ANNY Best of Fest 2019 Highlights
Highlights from the 4th ANNY Best of Fest!
Kelly N. Barahona, ANNY Correspondent, was on site for the 4th ANNY Best of Fest. Here is her coverage of the two day festival.
The 4th Annual Best of Fest occurred on Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6 from 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM each day. The ANNY team worked hard in preparation for this event. From reaching out to prospect panelists and speakers, to creating colorful collateral such as stickers and posters, to setting up the venue with informational tables, seating arrangements, and electronic outlets galore for the numerous VR games, microphones, and fine art installations, a lot of time and energy went into the logistics. In addition, industry booths were set up for guests to receive more information about French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), ChefScape, School of Visual Arts Animation Department (SVA), Women in Animation (WIA), and more.
DAY ONE HIGHLIGHTS
Saturday the 5th, the first day of the festival, proved to be a cool, windy day in the city. Stepping in to the warm, airy lobby of 180 Maiden Lane, decked out with ANNY posters, stickers, and signs, one would be surprised but nonetheless excited to see several other festival goers already lining up to get their festival passes before the crack of noon.
By the time the first panel titled “Queer Animation” was starting, dozens of students from neigboring schools, animation afficiandos and industry professionals were geared up and sitting down on the grassy indoor for one of the days first happenings. This panel, moderated by Tristian Goik, the ASIFA East President, took the time to discuss challenges they have faced being part of both the LGTB community and the animation world. Panelists included Max Colson, David Delafuente, and Nick LeDonne, all animators and creatives. Some people, even today, do not accept homosexuality, transgender folks, and other sexual and gender identities. For instance, one panelist noted the cultural shock when he went to Armenia, and Nick LeDonne’s animated short film “Hanging” (2017 ANNY Best of Fest Animation for Adults Award Winner) illustrated the harsh impact that cruel and discriminatory words can do to one’s self esteem and will to live. All speakers agreed that things have come a long way since even a decade ago, but there can always be room for further equality.
1:00 PM had the panel “The Uncommon Presents Experiential From 2D > XD”. The panel included Neil Carty of The Carty Group and The Uncommon, Jay Rinksy of Little Cinema, and Adam Aleksander of Aleksander Presents. The group told the audience of the innovative animation and art can be used to heighten a live performance, a theatrical event, a party, and so on. Aleksander noted that he is, “Always filling [his] plate with inspiration.” To thrive in this industry requires creatives to think outside of the box and design new opportunities to include animation and visual effects. Getting new ideas can help the final product to feel fresh, and ultimately that is the most exciting thing to look forward from evolving technology in animation. Animation can help strengthen an experience, and a stronger experience can lead to a stronger memory. Or as Aleksander put it: “We invent new experiences we would like to go to ourselves.”
2:00 PM had a few things going on, and many on the ANNY team were particularly excited for the session on how Titmouse, the studio behind animated shows such as Metalocalypse, Superjail! and The Venture Bros., creates their cartoons. The moderator was Gracie Rothey of Animation Nights New York; the speakers included Kayla Reid, Line Producer for Titmouse NYC, Jacob Ospa, artist at Titmouse, Brian Muelhaupt, Director at Titmouse, Christy Karacas, headrunner of the show Ballmastrz. The panel spoke about how scheduling constraints can affect a series’s production for better and worse, how even a tightly written script can need re-writes because a first draft is never the best draft, and how a newcomer interested in television animation should start posting their content online and expand their professional network. In response to a question about how an artist can make an appealing pitch to a T.V. studio, Christy answered, “Don’t try to make something you think the networks want to buy”.
4:00 PM had a panel in the second floor conference room titled “Animation in Emerging Technology: The Role of the Animator”. Speakers Richard Lico from POLYARC (video chatting from Seattle) and Bruna Berford from Penrose Studios (video chatting from San Francisco) were joined by in-person panelist Tom Westerlin of Nice Shoes. The trio discussed the importance of what they called “spatial storytelling.” That, how a video game’s universe need to be believable and have consistency for the audience. Lico showed guests an in-depth demo reel showcasing his work for the Steam game Moss, a virtual reality adventure with Quill, a mousy interactive main character. In addition, the panel commented that VR technology, unlike other forms of animation, is hard to cheat at because of the 360 degree perspective and ability to see different angles of the same setting.
