There Once Was A Man Called Pjotr Sapegin
(continued from page 3)

With the release of Mons the Cat in 1995, Sapegin made his mark in the animation industry by telling a Norwegian folk tale.

Enter Mons
Nestled beside his window frames with eyes scanning for greener pastures, Sapegin's inner bulb lit: he would become rich by making commercials. Using some left over film, he made the hilarious Fishballs. The film was shot in 1 1/2 days on 35mm and was to be part of Sapegin's new commercial portfolio. Fishballs is a dramatic departure in style from Edvard and clearly foreshadows the crisp clay animation and stylish, colourful flowing backgrounds of Mons the Cat. In Fishballs, a young Mons the Cat (making his first appearance) sits by the water eagerly seeking out food. He rejects a female fish and then a male fish appears, but rather than take the whole fish, the cat grabs at his pearly white genitals. Sapegin received no commercial offers. While Sapegin expresses surprise that he did not get jobs, there is no doubt that the sly transplanted Russian was well aware (Sapegin's voice is heard at the end asking, "How was it?") that he was making an anti-commercial. Sapegin simply could not go gently without first biting the 'hand' that feeds.

Distribution and funding, those tired, repetitive refrains, remain a problem for Sapegin. Funding comes primarily from the Norwegian Film Institute, which also distributes his films. There is a competition for project funding a couple of times a year. Short Animation and Documentary proposals are lumped into one bin and if the idea is worthy enough to be among the top ten, one gets financing. Films are shown in theatres but no money is paid to the filmmakers. TV channels buy films, sometimes even show them, but there is very little money for a short film. So for independent animators like Sapegin, he must rely primarily on international festivals to find an audience and a buyer.

Another still from Sapegin's successful Mons the Cat.

The animation 'boom' has found its way to Norway, however the problem remains the same: most of the money is going to "big companies who just found out where the money is in our humanistic bad conscience towards children's time."

In Sapegin's eyes the Norwegian animation community is quite different from other countries because of the gap between generations of animators. Most of the people in the industry are quite young and have never had any role models. While this can be an overwhelming situation, it removes many pressures and allows the animators to be more liberal and adventurous. Of course with freedom and a staunch refusal to work for the 'bad guys,' most of the animators are opening and closing studios and fighting to find funding. With age comes fatigue and with fatigue comes compromise. "Young people don't really know all those things which we know already because we have families and sick parents. We have to pay bills, the house and the car and God knows what. And they must have Sundays and they must have holidays off, and they don't hear anything." Despite the uncertainty, Sapegin likens this younger generation to the early days of the National Film Board of Canada and believes that many of today's artists "will become the masters for a new generation."


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