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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Animated Reviews: Annecy 2013

I'm pleased to present a guest post by animator and musician Anne Beal on her trip to the 2013 Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Anne's RISD senior film "Balance and Swing" was accepted to the Annecy festival in the Graduation Films competition program. The following is Anne's report on her first (hopefully not last) Annecy Festival.

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I submitted my film to Annecy knowing my efforts would probably amount to a rejection letter in a few months. But, by that point, I had submitted to over 20 festivals and going through the steps – from online forms to post office trips – was automatic. And there was no submission fee: why not submit to the world's biggest and oldest animation festival, for free?

(l to r) Ainslie, Anne, and Will (1)
When I looked at the selection results in March 2013, I was stunned to see "Balance and Swing" on the list. My film would screen in the "Graduation Films" category among films I had seen at the Ottawa International Animated Film Festival the previous September, including my favorite graduation film from Ottawa, "I am Tom Moody," by Ainslie Henderson. (In fact, I met Ainslie at a screening and throughly enjoyed hanging out with him and his collaborator and fellow director, Will Anderson. Will's film won "best graduation film" at Annecy 2012.)

Though it's been six weeks since Annecy, I haven't fully processed everything. I saw over a hundred films, all of them meaningful to me in some way. So I'll let this post be brief, with a few insights on my experience at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival 2013.

First of all, I'm glad I brought my fiddle. She was my only companion in a foreign country, and knowing the universal language of music made up for my poor French speaking skills. I was fortunate enough to meet Nik Phelps through a mutual friend, and Nik welcomed me into the "Annecy Plus Band." Every year at Annecy, Nik puts together a group of musical animators to form a band that plays at the "Annecy Plus" screening as well as various Annecy parties. His wife, Nancy Phelps, puts together the Annecy Plus screening in collaboration with Bill Plympton. Annecy Plus is a venue for screening films that were not selected for the festival. You can find out more about it at this link to the Annecy Plus facebook page.

Playing at the Annecy Plus Screening (1)
Above is the Annecy Plus Band from left to right: Daniel Šuljić who runs the animation festival "Zagreb", Anne Beal, Nik Phelps, and Veljko Popovic who is an animator. Not pictured is Rolf who played percussion.

In the video below is the Annecy Plus Band, which includes a special appearance by Michaela Pavlatova (my favorite video ever!! :)

At Annecy I met interesting people who work in the animation industry who I may not have met anywhere else. Directors and sound designers from France, Croatia, Egypt and other places it might take me a lifetime to visit. I plan to keep in touch with them and the projects they're working on. Now I am extra motivated to keep making work and submitting to festivals, to get the chance to see these people again.

The vibrant festival atmosphere, especially the parties, introduced me to animators I connected with on a personal level and whose work I intend to follow. One such animator is Corrie Francis Parks. It was wonderful to meet her at the opening Pixar Party and to run into her throughout the week, a friendly face and native English-speaker. Both of us were operating “off the grid” with no international cell phone data and sparse internet access, so our meetings were always a pleasant surprise.

Florentine and Anne at the Pixar party (2)
Another animator I connected with instantly was Florentine Grelier, a Parisian animator whose film, "Pixel Joy", was selected for Annecy. Florentine and I found each other's work on Vimeo about a year ago. We began a correspondence, each of us writing messages using our French-English dictionaries and Google Translate. When we met in person at Annecy, we realized she barely spoke English and I barely spoke French, but we were able to communicate via gestures, pantomime, and drawing. She introduced me to some of her friends involved in the Parisian animation scene and by the end of our first "café" date, we had all forgotten any language barriers.

I met two animators whose work has influenced me greatly: Michaela Pavlatova and Georges Schwizgebel. Throughout my development as an artist, Michaela Pavlatova's work has encouraged me to embrace the sensual aspects of my work and feel comfortable letting them be present onscreen. Georges Schwizgebel's work inspires me to keep painting – not to be intimidated by the notion that painting is not a sustainable medium for animation. Seeing Schwizgebel's work, and observing his relatively prolific output, has helped me recognize the value in using my own propensity for painting as a vehicle for expression.

I saw many wonderful films at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. A few of my favorites include, but are certainly not limited to:

Annecy Picnic (1)
I went into the festival aware that there would be many conferences, exhibits, parties, and screenings, but I didn't realize the scope of activities that would be going on at Annecy. It was impossible to attend even half of the events I wanted to see. I did, however, see all five short film competitions. I didn't take advantage of the MIFA business conferences as much as I perhaps should have, but I certainly attended all the organized parties. And for someone who doesn't "party" very often, I had a great time! I enjoyed fasinating conversations with animators and animation-appreciators from across the globe.

My only regret was not bringing my sketchbook! I was trying to "pack light" since I would be bringing my fiddle to Annecy, so I took my regular sketchbook out of my suitcase and looked for a more portable sketchbook. When I didn't find one, I got distracted with some other preparations and so I FORGOT TO BRING A SKETCHBOOK TO ANNECY. Since writing and sketching out my ideas and the things around me is an integral part of how I process things...well, it was just silly of me. But maybe there was some good that came out of me not having my sketchbook. I simply experienced things without recording them. I had no inclination to write notes about the films I watched: there was no notebook in my lap to distract me from experiencing the films, and the festival, with all of my senses.

1. Photo copyright 2013, Brett W. Thompson.
2. Photo copyright 2013, Anne Beal