Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Animated Thoughts: Festival Season part four: OIAF 2016

The Arts Court
Well, it's Fall and that means three things for me: the leaves are starting to change color, Potter Park Zoo has taken the bunny out of the 'petting zoo' display for the season, and it's time for me to travel to Ottawa for the annual Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Got off to a relaxed start today. Weather is gorgeous. Breezed through the Canadian border (thank you Nexus pass). Exchange rate is superb. And the weather is gorgeous! Spent the drive to Toronto listening to the audiobook adaptation of the diaries of John Rabe. Brutal story. I'll wager that the truth about the Rape of Nanking is far more horrific than Rabe reported. Much like when I learned about Oskar Schindler, there's this really odd disconnect when you hear about someone using Nazi symbols to save lives. Three hours into the audiobook, I am left with the thoughts that, setting aside his unfortunate affiliation with the Nazi party, I can only hope that if I'm ever tested like that, that I show half the integrity that Rabe or Schindler did.

CN Tower
Made it to Toronto and decided to meander after checking into the hotel. Got on the wrong streetcar so ended up walking up from three stops past Spadina on Lakeshore Blvd up to Queen and Spadina. Mental note number one: it's the 510 Streetcar that goes up Spadina Avenue, not the 509!

This year, I didn't go butterfly hunting in Cambridge on the way to Toronto so instead took some nice pictures of the CN Tower and flowers along the sidewalk. Seems like every pub in Toronto has an arrangement of flowers out in front of their establishment.

Since I was close enough, decided to visit Meeple Mart and see what new games were out, then it was on to Navito World. The salesdude at Navito remembered Justin and I from our Spring visit to see the Hatsune Miku concert. Had a nice chat with him before buying an anime figure for my collection. Made a mental note to bring an extra $30 CDN next time to pick up one of those nice metal Tachikoma figures from Ghost in the Shell. Will look nice next to my figure of the Major in her full cybergear.

Had no real plan for the day, but got to enjoy some 'greatest hits' locations. Stopped at the Dragon City Mall Dairy Queen for my usual cherry Arctic Rush--which helped immensely with all the lap sweat from walking! It's been one year since last Ottawa's discussion with Bryce Hallett about getting in shape for the 2016 festival. Lost ten pounds at the beginning of the year, gained fifteen back by mid-summer, lost five by September. Put me back to square one. Dang it! At least the heart and legs felt stronger than they did last year. Mental note number two: unplugging from the computer and going to the Potter Park Zoo every weekend is fine, but need to do more walking than just once a week. Probably wouldn't hurt to vary up the schedule as well. Camera and sketchpad notwithstanding, I spend enough time hanging out with the bunny at the petting zoo area that it's probably making the zoo keepers a little nervous...

Hanging out at Uncle Tetsu's with "Rin"
Was late afternoon at that point, so I stopped by Uncle Tetsu's Angel Café for a snack. The maids were friendly and the crepe was very tasty. Probably won't have the creme soda again though. Too much ice cream. I can push my lactose intolerance a little before it starts pushing back, but not far enough to enjoy another one of those! Turns out my maid, "Rin", is a comp sci student at the U of T. Mentioned how she cosplayed Rin at the Miku Expo concert this past Spring. She was using a different maid name when Justin and I met her earlier this year. Sweet girl. Wants to be a game designer. Hope it works out for her. Game design is almost as fickle and brutal a field to work in as animation. Even worse for the game designers themselves as I don't think that they have a union that they can turn to in times of trouble.

Yeah, gonna get this again...
Given how filling the crepe was, I decided to skip dinner and just mosey on back to the hotel. Stopped by the Mind Games game store and had a geeky 'esprit de corps' moment with this kid named R.J. who was working there. Started with gaming and ended up talking about Miku Expo and the local anime convention scene. Between, him, Rin, and the salesdude working at Navito World, felt rather welcome here. And social, strangely enough. Not so alone. Am very thankful for that. Usually, I'm just lost in my thoughts, but this time it was really nice to have people that broke up the routine. Sometimes, when you spend most of your time alone working on projects, you kind of forget that even the most jaded introvert needs social contact with like-minded individuals.

Breakfast at Marche, then off to the St. Lawrence Market for my annual mustard run at Kozlik's to replenish my brother's stocks of gourmet Canadian mustard. Then it was off to Ottawa. Turned off the John Rabe diary audiobook. Started over from Chapter 1 of the 'Rape of Nanking'. Needed a better grasp of the historical context of what happened. Still leaving me in an odd place emotionally. Can't fathom that depth of evil--even though we still see examples of it today in the Middle East, Eurasia, and Africa, no matter how far we think we've progressed as a species.

Made it to Ottawa in record time. Missed all the rush hour traffic by leaving Toronto by 11 a.m. Definitely the right decision to make. Then it was a classic example of 'right place/right time'. Instead of checking in at the hotel, I first picked up my festival pass at the Arts Court... right when Gary Schwartz and Brooke Keesling were doing the same. Then I bumped into Chris Robinson... then Madi Pilar. That evening, it was rapid fire: first Patrick Jenkins, then Kelly Neall, then Pillar Newton-Katz, then Lynne Slater. No matter how much social media helps us stay in contact with the people in our lives who are spread across the continent, there's still nothing like seeing them in person.

My first screening of the festival was Ann Marie Fleming's film Window Horses. Was a very touching film. I definitely want to see her film again, though with the subtitles turned on. After getting lost in the visuals during the first screening, I'd really like to go back and absorb the dialog next time.

Afterwards, saw Glenn Ehlers, Skip Battaglia, and Carole Beecher outside the Bytowne Theater at the opening ceremonies and competition screening.

Piano // Trailer from Eesti Joonisfilm on Vimeo.

The film selection was pretty good tonight. My vote was for the Piano. Have seen it once before, but I still liked it. As a whole, it reminds me fondly of many OIAF's ago when Ted Pratt and I talked about the Eastern European visual styling of the Klasky-Csupo film that went on to win the Grand Prize that year--wish I could remember the name. After the Gala screening, I chatted up Skip and Glenn some more before picking up a shawarma on the way to the hotel. Was a good way to start the fest, but no opening night party for me. Felt drained from the day's interactions. Need some rest.

