For the past two years, we have attended the Annecy Animation Festival in France, and this year was no exception, only this time we travelled along with friends from our partner companies Tom Didymus from Paraboxy and James Taylor from Arcus Studios.
On our way down to Annecy, we decided to meet up with a bunch of our animator friends in London for a quick catch-up before we set off to Heathrow to catch our plane. Paul Roberts and Wei Xing Yong from Framestore, Colin Perret from Passion Pictures and Duong Ba Tran who is currently a freelance artist.
Our first taste of the Annecy experience was the amazing scenery consisting of dramatic mountains resting in the purest lake in Europe. A stunning place to host an event like this.
After settling in in our hotel, we headed out into town to once again experience the genuine French food market. Every Sunday the streets and alleys fill up with stalls selling fresh baguettes, cheeses, sausages etc.
We walked over to the majestic L’Imperial Palace, where we could pick up our festival passes and get a quick peek into the MIFA exhibition facilities as they were setting up. Here we met David, who’s a talented vfx artist. He showed us his amazing portfolio consisting of work from all the way back to the 80’s.
At Bonlieu, the main festival screen, we met Ron Diamond from Animation World Magazine, who gave us some good advice and an interesting perspective on the animation industry. He pointed out a few major shifts in the industry’s geography; India and China becoming the main base for production. Ron has been a central player in the American animation industry for a long time as a producer and he explained to us how we will be affected by the new trend.
We went to see a couple of feature films during the day and Short Films in Competition in the evening. Many interesting and impressive submissions. Later we met with friends of ours, Lars Ellingbø, Peter Smith and Magnus Igland Møller from Tumblehead in Denmark at Captain Pub.
On Tuesday, we went to see the making of Hotel Transylvania. The presentation covered technical and artistic aspects of the production, but also a great deal about the storyline.
A few hours later we went to see Pixar’s Brave. As the film was pre-release at the time they didn’t show the whole film, instead they started the session with a presentation about the making of the film, then showed us the first 30 mins. Very interesting and from what we saw of the movie, it looks fab! In the screening we met Mychal Simka at Treehaus Productions in Burbank, who’s producing a feature film at the moment. He couldn’t say much, other than that it will be original in its execution.
We had a few hours break from screenings, so we decided to check out MIFA, the market place for animation companies, distributors and buyers. Here we met James from Arcus who had arrived a few days after us. MIFA was still setting up, but we got the chance to talk to a few people and set up some meetings for later in the week. In particular we met the iHeed guys, who explained their project. They’re looking for animators to create animations to promote and create awareness of various health related topics to a global mass audience. It’s a very worthwhile cause and can drastically improve the ease of access to training materials for health professionals in the developing world, which indirectly will have a massive positive effect on health in developing countries.
In the evening we headed up to a nice little bar called Cafe Des Arts, which is one of the main meeting places for casual networking during the festival. We spoke to a lot of students who are looking for jobs, but also met with quite a few people from various animation companies. One of the guys we met was Lieb, representing Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Film Festival. We also met Bernadine Santistevan, who’s short Wolf Dog Tales, had been shown in the screening the day before. Very impressive mix of sand animation and digital techniques. After a few hours we decided to head further into town to meet our good friend Cristian from Square Post Production in Milano, Italy. We joined him and a group of talented Italian animators at the Leffe Bar for nice blond beers while we caught up on each others busy year.
On Wednesday morning we walked to MIFA to meet with Arnaud Reguillet from Toon Alliance, a multinational umbrella of various specialist partners covering all aspects of animation production. We talked about how it works in practice and what their main focus is etc. A useful conversation with a lot of relevant information for us at this stage, as we are currently looking into an umbrella idea.
As we moved on through MIFA we stopped by the Norwegian animation stand, where we met with Arna Marie Bersaas from the Norwegian Film Institute. They are a funding body and support group for filmmakers in Norway and they are interested in supporting co-production across country borders. We also met Espen Olaisen and Thomas Balmbra from Oneiros, and they had a great stop motion film in competition called Orfeus. Also present at the Norwegian animation stand was Kristin Ulseth from Maipo, one of the larger production companies in Norway. She told us about how they have moved from live action to more animation projects lately, and they are currently working on Hocus Pocus, Alfie Atkins!, a 2d feature animation based on kids books.
After a few hours at MIFA we had met with a range of different companies and organisations from countries all over the world. For our lunch break we sat down in the Chill Out Lounge at MIFA, where had arranged to meet with an artist who potentially would come and work for us.
Next up was the Irish Focus party, where the main players in the Irish animation industry had a presentation on stage. After an interesting talk from Jam Media about facial animation techniques using real photographs, we had a brief chat with them about it. We also met our friends from Dublin based Giant Creative, and had a good chat about what we and they had been up to.
Up early in the morning to get fresh baguettes and meats for breakfast. We attended the VFX conference held every year, and it was presented by Framestore, Double Negative, MPC and Buf. Each company talked about one of their projects from start to finish. Many interesting topics arose from the 5 speakers, including detailed descriptions of how they developed new technology and tools to conquer the many technical and artistic challenges.
3 hours later, after the conference, we headed for MIFA again to discover and meet with more people and companies. We spoke to the Finnish animation stand who invited us to the Finnish party later in the evening.
First we went to the Scandinavian networking event, where we met Anders who recently took over the lead on Fredrikstad Animation Festival. Saxophone, shorts and grass were the keywords from this beautiful afternoon.
Later in the evening we went to the Finnish party where they had put up a couple of tents working like a sauna. Here we met with Timo Lampinen, a director and producer from Finland currently working on the show, Hullabalooba. An amazing night with the most informal networking imaginable.
The last day of the festival was spent watching the making of Deep, an Irish feature film produced in quite an original fashion by Brown Bag’s new feature film company IceHouse with director Shane Acker (director of 9), using the source engine from Valve to slash costs and allow realtime rendering. Very inspirational and relevant! Especially because we and one of our collaborators, Thomas Didymus at Paraboxy, are currently looking into implementing realtime technology into our pipeline.
Following this we spent a good few hours in MIFA and in the Lounge bar. Here we met Ramsay McBean and Max Howard for a nice informal chat about what everyone had been up to. We also got some golden advice from them about how to approach the TV market and generally about development of our own IP. We first met Ramsay in Annecy two years ago when we were both lost trying to find the conference centre, since then we have had regular contact and meetups to discuss potential projects.
In the same bar we also met Halim Boumaiza from Halaur Entertainment, who briefly presented their TV concept called Private Lucky, something we are in conversation with him about at the moment.
We also bumped into Antonio Canobbio, one of the founders of Titmouse in Hollywood. We had a brief chat about potential collaborations and he gave us an incredibly funny colouring book presenting their company and staff.
In the evening it was time for the Irish Animation party, held at an Irish pub in town. Hundreds of people filled up the pub and the streets around it for a long night of nice beer and great networking. It was a nice event to meet everyone again before heading off back to the UK early the next morning.
We were picked up by Florence, our amazing driver, at 5am. We arrived at Geneva airport around 6am and checked in our bags. The flight we were supposed to get on got delayed over 5 hours, ending up with us getting a different flight back to Heathrow. After trains, tubes and buses we arrived safely in Middlesbrough around 8pm.
The week packed full of impressions and meeting new people made us feel even more motivated and inspired to keep doing what we are doing. We are absolutely going back again next year for another round of inspiration and networking, hopefully with a short film in competition. Hope to see you at Annecy Animation Festival 2013!