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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode XXIX - Lord of Overstock

Every Friday Chris Robinson unleashes improvised and hastily scribbled cheer or loathing on the animation community to be digested, swallowed or... expelled. Today: Out-of Competition (Panorama) screenings. Do we need them?

'Cheer and Loathing in Animation' illustrations by Theodore Ushev

There’s too many animation films and not enough screening spaces. It’s always been this way, but it’s worse now given the astonishing increase in animation short film production (which is actually better cause it means more people are making animation short films).

Thankfully (well…for the most part) there are also more animation festivals to ease the pressure by accommodating all these different tastes and visions. Still... Festivals still can’t show everything. There’s no time, space or budget to do that.

Now…long ago…someone somewhere devised a compromise: the out-of-competition screening (otherwise known as Panorama or Showcase). Since each festival has its own tastes, Panorama is a nice compromise, a showcase of interesting voices and visions that didn't make it to the main competition but are still deemed worthy of being screened.  While Panorama filmmakers don’t get the same perks of competition (i.e. no hotel. no awards), you do reach a similar audience.

That said… there are some animators who dislike being selected for Panorama. It's almost more insulting than being rejected completely. I kinda get it and over the years I’ve even considered ditching Panorama screenings. But what do you replace it with? While it's important that festivals have historical screenings, showcasing new works should always be the priority. And look... festivals can’t just up and add more competition screenings. It’s just not that easy. There’s scheduling, finances, and jury sanity to consider.

This year, Annecy is trying something new. They’ve replaced out-of-competition screenings with a new Special Perspectives competition. These films still only get the Panorama perks (i.e. pass, but no hotel) and don’t compete against the Short Animation competition, but they are considered for another award given by a separate (youth) jury.

Annecy’s idea is interesting so good on them for trying out something new... but doesn’t it potentially water everything down more when we start handing out more awards?  I mean, art is not democratic, so why should selection be? You can't please everyone and nor should you even try to. Besides…  doesn’t that start taking on that unbearable parental vibe that follows kids and sports today: ‘Hey, let’s not keep score, let’s all hug and play fair. There are no winners or losers today!’ Well, yeah, sorry… there are winners and losers today, tomorrow and always. But.. they’re not eternal (well, unless we're talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs). It’s fleeting. You win some, you lose some and move on.  Don't we all benefit from a little competition? Does it not help us to learn and grow?

But… hell...I don't have any firm answers. What about you folks?  What do you think of out-of-competition screenings and all this stuff. Are you just content to be screened (or viewed) or do you want the awards?

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.