5:00 PM on Saturday had “The Importance of Story” featuring speakers Kane Lee of Baobab, Noah Sterling, a Digital Series Producer/Director at Marvel Entertainment, Ellen Su of Nathan Love, and Magali McDonald, a Producer at Encantos. Moderated by Sabine Heller of Blue Sky Studios, the session asked questions regarding making a genuine story, making identifiable comic book or live action characters their own unique identity in animation, and if animation is easier than other mediums. Interestingly for the last question, there was a difference of opinions: some felt animation had more complications while Sterling noted the challenges that live-action had, from getting location permits to filming at the right time of day to having enough equipment to work with. At the end of the session each panelist gave a piece of “blunt truth pie” to the audience members interested in working in story for animation. McDonald simply said, “Finish.” Sterling said, “Put your work on the internet.” Su noted that it is important to, “Be nice” in the animation industry. Lastly, Lee closed off by saying, “If I had to choose between a good idea and a good team, I’d choose the team.”
6:00 PM had the session “Visual Effects Society of New York presents MADE IN NEW YORK: THE VISUAL EFFECTS BEHIND THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD”. This panel featured Lauren (F.) Ellis of Zoic Studios, Lesley Robson-Foster, a Visual Effects Supervisor for The Marvelous Mrs Maisel – Season 3, Brad Carpenter, Producer, Colleen Bachman, VFX Producer, Douglas Purver, a Director/Visual Effects Supervisor at Roadnorth Inc., and Amanda Foley, Locations Manager. The group showcased a demo reel of impressive visual effects and discussed how the landscape for the visual effects industry has changed in the past 20 years. They also commented that it truly is a contributor’s market; an FX artist can name their price, especially in New York City. People typically think of animation as being in opposition to live action, but this panel discussed that if anything, animation can be used to heighten live-action.
At 7:00 PM, Augenblick Studios, an animation studio based in Brooklyn, NY, showcased their 20th anniversary reel. The film screening included segments from Ugly Americans, dark parodies of cereal commercials and 1950s movie ads, a clip from an animated Zoolanders movie that was only released on Netflix in the U.K., and so on. The showcase ended with a round of questions from the audience composed of over a hundred guests.
The first day closed out with The Animation Showcase (curated by Benoit Siward), a screening of animated shorts in contention for an Oscar Award from independent artists and big name studios alike. From 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM, dramatic scenes, humorous skits and musical interludes were all played on the giant white screen on the main grass, much to the audience’s delight.
DAY TWO HIGHLIGHTS
Day two started out with the panel “Making an Animation Career on YouTube”. Four YouTube content creators, Ivan of Ivan Animated, Lauren ell Lorenzo of ell Cartoons, Dennise Casurra (a.k.a. CypherDen) and Aaron Cowdery of Chakra X and formerly Titmouse. Cowdery spoke about motivation in making fan content for Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and related characters. Lorenzo noted that making animated content on YouTube can be challenging if you have a day job, but one needs to grind it out in order to get better. CypherDen closed out by commenting that making content for YouTube often means, “You’re a one man team,” and that having support from family, friends, and fellow animators is critical for surviving and thriving in this career.
Audience members lent their ears out in genuine interest for the 1:00 PM panel on the ground floor titled “Voiceover in Animation”. Moderated by ANNY and Best of Fest Panel Coordinator Caroline Duffy, this session explored both sides of getting a voice in a cartoon. Corey Chrapuch, a Production Coordinator / Assistant Character Designer at Titmouse, spoke about making reasonable expectations for a voice actor, such as scheduling more breaks for a challenging character and working within the Screen Actors Guild’s rules. Helen Laser, a woman with an English Literature and theater background, showcased a demo reel of her many voices. Lisa Flanagan, a voice actor for primarily dubbed cartoons, showed a snippet from her latest voice work in World of Winx. Flanagan jested a voice acting job is one where, “You sit in a box, and talk to no one, and it’s great!” All three women eagerly described the perks of their jobs and the process of getting the best voice for a show. They closed out by listing their websites (HelenLaser.com for Laser and LisaFlanaganvoice.com for Flanagan).
