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My Experience at GLAS Animation 2019 in Review by Greg Cutler

Nickelodeon Gettin’ the Perfect Gig at GLAS 2019

Article by Greg Cutler | SAT, MAR 23 2019, 11:15AM to 12:15PM

Venue: David Brower Center

Featuring: Ariel Goldberg (Manager – Recruitment, Production) and Amy Wu (Manager – Internship Program)

I sat in on the panel hosted by three recruiters from Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon holds a special place in my heart because my first paid gig as an animator was doing the intro scene for the Rugrats Adventure Game by Broderbund Software. Learning how to draw those lumpy-headed kids was a challenge and I had a blast doing it. As a seasoned professional (in another creative field), I remember what it was like to graduate from art school and have that feeling of (on the one hand) wreckless confidence that I was invulnerable, and (on the other hand) the feeling of complete and hopeless panic about what the future held. I wondered if I’d be able to scrape together a few nickels to pay for rent and food. What the fuck was I thinking?! The fact that there is an internship program at Nickelodeon is completely mind-blowing to me. The panelists presented information about how to get into the Nickelodeon internship program. They completely spelled it out; from being completely stoked about Nickelodeon as a brand for kids, to how to follow up with recruiters. They told the story about what their day-to-day job is like. They receive about 30 emails from potential job candidates per hour. They get about 30,000 emails per month. They work in two week cycles. So if you don’t get a response back from them in two weeks, shoot them a short, email letting them know you are still interested in working at Nick. Just think about all those emails they have to read. The shorter and more to the point your email can be, the more likely you will get a response. They look at hundreds of portfolios. They read thousands of resumés. They look for spelling mistakes, they want clear, easy to read bulleted resumés. Put your name on your resumé! Put your address, telephone numbers and email address on there too. They want to know about your work experience, even if you have only worked in retail.

Your portfolio must be targeted for the specific skills that you are applying for. They choose 30 animators for the first round. They interview those. If they don’t find what they need from those candidates, they go to the next 30. If your portfolio doesn’t match what they are looking for, don’t despair. Your work may be a good fit for another animation studio altogether. The recruiters remember the good stuff and are in contact with recruiters at Disney and other animation studios. If your work and your personal style are a better fit at another studio they will recommend you to that other recruiter. One key point they kept emphasizing is: Do not write them with condescending, entitled emails demanding that they get back to you. Do not tell them that they are missing the best opportunity they ever had in you. Those messages go straight to the trash.

Nickelodeon recruiters are not like other recruiters for other jobs. They are specialized. They may have come from other worlds (publishing, marketing, producing, art), but they know the animation industry inside and out.

The panelists answered all sorts of questions from the audience, told stories, and were otherwise entertaining and informative.

I kept thinking to myself where were these people (and GLAS Animation Festival) when I had just graduated from college a few (cough, cough) years ago? If you are a student of animation, I highly recommend attending one of these panels next year. And take notes!

Netflix Gets Animated at GLAS 2019

Article by Greg Cutler | SAT, MAR 23 2019, 12:30PM to 1:30PM

Venue: David Brower Center

Featuring: James Baxter, Alex Woo, Shion Takeuchi, Jay Oliva

This panel was a definite treat to be a part of. The film world is full of stories from creators, be they animators, editors, directors, or actors, who have their works of art distorted and perverted by figures of authority. You’ve heard of the golden rule: the one with the gold makes the rules. Netflix is a different business model from normal film and animation studios. Since they are the provider of content, they can diversify their creative portfolio. They have such a vast and diverse set of viewers, that they will find viewers for whatever content is presented on their platform. Think of it this way, the old, alternative model is to build a pool of very talented individuals all on one project doing the same thing at the same time to create a blockbuster. A film that is so good that it carries all of the other failed projects along for the ride. If you have one blockbuster, you can have a few failed projects that do not generate as much revenue at the box office. Netflix doesn’t have to deal with this. They can find all the talented artists who know their craft and let them spread their wings. It is up to each artist to deliver quality. It is not the responsibility of the content provider to ensure that the content is good. Good projects will always float to the top, but distribution is so much cheaper with the Netflix model, the margins are better, and any content that gets any viewers is worth the effort. Of course, the more viewers the better.

