April 20, 2017
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GLAS Animation Festival in Berkeley
by Karl Cohen
Logo for the new animation festival, GLAS, which started in March in Berkeley and turned a profit. illo: GLAS Festival
EVEN THOUGH A LOT OF ANIMATION
is created in the US, animation festivals honoring it rarely happen here. When they do, they are nothing like the well-funded Ottawa, Hiroshima or international celebrations in Europe. Our city, state and federal governments don’t fund animation events, so that makes it hard to raise enough money in advance to develop a festival.
In this century there was the Platform Festival that began in Portland in 2007 but held their last event in LA in 2012. Although New York has Rooftop, which mostly honors work by regional artists, there have been a few other small animation celebrations that no longer exist.
This March the first
GLAS Animation Festival
was held in Berkeley, California. The four-day event featured competitions, screenings, retrospectives with the honored guest artists from abroad talking about their work, talks by well-known American directors and other special programs. They presented two and sometimes three different programs at the same time and used other spaces to exhibit installations and art by the invited animators.
It turns out GLAS is more than a festival. The name stands for Global Animation Syndicate and it was established by a group from the Los Angeles area as a non-profit organization to provide grants, to establish a festival, to publish an online magazine and to hold events in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
People in our local animation community who went gave it mixed reviews. While it was a rare chance to see a lot of work, and they were impressed the invited guests who spoke and the chance to see retrospective screenings, they were less thrilled with the competition screenings. Although some of the entries were notable, there was a lot of “filler.”
One person hoped that in future editions of GLAS, they will get more entries from around the world and be able to select stronger programs. People who had attended Platform and international festivals abroad felt GLAS wasn’t as successful, but they were glad they went and felt future editions would improve. After all it was a rare chance to celebrate animation as a fine art.
I was unable to attend GLAS due to nasty cold so I asked lots of people their impressions. I have decided to share comments by five ASIFA-SF members (our Bay Area animation association):
Henry Sellick, one of the author's favorite local animators. photo: courtesy H. Selick
Marty McNamara, who heads the animation program at DeAnza College, told me, “My personal favorite was a retrospective of the principal short films by outstanding young French director, Jeremy Clapin [maker of ‘Skhizein’, see it
], who shared a glimpse into the new animated feature film he is developing."
"It was also fascinating," she continued, "to learn the novel techniques that were deployed by Dutch animator Hisko Hulsing (‘Junkyard’) for segments of the new Kurt Cobain documentary, ‘Montage of Heck.’ And always a treat to become reacquainted with Paul Vester's beautiful dripping animation for ‘Sunbeam’ and the old Colossal Pictures ‘Bubblicious’ spot.”
Melissa Margolis, who loves animation and has been an ASIFA-SF member for many years, emailed me, “I went to GLAS. I thought it was a fantastic mix of films and also educational. From what I could tell, it was mostly insiders and animators in attendance, and they appeared to be doing a lot of networking and friend-making with each other.”
“I'm not an animator, just an enthusiast, and I learned from watching these films that there are lots of new techniques being used that I had never seen before. It was fun, and in addition sometimes disturbing—some of the films were dark/edgy/R-rated. If I didn't like the mix of films in one program it was convenient to be able to skip down the hallway to see the other program.
"There were lots and lots of programs of shorts," Melissa added. "There was great representation of films from different countries, especially Japan and Holland. The conversations with the directors and animators were great, and people had lots of questions about ideas, technique etc. It was a rare and lucky thing to be able to learn firsthand about each person's artistic process, and also to see the directors including Henry Selick and Phil Tippett ask questions of each other.” Selick’s “Coraline” was shown in 3-D.
Melissa ended by saying, “I saw fantastic films. The installations at the Berkeley Art Center and Firehouse Gallery that accompanied the festival were also amazing. It was hard to find the time to see everything, there was so much to see. I will definitely attend next year’s festival!”
Dan McHale who has worked in many studios around the word, said, “Peter Millard’s workshop was fun and goofy. I think twenty of us made drawings for him. I talked storytelling and animation history with Steve Segal, met Tom Brown (“t.o.m,” and “Teeth”), Henry Selick told me about his new project and, whew! Many films employed a raw, unconventional approach. Almost a punk sensibility."