2:00 PM had a panel in the second floor conference room called “Non-Linear Storytelling”. Lecture by Rachid El Guerrab, the session spoke about the current trend of games and media with splitting paths and multiple perspectives. Geurrab pointed to games such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead series and Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange, and argued that such games present the illusion of choice. Geurrab stressed that choosing a path does not equal being involved, at least not to level that developers such as Google are aiming for.
The 3:00 PM session, “RLab: Future Technologies for Animation and Media Production” was much more conversational but just as informative. All the panelists — Alexis Seeley, Darragh Dandurand, Todd Bryant, Steve Dabal, and Kara Kittel — had a lot to say on how technology is becoming more of a social experience. When asked about what stories should be made in VR, Bryant answered, “VR is about creating a whole new world.” Dandurand added that in her experience, most successful VR and mixed reality pieces are 5-20 minutes long, and the medium is not yet ready for feature length runtimes. Dabal also noted that VR for extended periods of time can cause nausea, and advised creatives in the room that, “If you’re gonna get nauseous over a story, it better be a really important story.”
At 5:00 PM Anderson Contemporary, festival partner for the ANNY Best of Fest, kick started their art exhibition titled Art In Motion IV with an Opening Reception. Featured artists included: Arturo Brena, Ian Sullivan, Jamie Leo, Olga Kosheleva, Andrei Petrov, Qieer Wang, Jung Nam Lee, Distort, Gary Kaleda, Brett W. Thompson, Julie Gratz, Ivo Stoop, Kevin Ryan, Jordan Bruner, Shoshannah Berkowitz, Michaela Olsen, Saida Saetgareeva, Igor + Valentine, Neil Dvorak, Emily Collins, Minkyung Chung, Erik Winkowski, Mighty Oak, Elliot Davis, Raymo Ventura, and Eliska Podzimkova. As the name implies, many pieces in this showcase were three-dimensional, immersive, or otherwise able to be interacted with through a mobile app called ARTIVIVE. This app allows users to take what seems like a typical 2-D painting or drawing, and animates new life into it. It truly immersed a viewer and embraced the fact that the average person would have a smartphone in their pocket.
Meanwhile on the main lobby grass, the panel titled “New Directions in Fine Art” was having an interesting discussion on how museums are evolving to be more tech-friendly. The panel was composed of moderator Ali Bono of the Whitney Museum and speakers included: Edie Meyer, a Business Development Consultant, Clayton Calvert, a fine artist in oil, watercolor and sculpture, Alexandra Chemla, Founder & CEO of ArtBinder, and Angie Phrasavath of Eazel Inc. The panel stated that in coming years, the Millennial generation will have more influence in the art sector, which means change will be both more expected and accepted. At the end of the session, a curious audience member asked the panel if they believed artists and art could one day be replaced by technology. The panel polled the other audience members to collect a vote of agreements and disagreements with the theory. Once a consensus was reached Bono proudly said, “Technology will channel on and so will art!”
Throughout the weekend many noteworthy people came to participate in ANNY Exchange, a musical chairs style networking opportunity designed to connect talent to prospective projects. One such person was Pilar Newton, an animator from PilarToons & Stretch Films (Courage the Cowardly Dog). In addition to ANNY Exchange, there were several industry-focused roundtables on critical topics. Following a roundtable on the animation pipeline, there was a VR discussion on Saturday at 4:00 PM titled “Puppetry Realtime Animation and VR”. This session had notable attendees such as Norma Klingler, her husband Johan Klingler, and their daughter Alisha. Norma and Johan work and have worked for animation, film, and comic book companies galore, including but not limited to Disney, Warner Bros., DC, and Marvel. The trio commuted all the way from Lancaster, PA via a 4-hour bus ride. Johan noted his excitement for the Best of Fest, particularly the VR games. When asked for a comment Johan noted that VR is, “The new front of animation.”
2019 ANNY Best of Fest XR Showcase (photo credit: Danny Argueta) — with HP Reverb VR Headset at ANNY.
Per tradition, the Best of Fest also had VR installations open to the public all day Saturday and Sunday.