The directors of these projects still need to present their work to the studio for review. The panel was full of seasoned professionals. They know the rules. They know what they can and can’t do for the audience they are creating for. They all kept saying the same thing, “When we show our work to the studio, we keep waiting for Netflix to say, “No”, but it never comes.”

The clips they showed during the panel were of material that had never been seen before. Shion’s project was so new that they didn’t even have footage to show. I can’t even say that they mentioned the name of the project. She said it was an adult, office comedy series that takes place at the office and in the main character’s family life. She said the stories are personal to her. She was a writer on the series Disenchantment, so if you liked that show, you should check out this new thing.

Krese is a “supernatural procedural”, according to the creator, Jay Oliva. It takes place in Manila in the Philippines. The concept art and character design look amazing! He showed us some background art for a city shot and it was beautiful. I won’t tell you too much about it because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but all of these projects are very ambitious. All I can say is that it involves mythological beasts from filipino culture. I think it’s a show not to be missed. I can’t wait to check it out.

All of the panelists kept referring to James Baxter as a “god” in the animation world and from the concept art, and animation tests they showed in clips for his upcoming project, Klaus, you can see why. They didn’t go into too much detail about the plot, but apparently, Klaus is about a postman in a frozen town in the North who discovers Santa Claus is hiding out. I know. It’s not much to go on. But the animation is 2D! I know this doesn’t sound that amazing, but it’s the quality of the drawings, and expressiveness of the animation that really lit up my heart when I saw it. I can’t wait to see Klaus on Netflix.

Alex Woo’s project is called Go! Go! Cory Carson. You can actually look it up on the interwebs. It’s about a car and his vehicle friends going on adventures around the winding roads of childhood in Bumper-ton Hills! It’s based on the hit toy line GoGo! Smart Wheels. The animation is sweet and happy. The characters are distinctive (which is hard to do with toy cars), the 3D animation is great, the amount of expressiveness achieved with limited animation is very impressive. Sometimes low budget 3D character animation leaves much to be desired in it’s finished product. The lighting, textures, and effects are all very good. I’m sure it will bring joy to thousands of children worldwide.

All of the panelists kept mentioning the story and characters. If they practice what they preach, it could usher in a new era in quality animation from the United States.

MIYU Productions at GLAS 2019

Article by Greg Cutler | SAT, MAR 23 2019, 1:45PM to 3:00PM

Venue:David Brower Center

The next show I went to see was a screening of several short films by a studio from France called MIYU. MIYU has a distinctly European style of hand drawn 2D animation that makes me think of the film Heavy Metal that came out in 1981. The drawing style is kind of high school doodles in a textbook style. It had a naivete that is so cool and fresh.

One short was wordless except for the lyrics of a song (that was in French so I couldn’t understand it). I don’t want to give away what happens but it involves an attractive couple from the future (you can tell by their cool, round goggles). All of the MIYU productions are so well made. Every frame is a work of art.

The next film was a surrealist piece wherein the “camera” moves slowly away from a scene and shrinks into a part of another scene. This happened many times. Scenes kept transforming, with optical illusions, into other scenes. The whole thing was mesmerizing.

There was a touching film about a young girl who goes to a party in the country with her parents. There are kids there and she tries to hang out with them, but she is scared of the woods and goes inside to draw. The kids make fun of her. She tries to integrate with them, but the group of kids band together and she is rejected. It was drawn in a childish pencil style which relates to the young heroine’s age and reality. It’s a sad story, but every moment is carefully executed.

The next piece, was a story about a Muslim man living in France who struggled with his Muslim identity. Having grown up in France and being ever bit a French man, he kept thinking of his father, who was living elsewhere, like he was a combination of Osama bin Laden and Jafar from Aladdin. He finally got up the courage to meet him and it turns out he is a great guy. There was another period in which he struggles with the idea of what to do and then he decides to…well, I’ll let you see it. The animation is full of surreal visual transformations.

I will never forget any of these films. They were each memorable in their own way.

This Magnificent Cake + Oh Willy at GLAS 2019

Article by Greg Cutler | SAT, MAR 23 2019, 3:30PM to 5:00PM

Venue: Shattuck Cinemas

Featuring: Marc James Roels

The last show I was lucky to get into was This Magnificent Cake + Oh Willy.

This was my first introduction to the works of Roels’ films. He looks kind of like the characters in his films. He has thinning reddish hair. I’m sure he thinks of the characters in his films as caricatures of himself. The films are so weird. They all have this slow, plodding pace that is relaxing and thoughtful. There is very little speaking. Marc James Roels is Belgian, so there is some Belgian speaking and a few subtitles.

