An Interview with Platform’s Irene Kotlarz

The Oregonian offers an interesting interview with Platform Animation Festival director Irene Kotlarz. She offers some bold thoughts in the discussion, including this comment about what sets Platform apart from other animation festivals:

It was decided early on that it would be a 21st-century festival, and that would make it different from the other animation festivals out there. They’re all based, in my view, on a premise that grew up around the time of the first animation festival, which was in Annecy, France, in 1960. That premise is really based on theatrical screenings of animated shorts and features and around the idea of animators as auteurs — real postwar European arthouse cinema with art with a capital “A.” The Cold War was a big influence back then, and there was this idea of animation as the universal language. So a big theme was man’s inhumanity to man, and you saw lots of what I call the “naked bald man film,” with arctic wind on the soundtrack. Most festivals are still pushing the idea of the single artist. But we’re trying to make a major departure from that kind of thinking. I’ve always taken the view that there’s a larger historical and cultural context to art, and the context now is totally different. Now we have the Web and video games; the computer revolution has finally happened. And I think that at a lot of festivals, Internet animation is a poor relation. But we’ve gone out of our way to see that they get the same status as traditional animators.


  • Chris Robinson

    in some ways, what Irene says is true and I’ve tried to fight the ol’ fuck films since I took over Ottawa (course, I’m becoming an old fuck with each year too). But, there’s also a danger in just rushing forward shouting let’s embrace every new technology that comes along. I dont want to show films on a computer and installations are okay, but there’s a reality of space and economics there so u cant offer a heck of a lot. In the end, i like the experience of the theatre, of people coming together. Even in Annecy, where I think the audience has no taste at all, I love their enthusiasm and heckling. It’s honest, it’s interactive.

    Also, to say that festivals are just pushing single artists is nonsense. I see many films created by groups, studios, etc…

    I agree though that internet animators have usually been tossed to the side. There was originally a reason for that. The quality of trying to project the stuff was poor and didnt do a good service to the artist. Furthermore, to be frank, the quality of the internet work wasnt all that great either. That’s changed now and in Ottawa we’ve had internet comp screenings for a few years. the next step is to just incorporate the internet work into the ‘main’ competition.

    But, yeah, Irene’s not too far wrong. Still, with everything constantly changing, I kinda like just going to a festival, hanging with people in a big dark room and watching some projections. Festivals are about socializing first and foremost anyway. What/how/where you show it secondary.

  • http://sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    When entering my films into competitions I am torn when it comes to ticking the “Internet Film” box on the entry form. It is true that all my films are available online for anyone to see, and as soon as I complete a new one I stick it on Youtube, but I never intended them for that format as such.

    If there was another format I could with the accessibility and cost that you can get with something like Youtube, I’d no doubt use that.
    Ticking the “Internet Film” feels like I’m doing my films a disservice – mostly because as Chris notes, there has not been history of quality internet intended films.

    I usually tick the “Short Film” box…

  • http://www.karrotanimation.com Jamie Badminton

    There was actually no internet animation category at Annecy this year; the festival has also realised how needless that division is.
    Flash and vector animated shorts stood proudly against the other shorts in competition if their quality stood out enough.

    I think the seperate catagory mentality is very close to being a thing of the past as internet-originated software is accepted as just another tool – ambitious, capability-pushing artists are already making sure of it.

  • http://sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    Jamie (how are you mate?) – I’m not so sure that’s the reason that Annecy doesn’t have an internet category.

    I also think that the majority of Flash animated material has a long way to go before it can compete with more traditional content.
    Flash, for the most part, seems to feel very disposable.

  • Chris Robinson

    it’s a good point that the category for internet is perhaps no longer necessary.

  • Relevan

    I think that what really matters is the end-product, not necessarily the tools used.

  • Benjamin De Schrijver

    Yes, I tend to agree with Relevan. If the film is good enough, it should be included whatever the medium. It just has to be worth it.

