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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode XXVIII - Selective Service

Every Friday Chris Robinson unleashes improvised and hastily scribbled cheer or loathing on the animation community to be digested, swallowed or... expelled. Today, he ponders festival entry fees.

'Cheer and Loathing in Animation' illustrations by Theodore Ushev

“Entry fees”.

If you want to say two words that will rile up animators more than a rejection letter, it might just be those two. And I get it. You have spent days, months, years working – and frequently self-funding – your film. Once that’s done – unless you are fortunate enough to have someone handling your distribution – it’s then up to you to send that work to festivals. That requires a lot of research, patience, time and money. Sure, it’s significantly easier and cheaper today than it was in the pre-digital/internet days, but coordinating the release of your work still requires a lot of sweat. And then after all that, you see that all sorts of festivals (especially in the U.S.A.)  want you to pay them to consider your film. Even then there’s no guarantee your film will be selected. Now…okay…I get the how and why of this. Festivals – despite the apparent apathy or ignorance of some animators, who think that it requires minimal effort to put together a ‘five day party’, there’s a shitload of work and money that is required to organize a festival. In Ottawa (OIAF), it’s a non-stop process. Once one festival is over, our underpaid, overworked staff jump right into writing reports, proposals, approaching venues, hotels, going over surveys etc… for the next festival. And don’t forget… catalogues, advertising, media, etc… all these things are being provided by a festival for animators. We have to pay for office space, venue rentals, film rentals, staffing, airfares, hotels, passes, parties… you name it. It’s not cheap to organize a film festival mon chums….plus in Ottawa, we offer all competition filmmakers (as opposed to some unnamed festivals in Europe that only offer perks to filmmakers in get screened in certain competitions…) a hotel, pass and a small artist fee. Even Panorama filmmakers get a pass and artist fee from the OIAF.

Still, I am firmly against entry fees.

Now, okay…it’s easy for me to say that when I’m working for a festival that not only has a long history but that resides in a country that consistently supports culture. Nevertheless, I just find the entry fee thing very icky. You like animation/film. You want to create a space to show work that really does struggle to find an audience. You want to create culture in your city. That’s great, but to then expect the artists to fund a part of that… well, that’s where I disagree. (It disgusted me years ago while I was on a festival funding jury to discover that a number of Canadian film festivals were paying artist fees – which qualified them for funding consideration - but then also charging $30-50 entry fees. So… basically these festivals are paying artist fees using the artist’s money.  That’s scummy.)

If you can’t do it right-ish, maybe just don’t do it.

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.