Animarkt, in Łódź Poland, is the only international industry event that is dedicated solely to stop-motion animation project pitching.
THE ART OF PITCHING
Every year I look forward to Animarkt. It is the only international industry event that is dedicated solely to stop-motion animation project pitching. Expert consultations, networking and pitching are key features of this event that attract people worldwide. The main goal of Animarkt is to create a forum where stop motion filmmakers, distributors, broadcasters, producers, animation service providers and industry representatives can network, foster international co-productions and attend masterclasses and workshops given by top professionals in their field.
Since 2017 I have been the pitching coach at Animarkt; it is very rewarding and I love doing it. Over the last seven years, pitching at Animarkt has grown from only being for short film projects to one that includes feature films, television series and specials.
Although I do not see the animators in person until we all get to Łódź in October, I begin working with them individually in August via Zoom. Initially, I assess how far along they are in developing their pitch, which is very often nowhere, and let them know that by October they will be able to give an excellent pitch. I then figure out who is going to need extra time with me. Most animators are not public speakers; they work in a room, often by themselves. Then I try to calm their nerves and assure them that by the time they get to Łódź, they will be fine.
Naturally, some people need a lot more work than others. That is especially true if their English language skills are poor. I explain to them that they must not be self-conscious about their language abilities and tell them that Nik and I will probably be the only two native English speakers in the room and that they should not talk too fast or use words that they don’t understand. With people from Latin or South America, there is also a vast time difference to take into account when scheduling Zoom meetings.
Over the next month and a half, I spent a lot of time reassuring every one of the 20 project pitchers that they would be fine and helped them put together a solid pitch. I also let them know that I would be available at any time to meet with them. Over the next two months, I can Zoom with someone as many as five times. My goal is to have everyone well prepared so that when we do finally meet in Łódź all that we have to do are practice run-throughs and a little fine-tuning. Each pitcher also gets a session with my husband, Nik, who coaches them on stage presence and microphone technique.
There is always a big diversity of subject matter in the pitches - from a tap-dancing ovary to Dust Bowl despair, there was something for everyone this year. Animated westerns seem to be popular right now. Bill Plympton’s latest feature film, Slide, is a musical comedy western, and two of the projects pitched at Animarkt were also set in the West. One is a feature film from the UK aimed at young adults and adults and the other is a French television series for children.
Every year someone will ask me which one is my favorite project and my answer is always the same. After spending so much time with all of the people pitching and their projects, I love them all. I want everyone to succeed and I look forward to seeing all of the projects finished and shown on the big screen.
Pitching at Animarkt is a serious matter. The directors of short film projects are vying for many awards including top prizes for short films of 40,000 and 20,000 PLN. There is also an Industry Accreditation to MIFA at Annecy, The Animond Award for marketing, audience and financing given by The Animond Investment Fund for the Development and Production of Animation, and a post-production award funded by Polar Studio. There are other awards including in-kind services from the Audio-Visual Technology Center in Warsaw.
Feature Films and Television Series compete for such awards as the Kids Kino Award, qualifying a project to Kids Kino Industry, Dragon Frame 5 Software, which is the Audience Award. ORKA Studio, one of Poland’s largest production and post-production houses provides post-production funding. All of the winning pitches are listed at the end of the article.
Unlike most pitching forums, the winning projects are selected by the company or organization that donates the prize instead of by a jury of industry people. This enables the donor to take into account what stage a project is at and who will most benefit from working with them.
Animation projects that are 80% or more stop motion are eligible to apply for a place in the pitching program. The short film projects can be in any stage of development or production but they must have at least the first draft of the script and be no longer than 25 minutes.
Feature films, television series and television specials can be in different stages of realization. Because Animarkt is aware of how challenging film production activities are for the environment, a new criterion in the application is an obligatory plan for sustainable green film production. A special presentation, open to all guests at Animarkt is held on how to make film production more green.
During Animarkt there are many workshops, lectures, and opportunities for one-on-one meetings. Unfortunately, I don’t attend any of them because I spend all day in my lovely, large room with a balcony (except to go to lunch). All lectures and programs are free but you must register to attend because space is limited.
I am honored to be a member of the Animarkt Program Board along with puppet maker Tim Allen, producer and distributor at Miyu Distribution Luce Grosjean and Zofia Jaroazuk, who is a production manager and producer at Animoon. We help the Animarkt staff with programming and suggest people who might be available to be guest lecturers.
ANIMARKT Stop Motion Forum is co-financed from the funds of the International Visegrad Fund, and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute. Creative Europe Desk Polska is a partner of the event. The main partners of ANIMARKT Stop Motion Forum 2023 are EC1 Łódź – the City of Culture, Łódź Film Commission, Direccion General de Promocion de Exportaciones Chile, Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual I.P. / ICA and the Centre for the Development of Creative Industries are partners of the event, plus the LOOM Hotel.
To learn more about pitching a project at Animarkt 2024 go to: www.animarkt.pl/en/pitching and go to the bottom of the page and click on Regulations. Animarkt is open to projects from anywhere in the world.
Now in its second year, the StopMoLab is presided over by Paulina Zacharek. It is a passport to a career in the stop motion industry. The seven-month program, beginning in July, is a unique training opportunity with workshops and lectures led by internationally known professionals.
Professional skills, business rules for working in the animation industry, building confidence in one’s own abilities, and developing a career path are just a few of the skills that are gained by StopMoLab participants. During the seven months, all participants are mentored by a leading professional in the world of animation.