2019 ANNY Best of Fest XR Showcase Official Selections
● 2nd Step – From Moon to Mars and Beyond Joerg Courtial – 2nd Step – From Moon to
Mars and Beyond
● Aripi Dmitri Voloshin – Simpals
● Aurora Aoífe Doyle – Pink Kong Studios
● CHUANG – In the pictures QING SHAO – Diversion cinema
● Claude Monet – The Water Lily Obsession Chloé Jarry – Lucid Realities
● Code of Freedom 1991 | Andrius Lekavicius – Code of Freedom 1991
● Contrapasso | “Siyuan Qiu, Mayukh Goswami – CONTRAPASSO”
● Distress Signal | Eyal Geva – Distress Signal
● Floral Dance | Joren Vandenbroucke – Floral Dance
● FLY WITH ME | LeeBeom – FLY WITH ME / SHINE: DINO
● FOREST | Kelsey Boncato – FOREST, Daniel Oldham – FOREST
● Form VR | Juan Manuel Codó – Studio Soup
● MOWB(VR) | Kazuki Yuhara – Made in Yuhara
● Paris Terror | The Hostages from the Hyper Cacher Ricarda Saleh – Paris Terror – The
Hostages from the Hyper Cacher
● Relation • Ship | Zoey Lin – Relation • Ship
● Songbird | Michelle & Uri Kranot – Tin Drum, Lucy Greenwell – Songbird
● Time Machine | Eric Giessmann – Lava Machine, Piers Goffart – Lava Machine
● Tower of Babel by the sea | Feng Wei-jung – Tower of Babel by the sea
Highlighted 2019 ANNY Best of Fest XR Showcase Invitational Selections
● Arden’s Wake | Penrose Studios
● Bonfire | Baobab Studios
● Cave | Parallux
● Conscious Existence – A Journey Within | EpicScapes
● M.ArchIP | March Chadwick – M.Arch Architects, Jose Luis Cruz, Jr – Integrated
Projects, Director of Design Technologies – Integrated Projects, Simon McGown – Head
Of Design Strategy at Integrated Projects
● Moss | POLYARC
● Ollie | Sagar Ramesh
● Project Showcase | The Glimpse Group
● Wolves in the Walls | Fable Studios
● Gloomy Eyes | Directed by Jorge Tereso & Fernando Maldonado (presented by vrbar)
Official Selection and Invitational VR projects were placed in a spacious room on the 3rd floor of the venue with glass window walls overlooking a birds-eye view of downtown Manhattan and the East River. That being said, festival goers were far more drawn to the interactive worlds that the many VR games on the floor teased. The Cartoon Network offering, Journeys VR, was a popular choice for many people, judging by the line that often extended past an improvised writer’s desk. Everyone, from school age to retired, were having a (virtual) blast.
ANNY is largely known for their monthly curated animation screening events in New York City. Industry jurors selected 20 films from the 165 in-competition films screened during the Season. 2019 ANNY Best of Fest industry jurors included Ed Hooks (Acting for Animators), Waltraud Grausgruberv (Tricky Women Festival, Vienna), Sally Berger (Formerly MOMA, Now NYU and Haverford College), Jill Johnston (SUNY Fredonia), Lesley Chow (Bright Lights), Gareb Shamus (ACE Comic Con), and Olesya Shchukina (Estrella Production, Paris). Grand Prize and Special Prize Judges included Sabine Heller (Blue Sky Studios) – 2019 ANNY Best of Fest Grand Prize Winner Judge, James Pallot (Emblematic Group) – 2019 ANNY Best of Fest Grand Prize Winner (VR 360 & Room Scale) Judge, Jay Stern (Iron Mule Festival) – 2019 ANNY Best of Fest Iron Mule Comedy Award Judge, and Chris Perkins (Animation for Adults) – 2019 ANNY Best of Fest Animation for Adults Award.
2019 ANNY Best of Fest Winners Film Program
● Ashes. Luciana Digiglio. Argentina, 03:54.
● BLAZING FIRE. Alexandre NART, Médéric PREVOST, Maxime LACOMBE, Aurel COUDERT, Roch
TASTET. France, 04:07.
● Days – أیام .SOFIA EL KHYARI. United Kingdom, 03:38.
● Fishes, Swimmers, Boats. Dmitry Geller, Andrey Koulev. China, 09:57.
● Freedom From Fear. John Morena. United States, 00:49.
● Hounds. Ido Shapira, Amit Cohen. Israel, 05:47.
● Idle, Torrent. Alex Moy. United States, 02:31.
● Keep Your Hair On, Oliver. Armelle MERCAT. France, 11:30.
● LONELY LUCIA. Hannah Sotelo. Mexico, 08:11.