Kirsten Lepore, an up-and-coming stop-motion artist, in her studio. photo: courtesy K. Lepore
"Kirsten Lepore’s presentation was really cool stop-motion work," Dan continued. "Speaking of technique there was a lot of hand drawn animation, which I appreciated because I make drawings that move too. Hats off to Jeanette Bonds for creating this festival. The event really made me want to make another, better film. So consider this a shout out to everyone to support GLAS.”
Steve Segal, who was an animator on “Toy Story” (1995) and who teaches at the Academy of Art and California College of Art, wrote by email that, “GLAS brought a collection of new and classic animation to Berkeley. It was a full-fledged event complete with a US Competition, Children’s Competition, and International Showcase."
"There were also several artist presentations, some installations, and a requisite selection of parties," Steve elaborated. "There were a total of 9 competition screenings and most of them had a Q&A (question and answer session) with some of the filmmakers in attendance. The Q&A was always intelligent and informative. The competition films were definitely on the avant-garde side, but all were innovative and compelling. It was impossible to see it all, there were often three different programs running simultaneously.”
Steve was quite impressed with the work of “one of Paul Vester's students, Kirsten Lepore. She has made a name for herself as creator of the ambitious stop-motion short ‘Bottle’, see it
, which led to her writing and directing ‘Bad Juju’, a stop-motion episode of ‘Adventure Time.’ Her presentation included that episode and her short films as well as an excellent behind the scenes demonstration.”
“There were several nods to mainstream animation: a program of short films from Pixar with two of the directors in attendance Jim Murphy, director of ‘Lava’ and Andrew Jimenez co-director of ‘One Man Band.’ Animation historian Jerry Beck presented a program of cartoons by Ub Iwerks, Mickey Mouse's co-creator, that were made shortly after he left the Disney Studio. The cartoons featured his Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper characters. There was also a presentation of Nickelodeon talent development program, I was unable to attend but heard it was very good.
Steve’s “favorite of the personal presentations was French film maker Jérémy Clapin, who has become well-known for his funny and surreal CG short ‘Skhizein’ about a man who lives 91 cm from himself (it makes sense once you've seen the film). He also showed what looked like hand drawn animation but he revealed that it was made using an open source free 3D program called Blender. Most impressive was a section of the animatic for his feature film about a disembodied hand looking for its master. It was made using Flash and almost fully animated.
'Skhizein' by the young French director, Jeremy Clapin. illo: J. Clapin
There were also special programs, like a collection of contemporary and classic Dutch animation, and two collections of Japanese animation, featuring some classic shorts and an overview of the last several decades of CG.”
Steve concluded, “This festival was a perfect introduction to the world of international animation, intimate but stimulating. And it was successful enough that the festival organizers have every intention of doing it every year. Hooray!”
GLAS had other things happening including several sponsored parties, something called “ghosting TV” that was a hangout for experimental animators and video artists and there was a presentation of virtual reality. There were other tributes included three features by the late anime Master Satoshi Kon. They showed “Paprika,” “Perfect Blue” and “Tokyo Godfathers”.
Dan Steves, a member of ASIFA-SF’s board, saw 18 programs at GLAS. He summed up his experience by saying, “I had a really enjoyable weekend at the festival, and saw several films that I hope in time we'll be able to share with members who didn't get to attend. I especially liked the mix of programming, with several screenings and presentations of retrospective works alongside new shorts. I hope they'll be able to do this again next year, and I look forward to another great weekend.”
Great news! About a week after the festival Jeanette Bonds, the festival’s director wrote me, “We'll certainly be doing a 2nd GLAS in Berkeley and the festival did, in fact, prove to be profitable. We're already planning guests and programs for the upcoming year.”
Jeanette plans to offer animators production grants for $10,000, $5,000 and 3,000 this year and eventually grants up to $50,000. Hopefully GLAS will prosper and their festival will become a major international celebration.
Karl Cohen is an animator, educator and director of the local chapter of the International Animation Society and can be reached
Posted on Jul 07, 2016 - 06:52 PM