Every Friday Chris Robinson unleashes improvised and hastily scribbled cheer or loathing on the animation community to be digested, swallowed or... expelled. This week: the futility of ranting to festivals.
I set myself up for it. Unlike many of my Festival colleagues, I always put myself out there, in part to demystify the selection process, to assure animators that it’s a stupid, flawed and utterly subjective process. When I write it’s just me digging the clutter out. Sometimes it’s right…often it’s wrong… but it’s always honest chaos. Being open and blunt is a magnet for equally unharnessed replies. How else to explain some (and there, thankfully, not too many) of the bitter correspondence we receive from filmmakers whose films didn't make the cut? Do they also write with the same frank tone to my pals in Annecy, Zagreb, Holland, Stuttgart? Maybe, I dunno. I mean I get it. I’ve had manuscripts rejected many times. It stung and I desperately wanted to appeal, to write them to let them know how they missed out on a masterwork. But I didn't (well, maybe once I did), cause you won’t change minds with groaning and look…it's the publisher’s right to pick what they feel suits their identity best. Same goes with festivals. Sure, I get it, there’s a generation of animators who grew up when festivals were a lot alike, when they were under the banner and guidance of ASIFA (and as such, animators). Everyone followed – for the most part – the same rules and a lot of festival selections overlapped (and let’s not forget that in those days a LOT fewer animation shorts were being made so there wasn't as much to select from). That’s not the case today and hasn't been since the mid/late 1990s. Increasingly, festivals are more liberated and able to carve out their own unique identities. There are also about 100% more films being made annually (as I’ve noted many times… the biennial 1992 OIAF festival received 750 entries but since 2000 receives at least 2000 ANNUALLY. That’s a massive increase). I think that’s all pretty cool and extremely positive. But that also means festivals are free to program in a manner they feel suits them. I think that’s great….and I think animators need to understand that. There are so many animation festivals today. Maybe Ottawa or Zagreb won’t have space for your film, but someone else will. Isn't that fantastic? It wasn't like that 25 years ago. You had your big 4-5 animation festivals and a few others, and that was it. Today, there are more films and more festivals and I think it’s good for all of us. And beyond that, we’re all doing our best. Nothing is ever right. Nothing is ever wrong. We don’t (and shouldn’t) tell you how to make films. Don’t tell us how to curate festivals.