Monday, January 20, 2014

On Reinvention

Animation is a weird combination of art and business. The medium used such a Byzantine mess of equipment, and took so long to create compared to live action, that you once had to get a grant or work for the National Film Board of Canada or spend your life savings if you wanted to make 'your own' productions. This was a problem for live action film makers as well; independence came at a price (generally a low one.) In the bad old days if you didn't have a distribution contract, no one except your Mom saw the finished product.  Animated films were distributed by companies that specialized in kid films or cartoons; you had to know someone to get anything screened in a  theatre.

Today, I can log in to YouTube and see films made by students, indie pros, festival winners, and even the Big Studios with the click of a button. Distribution doesn't depend on studios any more. Production values in student films are better than they were in feature films 25 years ago, and for a fraction of the budget. That is why I say that in many ways, there has never been a better time to be an animator.  And your audience is the entire online world. But there is a trade off since each new solution creates a new set of problems.  There is much more animation produced today than formerly, and much more competition for the audience (or 'eyeballs' as some would term them) than formerly was the case. And while animation can now be produced by anyone with access to the right software and a good Internet connection...this means that anyone CAN make animation, and frequently does. need to know where to look to find some really unusual or interesting things.
And funding can come from interesting sources as well.

I'd like to direct you first to a new feature film that has just been completed in New York City by one animator/director, four other animators, one art director, and some student help. That film is THE STRESSFUL ADVENTURES OF BOX HEAD AND ROUNDHEAD by Elliot Cowan.

Elliot produced this 'micro feature' over two years on a budget provided by the Romanian National Centre of Cinema. So, this Australian animator made a feature in New York City with backing from Romania while working with artists in New York and Pittsburgh and an art director in England. Did I mention that the Internet is the best thing to happen to animation since digital editing and cinematography?

The film was just completed, and I hope that we can all see it.

The next feature film comes from the animator who has produced TEN features to date, with himself as sole animator: Bill Plympton.

Bill completed CHEATIN' after raising funds on Kickstarter, the best thing that has happened to independent animation since the Internet. It looks like a beautiful film.
The thing is, you can't see it right now unless you are in Europe. Bill has a distributor in Europe. He does not have one in the USA or Canada.
This is a very sad situation. If you are reading this, and know of a good indie film distributor, please tell them to consider this film. There is an audience for it. Really.

Independent filmmaker Nina Paley put her wonderful feature Sita Sings the Blues online. This is one way to distribute a film. But perhaps there could be an Internet channel that one can subscribe to where one can access independent animation from around the world for a fee. An animation Netflix, if you will. There are some individuals who have created their own channels...and one of my favorite independent animators, Simon Tofield, has released his marvellous SIMON'S CAT films online for years and managed to do quite well with books, toys and other merchandise...

How do you sell merchandise from an adult-themed animated film? Is there some other way for us to see these pictures?
As I said before, stay tuned. Thank you for reading!

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