Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Animated Thoughts: TAIS SummerJam 2012

June had arrived, so that meant it was time to make my yearly visit to Toronto for the TAIS summer screening. Due to a scheduling conflict with the first ever TAAFI festival, our screening was moved to the beginning of June instead of our usual last weekend of June. That was the first major change that I encountered during this trip, but sadly it wouldn't be the last.

I am sad to report that this was the final TAIS summer screening to be held at the NFB Mediatheque. It turns out that the National Film Board of Canada will be closing several of its Mediatheque locations including the one on John Street. And if that wasn't enough of a kick in the gut, the building that housed TAIS and all our production equipment was sold by the city to a developer. So, our board of directors is currently looking for a new location as we've received our walking papers. While I understand that change is inevitable, losing those two locations still hurts my heart.

My first TAIS workshop was with Martine Chartrand at the NFB Mediatheque on John Street. Since then, I've returned to both the Mediatheque and the TAIS production offices several times each year to take workshops, attend screenings, and be a part of the vibrant animation community that both TAIS and the NFB support in Toronto. While I do not know of any plans to re-open the Mediatheque in a different area in Toronto, TAIS will be moving to a new location in the not too distant future. One can only hope that the new location will provide some benefits that overcome what we are losing -- like a small theatre to screen our films.

But, on Friday evening, I arrived at the Mediatheque for the TAIS competition screening--blissfully ignorant of the massive changes to our beloved community. Like earlier screenings, there was a wonderful variety of subject matter and techniques to be found in the films. I absolutely loved Patrick Jenkins' new paint-on-glass film "Sorceress" and as usual, my 10 second AniJam entry film got a good round of laughs. Afterwards, during the after screening party, I spent a fair amount of quality time talking to Lynn Dana Wilton about our web presences, professional reactions to her Women in Animation interview on my blog, and a couple of our ideas that have been floating around in the ether. I'm pleased to report that Lynn has had a few job offers based upon her increased web presence (including my interview of her and her new Vimeo page). However, schedules must be kept and Lynn had to catch a train back home. So, after the Mediatheque closed and we said our goodbyes, a small group of us drove over to Chinatown for dinner and discussion of the films. This afterglow experience has come to be one of my favorite parts of the TAIS events. I love hearing about what everyone else is working on and it's a great opportunity to cross-pollininate ideas and techniques with other animators.

Well, through the magic of the Internet (and the willingness of animators to use said Internet to promote and distribute their films), here are some links to films that I really enjoyed.

"Sorceress" by Patrick Jenkins
Admittedly, I'm biased because Patrick has become one of my favorite independant filmmakers over the years. However, Patrick's film "Sorceress" continues his exploration into a film-noir world of paint-on-glass animation.

"Sticky Ends" by Osman Cerfon
While it's a little too dark for my tastes, this film has an impeccable sense of timing and wit that carries it's subject matter past the realm of gruesome into that rare spot reserved for Wil-e Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoons.

"Snowdrifter" by Mack Carruthers
Cute character, decent animation with a funny payoff at the end of the film.

"Luminaris" by Juan Pablo Zaramella
It's rare that you see pixillation much less pixillation that is done well. This was a very fun film that provides an interesting snapshot into the heart of Argentinian bureaucracy.

"More than Winning" by Nick Fox-Geig
 I like the stream-of-consciousness images paired up with the tight, focused narration.
More Than Winning from Nick Fox-Gieg on Vimeo.

Also, check out his film "The Orange" on his Vimeo page if you get the chance.

"(Re)Cycle" by Lynn Dana Wilton
Having seen Lynn's film on a television during her TAIS workshop, it was really fun to see how well her designs and animation played out on a large, theatre-sized screen.

And here's my entry in the AniJam "Technical Difficulties" theme:
Now granted, I was gearing my film towards the crowd, but it still got a genuine laugh nonetheless.

Well, as the TAIS and NFB screenings were Friday and Saturday evening, I had lots of time during the weekend to walk around Toronto and see the sights, as well as funnel a little spending cash into the local economy whenever I saw the rare item that I could live without, but choose not to -- like the Gundam 08th Team mecha and hovertank figures I found at the Silver Snail. It was a close race between that and the 6" Gigan PVC figure, but having seen those for sale on Amazon.com, I figured I could pick one up later. When would I ever see a mint Gundam 08th Team figure with the hovertank all the accessories for $20 Canadian? If they had a Mothra figure in stock, it would've been a far more difficult decision. Del Toro's film "Pacific Rim" can't get finished fast enough!

But, more often than not, over the weekend I found myself revisiting locations from my memories of past trips as far back as 1975: the CN Tower, the Eaton Centre, the underground city, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the NFB, LeMarche Movenpik, the former location of Gingsburg and Wong, and the Lake Ontario waterfront. I walked away with no epiphanies other than the cliche about how the only constant out there is change.

On Saturday, I walked over to the Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (thanks again for the ticket Madi). While I've always been more of a Monet and Renoir fan, I was awestruck by the variety of Picasso's work, especially the contrast between his paintings using lush, defined brushstrokes versus the ones that represented figures using geometric color patterns. The AGO did a great job arranging the paintings, drawings and sculpture chronologically and they even provided a handout that explained what was going on in Picasso's life during each period and how it influenced his art.

Since the NFB's evening animation screening wasn't for a couple hours, I walked down to the CN Tower and had lunch at the Horizon's restaurant overlooking the waterfront. As my thoughts tried to process the future loss of the NFB over an incredible view of Toronto, I took the time to stand on the glass floor. Nothing like gut-wrenching fear (or a near death experience) to shock you out of a dark place. My mind moving back towards a balanced center, I snapped some photographs of the trains at the foot of the Tower, then walked down by the harborfront and did some reading. A short streetcar ride back to Queen and Spadina and I arrived just in time to see all the ambulances and firetrucks on the way to the Eaton Centre. Turns out that there had been a gang shooting in the food court that I walked through the previous day. The shooter's target was dead and several bystanders were caught in the crossfire. Darkness, it would seem, was determined to make it's presence felt.

That evening, I made my last trip to the NFB Mediatheque for their animation screening "Creations, Obsessions, and Sensations". It was filled with classics like "Hot Stuff", "Every Child" and "Great Toy Robbery" as well as newer films from classic directors--like Paul Driessen's "Oedipus". While the films were good and the company was better, the weekend ended up overcast when Madi told me the news that TAIS had been served notice that their building was sold to developers so we had to find a new location by the Fall.

Sunday I drove home. I left Toronto with a sense of melancholy since it would be the last time I'd experience TAIS and the NFB in it's current state. As the Gardnier Expressway was closed down, I had to find a route along the East side of Toronto through Greektown and over by the science center before I could find an open entry onto the 401. As frustrating as it was to get out of Toronto, the different sights made me think about how much of the city I have yet to see. So when the TAIS board moves us into a new location, there will be new sights to see and things to do before and after the next workshop. So I would end my trip on a high-note, and put an end to the melancholy, I stopped by the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (now with quail) and got some beautiful photographs.