Sunday, August 04, 2013

TAAFI Roundup Day 3

In addition to Kevin Schreck's excellent documentary on Dick Williams, I also watched another shorts program.  I see that I mistakenly included comments on those shorts in my day 2 roundup, so I've nothing else to report about them here.

Mark Caballero

Mark Caballero, a stop motion animator who worked with Ray Harryhausen towards the end of Harryhausen's life, celebrated Harryhausen's work with some rare clips and behind the scenes photos.  Caballero's company, Screen Novelties, collaborated with Harryhausen to complete The Tortoise and the Hare, one of the fairy tales that Harryhausen did early in his career but abandoned.  Caballero revealed that Harryhausen actually did several new shots in the film, so it was probably the last animation he ever did.

TAAFI had originally intended to have Harryhausen as a guest and planned to give him the Life Achievement Award, but Harryhausen's death intervened.  TAAFI still wanted to do something to commemorate his career, so they worked with Harryhausen's foundation to have Caballero make his presentation and Harryhausen was given the award posthumously.

Top: Matt Mozgiel.  Bottom: Max Piersig.  Photos by Graydon Laing.

The Big Pitch was an opportunity for two creators to pitch a TV series idea to a panel of development executives, with the winner decided by an audience vote.  Matt Mozgiel and Max Piersig pitched their ideas.  Both deserve a lot of credit for guts.  Having pitched shows myself, I know the pressure that a creator is under when in a room with just a few people, but to do it in front of development people and a full auditorium takes real nerve.  Both acquitted themselves well, with the audience selecting Piersig the winner.

With all due respect to the participants, the whole idea of pitching an idea is absurd as the ability to pitch and the ability to create are wholly separate skills.  A great creator may be bad at pitching and someone good at pitching may not have the best ideas.  If a novelist is looking for a publisher, he or she submits a finished manuscript or an outline and sample chapter.  What's being judged is the actual work.  It's easy to imagine great writers unwilling or unable to pitch.  Someone like J.D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye) would never have put up with it.  Budd Schulberg (What Makes Sammy Run?) had a bad stammer.  What chance would he have had?

Pitching exists in TV due to the laziness of development people.  Rather than read a script, a bible or a storyboard, they want to be spoon fed a series concept and characters in just five minutes.  How absurd is it that a creator, who has probably laboured for an extended period of time to create a show concept, has only 5 minutes to make an impression?  And how many good shows have never seen the light of day because the creator wasn't good at pitching?

The last event of the festival was the awards.  If you want to know who won, you can find out here.

TAAFI was densely programmed with a wide variety of screenings and talks.  I'd be surprised if an attendee couldn't find something of interest in every time slot.  The festival also benefits from the venue.  The TIFF Bell Lightbox is compact making it easy to move from one screening to another.  The location is also good for a variety of food choices and is well served by mass transit.

With so much animation production for TV, games and effects done in Toronto, it's great that the city finally has a festival to celebrate it.  Ben McEvoy and Barnabas Wornoff have pulled together the entire animation community to make the festival work.  The second year was better than the first and it's heartening to know that the next festival is already being planned for June of 2014.  I will definitely be attending and look forward to whoever next year's speakers will be and hope that Ben and Barney find a feature as good as The Day of the Crows for us to watch.

For lots more photos of the events, visit TAAFI's Facebook page.

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