The Magnificent Cake deals with the very awkward history of Belgian colonization of the Congo.

An anthology film set in colonial Africa in the late 19th century telling the stories of 5 different characters: a troubled king, a middle-aged Pygmy working in a luxury hotel, a failed businessman on an expedition, a lost porter and a young army deserter.

GLAS Animation Website

The stories all kind of blend together in a dreamlike quality. The fragmentation of the story is exactly what happens in a dream. At a certain point, you, the viewer are like “what is going on?” Even the film maker admitted in the interview after the screening that they had no idea what was happening either, when they were making it. They certainly can’t explain what happens.

I love three things about this film.

  1. There is a lot of beer drinking.
  2. Everything is (or looks like it is) made of wool.
  3. It sets up gags and then never follows through with the joke; the film just takes a 90 degree turn.

Roels explained that this storytelling technique is a very Belgian thing to do. They have this ironic and non sequitur sense of humor that I can really get behind (or stand 90 degrees to the side of). Oh, and there is cake.

They played The Magnificent Cake film second, but I am reviewing them out of order. Oh Willy was shown first and it was my favorite thing that I saw at GLAS this year. It’s about a man who visits his dying mother who lives in a nudist colony. That right there is hilarious. The man feels so awkward about the whole thing. He falls asleep while he is sitting next to her bed. When he awakens, he discovers that she has died. He goes to the nudist funeral and buries his mother, which is both sad and funny. Then he goes for a walk and falls off a cliff. He rolls down a hill. He ends up in a cave and he is climbing out the cave when he sees a goat in the sun outside. A huge hairy beast grabs the goat and kills it. He runs back inside the cave. Then the monster grabs him. The monster turns out to be his mother! They live happily ever after. The end. There is all sorts of other symbolism and flashbacks to his childhood in there too, but that is the gist of it.

The editing, pace, timing, emotional feelings that the characters evoke is astonishing, considering that everything looks like it’s made out of wool (including the rocks and trees). I didn’t really think about any of this while I was entranced by the weird stories in both films and unique characters, but everything (the sets and characters) are all hand constructed. Because everything is made from the same material, it creates a seamless world that seems natural. You get sucked into this warm, fuzzy world. If you ever find yourself in a position to see one of Roels’ films, go see it. Get sucked in!

Review of the GLAS Festival Experience

I am always blown away by everything I see at the GLAS animation festival. All of the panels and film screenings are really worth the price of admission. The volunteers were helpful, knowledgeable, and cheery.

That was the good news. Now the bad news. I’m now going to give some constructive criticism on in their website. I know that the festival caters to animation aficionados. However, your users are not all experts. if you are like me, you like animation and going to animation festivals, but you don’t follow individual animators from Sweden (or wherever), you should still be able to figure out what you want to see, when and where it’s showing, buy a ticket, and see the damn film. If you spend some time and figure out that there are separate pages for the schedule (where you can buy tickets), the programs and selections that each display a synopsis of each film or panel, and the page that shows which competition each film belongs to, you can figure out what is going on. There are no hyperlinks between any of that content. Oops…

If I were to build the GLAS website, all of that information would be on one page and you should be able to sort the whole page by screening time, competition category, and maybe title. There should be a map for each film, showing where it will be shown.

For the aficionados out there, If you know exactly what you are looking for, great! You can use the search. Even if you can find the synopsis or the selections page, good luck figuring out how to buy a ticket or figure out where or when it’s happening. But if you are like me (have some time to kill and love watching and learning about animation from all over the world), you will have a tough time seeing what you want.

What I’m about to say may be unreasonable because I know people travel and want to cram as much animation into as short a time as possible, but I work during the day, so I wish the festival only took place at night and on weekends. The customer is always right… or never right. I can’t remember which. The website could use some improvement.

…Or next year, just come to ArtsEarth.org. I found that ArtsEarth’s website was a much better way to figure out what the heck was going on during the festival. For each event, there was a map, images, synopsis, date, time, and link to buy a ticket. There is a calendar and you can see everything that is showing on each day of the festival. I got to the point where I didn’t even look on the official website. I looked on ArtsEarth.org! I’m looking forward to next year’s GLAS Animation Festival, for sure.

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