Woke up to a very pleasant surprise, they opened up the Daron Nefcy TAC talk to OIAF attendees. Hastily reorganized my schedule for the early afternoon. Couldn't miss the opportunity to hear her talk--more intel for my woman animators class in January!

Met up with Glenn and Pilar for the morning OIAF retrospective screening. Absolutely loved seeing Caroline Leaf's 'The Street' on the big screen. Really amps me up to write the lecture material for my class. Afterwards, I raced over to the Bytowne to see the short film Competition. Was really taken by Kristian Pederson's abstract animated film Boygen (The Boyg). The trailer really doesn't do it justice as many of the other scenes have waves of color reminiscent of the aurora borealis and still others harken back to the 'Beethoven's 5th' segment of Fantasia 2000. It easily picked up my vote.

Bøygen (teaser) from Mikrofilm AS on Vimeo.

Next, it was off to Saint Brigid's Center for the Arts for the one-two punch of a 'One on One' interview with Caroline Leaf followed by an interview with Anne Marie Fleming on how she funded her feature Window Horses. Two more women I would love to talk to more in depth about their filmmaking processes.

Caroline Leaf and Donald McWilliams
Went to the evening's competition screening afterwards. Got drenched on the way there, so bought an umbrella on the way. They were forecasting rain at the picnic on Friday. Wish I'd have brought my umbrella from the car. Thought about it as I left the hotel, but didn't have my car keys with me. Assumed that the weather report was correct: no rain today, rain tomorrow. Will definitely go with my gut feeling next time.

Met up with Patrick and Madi at the evening screening. Was really nice to chat with them in person seeing as I didn't attend this year's TAIS events and have let my membership lapse. At the screening, the films were more miss than hit for me, but there were a couple gems there: Fired on Mars and an Igor Kovalyov film, Before Love, where the entire animation team appears to have been composed of women animators.

Fired on Mars is online in its entirety. I recommend you watch it now and then come back for the rest of the blog post.... I'll wait.

Fired on Mars from Nick and Nate on Vimeo.

After the screening, I walked over to the Club SAW party with fellow R.I.T. grads Glenn and Sarah Hanson. If Skip had walked over with us, we'd have had an R.I.T. quorum. Club SAW was packed for the Salon des Refuses party. Problematic for the reason that a month ago, I posted on my Instagram account how I was canning jam instead of brewing wine for the summer's foodie project. Pilar asked for a jar of the apricot jam, so I brought a jar with me. Kept forgetting it at the hotel though. It took some help from Barry Sanders to find her at the Salon des Refuses party but the delivery was made!

Despite the fact that I can do electrical and plumbing repairs on my house, minor repairs on my car, and have two black belts in Karate, my friends still razz me for having interests that aren't "butch" enough. I get where they're coming from, but I would honestly rather learn some aspect of food production (like canning or baking bread from scratch) that my and the younger generations have labeled as obsolete than play sports or whatever the hypermasculine men are doing nowadays. Eh, whatever. Compliments like the above make it all worth it... or at the very least, the knowledge that I'll have jars of jam to use as currency during the zombie apocalypse!

'We need the funk...
We gotta have that funk'
Was a pretty good day for breaking through the social anxiety and talking to folks. Met Anne Marie Fleming in person today. She remembered me from our talks online! Wish I could've chatted with her a little more, but right after her presentation really wasn't the time or place. Have seen Candy Kugel twice now. Still haven't been able to say 'hi' yet. Would like to chat her up more about her experiences in the New York animation scene but might be a conversation better left to e-mail.

Also saw Steven Woloshen, but he was busy talking to someone so I didn't want to interrupt. Didn't see him for the rest of the festival so had to content myself by jumping from wifi hotspot to wifi hotspot and messing with him on Facebook.

Feeling somewhat good, emotionally, especially after listening to the Nanking and John Rabe audiobooks on the way here. Trying not to let the small aggravations get to me--like the rude students who keep cutting in line. At this point, if I was a recruiter, I'd never hire anyone from a couple of these universities. I know I probably shouldn't let it get to me, but if these kids have no integrity in the small things, then how could I trust them to look after the big things? Like my business interests, or project deadlines, or customer relations? Eh, better to focus on the good: nice lunch at Chapters today, made it to the Daron Nefcy and Anne Marie Fleming talks, and had a good talk with Glenn about his book and our R.I.T. thesis films. Besides, the picnic is tomorrow and that's always a time filled with hidden opportunities and little treasures.

Spoke to a pleasant girl this morning when picking up my morning bagel and juice from the hotel café. She was a student attending the festival--noticed that she was carrying the OIAF swag bag. Nice how that's a perfect icebreaker to break me out of my usual headspace and get me talking to people.

Saw Barry and Caroline Sanders at the morning screening. Apparently they're coming back to Toronto. Glenn and Sarah sat in front of me. Then Madi ran over and sat with me during the screening. Felt good not to be alone. Even had the girl from the café walk by and say 'hi'--certainly helps restore a little of my faith in some of the students attending the OIAF.

Mini R.I.T. reunion: Sarah Hanson, Glenn Ehlers and Me
Had a lovely lunch with Glenn and Susan at the annual Cartoon Network Animators Picnic. Met Daron Nefcy while picking up a cupcake. Between her TAC talk and our all-too-brief chat, got the impression that she's a really interesting person with a lot of good experiences within the industry worth sharing. Said she liked the idea of my Women of Animated Film blog and my women animators class. Might ask her for an interview in the future when I'm all caught up with my backlog of women to interview.

The Cartoon Network 'OIAF' cake

Was also cool that I got to share a little wisdom about the business side of the industry with some students while we were waiting in line for cake. They seemed particularly interested when I started talking about LLCs and finding a good accountant who can tell you the difference between a valid and an invalid business deduction for your taxes. Sometimes I get the impression that college programs are so focused on imparting the skills that kids will need to get a job that they're not teaching them how to manage their business.

Freed up some duplicate events which left me nothing to do until 7 p.m. Had time to relax a little so I meandered around the Byward Market area looking for old landmarks from the twenty-two years of attending the festival. Wish I could remember the name of that pub that John Mamano and I ate at all those years ago. Could probably message him on Facebook, but don't feel like bothering him at work. Instead, found the 'Blue Cactus' where Erik Timmerman, a couple R.I.T. alums and I had lunch back in '96. He died sixteen years ago and I still miss him as acutely as I did as when I got that obituary notice from Marla Schweppe after he passed in June 2000.

