Following 70 festivals and 13 awards for her short film ‘Solar Walk,’ the award-winning independent animator talks about distribution and monetization.
On the heels of an incredibly successful festival run, Solar Walk, the award-winning short film from Hungarian-born independent animator Réka Bucsi is now available to watch online via Vimeo On Demand.
Solar Walk screened at approximately 70 festivals and won 13 awards, including the Audi Short Film Award at the 2018 Berlinale and grand prizes at the Ottawa, Bucheon and New Chitose Airport festivals.
The 20-minute experimental odyssey through the vastness of the universe and creation was originally commissioned by the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra for Aarhus 2017, a multi-media celebration of the city’s designation as “Europe’s Cultural Capital.” Initially taking form as an hour-long live orchestral performance composed by Niels Marthinsen and jazz singer Susi Hyldgaard, Solar Walk was developed during a residency at the Open Workshop in Viborg (part of the acclaimed Danish animation school, The Animation Workshop).
Today’s VOD release of Solar Walk follows the recent Vimeo Staff Pick designation for Bucsi’s 2016 film, LOVE, a free-flowing non-narrative short, that traverses the universe in three separate chapters, depicting an ensemble cast of celestial bodies and otherworldly creatures in various states of attraction toward one another. (LOVE screened in competition at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the European Film Awards in 2017.)
Ahead of today’s Vimeo On Demand release, we had a chance to ask Busci a few questions about the film’s festival run and online release. Read the Q&A, and learn more about how Solar Walk was made in AWN’s exclusive video interview with the filmmaker from FMX 2018 below:
AWN: Solar Walk won the short film award at the 2018 Berlinale, and went on to win many other awards as well. How do you feel about the film’s reception? Was any of this unexpected for you?
Réka Bucsi: Awards and festival selections are never something expected. It’s always very special to get an acceptance e-mail from a festival one cares about. I’m very happy about the reception, I feel every time I complete a film, I don’t become blind to it. I just spend too much time with it, so it’s hard for me to tell weather or not it will resonate with an audience or not. Winning an award in Berlin was absolutely unexpected and a feverish experience.
AWN: This Vimeo On Demand release will mark the first time you’ll be able to keep any profits from your own work. Why did you choose the Vimeo platform?
RB: All my work is on Vimeo. I like the clean platform, I like the curation behind the Staff Picks, and the way you are able to customize your little “shop.” It’s an industry standard, and almost all people I admire in animation have their work up there.
AWN: Will you receive all the profits, or will you have to share them with production partners?
RB: I have a deal where I can handle VOD, set it up and keep the profit. All other sales are shared with the distribution company I work with. New Europe Film Sales did such a great job selling the film to other platforms. Shout out to Marcin Luczaj! It’s really easy to work with them, and I appreciate their transparency and [the] straightforward communication they provide.
AWN: What are some of the biggest challenges filmmakers face in monetizing short films?
RB: There are barely platforms buying shorts. There [are] a few TV stations like Arte and Canal+ who have a great short film curation, but it’s rare. I started working with more channels in the U.S. as well. Adult Swim and FX Networks are also more colorful in what they show or commission for their channels. It also is crucial to work with a good distribution company. It’s a lot of work and requires different skills. I have an idea about the distribution process, but I’m definitely not an expert. I don’t think many independent short film makers are. Solar Walk is also not something that is an easy sell. It’s rather experimental and long. Those are not ideal qualities.
AWN: What are some of the other opportunities for independent animators for monetizing their work?
RB: Some TV channels, programming in theaters before feature film and VOD would be the most common ones. Sometimes you can get interesting deals like being available on some airlines or a gallery.
AWN: Non-narrative and other experimental short films are gaining increasing attention at animation festivals and elsewhere. Why do you think this is so, and what is it that attracts you to non-narrative filmmaking to communicate your ideas?
RB: This is not a conscious decision. It’s the way I think, and the way I like to express certain ideas. Every story or idea needs a different way of presentation, and a short form leaves a lot of space for unconventional film language. I don’t think there is necessarily more abstraction or experimental films now than there was in the past, but I certainly am drawn to that way of storytelling.
We live in a time where the individuum and its specific opinion is becoming freakishly important, and diverse self-expression is something that is becoming more common. More people stand up for their personal opinion and present alternatives to the norm. I think a filmmaker should use this way of free thinking and the audiences’ interpretation to make a film a richer experience. Leaving space between the film and the audience is important to me. I like that film is a manipulative art form, but it’s also important for me to avoid making people feel one certain way, and let them participate in the narrative.
AWN: Bonus question: what can you tell us about your next film project?
RB: Currently I’m working on smaller commissions. Once those are ready, I want to concentrate on making my first feature film. I’m excited to see how that goes….