For every Finding Nemo
there are thousands of short animated films by smaller studios or independent filmmakers that are no less deserving of our time. While they don’t get as much as much space on the big screen, independent animation is every bit as imaginative and creative. But with so much out there, where do you even begin to start? The Melbourne International Animation Festival. We spoke to festival director Malcolm Turner to ask him how he and his festival team picks out the wheat from the chaff.
“It can be something of an objective process," Malcolm begins, when we catch up the week before the festival launch. "I went to quite a few festivals overseas, and after seeing a film on the big screen I approach the filmmaker and encourage them to enter. Generally speaking, our criteria are films made in the last two years.”
This is by no means restrictive, with 400 films making the cut to this year’s program. The 12-year-old festival includes special focus on Japan, Belgium, Poland and Australia. Despite their varied origins, there is one thing most of these movies have in common; they're all so genre-busting it's often hard to tell where they even came from.
Out of the Australian Showcase, films range from CG animated comedy set on the Nullabor to the beautifully hand-drawn Golden Hour
. Turner says the diversity shown in Australian animated shorts sets them apart from many home grown features films, like the distinctly ocker live-action flicks Red Dog
and Charlie and Boots
“Animators here have a very international outlook. This is a good thing of course but it's also a pity, because there is very little work based on Aboriginal cultures, or work that is perpetuated in an obviously Australian environment.”
The same is happening in Japan, where a new generation of animators is breaking from the iconic anime style. Al Dente Tango
, for example, a film from the Tokyo University of the Arts showcase, is not obviously Japanese at first glance. There are no sign of big googly eyes, crazy hairstyles or PokeBalls anywhere. This is exactly what makes the festival international: not only do the films come from all over the world, the films chosen are also so cross-cultural it doesn’t really matter where they came from.
MIAF is the biggest animation festival in the country and Turner is amazed at how much things have changed over 12 years. “The films came in big boxes of VHS tapes, and now they don't come in any physical format at all," he says. "Sometimes they come on DVD, but things are mainly done online because it's much cheaper."
A decade ago, animators needed expensive software and computers way beyond the struggling artist’s budget, whereas today there’s probably an app that can make a basic animation. However, Turner is quick to point out that having the tools and the technology doesn't automatically make you a good animator.
“When we first started out we only had around 300 entrants and now we have over 2,000. Out of that number there are animators who are clearly missing other components that animators need to make a good film.”
Good thing MIAF is sharing some animation industry know-how with the ‘Careers in Animation’ forum and the ‘Animation 101’ series, where panelists will talk about everything from nailing that voiceover to getting a foot in the industry and making it once you get there.
While Turner came from a theatre background and claims he "can't draw a circle," he was drawn to the endless possibilities enabled through animation. Moving from directing for the stage to running art spaces, Malcolm admits he became frustrated with the limitations that come from working with the physical world, like "magically turning a man into a cat into a beach ball and then setting it on fire."
"I would have have ideas I wanted to do on stage and not be able to do them because of gravity, or not being able to get equipment through the door. What I love about animation is, if you can imagine it, you can realise it."
The Melbourne International Animation Festival will run from 17 – 24 June at the ACMI cinemas. For more information head to www.miaf.net
: Delima Shanti