Had an early supper at the Highlander Pub--one of two pubs that my brother, Ted, and I used to hang out at when he attended the festival. Still can't believe that Mom and Dad let me pull him out of his High School classes for a week to visit Ottawa way back then! Dinner at the pub didn't help make me feel any less nostalgic. Would like to eat at Darcy McGee's before I leave town but not sure if it's going to happen. Won't feel the same without my brother or sister-in-law being there with me.

Since I was only a block away though, I walked back to the Arts Court to enjoy the posters exhibition that Kelly and crew put together before I had to schlep over to Saint Brigids for the Japanese animation presentation.

Though I doubt they could invest the time and money into doing it, I'd really love to see the OIAF produce a small book containing the posters (in full color plates) with a little history of the festival and interviews with the artists who made the posters. Ah, if time and money were no obstacle...

The Japanese exhibition was pretty much what I expected: indie films that were more experimental than narrative. Some really interesting technique, especially Ryo Orikasa's animated text films. He's not really breaking any new ground that I can see, but his films still have a certain visual appeal. Might just be my English degree talking. Not sure. Can't put my finger on why I like his work, but regardless, I plan on keeping an eye out for his future films. Apparently, a fair number of students in the crowd were expecting to see anime. Saw a number leave the room during the presentation and heard others saying as much on the sidewalk afterwards. Heh. They should've read the program booklet a little closer beforehand. I liked how the festival brought in the Japanese ambassador to Canada to speak about the program. Was a really nice touch.

Made it to the evening "Grand Prize Winners 3" screening. It was really fun to see Nick Parks' film the Wrong Trousers with a room filled with high school students. They loved the film almost as much as we all did back in 1994, even though so many of them probably had already seen it on video beforehand when they were younger. The second film, Bird in the Window was the film whose name I couldn't remember. Immediately, I was awash with good memories of sitting at 1996's closing night party with Ted Pratt and hearing him eloquently explain Klasky-Csupo's Eastern-European visual style and approach to 'slice-of-life' storytelling. Wish I could remember more of that conversation. But at the time, it did have the desired effect of expanding my artistic horizons. I got a lot more out of seeing 'Bird' this time than I had back then.

On the way out, thought that it was amusing to see festival director Kelly Neall working the check-in station when I left the theater before remembering that it was the evening for the Festival's "students-only" party. This year's Toronto Animation Arts Festival International was all the more special because it afforded me the opportunity to get to know her, and by extension, the OIAF better.

The 2016 festival poster

Wow! What a blessing. After the morning screening, I walked over to Saint Brigid's for the Pixar presentation and who should sit down in front of me but Lynn Scatcherd and Andrew Doris from Dainty Productions (or at the very least, sometime collaborators with Chris Dainty). Right place, right time to be blessed by a visit with friends before the presentation. Looks like Pixar has another hit on their hands with Piper. Whatever feature film they show with Piper, the price of the ticket will be worth it just to see that short film again!

As my next event wasn't for another three hours, I decided that I needed to see Crab Phare and Boygen again before I left town, so thought I'd give the screening room a try. Unfortunately all three stations were in use so I drifted upstairs to the Arts Court Theater. Passed out some of my Women of Animated Film blog cards to a couple of high school girls on the elevator who said they wanted to be animators. Bought the 2016 OIAF poster for my collection and took a little more time to appreciate the festival poster display. Then had the good fortune to meet Ms. Caroline Leaf! She was very gracious and said I could contact her for an interview.

Afterwards, I went to the market and got my traditional Beavertail--this time with apples. Was as tasty as I remember it to be... though one per year is probably as much as I should have. Then it was back to the OIAF Screening Room. Still no love. Many others have had the same idea as me apparently.

After a somewhat unsatisfying steak at the Highlander Pub, I went back to the Arts Court. Screening stations were still full--just missed an opening by five minutes--so I went to St. Brigids for the Disney presentation. Wasn't more than ten or twelve people there already, so we waited for the doors to open. Well, I'm standing in line and it turns out the girl right in front of me is a sophomore 3d animation student in R.I.T.'s BFA animation program! Right place, right time to make a new acquaintance. Disney's Inner Workings was cute, but it was no Piper. Pixar definitely beat out Disney this year.

On the way out, saw Jessica Borutski standing there. Said 'hi'. Looks like motherhood agrees with her. Such a sweet young lady. Made another mental note, this time to pick up her Bunnicula series on iTunes when the full season is released in the States.

Raced over to Daly Avenue and made it to the Arts Court in record time. Finally feel like I'm getting the hang of navigating Ottawa and it's construction. Chatted up Susan on the way and Pilar when I arrived. Again, it's nice to not feel alone in a crowd--probably the biggest change for me since I started attending the fest in 1994. This trip always does wonders for dealing with my social anxiety.

Joy! A screening station was open so I watched Boygen and Crab Phare before the World Student Panorama screening. Those two films are definitely my favorites of the festival so far. Then, it was off to the Night Owl party. Met Kelly Neall's husband on the drive to the party location. Can't shake the feeling that I've met him before.

Even with the initial technical glitches, the Cybertronic Spree was awesome! Not sure who had the better time, me or Pilar. Got lots of pics and video and even got to do Hot Rod a solid after the show. After I got my picture taken with the band, he said he was parched and asked me if I could get him something to drink from the bar. When I returned with the bottle of water, he seemed a little surprised that I had hooked him up. Though they didn't have to, he gave me a Cybertronic Spree button from the merch table. Would have helped him regardless just to say 'thanks for the show', but hey, was a really nice gesture. My brother has a venue back in Michigan where they show live music... and Ted is a die-hard Transformers fan. Wonder how hard it'd be to get the Cybertronic Spree to play in Michigan?

After the show, I spent the better part of the party chatting with Glenn, Susan and Skip. Finally got my photo of our little R.I.T. SoFA reunion! Even got to ride back on the bus with Skip and catch up on what he's been doing since retiring. Though I do wish I had brought a sketchbook with me. I really liked how the festival had a separate room where folks could draw the cosplay models they brought in.

