis showed the filmmakers of our time how to excite life and soul in animation characters.
As a surprise during Serkis award presentation in the packed theater, the presenter introduced a prerecorded video message from The Lord of the Rings and King Kong director Peter Jackson, who emphasized that Serkis brought the heart and soul of the performance to his CG characters. The video also included humorous clips of Serkis on set during production of the aforementioned films.
Serkis said during his acceptance speech that Jackson had opened a new portal for visual effects and he was honored to have been part of that journey.
Next, a prerecorded congratulatory message to Gilliam featuring Johnny Depp in costume and in character as Captain Jack Sparrow was a humorous moment. Nikolai Kinski presented the award to Gilliam and described the helmers work as visionary filmmaking.
One of last years Festival Honors recipients, Phil Tippett, saluted Harryhausen and his pioneering work in a taped presentation that included a montage of Harryhausens films and todays effects film, demonstrating the influence that this early work had on the development of the visual effects and film industry.
Commenting on this montage, Atkin said, The contemporary films and their visual effects represent thousands of digital artists working with highly sophisticated technology spending literally a century of man power hours and several hundred million dollars trying to duplicate what Ray Harryhausen did all by himself for all his films for less than the single visual effects budget of any of these other films. It truly boggles the mind when you see this work side by side.
One of the evenings most moving tributes came when Atkin then presented Festival Honors to Harryhausen.
In Ray Harryhausens fantasy epic, Clash of the Titans, Zeus was portrayed by one of the greatest actors who ever lived, Sir Laurence Olivier. In the real world of visual effects storytelling, Ray Harryhausen is Zeus, Atkin said. Ray has entertained generations with his ability to take the art of stop motion animation to a level that has created characters and images, which have changed the course of contemporary filmmaking.
Turning to Harryhausen, he concluded, Ray Harryhausen, you are the best visual effects artist there has ever been or will be...it is just that simple.
As part of the Festival Honors program, the eDIT event also included conversations with Harryhausen and Gilliam, which offered an interesting contrast of ideas about film.
One festival evening, a highlight was the conversation with Gilliam followed by a screening of his latest film, Tideland, which is scheduled for release Oct. 13 in the U.S.
The film follows a young girl named Jeliza-Rose, whose mother dies from a heroin overdose and whose father then takes her to live on a farmhouse in a remote area. As time goes by, she talks only with her bodiless doll heads and odd neighbors. Gilliam wrote the screenplay, based on a book of the same name by Mitch Cullin.
The helmer said he wants to challenge people to question and think. Movies are made to keep everything nice I like disturbing people; it makes them question and discuss.
In a separate interview, Harryhausen related that films are entertainment and can bring a happy message. Today its in fashion to make depressing films, he said. Why look at the gutter instead of the stars?
During his Festival presentation a conversation moderated by Atkin Harryhausen also offered a preview of a new film colorization process that he reported would be used on a few of his early movies.
While Harryhausens honor paid tribute to the history of filmmaking, Serkis offered a glimpse at the future of the industry. [Successful CG characters] are about the marriage of pure acting and the projection of the human emotion into visual effects, Serkis said. Its an incredibly exciting time for actors. You can play a 25 ft. gorilla you are not limited [by physical appearance]. Its about inhabiting the soul of the character.
eDIT also paid tribute to the industrys future through its eDward Young Filmmakers Awards, which were handed out to this years honorees. The annual competition invites filmmakers under the age of 30 to create a short work based on a given theme. This years topic was time travel.
The eDIT Festival content was a combination of programs and panels about features, documentaries commercials, animation and media. It also featured a series of educational events and special screenings.
Among the screening highlights was Animation World Network publisher Dan Sartos presentation of AWNs Animation Show of Shows compilation. Featured work included One Rat Short, a celebrated tale from Charlex and its exec creative director Alex Weil, who wrote and directed the story. The short recently won Best of Show honors in the SIGGRAPH 2006 Electronic Theater. One Rat Short follows a New York City rat from his gritty world to the interior of a futuristic laboratory. Along this journey the main character discovers love, danger and his fate.
For its popular features track, eDIT 9. dazzled attendees with an all-star cast, including ILM visual effects supervisor Boyd Shermis, who was on board to lead a session on the making of Poseidon; Pixar visual effects supervisor Steve May, who drove The Making of Cars; visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson, who presented the man of steel in Superman Returns; and James Tooley, creature development supervisor at ILM, who took attendees through his work on the mega-blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest.
In the media track, Scanning for All Purposes, included analysis of the creation of digital characters, as well as locations, through scanning techniques. 3D scanning services provider Eyetronics vp Nick Tesi emphasized that 3D scanning can help save time while generating data that can help heighten realism. Gradient Effects co-founder Tom Tannenberger introduced his companys LIDAR scanning system that uses a method of detecting distance from camera to object by analysis of pulsed laser light reflected from their surfaces.
The event was great, ILMs Tooley said of eDIT9. It was a treat to be with those given tribute to Its an honor to be here.
I liked seeing what young people are doing, said Harryhausen. I hope it goes on every year to keep animation in the forefront so people understand how much work goes into it.
In addition to the honorees and speakers, attendees also gave the event high marks. One, U.K.-based commercial producer Christine Lindsey, gushed, This is heaven. Where else can you see this; its fabulous.
As the festival concluded, organizers were already thinking about eDITs 10th anniversary in 2007. This will also be an important time to promote filmmaking in the state. eDIT organizer Popp explained that next year a new federal program would begin offering productions with German producers or partners a rebate of up to 20% of what it spends in Germany. This program is being rolled out for both feature and documentary films.
Carolyn Giardina has been covering production, post-production and visual effects for more than 12 years, both stateside and abroad.