    Without trying to change the topic, it’s also the reason why I have mixed emotions about the Animated Feature category in the Oscars. Why should an animated film be awarded a prize, if it’s not good enough amongst other contenders? Beauty and the Beast was, The Incredibles was at the Golden Globes and in the Oscar’s writing category. I don’t mind it in shortfilms, as the range of type of films and difference of possibilities is so much larger there, but for feature films, it really feels skewed.

  • http://www.karrotanimation.com Jamie Badminton

    Hey Elliot (I’m good thanks, *just* about recovered from the fest!)

    I agree that the flash work on display wasn’t that wonderful, but it did still manage to hold its own idea-wise with the audience amongst the rest of the selection (Lapsus by Juan Pablo Zaramella was certainly a very popular entry in its heavy-going category from the comments I heard afterwards).

    I’ll gripe at lazy acting and performance when I see it as much as the next person, but I’m happy the level playing field is at least in place to encourage rising to the challenge. Whether it was because the entries for the original category weren’t strong enough to warrant its existence this year, I don’t know, but its absence for the first time in my seven years of attending certainly seem timely as distribution lines become blurred – I’m all for the lack of pigeon-holing, whatever the case!

    Platform sounds excellent and we certainly missed the larger US contingent who stayed behind for it out in Annecy this year. I imagine it would be very easy to swing too far the other way and decide that audiences are tired of thoughtful films made with traditional techniques in the rush to embrace all things shiny and new, but the films selected do seem incredibly balanced – It’ll be cool to see which ones stand out from the pack.

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Esn

    The problem is that the people who choose the flash animation which goes in the festivals too often pick something crappy and populist instead of taking the time to look around. They pick the stereotype of what flash animation is supposed to be. To pick just one example, I wonder why Ola Bergner’s “Gooberstory” (probably the most innovative and ambitious flash animation of 2003) was never shown at Annecy 2004.

    Although you have to sift through some pretty bad stuff to find them, there are some amazing films popping up at places like newgrounds.com all the time.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWKVmCX6SKY Hasdrubal

    Why are there so many people who still insist on using the words “film” and “cartoon” in an interchangeable way?

    The two are no longer the same when movies can be generated and displayed without photography. Even live action movies have been digitally recorded for the last 10 years.

    Does the Platform Fest use any digital projection systems to allow computer animators a way of circumventing the costs of film conversion?

    The costs of digital to film conversion is the most common and consistent barrier against showing at festivals.

  • http://sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    Hasdrubal – Practically all festivals give entrants the opportunity to submit their films in some kind of Betacam format which projects perfectly well.

    As for your first question…. I think you’ll find that folks are using the word “film” to refer to a movie, rather than the actual physical product of film stock.

    Jamie B – It would be a bit of a fib for me to say that the Flash animated films I saw at Annecy in particular, were substandard. I only went to a single screening the entire week I was there…

  • slowtiger

    I don’t see anything wrong with the idea of animators as auteurs. In the end only the result counts, no matter if 1, 10, or 100 people have worked on it. The big field of commercial animation with all its restrictions and possibilities always had profitted from the influence of the small field of independent animators – and vice versa, independant animators earned a living from doing projects within the commercial system.

    I think categories like “internet”, “Cinema”, or “TV” got obsolete over the last years, as well as the distinction between film, video and computer went softer or vanished completely. There are festivals which concentrate on certain toolsets, but playing one toolset against another makes little sense IMO.

    Think about who needs categories. A festival who gives away awards has to sort all entries in some way. I’ve noticed a tendency to separate films by budget, which is one perfectly legitimate way to be fair in judgement.

    What I really like about Flash and other software is that it empowers more artists to do their stuff independantly. It is the same development like in music industry, where means of production no longer were exclusively in the hand of studios and labels. We get more films, of course also more mediocre or bad films – but we win more individual and creative statements from unexpected sources.

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Esn

    Hasdrubal: for the same reason that comic books are no longer expected to be humorous.

