Illustration by Theodore Ushev Illustration by Theodore Ushev
Chris Robinson

Alone, Stinking & Unafraid: Screen Test Dummies

In this new edition of Alone, Stinking & Unafraid, Chris Robinson, the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, discusses the poor state of feature film submissions that he receives at the festival.

Illustration by Theo Ushev
illustration by Theodore Ushev

Fuck people, ya gotta stop speculating from dustbunnies. Wanna know why THIS and THAT wasn’t in Feature competition at Ottawa in 2006? Cause they weren’t submitted tis why. Ya just had to ask rather than beeeeee-atch about what you know nothing about. We chase stuff we like to a degree, but we don’t beg. You dont want to send your film, I ain’t gonna cry. Course that makes me wonder WHY we’re doing a feature category to being with. We started it cause it was apparently what the masses wanted (course i should know by now that the masses dont know their ass from an elf)…we started it cause apparently everyone was making features now. So okay, we’re friendly, we’re here for ya.. but what happens? Producers don’t bother with animation festivals. Suddenly Annecy and Ottawa aren’t good enuff for their green purposes. They want Toronto, Berlin, Venice. Can understand to a degree, but seems these folks forget that animation festivals were the ones who gave em their place to begin with. They all started with shorts, shorts that relied on festivals to find an audience. But now they’re too good, not just for animation festivals, but animation in general.

Does it bother me… slightly…but in truth I also don’t wanna waste precious festival space for films that already have an audience. That’s not really the point of festivals (in case u furgot). Result? We get what we get and have to deal with it. Often that means a lot of godawful crap like that Romeo Seal Kiss crap or straight to dvd features. Originally we aimed to have 5 features. Don’t think we ever achieved that. Usually hard enough to find 3. Last year I was glad to show Christies and Book of the Dead and sure I did think of the masses when showing Kids Next Door (although, in tv land context, it ain’t bad), but in truth, none of the three entries stroked me to pleasureville. That’s nothing too new. outside of maybe 10-15 short films, I’m generally selecting stuff that don’t clickety clack my track. Problem is though that we’re taking up a total of 6 programming spots (we show all films twice) for 3 non-clacking films. Space is better used showing another 30-40 short films that, hey, likely don’t move me towards stars, but warrant being shown AND will undoubtedly help out a lot of neglected short film animators. And this year, that’s what we will do if the crop of feature submissions continue to smell like your mom after a 2 week bender with kick ass post-xmas elves. Besides, why the need to make a feature? Most of you can’t even conceive for a few minutes, so why the fug do u wanna prattle bout air for 10 x that? It’s not a race kids and if you think it is, then you belong in the F1. I mean, you’re just racing around in circles, going nowhere anyway. At least car crashes are cool.

Chris Robinson is the artistic director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a noted author/critic/historian whose books include Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy: A Story of Estonian Animation, Ottawa Senators: Great Stories from the NHL’s First Dynasty, Unsung Heroes of Animation, and Great Left Wingers and Stole This From a Hockey Card: A Philosophy of Hockey, Doug Harvey, Identity & Booze. He lives in Ottawa with his wife, Kelly, and sons Jarvis and Harrison.

  • Don’t hold back man. Tell us what you really think!
    I must say that I completely agree with you. While last years crop of feature films at OIAF was great, and wide in their context-audience enjoyment, I personaly don’t go to a fest to see features. For the most part there is already a wide venue to see most of these. For the stranger ones a fest is good but there aren’t as many being made like ” night of the Carrots” anymore. I would much rather see 30 more short films that will either inspire me, make me angry, disgust me or simply allow me to enjoy this artform even more than I do already.
    Less Pinocihio 3000’s and more Ward 13’s!!!!

  • R

    I never realised Bibbo Bibbowski worked for the festival!

  • Chris Robinson

    Bibbo! Nice reference “R’.

    Yeah…sorry kids… without the Pimp I’d been repressing my anti-feature stance for many months. Hence, the explosive crash above.

  • Bill Field

    The problem is everyone’s different “formula” or “anti-formula” boils down to 4 things : Does it entertain, sustain (for 70 minutes plus), refrain (from the genre of the year–say woodland animal and man battling or trying to co-exsist) and Gravytrain (Can this become its own cult or cottage industry? Buzzword: CASHCOW).

    Many folks aiming to enter at Ottawa are doing a short or feature on the side, after bringing home the bacon making cereal commercials, in my case– so creating a short is much more feasible and realistic.

    Attention Deficit Issues are running amok in our industry more than any other Professional Discipline–and longer projects are daunting at best to those of us that are focus impaired.

  • Esn

    Oh, is it bitching season? Ok, then, I think I’ll have a go.

    I sure liked “The Book of the Dead” a hell of a lot better than the shorts program at the OIAF last year. I didn’t see a lot of artistry in most of the shorts, but I did see a lot of sex and drugs – almost as if the films which had one or both of those were chosen over films which might’ve had more artistry or skill but weren’t “edgy” enough for the assumedly sex-crazed and drug-using young adult crowd. I learned more about what’s appreciated these days within the walls of Western art than I ever cared to, and the general vibe that I got from the selection of films was not a good one. Of course, there were some that I enjoyed watching – no more than 15% of those that I saw. Some people said that the selection of children’s films was better than the main one, so perhaps I should’ve gone there.

    The Konstantin Bronzit retrospective was a great experience, though (a note: Konstantin shared my opinion about the selection, though he liked most of the winners). I hope there are more events like that next year. Bronzit’s film “Lavatory Lovestory” recently won Best Dramaturgy (I guess that’s like Best Screenplay) at the Open Russian Festival of Animated, which concluded a little more than a week ago.

    A great place to see animated features, by the way, is the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, which is dedicated exlusively to feature films. There’s been some pretty interesting stuff there over the past few years. I don’t know if they’ll be there in 2007, though; their website seems to have dissappeared recently.

  • Man, pretty harsh! Gotta say, I always love honesty though. Makes me want to work harder.

  • Noah

    Why show sucky films. Hmm. not much cept for a good laugh. Playing Devil’s advocate though feature films no matter how good or bad they are perceived can be interesting in terms of their creation (sometimes very oddly). The combustable qualities of bad films interests me as much as the finely tuned and composed films everyone loves.

    Is it necesary that the films displayed are released around that time. Wouldn’t it be more fun to just display unseen films. Why not just keep the best films and roundup more unseens until you have a fine collection standard to run from. I’m not really sure how new the feature categeory has to be though. Don’t work for the OIAF.

  • Is it possible to just simply drop the feature catagory and just show an interesting feature whenever one deserves an audience but doesn’t seem to have a North American venue, like, say MIND GAME?