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The Independent Internet

Heather Kenyon reveals that whether used by established filmmakers or up-and-coming youngsters, the Internet is proving to be a very versatile tool helping everyone gain a little more freedom and independence.

Bob and Margaret. © Nelvana Limited.

It is no secret that we are in the middle of a revolution. The Internet is turning not only animation, but also the rest of the world on its ear as well. We asked a selection of established filmmakers and up-and-coming youngsters how the Internet is affecting their lives and careers. From making big time productions easier, to giving established directors and producers new outlets, to birthing a whole new breed of animator the Internet is proving to be a very versatile tool indeed.

We made Bob and Margaret in London with Nelvana in Toronto and so communicating and exchanging files using the Internet was invaluable. Besides the obvious benefit of working on scripts via email, sound files and pictures were also sent over the Internet. The extent of our creative control would not have been possible without the benefit of this technology. We were able to edit the voice tracks and leica reels and send the edit files to Toronto in seconds rather than days. It seems like only yesterday that the fax machine appeared to be such a wonderful new device, now we hardly use it.

David FineSnowden Fine Productions


How has the Internet affected my life? Only in positive ways thus far. The nature of my material is a little on the Bohemian side I think, and so I was never really a regular pick in festivals. I used to do little shows in coffeehouses and bars, try to get all my friends to show up, and then lug my TV and VCR back home. I got used to thinking that's what being an independent was. It was fun, but being on AtomFilms changed that a lot.

The Net is a pretty interesting context to work with, and I'm really happy that a lot of people are getting into material that may be more than a fart joke. Even though I am starting to do some business/ money, I haven't dealt with anyone who wants to mess with what I'm doing to make it more profitable. I'm really happy about that, because that's what's fun about being an independent in the first place.

Lev Ingredient X Entertainment

The Internet is a vast as-yet-uncharted sea of potential! I have been waiting for these times for years, and my once imagined future is nearly upon us!

Corky Quakenbush.

I'd tell people in the early 90s that soon people would be accessing my library of films on home computers. They'd shake their heads when I said it would be within ten years.

The one thing that has suppressed artists working in the media of moving images is the narrow distribution outlets. Intense competition for theater screens or airwave channels gave power over content to businessmen. With the limitlessness of the Internet, our art form can be delivered to our audience directly without passing through the filter of a network executive or studio head.

The marriage of powerful, inexpensive tools with broadband direct-to-consumer pipelines is revolutionizing our art. It is also finally making short form work commercially viable again. Not since movie theaters gave up shorts for trailers and commercials has there been such a market for short films. My first made-for-web project, born of an idea unsuitable for television, was snapped up and turned into a series in a heartbeat. And if no one had picked it up for their Web site -- it would have gone up on my own! The Internet means ARTISTIC FREEDOM!!

Corky QuakenbushSpace Bass Films

The Internet has affected me in multiple ways. It allows me to view the work of and share ideas with animators that would have taken years to experience before the Internet. It has fueled my interest in how art and technology inspire and propel us, motivating myself and others to collaborate so as to make what used to be difficult or impossible into a simple reality. The Internet also allows a freedom of expression, which drives my professional work because no studio model exists with rigid definitions of "acceptable-commercially viable" formats for how images must be made or stories must be told. But most importantly, I see the Internet offering animators everywhere the chance to contribute to a global evolution of the art of the moving image, and nothing could be more exciting than adding my small piece to that very large pie.

Debra CallabresiSwell Productions

I am the senior animator of AtomFilms' Content Creation Division. I love my job and make good money. I'm also twenty years old.

James Dalby.

I wouldn't be the man I am today without the Internet and Flash animation. I finished high school with little experience with creating an animated production. Anyone in the world who walks into a traditional animation studio with that factor over his head would find his ass back on the curb in no time.

Oddly enough, I learned all I needed at once. It's shocking to realize that having a working knowledge of Macromedia Flash automatically sums up the roles of the character designer, pencil tester, in-between artist, background designer, cel painter, clean-up, sound editor, producer, director and distributor all into one single person.

Independent animators like myself are on the rise within today's Internet. If what we produce is funny, new and creative, the Internet community will respond. With the ease of distribution and accessibility that the Internet offers, clients can view an animator's product in a fraction of the time it takes to send a demo reel. Contracts can be forged through email, and projects can be scheduled over the phone.

How has the Internet affected my life? I would have never dreamed of being at the job I'm at, or working with the people sitting next to me every day. I owe the Internet my life.

James Dalby AtomFilms/Atom Studios

As an independent animator, I have focused primarily on the Internet because I've found it much easier to establish and develop my skills through the Internet rather than through traditional animation.

Kwesi Ako Kennedy.

Little formal training and exposure in traditional animation made it difficult to find any position that gave me the opportunity to develop new skills. On the other hand I found it very easy to create animation for the Internet and explore my own ideas without extensive formal knowledge and training. Without marketing and commercial demands, I've been able to develop my own voice as an artist and grow faster than I would be able to in the market-driven traditional animation industry.

In addition, I've found that the strong community of animators and fans online has contributed to my development as an animator. Fan sites, tutorials and forums have not only enhanced my knowledge of animation and animation techniques, but also have provided encouragement as well.

Without the barriers of breaking into traditional animation, the Internet has made it possible for more people who truly love the art of animation to take creative chances, as well as have more freedom to exchange ideas and concepts.

Kwesi Ako KennedyAnimation and Character DesignAtom Studios

Heather Kenyon is editor-in-chief of Animation World Magazine.