The festival hasn't ended yet, but I'm about ready to go home. Looking forward to the final screenings and party. Hope I'll have a couple more experiences like the ones today--meeting that sophomore from RIT or encouraging that girl from Algonquin College. On my way to the bus after leaving the Night Owl party, I stopped by the food truck that the Festival had brought to the party. While waiting in line, I had the chance to chat with this girl who mentioned having social anxiety. I had a lot of fun at the festival this year. Probably more than I have in had the past twenty-two years. But it was this one moment that will probably stick with me more than the others. In our short conversation, I had the chance to encourage her with stories about how the festival has changed for me over the years--and changed me--once I started to break out of my shell and engage with people. I gave her some tips and icebreakers to talk to folks at the festival. Hope they help. Us introverts have to stick together... when we're not at home.

Interesting moment. After trying to get as much sleep as possible by hitting the snooze button, I get up, get ready, and then make my way to the elevator. There's a 'ping', the doors open, and its sole occupant is Barry Sanders. Got to wish him 'safe travels' before he left and then I was on my way to St. Brigids for the one-on-one with Giannalberto Bendazzi. Good start to the day.

Feel like my batteries are almost finished charging. haven't had any grand epiphanies while I'm here, but I still have that ten hour drive home and lunch with Ellen Besen. Don't think that I need any earth-shattering revelations while I'm here, having some rest and recharging the creating batteries is more than enough.

Canada's National Art gallery
Got to say goodbye to Glenn on the way out of the Bendazzi talk. he's heading home after the next screening. I'm off to the National Art Gallery for the panorama screenings--my favorite screenings of the festival. Side detour to the Byward Market for a juice and some cookies first. Saw Pilar on the way over. She's leaving on Monday like I am. As friends drift away from the festival on their way home, I'm finding it harder and harder to stay out of my headspace.

The Canadian student films were pretty good--as expected. Lots of solid technique. A lot more than I saw in the world student panorama. Even had a couple films that I want to show in my class. the Canadian Showcase and World Showcase films were as enjoyable as I expected they would be with such a wide variety of styles. Films were a little lighter on the far-out stuff we see in the competition screenings and a good mix between narrative and experimental films. No big surprise, Patrick Jenkins' film was my favorite. Phantom City is the perfect ending to his Noirland trilogy. Now to buy it when it's finished its festival run so I can watch all three back-to-back!

Saw Carol Beecher come in and sit down right before the show started. Was sitting with James Murray otherwise would've gone over and said 'hi'. After the screening, she was off like a shot. Wasn't able to catch up with her. So made my way to the Bytowne for the Best of the Fest screening, then trudged on back to the Arts Court for the party and, sure enough, there was Carol! Got to say goodbye and hear a little about her current project.

At that point, I wasn't really sure what to do with myself, so I tried out a 'barcade' for my farewell to OIAF dinner. This place is definitely a 'come back to'. Videogames and board games, an excellent burger and hard cider on tap. Need someplace like this in Lansing! Heard from Pilar on Facebook while I was there. Waiting for a FB Messenger post from her before I go back to the party. Hopefully I'll get to say 'farewell' to my fellow American before we leave the Great White North. But, nothing as of yet, so I went back to the hotel and started getting ready to go.

Well, I'm packing up and I get the message from Pilar. Okay, I head over to the party and there she is, sitting on the steps with some friends from NY. We chat. Then Carol Beecher comes out. We all chat some more about all the research she did for her new project. Then Carol and I make the funny discovery that we're both German with grandfathers who were lumberjacks in Saskatchewan before WWII and both worked the shipyards building warships after the war started. Then the conversation moved to the class I'm teaching and she gave me some solid thoughts on working with the kids when showing films that show more difficult topics like rape and abuse. Then we talked about canning and gardening and the skills our grandparents passed down and the effect that social media is having on our productivity levels... and then we realized how late it was getting. We said our goodbyes and walked away. I couldn't have asked for a better end to the festival.

I'm not saying that it's a bittersweet ending to the fest. Far from it. but every year, this week-long festival highlights the sense of community that I don't get as much of back home. Need to get ASIFA Central to be more active and our Art, Anime and Manga Lansing group resurrected from the dead!

Packed up the night before, so checking out of the hotel on time was a breeze. Jumped on the highway and it was off to Ellen Besen's. Had to stop a couple of times on the way though. With no GPS to guide me, I had to check my maps and triptik to ensure that I wouldn't find myself hours out of the way. Ellen was expecting me by 12:30 p.m. for lunch, after all.

But, the road was clear, it only rained once or twice, and Algonquin Provincial Park was beautiful this time of year. Even saw a flock of wild turkeys and the tail-end of a moose who bounded into the foliage on the side of the road--freaking out the two minivans in front of me.

Finished up the Rape of Nanking and went back to finish the Good Man of Nanking--much easier now that I had the context that I was missing earlier. Pulled in to Ellen's driveway at 12:31 p.m. and was immediately greeted by her cat who was sitting on the porch, avoiding the rain and waiting patiently to be let in.

Lunch was a blur as our conversation shifted effortlessly from catching up on life, religion, politics, the animation industry, and the history of TAIS, the OIAF, and the Kalamazoo Animation Festival International. Was worth the drive just to hear the info on those festivals alone. Driving away from Ellen's place, it was pretty clear why she and her husband moved away from Toronto. Lovely country. Peaceful. Much like what I remember from visiting my grandparents in Kalkaska, Michigan before it got all built up.

Finished the diary of John Rabe on the way back home. it had the desired effect of keeping my mind from drifting too much while making the twenty hour round trip drive. But, unfortunately, since my mind was so focused on those two audiobooks, there really wasn't any time to ponder life like I have done in the past.

If anything, my experiences at the festival have me really focused on community. Whether it be ASIFA Central or our little anime club that the Wilson twins started, the animation community here in mid-Michigan is lacking. Maybe, with a new year almost upon us, that is where I should focus my efforts... once my class is written, that is.

So long, Canada. Thanks for the hospitality and will see you next year.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Website Announcement: On Temporary Hiatus...

Things have been quiet lately and there's a really good reason for it.

I pitched a J-Term class to a University down in Indiana where a friend of mine teaches and it was accepted!

Next January, I'll be teaching a nine day, three-credit hour class on the History of Women Animators.

So, the reason why it's been quiet, and why it'll be quiet for a short while longer is that I'm writing the course material and tracking down films to show the class.

Thank you for your patience during this time. I'll be back later on in the year for the Fall Animation Festival Season.

