Search form

Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode IV - Of Course You Are

Every Friday Chris Robinson unleashes some freewheeling cheer or loathing on the animation community to be mused, countered, or disregarded. It’s your call.

People’s remarks are so objective, so all-inclusive, that it is a matter of complete indifference who expresses them… And so our talk becomes like the public, a pure abstraction.
-- Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age, (1846)

“Of course you are dear,” replied every parent to every child after being asked if they were good or smart or talented. Then they grew into animators and still the same questions. How else can one explain the current obsession with statistics (and yes, we could also include sports and the new analytics regime, but this is an animation site – even if I’d rather write about sports sometimes). Anyhow… here we are. I overheard someone last week humblebragging to some colleagues about how his partner’s film had fifty bazillion views because a celebrity happened to retweet it. He was very proud and deeply serious about how important this was. I wondered why though. Now…okay… this obsession with likes/views is merely an extension of getting into a festival competition and/or winning awards. It’s also a chance, as a friend told me recently, to impress likeminded executive types who are equally impressed with stats to the degree that they’re offer you commercial work solely because you got picked as a Pimeotube short of the week. I know everyone wants their films to be seen by as many eyes as possible. I’d love it if any of my books became best sellers (hell I’ll be pleased if I ever write one again) or if Lipsett Diaries had gotten an Oscar nod …but what does it really mean in the end? You made a work to engage with people, to communicate something to them (At least that what I assume … though there are some of you just seem to be talking to yourselves) … so isn’t the true measure of a work having a dialogue and discussion? Wait… hold on…I went too far…the first measure should be your own satisfaction. For example, I have a couple of books that I am really satisfied with and no amount of lousy sales or poor feedback can ever change that. With them I achieved what I set out to do. That doesn’t mean I’m not listening to criticism or don’t appreciate a glowing comment…but at the end of the day I’ve set my own bar…and no amount of praise or rejection can really do much to alter that. Second to that is a conversation. I’d find far more meaning in a dialogue/conversation or thoughtful critical review than I would in reading numbers or likes. It’s pretty fucking easy to hit the like button and then just turn the work off…but they don’t mean much… like a pat on the back maybe…. They’re hollow and easy. Even comments are rarely more than a few generic congrats or complaints…. rarely do you see truly engaging and thoughtful comments. Okay… so this is nothing new and I certainly like that there are more opportunities for animators now. It’s difficult to get into festivals. There’s only so much space, so this is a more immediate way of reaching an audience…. but a birdie told me that young artists are starting to make films in ways they think will please the Pimeotube curators etc…. (again, nothing new, older animators often confessed to trying to make films that they thought Ottawa or Annecy or festivals in general would accept). To say that this is disturbing and grossly idiotic would be an understatement. Sure, it’s scary as shit to be yourself and express what YOU want to say in a way you want to say it…. but that’s ok…that’s how it should be. Otherwise you’re just a generic sheep making the same sheepshit that everyone else (thinking like you) is making. Look…I’ve seen many of the Pimeotube Short of the weeks and they are not all that great. You gotta remember that human beings are selecting this stuff…not computers… it’s a small group of people with select tastes (just like festivals) …and to focus all your energies on trying to impress them…to animate for them…well that’s really shortchanging yourself. At the end of the day you  - not them -are accountable for your life, character and outlook.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.