● Motion Pictures. Matthew Incontri. United States, 09:41.
● My Little Goat. Tomoki Misato. Japan, 10:13.
● Rhizoma. Santiago Pérez Rodríguez. Belgium, 03:00.
● See Spot Squeal. Rachel Seropian. United States, 00:00.
● Snow White Cologne. Amanda Eliasson. United Kingdom, 06:20.
● Sweet Night. LIA BERTELS. Belgium, 13:46.
● The Egg Job. Guilherme Krolow. Brazil, 05:00.
● The Fox. Sadegh Javadi Nikjeh. Iran, Islamic Republic of, 09:45.
● The Stained Club. Mélanie Lopez, Simon Boucly, Marie Ciesielski, Alice Jaunet, Chan Stéphie
Peang, Béatrice Viguier. France, 06:39.
● Travelogue Tel Aviv. Samuel Patthey. Switzerland, 06:00.
● Twin Islands. Manon Sailly, Charlotte Sarfati, Christine Jaudoin, Lara Cochetel, Raphaël Huot,
Fanny Teisson. France, 07:18.
The 2019 ANNY Best of Fest showcase presented these twenty hand-picked animated short films from countries around the world. Much like the Big Apple itself, the Best of Fest was culturally diverse.
2019 ANNY Best of Fest (photo credit: Danny Argueta)
These twenty films were screening in two segments with breaks in between. The first segment started at 7:00 PM; the second began after 8:00 PM. Prior to the screening the founder of ANNY, Yvonne Grzenkowicz, gave acknowledgements for all the staff and volunteers who assisted with the festival. Following this, award winners were announced.
The ANNY Grand Prize Winner was “My Little Goat” by Tomoki Misato from Japan.
The judges for this award category, Sabine Heller (Blue Sky Studios), said the following in regards to her vote for this film:
“[“My Little Goat”] conveys a serious and relevant topic in a very creative and unexpected way by switching up a well known fairy tale. This is how animation as a medium is at its best. The film succeeds in triggering emotions, leaving the audience with a scary, uncomfortable feeling. I also find the cinematography artistically and technically interesting. There are also many wonderful, almost whimsical choices that play with the medium of stop motion and the woolen puppets, for example when the goats are hiding themselves.”
The 2019 ANNY Best of Fest Iron Mule Comedy Award was given to the short “Keep Your Hair On, Oliver” by Armelle Mercat from France.
The Animation for Adults Award went to “Motion Pictures” by Matthew Incontri from the United States.
On his Instagram, Incontri said the following upon being selected for this award:
Thank you so much @animnightsny for selecting my film for your Best of Fest and choosing it as your Animation For Adults award winner. It means so much to me that my passion project is still being viewed and look forward to submitting more work to your program throughout the coming years!!”
Claude Monet The Water Lily Obsession won the 2019 ANNY Best of Fest VR Grand Prize.
Last but not least, Tower of Babel By The Sea won the 2019 ANNY Best of Fest VR 360 Grand Prize.
Fireworks from a nearby Deepavali festival filled the night air during the night screening of the Best of Fest top twenty films. It was hard not to feel that those celebratory booms were not at least partially also meant for the many brilliant animators, artists, professionals, and students who came out to see animation on a Sunday evening.
The Best of Fest 2019 was many things: inspirational, vivid, immersive, a reflection of the past and a vision of the future. Hundreds of people attended the event across two days and several volunteers were involved to coordinate each minute of the program. ANNY is grateful for all the sponsors and friends of the festival, including but not limited to: HP, essentia water, ChefScape, SVA, Visual Effects Society, and The Howard Hughes Corporation, tumblr, ARTIVIVE, GKIDS, HTC Vive, APOGEE EVENTS, Wacom, M.ArchIP, KDAN Mobile, Collins Building Services, Toon Boom, and Animation Magazine.
ANNY is already making preparations to make the next Best of Fest bigger and better, and hopes to continue to provide an event where creative projects and people from around the world can have their time to shine. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more information!
About ANNY: Animation Nights New York is a curated monthly screening event and annual festival first established in NYC in 2015. The event showcases animated short films and virtual reality animation experiences from all around the world. Both project submission and admission to monthly screenings of in-competition films are free to the general public.
Kelly N. Barahona is part of our talented research and copy team for Animation Nights New York.