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Max Howard 'Up in the Air' - On My Way to LA from London

Surprise, surprise back at 30,000 ft flying from London to Los Angeles after a super quick trip to the UK and Ukraine.

International Animation Consulting Group

Surprise, surprise back at 30,000 ft flying from London to Los Angeles after a super quick trip to the UK and Ukraine.  Since my last communication, which was all about the KROK International Animation Festival, I have been back in the US.  A return home after thirteen months on the road.  I left LA in September, 2011 for a two-month road trip.  The trip kept getting extended and extended.  Resulting into the longest period away from the US since I came to America from the United Kingdom after the release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, nearly 25 years ago.

Fourteen countries, three of them, visited on three separate occasions and over 100,000 miles spent up at 30,000 ft!  These thirteen months on the road have given me a unique perspective and first-hand knowledge of our business. Getting to interact with animation professionals, students and studios all around the world - Armenia, Australia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Russia.

This has been a wonderful experience and I am so appreciative of the incredible opportunity and to the kindness and generosity of the people I met along the way.  How fortunate we are to work in this global industry and how fortunate I have been to experience this extended road trip.  If you add the travel that my partners, Bill and Frank also make, we are certainly clocking up the miles and living up to our name – International Animation Consulting Group!

I returned home in early October, expecting to be spending the rest of the year reconnecting with friends and family, but within a month I was off again for a weeklong trip to Ukraine.  I cannot share too much here but if all continues to go well, I’ll be making bi-monthly trips there over the next couple of years, as we first shape and then produce an animated feature film.

We are in awards season already, as the Motion Picture Academy has already started to consider the nominations for best animated short and feature films. 

I managed to attend the screenings for animated short films just a couple of weeks back.  There were so many films this year that the process took two days.  Fifty-six films in all and, to my delight, films that had been selected for special recognition at the KROK International Film Festival. 

Of the fifty-six films submitted in the short animated film category, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has just released the list of the 10 that are moving forward.  The short films and feature animation branch members will select from three to five nominees from that shortlist.

Nominations will be announced Jan. 10, and the 85th Annual Academy Awards will be held Feb. 24.

The shortlist of animated shorts seeking an Oscar nomination are:

Adam and Dog - Minkyu Lee, director (Lodge Films)

Combustible - Katsuhiro Otomo, director (Sunrise Inc.)

Dripped - Leo Verrier, director (ChezEddy)

The Eagleman Stag - Mikey Please, director, and Benedict Please, music scores and sound design (Royal College of Art)

The Fall of the House of Usher - Raul Garcia, director, and Stephan Roelants, producer (Melusine Productions, R&R Communications Inc., Les Armateurs, The Big Farm)

Fresh Guacamole - PES, director (PES)

Head Over Heels - Timothy Reckart, director, and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, producer (National Film and Television School)

Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare - David Silverman, director (Gracie Films)

Paperman - John Kahrs, director (Disney Animation Studios)

Tram - Michaela Pavlatova, director, and Ron Dyens, producer (Sacrebleu Productions)

The screenings for the twenty animated feature films has also begun.  With twenty films, we are almost guaranteed five nominations again this year.  Reflecting a continued growth in the number of small independently produced features.  In the twelve years the Oscar has been awarded to animated features, this will mark only the fourth time there have been five nominations.  There have to be sixteen or more eligible films to trigger this number of nominations.  It has now happened three out of the last four years.  The other year was back in 2002, when Miazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ was awarded the Oscar.  Long may this trend continue, as it can only be good for our industry. 

Also with a record number of shorts eligible for consideration, our industry is growing.

As I travelled around the world, I met so many great filmmakers and filmmakers in the making.  With the advent of reasonably priced computer hardware and ‘off the shelf ‘software, more and more artists are able to realize their dream of creating their own films whether they be feature length or shorts.

Soon the Academy will be remembering the days when there were only twenty eligible features and fewer than sixty shorts!

Two weeks ago I presented  ‘The Road to Oscar’, at Animation Magazine’s Feature Summit in Marina del Rey, California.  The talk celebrates the Oscar and the pathway necessary to being eligible for consideration for this converted award.

Next stop for me will be CTNX being held in Burbank, CA, where I will be participating along with Claus Toksvig from the Animation Workshop in Denmark; Peter Wetherell, President, Magus Entertainment, Inc., one of the foremost authorities on how the international film sales markets work; and Ramsay McBean, who heads up the European arm of my own producing company, Melwood Pictures.  We’ll be on a panel discussing international co-productions and how to secure distribution.  No easy answers but, hopefully, full of helpful information. 

For the next few weeks I intend to keep my feet firmly on the ground!  So until the next time, I wish you Happy Animating! And as Thanksgiving fast approaches, I for one, have much to be thankful for.

Max Howard