See you all then. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Animated Events: DFT Animation Club: Only Yesterday

From the Detroit Institute of Arts/Detroit Film Theater website:

DFT Animation Club: Only Yesterday
Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.

(Japan/1991—directed by Isao Takahata)
It’s 1982, and Taeko (voiced by Daisy Ridley of The Force Awakens) is 27 years old, unmarried, and has lived her whole life in Tokyo. She decides to visit her relatives in the countryside, and as the train travels through the night, memories flood back of her younger years; soon she begins to revisit her childhood dreams, wondering if she’s been true to them. This is a newly restored, English-language version of Takahata’s masterpiece, created in celebration of its 25th anniversary. (118 min.)

General admission tickets for films in the DFT Animation Club series are $5. Admission is free to DIA members. Please show your member card at the door, no tickets are needed. General admission online and phone orders incur a $1.50 per ticket convenience fee.

See more and buy tickets online at the DFT website.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Animated People: Erik Timmerman

One day, I was in my apartment doing my daily reading before classes when Erik called me on the phone. Turns out, he needed someone to go to the library, check out a couple of films, and cue them up to specific scenes so that he could show them in a class he was teaching that afternoon. He couldn't find his student assistant and was being called into a meeting, therefore he couldn't do it himself before his class started.

I told him "I'd handle it" then jumped into my car and hightailed it over to the campus library.

About an hour later, I delivered the tapes to his office just in time for his class and went on my way.

I don't know how many other students he called before he contacted me, but as I walked away from his office, it just felt good to know that he did--that he knew that if he asked me to do the job, it would get done, correctly and on time. I can't think of a greater compliment than that, in that one particular instant, he trusted me not to let him down.

Photograph from Andrew Davidhazy's Retired Professors and past colleagues from the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at RIT webpage.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Animated Events: DFT Animation Club: My Neighbor Totoro

From the Detroit Institute of Arts/Detroit Film Theater website:

DFT Animation Club: My Neighbor Totoro
Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.

(Japan/1988—directed by Hayao Miyazaki)
One of the most endearing films of all time – a movie that Roger Ebert called “one of the five best movies” ever made for children – My Neighbor Totoro is the deceptively simple tale of two girls who move with their father to a new house in the countryside. They soon discover that the surrounding forests are home to a family of Totoros, gentle but powerful creatures who live in a huge and ancient camphor tree and are seen only by children. But beneath the film’s playfulness and narrative simplicity lie rich depths of wisdom. As with much of Miyazaki’s work, the core of My Neighbor Totoro reveals an exquisite portrait of humankind’s relationship to the Earth. Families will delight in this newly restored, English-language version. (86 min.)

General admission tickets for films in the DFT Animation Club series are $5. Admission is free to DIA members. Please show your member card at the door, no tickets are needed. General admission online and phone orders incur a $1.50 per ticket convenience fee.

See more and buy tickets online at the DFT website.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Animated Thoughts: Miku Expo 2016

Miku Expo 2016 in Toronto
I don't like live music. Never have. It's way too loud. The crowds can get really annoying. The timing and sound quality is almost always better on CD. It's just not for me. It's very rare that I will enjoy a live music performance, though it does happen from time to time--a ticket to see Sarah McLachlan perform is always worth the money. And seeing the Cybertronic Spree live and in-person at TAAFI last month was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had at an animation festival.

But, you gotta stay open to new experiences...

Case-in-point: A friend of mine is really into the Vocaloid scene. He's a big fan of Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka... and magical girl anime, much to his fiancé's chagrin. Eh, fair enough. We can't ALL be fans of giant robot anime... and the Madoka Magica series was well worth the time spent watching it... but I digress. Well, as it turned out, this year Crypton Future Media was taking the Vocaloid characters on tour. And Justin wanted to go but he'd never been to Toronto before. Since I visit Toronto a couple times every year, and am an aficionado of most things geeky and animation related, I was chosen to be his guide.

Now, I had seen Hatsune Miku in concert before. Since I took a friend to see "her" performance at the Lady Gaga concert back in 2014 as a graduation present, I kind of knew what I was in for. So it wasn't much of a challenge to convince me to set up the trip. I enjoyed the smaller set Miku performance in Detroit and figured I'd appreciate a full hour-and-a-half concert in Toronto even more. That, and it doesn't take much to convince me to visit Toronto for something animation related! Therefore, the previous month, when I had some free time at the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International, I put together a list of Japanese pop-culture, anime, and Asian-themed sites in Toronto that he might enjoy. Eh, if you're going to make the drive out to Toronto to see a Vocaloid concert, may as well get as much of the J-Pop experience as you can!

Just in case you don't know what a "Vocaloid" is, here's a quick ten minute primer on Real Future that Fusion posted on their YouTube channel.


I picked up Justin early in the morning and we made good time to Toronto. Timed the bridge just right and we missed all the semi-tractors then zipped right straight through the Canadian border--thank you Nexus pass. We talked almost non-stop the entire way. Have made this run so many times in the past by myself, was really nice to chat with someone instead of being stuck in my head the entire time. Well, we arrived at 2 p.m. and after an early check-in, it was off to the St. Lawerence Market (my brother had put in a request for Anton Kozlik's Canadian Mustard).

But on the way there from Union Station, I showed him the Sony Center "just in case we got split up on the way to the concert". In truth, at the hotel I had checked my e-mail/Facebook and saw a post from the Miku Expo stating that they'd be selling concert-specific merch a day early. Figured I'd surprise him since they weren't expected to have any at the show due to the import taxes between Japan, Canada, and the States. Thankfully, some deal had been worked out prior to the show.

The folks at the merchandise table saw Justin and I coming a mile away...
When we showed up at the Sony Center, they were still setting up, but we were, like two of five people who had seen the post and shown up. I bought a t-shirt, a keychain, and the music CD of the 2016 Expo's partial lineup. Eh, I'm not above picking up a couple souvenirs. And we were both happy to get our merch right then instead of fighting the crowds at the show.

"All your merch are belong to us..."
After picking up Ted's mustard order, we perused the St. Lawerence Market--Justin is both a foodie and a professional baker. Then I showed him Toronto's underground city as we walked all the way up to Dundas. I tagged a couple Japanese restaurants in the underground that I'd like to visit on future trips. Unfortunately, Uncle Tetsu's Angel Cafe isn't hooked up to the PATH, but we made it as far as the Eaton Center before going outside.

