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On the Road to FICCI Frames and DSK Supinfocom

Max Howard, sitting in an aircraft at 30,000 feet, reflects on a two-week trip to India, his fourth visit in just the last eighteen months. The two weeks included being a guest speaker and jury member at a pre-eminent Bollywood film event in Mumbai, FICCI Frames.

International Animation Consulting Group

Max Howard. All images courtesy of Robin Howard.

Welcome to the first blog from International Animation Consulting Group (IACG), along with my partners William (Bill) Dennis, Frank M. Lunn, we are to undertake a bi-weekly blog discussing all things animation with a particular focus on the international arena.  We drew straws to decide who would go first and guess what, I got the honor to be the first member of our team to address you via the AWN website and, before beginning, we want to thank our friends at AWN, Ron Diamond and Dan Sarto for making this possible.

I’m sitting in an aircraft 30,000 feet up reflecting on a two-week trip to India, my fourth visit to this amazing country in just the last eighteen months.  The two weeks included being a guest speaker and jury member at a pre-eminent Bollywood film event in Mumbai, FICCI Frames.

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI)

Established in 1927, FICCI is the largest and oldest apex business organization in India. Its history is closely interwoven with India's struggle for independence and its subsequent emergence as one of the most rapidly growing economies globally. FICCI plays a leading role in policy debates that are at the forefront of social, economic and political change.

The Entertainment Division serves as a vital link between the media & entertainment industry, Information & Broadcasting Ministry and global interests in this vibrant sector.

Then, onto Pune to present a three-day program for the 3rd and 4th year students at DSK Supinfocom.  After that, I snuck away for a two-day trip up to Delhi and Agra for some long overdue sightseeing! 

India - what a country - contrasts rich and poor, high and low tech, diversity at every turn, from the eighteen official national languages (there are another 347 that are also spoken – mindboggling!) to the delicious spicy foods, which are equally diverse across this vast country of over 1.2 billion people in a land mass of 3m sq km, making it one of the most densely populated countries on earth.  All tied together by a common currency - the Rupee (approximately 50 Rupees to US$1).  And they are all crazy about the sport I love to play – cricket!   There are several TV stations that broadcast the sport 24/7.  I love India! 

For the visitor, one feels completely at home as English is widely spoken - not ‘tourist’ English.  It is a leftover from the British Empire, who occupied the country from 1858 to 1947.  During this period English became widely spoken and today that enforced requirement to speak the language of the ‘occupier’ is providing dividends as Indian businesses can easily communicate on the international stage where English is so prevalent. 

This ability to so easily communicate has been a real plus for me, and one I appreciate, as I participated as a jury member at the FICCI Frames ‘BAF Awards’ in Mumbai.   What a pleasure it was to spend my first day there with my fellow jury members selecting the winning entries in these categories:

Animated Promos

Animated Ad Film

Animated Short Film – Professional

Animated Short Film – Student

VFX in a Commercial

VFX in a Motion Picture

VFX Shot of the Year

Without revealing the secrets of our deliberations in the jury room, I can espouse and marvel about one film that we all thought absolutely astonishing.  It was in a category full of outstanding entries - Animated Short Film – Student.  One film stood out for us: Communication University of China - Happy Anniversary – China. 

Happy Anniversary tells the story of how a sensitive wife waits for her husband on their wedding anniversary, but her husband constantly misses her phone calls and her imagination takes over as she starts to speculate as to where he might be on their special day.

Happy Anniversary is a thoughtful, charming and captivating film about love and devotion, and told so elegantly it is a tour de force of storytelling, staging and animation – bravo!  Watch out for it, it is not to be missed.

Here’s the full list of the winners of FICCI BAF AWARDS 2012:

Animated Short Film – Student -  ‘Happy Anniversary’

Communication University of China - China    

SPECIAL JURY AWARD Animated Short Film – Student – ‘Ozzmosi’

MAAC (Andheri) - India    Animated Promo -  ‘Return of the Jungle’ Vaibhav Studios - India

Animated Ad Film - Samsung Wave TVC

Visual Computing Labs - India    

Animated Short Film - Professional – ‘The Missing Keys’

CartWheel Partners - Australia    

SPECIAL JURY AWARD Animated Short Film – Professional - ‘Baat Wahi Hai’

Industrial Design Center, IIT Powai - India            

Animation TV Episode – ‘Unfinished Business’

Reliance Animation - Shaktimaan - India        

Animated Film – Direct-to-DVD - ‘Immortal –Hanuman 2’

Toonz Animation India Pvt. Ltd. - India    

Animated Feature Film (Theatrical Release) - ‘Delhi Safari’

Krayon Pictures Pvt. Ltd. - India            

Browser Game – ‘Alexia The Great’

7 Seas Entertainment Ltd. - India            

PC & Console Game – ‘Gears of War 3’

Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt. Ltd - India            

Mobile and Tablet Game (Touch Screen) – ‘Bazzle’

Game Tantra Digital Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. - India            

VFX in a commercial  - ‘Andrex Hakle’

