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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode XXXV - King Shit and the Golden Boys

Every Friday, Chris Robinson unleashes improvised and hastily scribbled cheer or loathing on the animation community to be digested, swallowed or... expelled. Today, that always joyous relationship between festivals and distributors.

'Cheer and Loathing in Animation' illustrations by Theodore Ushev

So… it was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago that a festival was having some problems with a certain business person/distributor/film rights holder.  The business person wanted a pretty hefty fee (1000 euros) to show a short film a few times (the standard, such as there has been one is that festivals generally just pay a much smaller single fee  - anywhere from $50-75 depending on the length of the work - to show a film once or twice during their festival. Is it right? I dunno, you tell me?).

By the way, what’s with these distributors lately and their hyper bloated egos? I guess it’s not new…but it is relatively new within the indie animation scene (it coincides with the increase in feature animation production). Look, it’s great what you’re doing… taking chances (just like festivals) on underdog films and all that…but come on…you’re not the star (nor are festivals) … you’re a courier without the uniform.

In the end, haggling was done and the festival’s counter offer of 360 euros (60 euros a screening it seems) was accepted. This was still the most this festival had ever paid for a short film. Frustrated with the entire dealings, they’ve now decided that they will no longer show films represented by this business person. (It’s also clear that the filmmaker in this case was also not at all pleased with what has unfolded. They just want their work to be shown and now the threat of festivals refusing to work with this business person will hurt those odds. In this case, it was the animator’s production company that made the deal. Wasn't much the artist could do…but now they’re forced to pay the price for this business person.)

If this was an isolated case, I’d hardly waste words here, but it’s not. I’ve heard frequent moans and groans about this business person over the years. There’s a feeling that animators are being exploited and festivals being pinched.

I’m avoiding names here cause…well I want to know more from all sides and don’t feel its right to hoist one party while denigrating another…at least without a shitload more evidence. Now… while I naturally sway towards the side of the festival and artist… another voice in me says…you know what…. Doesn't this all really come back to the artist? Sorry, but the creative process isn’t your only responsibility. You gotta do the dirty work of getting the work out there. That means putting your beret aside and getting your shit together when it comes to the business side of things (hey animation schools, maybe you should offer a business course to help these green grads out a bit… You do want to protect them, right? I mean…come on… of course you care… it’s not like any higher education institution would ever accused of cash grabbing.)

I suspect that it’s insecurity that drives animators to shake hands with demons… they get suckered by the promise of awards, of audiences, of MONEY… but animators need to be smarter, more confident, cognizant and patient (do not let any asshole RUSH you into making a decision).

Just know… if someone is promising the moon, you’re liking gonna end up with a rock.

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.