Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ottawa

For those in attendence, I only saw competitions 3, 4 and 5. Three of the prize winners came from the opening competition screening, so perhaps I was just unlucky.

It's impossible to know if the selection was a true cross section of what's being done today or a reflection of the tastes of the people selecting the films, but I found the films in competition to be a major disappointment. The films were far more interested in design and concept than they were in character or acting. They had no sense of pace, most being horribly slow. Humor was in short supply and a lot of the humor was based on cruelty. There was a lot of violence directed towards animals and it wasn't cartoon violence; it was death and dismemberment.

I tried to imagine what type of person would get up in the morning and be happy to work on some of these films. I found them difficult to sit through and couldn't imagine spending weeks or months creating them.

Two of the areas where the films were strongest were the films made for children and films made for the web. The children's films were more upbeat, more entertaining and better paced than the films in the regular competition. The exceptions in the children's films were the ones made for American TV. The soundtracks were loud and unrelenting. Their pacing was terrible. It's clear that they were overwritten, but the scripts were deemed to precious to cut.

The makers of internet shorts have the advantage of knowing how often their films are viewed. I think this has resulted in a healthy respect for the audience. The films communicate clearly and humorously and don't let their designs overwhelm their content.

There are screenings known as showcases, where the films screen out of competition. I would love to know how the films are categorized, because the showcase films were generally superior. The international showcase included shorts by Disney and DreamWorks. Why were they quarantined? Were their budgets too high? Were they too entertaining? Was the jury too impressionable?

At the 2004 Ottawa festival, an animator friend of mine said that the trick to attending Ottawa was to go to all the retrospectives and showcases and avoid the competition screenings. I'd amend that to include watching the children's and web films, but my friend wasn't far wrong. Next time, I think I'll follow his advice.

10 comments:

Cooked Art said...

I gotta say that I definetly share these sentiments about this year's festival. I remember quite a few more films in last year's competitions that were inspiring and unique - something that all students who go to Ottawa are presumably looking for.

I can't help but feel a major disappointment from the films this year - not only because I've seen better, but because for others this may have been their first time at the festival - and may assume that this is the norm.

On a positive note, I don't believe I've talked to anyone who believed that the selection of shorts was improving, meaning that if we make enough noise, the selection committee ought to hear us.

Definetly one of the weakest sections is the feature competition - and having seen many of the features in the past two years wonder how they are chosen - they are never mainstream and I haven't seen one that has any sort of widespread appeal - something I'd expect out of a feature-length film.

At least the festival's still a great place to meet people!

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emmet said...

Usually the difference between something being screened in competition or as part of a showcase comes down to eligibility.

Showcases aren't a B reel, the films are usually just excluded because of other factors, like they've already premiered at another festival in the same country, or their completion date falls outside the range of competition.

I'm not sure if this was the case in Ottawa, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Jenny said...

Mark, what was the representation from the NFB? I remember seeing the annual screenings of their films here in L.A. as a high school student, and there was always a fistful of real gems...most have become classics. And yes, they were "different" in style and such without being dull, 99% of them. of course, that's over 20 years ago...

Funny about the internet cartoons--they do seem to have more pith than the majority of independent work lately. I'll bet you're onto something with your observation about being aware of the audience. As for U.S. television--well, I've written about that before, and yes, it's maddeningly disappointing in a broad sense--although I did see a short by recent Disney transplant Dave Smith(late of DW and "Shrek" among other things)that was a)different, b)funny, and c)FUNNY. And very individual. There's always hope. I see the output of shorts from students and others as seeming to come in waves--of quality, or not...I wouldn't give up on them; next year could be a watershed, who knows?

Mark Mayerson said...

Jenny, the NFB is a shadow of its former self. It suffered financial cut-backs in the '90's and it's very focused on international co-productions and distribution rights in order to stretch its money. The NFB was involved with Chris Landreth's Ryan, but was not the sole financier. I don't know if anybody besides producers are on staff there anymore.

One NFB short in the children's category was Jaime Lo - Small and Shy. It was a beautifully designed film that was about waiting for an absent parent to return. The film successfully evoked emotions and was well paced.

Another NFB film was Conte De Quartier, which was mostly paint on glass. At 15 minutes it was way too long and I don't have a firm grasp of what the thing was about. The NFB is not immune to self-indulgence.

I don't know if the NFB is still considered a force in Canadian animation even by Canadian animators. Their policy of taking ownership in exchange for funding (without paying royalties so far as I know) is behind the times. At least when animators there were on staff, they had job security in exchange for giving up ownership. Now, it's a freelance gig where animators are expected to create, but not benefit in the long term. That's a Faustian bargain so far as I'm concerned.

David Nethery said...

Mark,

It was good meeting you at the festival (and Alan Cook, and Michael Sporn, Nick Cross, Ward Jenkins, and a lot of other people I've known from the animation blogging world , but never met in real life).

I didn't see many of the competions either , but from the ones I did see my feeling is that your comments are pretty much on-the-nose. The two winning entries from the "made for children" category, "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" and "Jaime Lo - Small and Shy" were among the best crafted, most heartfelt films that I saw.

I'm hoping to come back next year on my own (this year I was working in my companies booth for a lot of the time) and will be interested to see more of the films in competition.

oz said...

This was my first time at the festival as well. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for the first 2 screenings (between us, I guess we saw the whole thing). I loved some, hated others and had my share of antziness (zat a word?).

As far as the internet competition went, I'm not sure I agree with your theory that the entries were better because we had the advantage of knowing how many people view the work (Jerry and I had a couple pieces in the category). I don't see how that would make any difference. I assume everyone who makes a film assumes that a bunch of people will see it (otherwise why enter it in a festival?)...so why would they do a crappy film on purpose? And believe me, it did look like some were bad intentionally.

I don't think the internet is any real advantage other than as a means of distribution. But thanks for the compliment anyway.

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