"Uncle Tetsu" doesn't have much in the
way of souvenirs so I kept my coaster.
I got tacit approval ahead of time from Justin's fiancée to take him to Uncle Tetsu's--thought it'd be funny to watch him squirm a little.

Have never been to a maid café before, mainly because I have no interest in being fawned over by a teenage girl who calls me 'onii-chan.' I've skipped the maid cafés at all the anime conventions that I've attended in the past. A trip to Japan is on my bucket list, but the only themed café I'm interested in attending are the ones where you can hang out, have a soda, and play with bunnies.

But, I didn't want to judge Uncle Tetsu's solely by the concept so figured I'd give the real thing a try. And I'll admit it, the maid café was fun. The girls were cute and friendly yet not overbearing or sickeningly sweet and the food was decent. Everything was well lit and very tasteful. While you were encouraged to take pictures of and with the maids, everyone was expected to keep their hands to themselves and behave respectfully (which I personally appreciated since I really don't like people hanging on me). Strangely enough, there were far more women than men at the café.

The Angel Special
Well, after finishing our meals, we were on our way out and one of the maids saw Justin's Hatsune Miku messenger bag. Next thing we knew, we got swarmed by all these maids 'ooh-ing' and 'ah-ing' over his bag and talking about the concert. Apparently one of the young ladies was from Sapporo (where Miku's backstory has her hailing from) and another was going to the concert on Friday. Normally unflappable and with a razor sharp wit that often matches my inappropriate sense of humor, Justin was caught completely off guard and it was deliciously amusing. We finished chatting up the maids and got a photo on the way out.

"Maiding" it up at Uncle Tetsu's :3

And then it was back to the hotel to recover from the walking--but we still found time to explore some game stores, the Silver Snail comic book store, and every Asian-themed curio store on Yonge Street from Dundas to Bloor! Later that night, we discovered a really good Japanese restaurant a couple blocks from the hotel that made it on my list of restaurants that deserved a return trip.


The day was one big blur that began in Chinatown.

Toronto's "Dragon City"

'King Kasma' from "Summer Wars"
We started out at Sonic Boom Records over on Spadina--Justin is also a composer and bass guitarist so thought he'd enjoy a store where the basement is filled with new and used vinyl.

An hour later, we hit AnimeXtreme, then Navito World, then Meeplemart.

Lots and lots of anime, manga, and gaming stuff... It was hard for both of us to stick to our budgets given the wide selection of product and the fact that the exchange rate put the U.S. dollar worth $1.26 Canadian. But, we were both careful.

I ended up only buying a 'King Kasma' figure from the anime movie "Summer Wars" at Navito World--seriously, if you haven't seen Mamoru Hosoda's "Summer Wars" yet, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie with your family. I'm an 'English sub' kind of guy, but the English dub that Funimation did for Summer Wars was top notch. Seen it many times and I still get choked up near the end--you'll understand why when you watch it.

We tooled around Chinatown some more, grabbed some dim sum for lunch, then checked out Kensington Market. Without trying, we actually ate at Rol San, a restaurant where I had spent time with my fellow TAIS members after one of the summer screenings.

Made the sad discovery that it looks like Twylite Fashion, the Gothic Lolita store in Kensington Market, may be gone for good as I couldn't even find the seamstress whom she was working with. Was an extremely niche market to be sure, but I had hoped they'd survive. She's still got her Etsy store, so, hopefully will get to say 'hi' to her if she ever makes it back to Detroit's YoumaCon. On the bright side, Justin found lots of other little stores that he'd like to take his fiancé to when they come back to Toronto on their own.

'Miku, Miku, you can call me Miku...'
Then it was time for the concert. After a quick change of clothes at the hotel, we made our way back down to the Sony Center.

Even though we were about an hour early, there was already a crowd filled with Vocaloid cosplayers. Amusingly enough, throughout the evening, we kept running into people from Michigan. The couple sitting next to us at the show: from the Detroit area. The mother and her two daughters standing in line next to us at the stir-fry station in Marche's after the concert? Ann Arbor. Apparently we weren't the only people who didn't want to go to Chicago to see Miku!

Other than all the glowsticks that would occasionally obscure my vision of the stage, the concert was really enjoyable.

Instead of just a short six song Hatsune Miku-only set list, like they did at the Lady Gaga concert, Miku Expo had performances from Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka, Kaito, Meiko, Kagamine Rin and Kagimine Len. As the headliner, Miku had the largest number of songs in the 26 song setlist.

Hatsune Miku performing 'Ten Thousand Stars'
The one song I wanted to hear was the first one they played ('the World Is Mine'). And I discovered some new songs that should be part of my somewhat limited Vocaloid playlist ('Blue Star', 'Ten Thousand Stars' and 'Miku'). We were close enough to the stage to see some really good detail on the animated characters, but next time, would love to be front and center.

Miku after a quick costume change
The autofocus feature on my iPhone's camera was a touch problematic due to the fact that these are 3d animated characters being projected on a pane of glass from behind the stage. Fortunately, with a little tweaking, the auto-lock function worked wonders once I got a character in focus.

Megurine Luka performing "Just Be Friends"
In order to give an idea of what the concert is like, I recorded the following two clips from the concert, but there are others on YouTube that people recorded from Toronto's Miku Expo performance. If you want to see more, I highly recommend those filmed in 1080p by YouTube user: "xtokashx." The video and audio quality he got in his videos was amazing--especially considering he was filming from the balcony on his smartphone!

After the concert, we walked across the street for dinner at Marche and I regaled Justin with stories of what it was like coming to Toronto in the 1970's and how it's changed over the years. And he schooled me on Miku and the vocaloid phenomenon. This lesson on electronic music would come in handy the next day when we went to the Miku Expo Short Film Festival at the Art Gallery of Ontario.


Once again, we were served well by going to the event early. There were two screenings of the film festival being held at the AGO's Jackman Hall, the first at 11 a.m. and the second (which we were attending) at 1:30 p.m. Well, they let us in early and we got the chance to peruse the Snow Miku merchandise that Navito World imported from Japan for this event.