Frame Store - United Kingdom            

SPECIAL JURY AWARD VFX in a commercial - ‘Panasonic Econavi TVC’

Visual Computing Labs - A Division of Tata Elxsi Ltd - India        

VFX in a motion Picture – ‘Ra One’

Red Chillies. VFX  - India            

VFX Shot of the Year – ‘War Horse’

Frame Store - United Kingdom            

SPECIAL JURY AWARD (VFX Short of the Year) – ‘Ra One’

Red Chillies. VFX - India            SPECIAL JURY AWARD - Open Category – ‘Lufthansa Park & Fly’ Red Digital - India

Delhi Safari

Another Jury selected Delhi Safari as Best Animated Feature from Indian studio Krayon Pictures, who are based in Pune.   I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of this film at last December’s Goa International Film Festival.

Delhi Safari - as the concrete jungle of Mumbai rapidly eats into its forests, Sultan, the leader of the leopards, is killed. A motley crew of animals decide to do something about it. Bajrangi, the militant monkey; Bagga, the hugging bear; Begum, the protective leopardess and her cub Yuvi set off on a journey to Delhi to petition the government – but not before they kidnap Alex, the crazy parrot who can speak human. Will they make it to the capital? And even if they do, will anyone listen?

Delhi Safari has been co-produced by Krayon Pictures and People Tree Films and directed by Nikhil Advani. The voices for the original Hindi version of the film have been given by Govinda, Akshaye Khanna, Boman Irani, Urmila Matondkar and Suniel Shetty. For the English version, voices have been given by Jason Alexander, Brad Garret, Vanessa Williams, Jane Lynch, Christopher Lloyd and Cary Elwes. The music has been composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.

Delhi Safari Executive Producer Nishith Taki

receiving the award.

This is one to watch out for.  Let out a big cheer for Krayon Pictures’ achievement of producing this classy, low budget, independent animated feature film with a locally inspired story that will resonate with audiences around the world.

It’s a safari well worth taking!

Fantastic Films International LLC. are handling international sales.

After my jury duties were completed, I had the honor of addressing the FICCI Frames attendees with a talk regarding the opportunities that are accessible for the independent animation feature filmmaker.  How to develop and produce features on a low budget and still access a worldwide audience. 

Addressing the attendees at FICCI Frames.

Following my FICCI Frames participation, I headed off to Pune and DSK Supinfocom, the Indian version of the fabled French animation school.

The head of their animation program had invited me back to spend an extended time with the 3rd and 4th year students.  Over three days, we dissected storytelling, acting and different approaches to finding a character and then designing it.  The story discussions surrounded a wonderful screenplay by Justin Eick, The Pied Piper - a film in development with my own production company, Melwood Pictures.  Each of the students had the opportunity to show off their acting skills, playing different roles, which provided a unique experience, and wow, the students are not only gifted artists but also several very fine actors emerged - in particular, one hilarious performance by Hadrian as the Pied Piper’s sidekick, Longtail.

Another part of my mission was to work with 4th year students on the development of their graduation films, which they will undertake next year during their 5th and final year. 

My visit to DSK Supinfocom provided me with a stimulating three days as we explored so many aspects of storytelling, and the opportunities for the future development of our industry that they will be part of defining when they graduate.

Students from DSK Supinfocom.

My son, Robin, accompanied me on this whole trip and I cannot write of my experiences without thanking the students from Whistling Woods, who were attending the FICCI Frames event, and the students from DSK Supinfocom, who took Robin under their respective wings, keeping him out at all hours when I was sound asleep and introducing him to a side of India that is no longer available to his Dad!  Thank you so much to everyone and in particular: Siddharth, Kenrick, Vansi, Neha and Enosh.

The last couple of days in this wonderful country were spent on a long overdue sightseeing trip to Delhi and Agra, where we checked something off our ‘bucket list’ - the Taj Mahal!  Thanks to my son, Robin, for making me take the time out to do this - it was really worth it. 

Someone had told me to try and avert my gaze until I was in the optimum position to look at this wonderful monument.   Something we managed to do without falling over or bumping into too many people.  Well this little piece of advice, was spot on, with our first view of this spectacular building from exactly the right place – it took my breath away and despite the crowds, the incessant chatter of our guides giving out facts and figures, all of this faded into the background as this magnificent structure cast a romantic serenity on my soul - quite amazing and an experience that will stay with me always.

I had anticipated that the experience could not live up to my expectations but I was completely wrong.

Robin and no, it is not Photoshopped!

I thought I knew what to expect from the photographs and TV programs I had experienced.  Perfect photographs, devoid of the crowds, but as I lifted my head, my heart missed a beat - it is without a doubt a completely breathtaking design so extraordinary it exudes love, desire and passion.

This India is full of extremes, wealth, poverty, talent, ambition, chaos and serenity.  This was serenity personified towering above the chaos and the crowds to deliver a stunning visual experience, one which is now etched in my heart.

What a fitting finale to my fourth visit to India.  I cannot wait to return to this wonderful land, full of delightful people, to continue my life’s journey.

Max Howard


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