Sunday, January 27, 2013

Animated Thoughts: Animation and Depression

It's been twenty-three days since Signe Baumane launched her Kickstarter campaign to raise the $42,800 necessary to complete her film "Rocks in my Pockets". As of today, she's raised over half the amount (53%) and I remain cautiously optmistic that she will achieve her Kickstarter goal by the deadline of Thursday, February 17th.

The following video interview on her blog contains a discussion between Signe and Bill Plympton regarding how they fund their independent animated films.

Obviously, it's tough to go it alone especially if you don't have a patron, aren't willing to work within the grant system, or don't produce work that is mainstream enough to be used for commercial advertising. So other than selling the rights (and merchandise) to your previous films, what other options are there? Enter crowdsourcing with it's own advantages and disadvantages.

What happens if Signe doesn't receive the requested amount pledged by the deadline for her Kickstarter campaign? Well, by Kickstarter rules, she won't get any money at all. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Obviously, I'm biased because I want to see this film finished. But I have to wonder if Indiegogo is the better solution for independent animators. By their rules (Indiegogo), even if she didn't meet her goal of $42,800, at least she'd get a portion of whatever funds she raised.

I'll let the cat out of the bag a month early: Signe Baumane has graciously accepted my request and will be one of the two animators whom I'll be interviewing for my annual Women in Animation series of blog posts. As Signe has used Indiegogo for some fundraising efforts in the past, it will be very insightful to hear her compare and contrast the two fundraising experiences between Indiegogo and Kickstarter. I had originally planned on asking Signe my four questions about how to encourage girls to enter the field of animation--and I'll likely still do so--but, she'll be coming off of a fundraising campaign, so whether successful or not, I'm sure that she'll have a wealth of knowledge to share.

Now, if her campaign fails, I don't believe for one minute that Signe is going to throw in the towel and not complete this film. How do I know this: by her own admission, Signe is part of a select group of filmmakers who:

"... wake up in the middle of night with palpitations – they just had the greatest idea for a movie and they have to make it or die.

I belong to the latter group – an idea hits me, plus a burning need to communicate my story in a form of a film to an audience. The problem is that I have to find a way to finance it or it never leaves my head. Majority of filmmakers I know belong to this group, including The Bill Plympton."

Regardless of what happens on Kickstarter, I have to believe that this film is going to be finished. Having met her and having read her blog posts, I think that Signe has it within herself to finish this movie no matter what the status of her funding works out to be. So, I don't want to make this out to sound like a personal crusade. My hopes and dreams are not dependant on the status of one person's feature film. I'd be disappointed if I never saw 'Rocks in my Pockets', but life would go on.

I'm one of the fortunate few. My war with depression ended over ten years ago when I learned how to win those battles by using a combination of prayer, diet, exercise, willpower, and taking action whenever the darkness approached. So it is the knowledge of my personal struggles in the past which gives me the overarching reason why I want to see this film finished and screened. More than for my personal interest in the subject matter, I want to see someone who knows what it's like to struggle with depression succeed in bringing their personal vision to the big screen.

If you haven't yet already, please visit Signe's Kickstarter page to learn more about her film.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Animated People: Signe Baumane

Signe Baumane at TAIS
 As anyone who knows me can attest, outside of my close circle of friends, I tend to play my political and religious beliefs pretty close to my chest. I grew up in a generation that read Emily Post and Dale Carnegie -- two people who espoused the position that it's bad form to discuss religion or politics in polite company. For the most part, I stick to this rule. However, every so often there comes a cause or two that I support which I feel the need to bring to everyone's attention.

In this case, it's three of my most important: "mental illness", "independent animated film", and "women in animation".

I first met independent animator Signe Baumane last Fall when she spoke about her filmmaking experiences at the Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS). During this meeting, Signe showed two seven minute clips of her work-in-progress film "Rocks in my Pockets". Based upon those fourteen minutes, I knew I had to see the rest of this movie. Setting aside the lush visuals, the engaging story, and the crisp narration, the topic of this film is one that is close my heart as I have suffered from chronic depression for the better part of my life.

Knowing first hand how hard we try to hide the skeletons in their closets, I was floored by the raw honesty that Signe presented in the clips of her film as she detailed the personal history of mental illness and episodes of suicide in her family's background--all played out against the backdrop of the Russian revolution and World War II.

At the TAIS presentation, Signe discussed the trials and tribulations of being an independent filmmaker but was cautiously optimistic about her chances of having this film completed by March 2013. Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned and she has recently reached out to the community for assistance in completing her film.

In order to finish "Rocks in my Pockets", Signe has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to finish both the coloring and editing and the composing and recording of the musical score.

So, I would encourage everyone to do the following:
  1. Visit Signe's Kickstarter page.
  2. Read about her film and watch the clips.
  3. If this film resonates with you the way it does with me, consider joining me in making a donation to this independent filmmaker.
  4. Request that this film be shown at your local theatre, once it's released after April 2013, so it can receive a wider distribution outside of the regional animation festivals.
Thank you for your consideration of Signe's film and for your support of independent animated film, women animators, and promoting honesty about the mental illnesses that plague our human condition.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Animated Thoughts: 2013 Academy Award Nominees

Well, the 2013 Academy Awards nominees were announced today. For the two animated sections that I personally follow, they are:

Animated feature film:
  • Brave (Disney-Pixar)
  • Frankenweenie (Disney)
  • ParaNorman (LAIKA)
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Aardman/Sony)
  • Wreck-It Ralph (Disney)
Short animated films:
  • Adam and Dog (Lodge Films)
  • Fresh Guacamole (PES)
  • Head over Heels (National Film and Television School)
  • Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare" (Gracie Films)
  • Paperman (Disney Animation Studios)
While I haven't seen "Frankenweenie", "Adam and Dog", or "Head over Heels" yet, I'm rooting for Disney this year. Both "Wreck-it Ralph" and "Paperman" were far and above two of the best animated films I saw in 2012. In my opinion they're the best out of the films selected for the Oscars--though I reserve the right to update my choices after seeing the three films that I haven't watched yet.

For those who haven't seen all the animated short films, the Detroit Institue of Art's Film Theatre has an annual screening in February where they show all the short films nominated for that year's Academy Awards--split into two sessions: animated and live-action.

Event details can be found here and the schedule at the DIA/DFT is as follows:

Friday, February 01, 2013 – Sunday, February 17, 2013 Detroit Film Theatre
  • Friday, February 1 at 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 2 at 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 3 at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM
  • Friday, February 8 at 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 9 at 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 10 at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM
  • Friday, February 15 at 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 16 at 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 17 at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Animated Inspiration: Rising

The light, the texture, the vivid colors, the sharpness of each image... Wow. "Rising" by Groupe Mikros Image is a stunning use of 3d computer imagery.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Animated Quotes: George P. Burnham

"I can't do it" never yet accomplished anything: "I will try" has accomplished wonders.
~ George P. Burnham