Gah! My achin' bank account...
Justin and I checked in, picked up our Miku Expo pins and exclusive "Toronto Expo" sticker. The rest... well, again, they pretty much saw us coming a mile way... I picked up some Vocaloid pins and curios to make a shadowbox when I got back into town. Whatever I didn't use, I figured I could give away as prizes the next time I spoke at an anime con. We then dropped off our purchases at the car, ran over to the Asian Food Court on the corner of Dundas and St. Patrick for a quick lunch, then back to the AGO to get in line for the screening.

Now the Short Film Festival, that was much more what I am used to. It was a mixture of 2d and 3d music videos and two documentaries--one by three Japanese guys who did a five-day cross-country trip to see both of the 2014 Miku Expos--one in L.A. and one in New York. The other documentary was much more thought provoking as it looked at the open-source media Vocaloid phenomenon from a social standpoint and included interviews with officials from Crypton Future Media (the creators of Hatsune Miku). The individual six episodes that comprised the full "Mikumentary" can been on the Mikumentary YouTube channel. Or you can watch them all in the following playlist. After the one-hour screening, they invited up Crypton Future Media CEO Hiroyuki Itoh who took questions from the crowd. As one would expect, my personal favorites leaned towards the technical side of the productions.

Hiroyuki Itoh (r) and his translator (l)

Paraphrasing Hiroyuki Itoh's answers:

Q: How are the vocaloids animated?
A: Through a mixture of motion study and traditional keyframe animation. They are animated frame-by-frame for the most part, but the animators aren't shy about using a live model in order to make the characters movements more fluid and lifelike. After researching this subject further, and talking to my friend who was there with me at this interview, I'm pretty sure that he wasn't referring to actual "motion capture" or "performance capture" or even "rotoscoping" but much more like how the Disney animators would watch a live model performing actions and drawing said actions.

Q: How is the concert synched between the performers and the Vocaloids?
A: The animated videos of Miku and the Vocaloids are all pre-recorded (animated) and played during the concert. The videos are synched to the musicians using a "digital metronome" such that the timing cues are fed to the musicians' headphones (guitar, bassist, drummer, keyboardist)--that way, as the show progresses, the musicians know exactly what marks they need to hit and when.

Q: How is the show line-up decided?
A: It's based on what songs are most popular, then they add in new songs as well as some songs from earlier performances.

After the last question was answered, we walked back to the car, put the 2016 Expo's music CD into my car's CD player and made the drive back to Michigan.

So the big question: if the Miku Expo didn't have a short animated film program included with the concert, would I still go? I'd have to say so. Yes. If we're talking just about the music, I'm more of a Megurine Luka and IA fan. Their "voices" aren't as high-pitched as the other Vocaloids and I like "their" songs better than the others (save some of Miku's). The vocal styling's at the concert itself are pretty much what you hear on the CDs, after all this isn't a performance with live singers--just live musicians. But more than the Hatsune Miku social phenomenon, what really interests me is the technology. As I mentioned before, the Vocaloids are being projected on a sheet of glass from a couple of back mounted projectors. That's pretty much it. But it's the combination of an appealing character design, good choreography, some catchy J-Pop tunes, and a talented quartet of musicians that makes the show worth the price of admission. And when you factor in a crowd of adoring fans, it's easy to get swept up in the show and forget that you're listening to a live band play music in step with a pre-recorded animated character.

Much like the Cybertronic Spree, Miku Expo appealed to my sensibilities more as an animator than as a music fan, but the kid inside me who grew up listening to Kraftwerk and Thomas Dolby in the '80's and wore out my 'Beyond the Mind's Eye' VHS tapes in the '90's was just as pleased with the performance. All told, the trip was well worth the expense and I'd go again, even if I had to make the trip by myself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Animated Thoughts: Your internship and you

It's June 1st, the school season is winding down, and students should be thinking about (and applying for) summer jobs. In truth, they should've started thinking about this back in February or March, but, some of us are pretty slammed as we approach the end of the semester. So for those people who have struggles like I did back in college, figured I'd revisit a situation I found myself in back in January.

I like to post job listings in the Women in Animation Facebook group, especially internship opportunities--I figure, if someone is going to get that job, why not a young lady who can bring a different perspective that has been arguably lacking from the industry, right?

So I posted a listing for an internship at Disney/Pixar. Immediately, someone tried to pile on with the usual, tired, uninformed "anti-corporation" agenda that you see so often nowadays.

I admit, I was annoyed and more than a little bit tired. After throwing the ball back in their court and watching them backpedal, so as not to be perceived as a total jerk, I wrote the following response:

"I think a better--albeit more verbose--way to state the concerns that I think you and [I] both share would be:

After looking at the opportunities that Pixar has posted on their website, I noticed that there is no compensation listed on their internship job listings. This concerns me. While this information most likely will be provided to the internship seeker later on in the application process, interested parties should take note.

It is my personal opinion that unpaid internships are violations of Federal labor laws, and businesses (both large and small) can use them to get around hiring a more experienced worker who would cost them more money in terms of salary and benefits. Additionally, unpaid internships can intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against students without the economic resources to support themselves during an unpaid internship--which can include many women and minorities who may have the skill and work ethic to perform the required duties but cannot take advantage of said opportunity due to a need to support themselves and/or earn money for the next semester of college.

As an individual freelancer, I am registered as a 'Corporation' in my State--albeit a 'Limited Liability Corporation'. Doing so affords myself a measure of legal protection that being a 'DBA' does not. And as much as I would love to hire interns and give them valuable work experience, I cannot afford to pay an intern at this time. Thus, I have made the difficult decision to be true to my principles and not offer internships at my "Corporation" (although advice and mentoring is always available and free). While I am personally not in the financial position to hire interns, one would hope that a company such as Disney/Pixar--with their prominence in the animation industry and with their impressive annual revenues--would take a leadership role and pay their interns a fair wage AND provide a valuable learning opportunity in exchange for an honest day's work.

Any student interested in the above internship opportunities at Pixar--or any internship for that matter--should discuss with their professors what is a fair wage for interns given the work they will be performing and the geographic region they will be living in BEFORE going into contract negotiations with any company. Additionally, there MAY be grants available for students that would support them during an unpaid internship, then again there may not. In the end, only the student can determine for themselves whether or not an internship opportunity, paid or unpaid, is worth their time and effort. But be smart and do your homework beforehand as there are unscrupulous people out there who will game the system and take advantage of students that are looking for experience and a chance to break into the industry."

