Sunday, October 08, 2006

An Animation Salon?

There's an article in today's Toronto Star about a restaurant that runs an intellectual salon four times a year. In some ways, this is similar to conferences which have sprung up all over the place. Probably the most well-known is the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In many ways, these things strike me as elitist and self-aggrandizing. If these people were really interested in ideas more than status, creature comforts and networking opportunities, they'd be willing to meet in a suburban high school gym and lunch on baloney sandwiches.

Within the animation field, there are conferences like Kidscreen and festivals like Ottawa that serve some of the functions. Kidscreen is very much a business conference and Ottawa very much a film festival, though it runs the Television Animation Conference as a sidebar event.

I wonder, though, if it's possible (or desirable) to run an animation salon. Perhaps it would degenerate into the same elitism and networking that plague other events ("As I was saying to Jeffrey Katzenberg before Brad Bird cut me off...") but maybe it would present an opportunity for artists to inspire and challenge each other.

Animation as a medium is constrained by the economics of film, TV, games and the internet. There's no shortage of articles and commentary on economics' effect on animation. The blogosphere is as close as we've come to an aesthetic discussion and maybe, because of the democratic nature of the net, that's the way to go. However, there's something to be said for the hothouse approach of putting a lot of people in a room and seeing if influences spread or minds get changed. Even if they don't, I still think there's some educational value there.

It may be happening in the schools. It's not happening in my classroom because I'm so focused on delivering the curriculum. Students are always declaring their likes and dislikes to each other, but are they attempting to defend their positions or just assert them?

And professionally, do these discussions lead to changes or are the economic and market constraints so tight that discussions are just a way of blowing off steam before heading back to the same old same-old?

If we're prisoners of the market, does a salon have any value? If we're prisoners of the market, maybe a salon is a way to try and get free.


Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure what this "intellectual salon" is exactly, or what the animation equivalent might be, but I would suggest that the annual meetings that are sponsored by Animation Nation in LA are somewhat along the lines you're describing. To his credit, I believe that AN's Charles Zembillas has been trying valiantly to rally the animation community around his ideas of a more powerful creator/artist driven industry, yet both the discussions on AN and at the annual meetings never seem to get much beyond the talk stage.

In the ensuing years since Charles first launched Animation Nation with his passionate and admirable manifesto, we've seen the industry progressively deteriorate to the point where so much work is being outsourced overseas with only the (in my opinion) unfortunate phenomenon of Flash animation keeping some projects on the domestic front due to its relative cheapness to produce footage. Personally I think this is a very sad statement on, not only the industry, but the community of artists who have been content to meekly clamour for "crumbs" rather than to collectively stand up and fight the system.

Until this situation changes, there is little chance that the industry will ever renew its commitment to artistic excellence when the powers-that-be are quite able to line their pockets at the expense of the artistic talent. Call me a pessimist, but I do feel that if the present attitude persists, then we are indeed "prisoners of the market", condemned to producing computerized cutout animation in increasingly sweatbox-like conditions.

Steve Schnier said...

I have to agree with Pete that an intellectual animation salon probably wouldn't work, due to the attitudes within the industry.

However, a composer friend "conducts" an ongoing 'salon' environment in his studio. One of the ideas that he's pushed over the years was that with present day technology, it is possible for three people to make a feature film. This idea (+ a few others) was the basis for my current film project.

I guess that the salon has merit, but only if people are willing to act on the ideas that are put forward.

Sean said...

Hi Mark,

For some time I've wondered why there isn't more discussion on the state of the craft and industry between animators especially in studio. I think Pete touches on the main culprit. Work seems increasingly scarce and paying the bills supercedes shaking up the industry.

However, I think you should be proud that you're creating a Salon atmosphere in this blogspace. Yourself and others are generating more discussion about the state of Animation via blogs than I have experienced anywhere else in the Animation universe. Good job.