Sunday, October 5, 2008

Notes from the Ottawa International Animation Festival

Last month saw the return of my brother and I to the Ottawa International Animation Festival. This fest was without a doubt, the best one I have attended since the first time back in 1994. Here are some of the highlights:

Tuesday: Stayed up late to buy/download Speed Racer onto my iPod. Mary and Ted pick me up around 6:30 a.m. I drive to Toronto while they sleep. Spent part of the day in Toronto. Had a great meal at Movenpik & walked through the St. Lawrence Market. Drove to Ottawa. Made the mad dash to the bathroom at a service station on a lonely stretch of 416N--all the while cursing the lack of development along the highway! Had a nice dinner at the Marketplace. Felt like Christmas eve when I went to bed that night.

Wednesday: Was woken up by Mary's snoring. Discovered that she's got a deviated septum. Balanced the pros and cons of foam earplugs against the possibility of sleeping through the alarm and missing a festival session. Decided against it. Got up, got showered, dressed, and ready to go pick up my festival pass. Wanted to tell Ted that I was taking off and would be back in an hour or two. Really freaked him out to have me standing there when he woke up. Ah, fond memories of when we were children. Picked up my festival pass. Bought some really cool DVDs and books. Picked up Ted and Mary then bummed around Ottawa. We took Mary to Mostafa's restaurant for shawarmas. She grudgingly agreed that, after listening to me and Ted talk about Mostafa's restaurant for four years straight, it was the best shawarma she'd ever had. Bought a really nice fountain pen and learned how to fix my other two. Saw my professor, Skip, after the evening screening. Met his wife Ginny in person. Went to the Wednesday night party and chatted with Skip on the way. The party was too loud so we skipped out after having the free drink and proceeded to go drinking at Darcy McGee's pub.

Thursday: Was woken up by Ted praying to the porcelain god. He claims food poisoning. Not sure what to think about that. Have seen him drink way more than what we had last night and not even get buzzed. Am a little worried that I may have to surrender half of my liver a couple years sooner than I had originally planned. Decided to shelve those thoughts by getting up and getting moving. Lots to do. Watched screenings during the day. Had lunch with Jim & Deanna (President and Treasurer of ASIFA Central) and Jim's wife Rose. They loved my ideas for next year's Kalamazoo Animation Festival. Hopefully they'll use the two of them for the panel discussions. Will be nice to share the hard earned lessons from my time at the 'school of hard knocks.' After the evening screening, went to the Thursday night party and chatted with Heather Kenyon from Cartoon Network. Hung out with with Gary Schwartz from Detroit's Center for Creative Studies. Two more people I met at last year's Kalamazoo Festival. Maybe there's something to this networking thing after all. ;) Made several return trips to Mostafa's restaurant for shawarmas.

Friday: Spent the morning talking to Skip Battaglia (my former professor) and Chris Robinson (artistic director of the festival). Rest of the fest, Chris recognizes me and says 'hi'. Sat through Skip's Experimental Animation seminar and had pleasant flashbacks to my three years at R.I.T. Went to the picnic and met more people from the Center for Creative Studies. Nice people. Very energetic. Ted got a headache from the diesel fumes on the bus, so we left early. We got him some advil and walked around Ottawa while waiting for the evening screening. While standing outside a record store, waiting for Ted and Mary to finish up, had some high school Eminem-esque punk try to pick a fight with me to impress his girl. The thought of learning about the Canadian judicial system first hand didn't thrill me so I blew him off as his girlfriend dragged him away. Guess some people just aren't happy if they're not sharing their misery. Did a mental 'skills assessment' of my black belts in TaeKwonDo and Karate. It just made me feel more resentful. Hate being in those 'if I defended myself, I'd be the bad guy' situations. Did some journaling about the experience. I think God likes it when I'm honest about my feelings and don't let them fester, because right afterwards (we're talking seconds), I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.

Me, J.J. Sedelmaier, Ted
That night, while standing in line and waiting for the evening competition screening, I met J.J. Sedelmaier. Yes, THAT J.J. Sedelmaier. Mary got a photo of me, Ted, and J.J. I'm continually impressed at how nice, humble, and down-to-earth the famous people in animation turn out to be when you meet them. Looking at the lines (and considering Ted's lagging headache), we skipped the Friday night party and went to the Avant-garde bar instead. Felt strangely at home at a place with Eastern European hip-hop videos playing in a bar filled with old Soviet propaganda posters and memorabilia. Continued to make several more return trips to Mostafa's restaurant for shawarmas. We've got Mary fully converted now.

Saturday: Saw J.J. at the morning's education panel. Got some great advice on the business side of animation. J.J. and the panel left me thinking about better ways to run my business. Talked to Carol Beacher during the 'how to write for animation' seminar. Made a mental note to see her 'Mr. Death' animation. Caught Rainmaker's Reboot Rebooted seminar. Now I'm thinking about how to use new technology to market animations. Saw Disney's new shorts "Presto" and "Glago's Guest". Incredibly funny stuff. They gave the 'how we made these' talks. Spent more time walking around Ottawa. Went back to Moustafa's before the evening films. Gonna be a late night! Saw Bill Plympton's "Idiots and Angels". Liked the premise, but didn't think it was his best work. I would've gone with more slapstick than the deeper, more thought-provoking film that Bill made. Made another mental note to buy it when he puts it out on DVD so I can go back and study how Bill made this film. While waiting for the evening competition screening, I started to get angry about the punk from the other day. Did some more journaling. Started to feel better and another one of my profs walks by. Spent the next half-hour talking to Stephanie Maxwell. Man, I really miss these people! Need to do a better job of keeping in touch with them. Went to the Saturday night party. Talked to Chris Brown from Digital Alchemy on the way to the party. Those guys are doing some really cool work! Almost makes me want to pack up and move to Canada. Got there and saw that the line to get in was monstrous. Screw that! Went to a pub across the street instead. Had a soda and burger with Ted and Mary. Went back to the hotel and packed my suitcase. Ted and Mary go back to Darcy McGee's.

Sunday: Got up and went to the morning session. Animation crash course with Eric Goldberg (the guy who animated the genie from Aladdin). Really funny guy in person. Lots of good information. Will need to buy his book in the not too distant future. Picked up Ted and Mary at the hotel. We load up the car and drive back home--but not before having lunch at Moustafa's and saying good bye. As usual, we got waylaid on the way back. This time it was on the highway just East of Nappanee (home of Avril Lavigne) due to a car wreck. 45 minutes later, we?re routed around it and on our way home. Stopped at the duty free shop for candies and jams for my roommates. Got home around 1-ish. Nice to sleep in my own bed (and sleep soundly). Can't believe I'm going to have to wait two years to go back. Hopefully, I'll have something in the festival (or something rejected that I can show at the rejected film party).

Again, it was, the best Ottawa festival I've been to since my first in 1994. For someone with my level of social anxiety, it was fantastic to be able to attend a festival and actually have lots of people there to talk to. Looking forward to the Kalamazoo Animation Festival International next summer!