This year twenty-one people were selected for the program; seven people from each of three professions: animators, production managers, and art directors. The mentors were Tim Allen and Francesca Maxwell. Tim is a puppet maker known for his work on such films as Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio to name just two of the many films that he has worked on. As well as mentoring the animators and production managers, Tim also gave forty-four hours of workshops. In his step-by-step development for animating a stop-motion puppet ready for storytelling, the participants got hands-on experience.
The mentor for the seven art director participants was Francesca Maxwell. She has worked on numerous films including The Corpse Bride, ParaNorman, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. She taught her group the fundamental aspects of design and art direction in stop-motion animation.
Along with forty-five hours of career mentoring and the two workshops, participants received thirty-two hours of coaching and an additional forty-two hours of lectures on various aspects of working in the animation industry to help them understand not only their chosen field but how it all fits together.
Most animation schools only teach animating and directing. Many graduates will not end up animating or directing but in one of the many other areas that go into making a film. To this end, StopMoLab aims to bridge the gap between what is taught in schools and the realities of working in the professional world of animation.
Lectures were given by senior line producer Simon Quinn, producer Melanie Coombs, line producer Angela Poschet and Tobiac Fouracre, stop motion director and animator. They are just a few of the noted people who participated in the program.
Although the sessions were primarily conducted online, the StopMoLab participants did come to Łódź during Animarkt, where they had group classes and lectures and the opportunity to meet representatives from stop motion studios from around the world in person. At the end of the week, I had the honor of giving the group a lunchtime motivational talk.
The cost of the entire seven-month program is €3,000. Pauline Zacharek said, “We want to give participants in StopMoLab not only professional competence but also help with discovering their individual strengths”. The StopMoLab is open to applicants from anywhere in the world.
To learn more about the StopMoLab and how to apply for the 2024 session go to http://www.momakin.pl/ and click on Education.
Momakin is the organizer of both Animarkt and the StopMoLab. It was founded by three extremely talented and energetic women, Agnieszka Kowalewska-Skowron, Katarzyna Gromadzka and Paulina Zacharek, who met at university.
Momakin is described on its website as “combining the world of animation filmmaking with international production, distribution, and promotion. It supports animation projects at every stage of their development from planning and financing through production and distribution. It runs a talent agency and initiates and produces film projects in Poland and abroad based on a network of contacts that ensure effective distribution and promotion. Momakin also has an extensive distribution catalog for the cinema, television, and VOD. It is involved in the education and professionalization of the film industry”.
While I was writing this article, I received an email from Agnieszka Kowalewska-Skowron saying that “After eight years of an extraordinary experience called Momakin” she will be embarking on a separate professional experience in November. Along with everything else that she does, Agnieszka is a VOD program specialist in the Kino Polska Group and will be working more in that area. Marianna Piskorz, who I have been working with on pitching for the last two years will take over Animarkt along with Paulina Zacharek.
I will miss Agnieszka’s sense of humor and dedication to Animarkt but I know that she will be successful at whatever she undertakes next. Now I look forward to seeing what new film projects Animarkt 2024 will bring me.
40 000 PLN – in the form of in-kind coproduction contribution sponsored by Audiovisual Technology Center: UKA UKA, Director Henri Veermae, Producer Kadriann Kibus, Rebel Frame, Estonia
20 000 PLN – in the form of in-kind coproduction contribution sponsored by Audiovisual Technology Center: OVER AND OUT, Director Gustavo Amaral, Producer Mariana Lopes, Estudio Celestina, Brazil
INDUSTRY ACCREDITATION FOR MIFA 2024: ENDLESS HOLE, Director Vassilros Konstantinos, Producer Thomas Konstantinos, Studio Bauhaus, Greece
APA LAB AWARD: OVER AND OUT, Director Gustavo Amarral, Producer Mariana Lopez, Estudio Celestina, Brazil
ANIMOND AWARD: OVARY-ACTING, Director Ida Melum, Producer Kjersri Greger, Klipp og Lim, Norway, Co-Producers Jante Films, United Kingdom and Apparat Film Sweden
DRAGONFRAME 5 SOFTWARE: WINTER IN MARCH, Director Natalia Mirzoyan, Producer Kadriann Kibus, Rebel Frame, Estonia
VISEGRAD AWARD: OVER AND OUT, Director Gustavo Amarral, Producer Mariana Lopez, Estudio Celestina, Brazil
CEE ANIMATION FORUM AWARD: A WHALE? A SUBMARINE? AND THE SOUND IN BETWEEN, Director/Producer Gali Lea Blay, Germany
RADIATOR IP SALES DISTRIBUTION AWARD: JOY, Director Agata Wieczorek, Producer Aymeric Isnard, Futur Antérieur Ptroduction, France
ANIMATOR FESTIVAL AWARD: WINTER IN MARCH, Director Natalia Mirzoyan, Producer Kadriann Kibus, Rebel Frame, Estonia
FEATURES AND TELEVISION SERIES
YOUNG HORIZONS INDUSTRY AWARD: WELCOME TO VEGETOWN, Director Sylvain Delcourt, Producer Xavier Truchon, Toku Studio, France
INDUSTRY ACCREDITATION FOR MIFA 2024: THE VANDERBERG SISTERS, Director Joseph Wallace, Co-producer Delaval Film, United Kingdom
ANIMOND AWARD: A YEAR OF BIRDS, Director Isis Leterrier, Producer Marc Faye, Novanima Productions, France
DRAGON FRAME 5 AWARD: A YEAR OF BIRDS, Director Isis Leterrier, Producer Marc Faye, Novanima Productions, France
ORKA STUDIO AWARD: BEA AND THE ISLE OF SPELLS, Director Dominika Krysiewicz, Animoon, Poland
ANIMATOR FESTIVAL AWARD: A YEAR OF BIRDS, Director Isis Leterrier, Producer Marc Faye, Novanima Productions, France