    The word “movie” never really caught on anywhere but in North America.

  • http://fmhansen.blogspot.com/ FRANK HANSEN

    Thank you for this bringing this article to our attention and your reminders to all of us that we have everything we need in our hands today to create our own animation. All this new technology is just tools but they are tools that individuals did not have in the past (unless they had a trust fund). Sure there is a load of bad Flash animation out there, but it’s getting better and in the end it is a tool that can really fly or fall based on the skill, imagination and drive of the person behind the keyboard and Wacom.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWKVmCX6SKY Hasdrubal

    Elliot, you’ve raised another good point that should be addressed. I often read the guidelines given on line by festival organizers, but they’re often unclear whether Betacam format is acceptable for screening purposes, or whether it’s acceptable as a the copy to be actually used by the festival for public viewing. Betacam is less expensive than film processing, but is still more expensive to an animator than having his screened DVD copy shown on a digital projector.

    Back on the June 19, Jerry posted an article called “The Bigger Picture” about a company who used digital projectors to beat costs. I would like to see some of the festivals adopt similar business models.

    It is common language usage, but I still don’t think the words film and movie are interchangeable. Each has a different connotation. The word “movie” to me is something in black in white with Bogart and Edward G. Robinson shooting it out in a cloud of cigarette smoke. The word “film” has the connotation of being a boring artsy French language affair with subtitles, minimal plots told in a nihlistic kaffkaesque stream of consiousness, with bald naked men and gay cowboys eating jello pudding pops together with Bill Cosby.

  • Chris Robinson

    betacam is accepted for Ottawa folks.

    And yes, categories, at least for Ottawa are necessary to deal with the submissions. We’re at a record 2047 as I write this and there has to be some way of dividing things. Furthermore, as much as I dislike the notion of competition, our govt funders like it (not to mention animators), so we needed to have these things. We’ve also dealt with it in a unique way. Ottawa was the first and i think remains the only animation festival to show everything alongside…so you see music videos, tv shows, commercials beside art fuck austrian films, Yamamura shorts etc…

    As for the auteur stuff, yeah, you know, this art form has very anonymous. We might know the likes of Kovalyov, Plympton, Parn etc… but the general public doesnt know any of these people. The public routinely knows animation as a character or studio. They rarely know the people behind it so I think it’s essential that we dont lose sight of the creators and continue to promote and celebrate the heck out of them. If we animation festivals dont, then these talented guys and gals will continue to be more anonymous then ever.

    By the way, I’m currently going through OIAF selection and I’ve just finished the short films and internet. There are a solid crop of internet works that belong in the main competition. That wasn’t something I could say 2-3-4 years ago.

    chris

  • http://sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    Hasdrubal – as someone who has spent several months this year sending packages to about a million film festivals I can assure you that practically every single one will accept a film for screening on Betacam. Many, many of them also accept DVD for screening too. I haven’t filled in a single entry form that’s been ambiguous about the matter.

    As for your definition of film and movie – complete nonsense and utter pedantry.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWKVmCX6SKY Hasdrubal

    There are cheaper projection systems used other than Beta. I would like to see at least one festival that was open the idea of using a system that would lower the costs for animators below the price of Beta. It can be done.

  • slowtiger

    I grew up in an underground film festival scene where it was normal to screen 35mm, 16mm, Super8, and Video on the very same screen. It is nice to see that recent festivals try to incorporate nearly every format recently in use as a screening format. And why not, since any decent video beamer accepts a wide variety of input signals. A common standard set of accepted screening formats would include Beta SP, DigiBeta, VHS, S-VHS, miniDV, and DVD. Most, even big A-Festivals, already accept DVD as viewing copies. If I absolutely can’t provide a certain format myself, there’s transfer facilities everywhere which could do that for under 100$ for a short, from any format to any digital or tape format.

    If there’s anybody still complaining about the costs of showing a film on a festival, I say he’s just misinformed.