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Festival Reasonings

A international selection of filmmakers, executives and others share their thoughts about why animators should consider sending their works to festivals.

To round off our festival issue, we herein provide the thoughts of a number of filmmakers and executives from around the world in reply to the question: "What is the value of submitting animated productions to festivals?"

Frédéric Back, Animator, Montréal.

In the course of time we can appreciate the wisdom of the people who have been at the origin of the animation film festivals we know today. Until then, the presentation of works was mostly an individual affair, with little consequences.

Like any art form, animation needs the means and events to be enhanced and discovered. For this, festivals give governments animation producing industries and press to allow this important communication art the exposure it deserves. Festivals have become important occasions to honor creators, to reveal the state of the art, to underline the evolution of talents and techniques.

It is their duty to promote high quality standards and favor meetings with professionals, buyers and audiences on an international scale. For animation art and for everybody, festivals are positive and stimulating.

Bruno Bozzetto, Filmmaker, Milan.

Submitting animated productions to festivals is always interesting, but I would like to suggest to young authors to participate most of all in festivals which do not specialize only in animation.

In fact, in animation festivals, it is possible to meet right authors and artists, marvellous persons, participants and organizers; but the great risk is to always be with the same people, to listen to the same speeches, the same critics, the same points of view. This prevents us from growing, comparing our reality with the one of "live-action" cinema, which is our great brother.

I think that a mixed festival, with the presence of famous actors and directors, may offer more possibilities, brings people usually far from our world into contact with it, and facilitates new points of view.

Furthermore, in this kind of festivals, the press has much more echo all over the world and this fact helps authors and realizers very much.

The main risk of choosing these festivals is that, even if they accept animation, often they relegate it to screenings of secondary importance, as it it was only a filling program.

That's why it is very important to know in advance the kind of treatment every festival gives to our products and then mak a decision.

Trying to make a comparison, I would say that in one kind of festivals we play "at home" and in the other kind we play "abroad.". . . Anyway, I think that it is always worth playing.

J.J. Sedelmaier, J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, White Plains, New York.

I enter the studio's work into various festivals, to basically spread the visual word of what we've been up to, and who in the studio is doing it. The talented people who do the work for/with us, really don't get much of a chance for the recognition they deserve. Most of our work airs only in the United States, so a showing in a festival (or even a competition) assures our work a level of visibility it wouldn't have otherwise. Festivals also carry a certain level of publicity. The Annie Awards, for example, arranges a media "blitz" unlike any festival that we've been involved in.

By far the most gratifying aspect of this whole procedure, is getting together with people at the festivals who are in the animation industry and whose work you respect. Most of the time, this gathering ritual" is the only chance you get to hang out with your peers. Consequently, there's no other way I'm going to have a chance to spend time with Marv Newland or even Bill Plympton (and Bill's in New York!).

I once asked someone visitihg the. studio in White Plains from New Zealand, how they had heard of us. They gave me an extremely puzzled look and replied, "Well . . . you guys are famous!". You don't get.'that reaction from your work simply airing as per the client's schedule. . .

Kihachiro Kawmoto, Filmmaker, Japan

Because I am so busy preparing for the exhibition of my works right now, I can only send you a few lines in reply to your question:

1) Gathering good animations. 2) Having attractive guests. 3) Training audiences to have the right eyes. A festival without these three conditions would only waste my time.

John Andrews, Vice President, Animation, MTV Music Television, New York. Since animation festivals are a major focus of professional attention to independent and commercial animated filmmaking, they are worth the effort of the submission process. Festivals are a great stimulation of discourse on the dimension of the industry. They build reputations. They bring creators and marketers together. They keep good films alive beyond their initial debut or broadcast. I like 'em.

John R. Dilworth, Filmmaker, New York City.

Festivals provide many opportunities. The most obvious is the screening of your work for hundreds or possibly thousands of viewers. Like painters who dream of a gallery to hang their canvasses, film needs to be projected and fill a large white canvass of its own.

My favorite festivals are international ones, which can bring together ideas from around the world. One can learn much about the lifestyles of other artists--artists creating such different art than your own, yet at the same period of time and from different lands. Simply open your mouth and begin speaking. Language is never a problem. There is always a translator lurking about.

Short film festivals offer more diversity of films and filmmakers. They also pay better attention to you if you are a director. And that is vital. As a filmmaker you want to be treated with a degree of respect. You are encouraged to be bigger than life, because it is a festival where directors are king. These festivals attract distributors, film buyers, producers, recruiters and critics. It is very possible to license your film and land a job.

The value of festivals is more subtle and complex than someone writing you a check and walking away with your work. It is about competition, recognition and dedication. It is a horrible feeling not to be accepted and an exhilarating feeling if you are. Most importantly, you are taking the responsibility of presenting your work and accepting the consequences. And if all you want to do at festivals is travel, party and fall in love, then you have my blessings. Bon journée.

Joan Ashworth, Animation Course Director, Royal College of Art, London.

For students and staff of the Royal College of Art Animation Course attending festivals offers the chance to see their work amongst other animated films to compare and learn from the reactions of an audience. Discussion preceding or following the screening gives an opportunity to explore and discuss the content or technique of the films more fully. This is a rare opportunity peculiar to festivals as films are more often screened without their makers present.

For students who may feel nervous attending a screening of a first film it is an invaluable experience. It is flattering and encouraging to have a film invited to a festival and educational to receive feedback from a variety of audiences.

