On the road, which is frequently 9th avenue, it is difficult to keep track of animation events in the city. With one hand on my keyboard and one holding a drink, I try to allot my time on this Earth accordingly. There’s an increase in international animation events in the city, and whether it’s attributed to personal awareness or hard data, the end result is a visual trip from Poland to France, to Canada and Japan. Today, it’s Hungary.
Animated Spirits: New Animation from Europe, 1st Edition 2015, 4/8-9/15, School of Visual Arts
Curated by Annaida Orosz (animation historian, co-founder Primanima Short Film Festival [which is sponsored in part by ASIFA-Hungary and ASIFA-Cyprus!])
with special guest on Night #2, Amid Amidi (animation historian, Cartoon Brew)
While the first night of Animated Spirits took place at the Austrian Cultural Forum in midtown, the second and final night of the new festival took place at the SVA Beatrice theatre on 9th avenue. It was at the same time as a red carpet “idea conference.” Well, animators can change the world as well.
Annaida Orosz (from Budapest) describes animation as “technical and visual sports,” which is an exciting way to imply victory. She defines the game as ‘degradation,’ ‘transition,’ ‘in-distinction’ and ‘universally intelligible.’ To prove her point, she gathered a collection of animations, presented by the European Union National Institutes for Culture. Annaida says “Get a Life!” (screening #1) and “Hit the Road!” (screening #2). The first night’s guest was Tom Brown, whose short film Teeth won an award at SXSW this year. When I attended the second evening, she was joined on stage by Amid Amidi to discuss the state of international animated short films.
Annaida Orosz and Amid Amidi
Annaida Orosz and Amid Amidi
Annaida Orosz interviews Amid Amidi
There was a nice college lecture vibe to the interview, so I just took notes. Questions and answers have been edited here for simplicity/clarity, and are not always exact. Nor is this in any way a complete transcript of the discussion.
AO: What is the American ‘Point of View’ of European Animation?
AA: US animation tends to be more commercial, while European animation tends to express themselves more, but it’s not that simple; it’s just that there are so many more films of that caliber in Europe.
AA: “You can tell an Estonian film because you don’t know what is going on.” They are non-linear, non-narrative.
– AA curated a program called “West vs. East” of 1950s and 1960s animation; the West films were concerned with individuals asserting themselves and solving problems, while the East did not have these themes: they were about group-work and more internal, not a character being bold or outwardly expressive.
AO: What is a suitable platform for animated short films? (theatres vs laptops, festivals vs the internet)
AA: “Not sure you could ever popularize this kind of animation” [Tristian: I’m assuming he means European animation.]
AA: “It never made a difference” for a short film to have 50 to 100 thousand views online, there was no point in [Amid] describing the film in a long article, its “not sustainable” for the filmmaker, they still must get their money from somewhere else.
– having a 10-15 minute long film impacts how it performs online, it is less likely to be shared
– AA was distracted in his preview-watching of the short films on his laptop before the show, he was on his phone; in the theatre you have a different experience, you are enraptured
AO: How many people experience short films in a theatre? Is 2-3 thousand people enough?
– While AA used that number as example of the niche market for animated shorts, AO interrupted to disagree, to say yes, definitely enough, considering the size of Hungary to the US.
AO: What is the difference between watching a CGI animated film compared to something more ‘traditional’?
AA: [Amid] is not “technique driven.” “People who use traditional methods are more interested in story-telling, and people who use CGI are more interested in spectacle… but that is a huge generalization.” You should consider the story first, and then figure out the best way to say it.
AO: Why are student films so successful in international festivals today?
AA: They are successful more than ever, but it’s a numbers game, because there are more students of animation than ever before, and don’t forget there are also more terrible student films than ever before.
AA: How did you choose these films?
AIO: First a focus on Europe, and then on the 10 countries participating in the organization; not necessarily for kids, or that have been awarded, but “films that should be given attention.”
Ham Story – Eliška Chytková (2012, CZE)
What I learned:
Decades ago, ASIFA used to physically ship film reels from country to country, in order to spread cultural differences in animation. While I used to think that our organization’s original purpose was largely undercut by the internet, I now have second thoughts. It is said that social media enforces a certain sameness amongst its users, and that you are more likely to only have your pre-existing opinions enforced. Perhaps this is true in the sharing of new short films.
Even if it’s only trailers of new work that we can share, it’s important to get the conversation started. Filmmakers need other chances to make money than pennies on the dollar from ad-clicks on YouTube. We must overcome an entire school of thought (possibly American, more likely international) that art on the internet comes for free. Where once we had Napster, now we have Tidal: Jay-Z’s new streaming music service, which is being criticized as expensive, pointless, and supportive only of rich musicians. At any rate, Europe and the United States have always played off each other to form their own specific manners and morals, and the animation played across the Global Village will only make this more apparent.