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The Animation Pimp: Scarecrows

The Animation Pimp delves into our fear and denial of death and festival acceptance.

They saw that man could strut and boast all he wanted, but that he really drew `his courage to be' from a god, a string of sexual conquests, a Big Brother, a flag, a proletariat and the fetish of money and the size of a bank balance.
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.
The Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset

Illustration by Andreas Hykade. Courtesy of Chris Robinson.

Fascinating book, this Denial of Death, and I have Jean Detheux to thank for pushing me to read it. Im not even a third of the way through this meditation on our fear of death, but its already proving to be pretty potent and spot-on stuff.

Ive always tried to be honest with you. I have always admitted that, as a person, a programmer etc I have made mistakes. Programmers/jury members are PEOPLE. They aint gods. They wipe their ass just like you. Theyre gonna be worm food just like you. Unfortunately, seems to me that not a few indie animators really struggle with this basic truth of their own similar expendable existence. Theyd rather believe that they have, as Becker writes a unique and self-fashioned identity, that [they are] somebody not just a trembling accident.

In May, I told you about an animator who pulled his film from Annecy because it was in Panorama. Basically, he was pissed off that they didnt understand his art. Then another semi-chum who doesnt seem to give a hoot about festivals wrote me to ask if he should waste his time entering since I dont like his work (not true). Finally, I heard a rumor that a New York animator was gonna start a renegade festival at this years Annecy festival. The festival would feature films by his friends who didnt make it to Annecy. Why all this craziness? Why the belligerence? Have these filmmakers ever considered the possibility that maybe their film isnt all that enticing to some people on the planet? What is going on here?

We enter symbiotic relationships, writes Becker, in order to get the security we need, in order to get relief from our anxieties, our aloneness and helplessness; but these relationships also bind us, they enslave us further because they support the lie we have fashioned.

Very few people in this small community are honest with each other. Its such a small and fragile group (short animation films) of artists with a limited audience that folks are afraid to tell each other when theyve made only a so-so film or that they personally dont really dig the film. Instead they cloak their truth behind a guise of meaningless Ned Flanders niceties. They do this largely because they dont want to lose an ally, they dont want to lose that person who can help them suppress their own anxieties about making a so-so film.

This deception and denial however good the intentions might be causes bigger problems. By the time they submit their work to the world, the animator has had his back patted so many times at home, he knows no other reality. Then, when/if a festival rejects his work; its an absolute shock to the system. His whole identity has been shattered. Animators perceive a rejection from a festival as a form of death. Its a shot in the head of their self-worth, of the identity theyve allowed their peers to create for them. Theyve invested so much in this blanket (created by others) that to have it rejected is to have their existence, meaning and relevance, destroyed.

Because the person does not want to admit that their reality is a sham and that they have no control over it, the person, in turn, flees from himself, from self-knowledge, self-reflection towards things that support the life of his character, his automatic equanimity. Short form the person flees to his peers for support and they assure him that its the festival thats fucked up, not him (when, in truth, neither is particularly fucked up). This leads to actions like those above that are fucked up.

These kinda folks, in my view, must ask themselves why they are making short films. Are they making films to be seen by an audience (clearly, they arent, otherwise why whine about being in Panorama?) or are they submitting work for approval and acceptance? And I dont mean artistic acceptance either, Im talking about their be/end-all being stamped and approved? Does getting into a festival mean that your life is instantly worthy, that you are not a trembling accident after all? Does being rejected by a festival make it any less worthy or expendable? Of course not. If you think otherwise, youre living out a narcissist venture that is destined to flop on its ass.

As someone, somewhere probably said, To fear death is to fear life.

The quicker you can come to terms with that, the faster you can flee from, what Jose Ortega y Gasset called, a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear, and towards a realization that as humbling as it is to realize that youre expendable, it can also be liberating. Once you clear away all the smoke and mirrors, the tricks and superficial stress and pressures that we construct around our li(v)es, then you can truly live your life.

Says the man who isnt there yet.

Chris Robinson is little more than a man. In his spare time he cares for the elderly.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.