|L to R: Shari Cohen, Mark Jones, George Elliot, Laura Clooney, Juan Lopez, Michelle Melanson, Brian Simpson|
This was followed by The State of the Industry panel. While I understand that TAAFI has to keep good relations with its sponsors and the industry, this panel could better be called The Conventional Wisdom panel. Rather than discuss the real state of the industry, it deals with what everyone thinks the world looks like at this particular point. Nobody talks about the challenges that Canadian animation is facing or challenges the direction that the industry is going.
George Elliot made the point that in the past, the industry was more about service work and didn't pay much attention to building brands. Now, there is less service work and studios are working harder to build brands. While this is accurate (and not to dump on George, who is one of the more successful independent studio owners), it ignores the myopia of Canadian studios for the last 25 years. While American studios were building worldwide franchises around shows like Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants, and The Powerpuff Girls, Canadian studios focused on working the tax credits and Canadian content rules to get shows on the air. Once the show it 52 or 65 episodes, it was retired. Instead of continuing to build a franchise to the point where it could support merchandising, studios walked away from shows.
As viewers are abandoning broadcast and cable TV, Canadian content rules are becoming less and less useful. Now the Canadian animation industry is heavily dependent on the existence of tax credits to fund production. There is no guarantee that those tax credits will survive or won't be superseded by larger tax credits in other countries. As usual, the Canadian industry is always using a crutch to stay in business. Rather than using the crutch as a way to get strong enough to survive without government regulation or largesse, the industry is addicted to the government propping it up in one way or another. So long as the short term is covered, Canadian producers are satisfied. Are there any studios strong enough to weather the withdrawal of government support?
Would TAAFI be able to stage a real discussion or debate about the state of the industry?
Ayah Norris of Indiegogo gave an excellent talk about crowdfunding and the best way to orchestrate a crowdfunded campaign. She revealed that Indiegogo takes 7% as their cut for projects that fulfill their goals and talked about how it is best to know you can quickly get to 30% of your goal before launching the campaign. The best perks are those that can be delivered digitally, as they are the most cost efficient, and she stressed that the cost of the perks should be calculated before the goal is set.
She mentioned that any dispute, say for non-delivery, was between the contributor and the project. Indiegogo takes no responsibility for projects that don't deliver. This is the Achilles' heel of crowdfunding. While the amounts donated are generally low, they are a 100% risk. I've donated to several crowdfunded campaigns that have not delivered their promised perks or did not get completed.
That was my TAAFI for this year. There were many panels and screenings that I did not attend, so others may have very different opinions.
I think TAAFI is still trying to figure out who its audience is. There are events for fans, students, and professionals. The Animarket is a case in point. It was free, which was an excellent move, but I suspect that artists looking to sell their work were disappointed relative to their experiences at Anime North or Fan Expo. The studios there to recruit and the hardware/software vendors were probably pleased with the response they got. I'm sure that the TAAFI management will be evaluating the Animarket results and adjusting accordingly.
Here are some suggestions for future TAAFIs. While the venue was good, being located on Lake Ontario at Corus and George Brown College, the food choices were severely limited. I hope that if TAAFI continues in this location that they do something about this. The industry panels should be moved to a weekend day so that people would not have to lose a day of work to attend them. There should be a separate pass for just the industry panels and also a separate pass for just the screenings.
While TAAFI is still suffering some growing pains, it is an excellent festival and one of the few events that unite the Toronto industry. I look forward to future editions and I'm confident that it will continue to improve.