The Animation Course distributes students' films as far and as frequently as funds allow which shows how seriously we take the screenings at festivals. Festivals represent a valuable opportunity to inform animators worldwide that a course exists where one can study animation at a postgraduate level in a supportive environment.

Responses to films shown at festivals help the Course to evolve. Festivals are the only opportunity to see a huge range of exciting short films which would otherwise not be screened. This gives the art form a chance to evolve and mature and encourages a cross fertilization of ideas and techniques. This exchange of ideas and chance meetings with other filmmakers is a healthy change from the insular world of animation production.

Bill Plympton, Filmmaker, New York City.

It's a good way to create a buzz about your film, especially if it gets an award, or if it gets big laughs and applause from the audience. And that's a way to get distribution, because distributors come to festivals.

Clare Kitson, Commissioning Editor, Animation, Channel Four Television, London.

I really don't have anything very original to say about festivals. For me personally the major interest is in being able to see the new films and being able to track exciting new filmmakers. It's certainly good also to get feedback on the films I have commissioned. Although winning shouldn't matter, it actually does. Because one-off, "auteur" animated shorts do not get very high ratings, there needs to be some other attraction, in order for my superiors to continue giving me the budget to commission them. The prestige of a prize or two certainly helps there. And it's always nice to meet old friends and compare notes with colleagues overseas. But I think that perhaps attendance at film festivals is more important for the creative people than for those of us on the administrative side. The injection of new ideas is a really valuable impetus for filmmakers.

Raimund Krumme, Animation Director, Wild Things Productions, Hollywood.

I don't like to go to festivals if I don't have anything to show. When I see new films, I somehow feel I have to give something too (although I hate sitting through a screening of one of my own films). But these moments of angst are part of it. Like in a family reunion, you want to bring something when you participate.

Of course, there are other reasons too. For a short film producer/director/distributor, it is still the best way to reach a larger audience and sell your film. And after all, it may be one of the rare occasions when you see your film in a cinema, projected on a big screen.

Jerry Beck, Vice President, Animation, Nickelodeon Movies, Hollywood.

I think it's very important for animators to make their own films and showcase their work. Obviously, your peers are interested in seeing your work and so are producers, agents, and other industry personnel who may require your unique talents. Most animators have ideas which challenge conventional "Hollywood studio" thinking. These visions must be expressed and exposed, they often inspire other filmmakers and influence new thinking. During the 1930s and 1940s animation had a visionary, Walt Disney. Today it's the independent animators and their films who, collectively, are the artistic leaders of the artform. It's vital to display their work to all in the filmmaking community.

Piotr Dumala, Filmmaker, Lodz, Poland. (Reply came via the Royal College of Art, London). When I first went to an animation festival, my main impression was that here are so many people doing a million things similar to what I do! Artistic, personal animation is so private, like writing poems. Animators are very special people, rather shy, humble and working on their own. Often they are in their studios with black walls without windows,.very concentrated on their slow frame-by-frame work.

Every festival is a big celebration, a big party where you can meet people similar to you and watch their interior worlds on the big screen with a big audience. This is the second part of the dialogue which you start alone with a camera and your idea. There you can feel and see the reaction of different people, give them the best of what you manage to do. This is very energising and inspiring. New projects, new ideas appear or develop: this is a special time. I think that giving prizes can be a bit dangerous, likes always when people compete. But it gives a dramatic urge to the event and a feeling that artist animators are not in the empty space. Of course, it is very important to get a prize, because it promotes the name of the winner.

Sherry Gunther, Vice President, Hanna-Barbera, Hollywood.

The value of having our animated productions screening at festivals is the exposure amongst the artists' community. There is a prestige associated with film festivals, and particularly when the product is good, it's a good chance to show your work to talent who can get inspired by it and excited about the possibility of working at your studio now or in the future.

Tyron Montgomery, Montgomery Film, Wuppertal, Germany.

Film festivals were the starting point of my career. My first film Quest was screened world-wide and fortunately won a lot of prizes. I got to know filmmakers and companies from all over the world and was offered jobs in the animation industry. Today, I work as director, art director and director of photography. Festivals are the best place toshow your films to a professional audience and see many other new productions.

Françoise Reymond, Director of TV Programs Acquisition & Youth Programming, Canal+, Paris.

It is to give our animated programs the best possible exposure that we present them, with our co-producers, to different international festivals. I think that, in the last few years, we can be proud of the great quality of our French animation.: Babart, Tintin, Insektors and Once Upon a Time are the best examples of the great originality of our concepts and our designs, particularly with Insecktors, where we innovated with the new technology of computer animation. Insektors, often awarded prizes at different festivals, in 1994 was given an International Emmy Award in New York. Last month, Once Upon a Time was also nominated for an International Emmy Award as the best youth program.

Bob Godfrey, Bob Godfrey Films, Ltd., London.

The value my friend is this . . . If you don't submit animated productions to festivals who is going to know you are alive?

A word of caution, choose your festivals with care--small is not always beautiful!!

We are not talking about money here, if you are interested in money choose another profession. I've been making animation for 40 years and looks as if I'm going to have to borrow the cost of my fare home.

P.S.: Hang about! I've just cottoned on to the full implication of the question. The Internet is going to make festivals unnecessary!!!! I think not--I like meeting filmmakers in the flesh.