For the purposes of this blog post, let's set aside the majority of my diatribe on unpaid internships. Yes, the above is my actual position on the subject and no, while there ARE some out there, I don't believe that every business is looking to take advantage of student interns. However, when you're unprepared for your internship, it becomes difficult to differentiate between a generic crisis or ignorance or actual malice. The real takeaway here is the last sentence. Boiled down to its essence: 'do your homework beforehand!'

Case in point: I had to leave one of my last internships during undergrad because, while it was computer graphics related, the gentleman who owned the company didn't have enough business to keep me busy, he couldn't pay me on a regular schedule, and the office was an hour's drive from where I could afford to live. And don't get me wrong, I really liked him and my co-workers and wanted to see the business succeed--and I did learn a lot in the two weeks that I was there. However, he was somewhat disorganized, I hadn't done my homework to the degree that I should have regarding what my expenses were going to be, and neither of us had a realistic expectation of what work I would be doing while I was there. There was no malice on either of our parts, just a perfect storm of the disorganized meeting the unprepared. After two weeks, I reluctantly had to resign and take a different internship closer to where I was living--even though it wasn't computer graphics related. Fortunately, he understood our mutual situations and we parted on good terms. And although it's always bothered me because I feel like I failed at that job, it was one of those situations that was never covered in my college courses nor in my previous internships. While I handled it as best I could at the time, years later, I can say that it did end up being a valuable life lesson--albeit one that could have been avoided through more diligence on my part.

So, given that the purpose of my life seems to be a cautionary tale for other people, what can we learn here that will spare future interns some grief?

When considering an internship, questions that students should be asking both before and during the interview can be broken down to separate categories. These and their questions include, but are not limited to:

The Job
  1. What tasks are you expected to perform?
  2. To whom are you directly responsible/to whom do you report?
  3. What date does the internship begin? End?
  4. What time of day does work start? Stop? 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.? 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.?
  5. What days will you work? Monday through Friday? Tuesday through Saturday?
  1. What are the pay periods: weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly?
  2. Does the company take taxes and withholding out of the intern's paycheck or is the intern responsible for paying all taxes and withholding?
  3. Will there be overtime? If so, is said overtime paid? At what rate?
  1. Geographically, where are you going to live during the internship?
  2. Does the internship provide housing or assistance finding housing?
  3. How much will housing cost?
  4. How are you going to get to and from work every day?
  5. Is there public transportation?
  6. Can you drive your car from your residence to work and if so, do you have to pay for parking?
Note: I haven't stated the obvious question: what does the internship pay? That's because you need to consider the "Living" issue before broaching that subject with any potential employer, and this particular issue will inform the rest of this blog post.

I can't stress highly enough that students should put together a budget of what their projected living expenses will be while they are at the internship. Even if it's something as simple as:
  • Rent
  • Utilities/Water/Sewer
  • Gasoline or Bus/Subway pass
  • Food
  • Toiletries (toilet paper, dish soap, paper towels, minor cleaning supplies, laundry detergent)
  • Clothes cleaning (washer/dryer)
The above are the bare essentials. I'm going to assume that you don't have any credit card debt (hah!) or other expenses to speak of just yet.

Once you've identified a potential internship at a specific company, it's time to dig in and start gathering intel for that budget.

Start by looking for apartment complexes in the area. A rental office can tell you if they have apartments for a short-term lease and exactly how much rent is per month for the Summer. Don't forget to ask if they require a cleaning deposit and factor that into your first month's expenses. And especially don't forget to ask if the apartment comes with furniture or not. As a rule, furnished apartments are a little more expensive, but it beats sitting on the floor watching DVDs on your laptop--also, unfurnished apartments don't usually come with shower curtains, just F.Y.I. The rental office will also tell you if utilities (water, electric, sewer) are included in the rental agreement. If it's not, then you'll have to contact the local public utility company before you move in and before you move out to have the utilities turned on for the time you'll be living there and off when you leave. Even if it's not part of the rental agreement, the apartment complex's rental office "should" be able to provide reasonable estimates for utilities. And always ask the rental office if there is a washer and dryer that you will have access to and if so, how much it costs per wash/dry cycle. Also, apartment complexes 'should' have parking spaces, but best to ask just in case you're driving your car to and from work. If you're taking public transportation, ask if there is a bus stop/subway station within walking distance (whatever that may mean for you: 5 min walk, 10 min walk, etc).

An alternative to renting from an apartment complex is to check with colleges and universities in the area around the business. Some of them will rent out student housing over the summer to make a little extra cash for the school during the off season and the prices/amenities may be better than what you could get at an apartment complex.

After performing a quick search for studio apartments in my area, I found one with A/C and refrigerator, free parking, partially paid utilities and a laundry facility for $485 with a $400 deposit. It's within a seven minute drive from the local university and says that they're close to a supermarket.

Gasoline in the area can be estimated by using GasBuddy.com and doing a search for gas prices using the zip code of the prospective location--expecting that gas will fluctuate (optimistically) only by about 25 to 40 cents per gallon either way depending on external forces. You can use Google maps to figure out how many miles you'll be driving each day, do a sample of gas prices over the span of a week or two, and cross-reference that with your vehicle's gas mileage if you 'really' want to be that detailed, but for most of us, a rough estimate will suffice.

Lastly, unless you want to live on takeout pizza and ramen for the summer, I highly recommend stopping off at the local dollar store for some inexpensive cooking implements, dishes, glasses, and silverware. Ideally, the first place to ask is your relatives. Maybe they have some cookware and such that they'd like to get rid of. That's actually where most of my cookware, dishes and silverware came from. Mom was happy to be rid of them and some I'm still using today over twenty years later. Another option, depending on how much free time you have, is to hit the local garage sales and flea markets where there are lots of bargains to be had.

In any event, I would detail out a sample meal plan for yourself. I usually assume three meals per day, seven days a week on a '1-2-3' budget where breakfast costs X dollars, lunch costs 2X and, dinner costs 2.5 to 3X. Assuming you don't eat at restaurants, if it costs you two dollars for breakfast, then lunch would cost four dollars and dinner would cost from five to six dollars. In our example, eating for one day would cost you from $11 to $12, which translates to about $77 to $84 per week. Again, this is just an estimate, your appetite may vary. Even today, I'm a juice and a granola bar kind of guy. So my breakfast for the whole week only costs me about $5 to $6. That leaves me some flexibility in the food budget for other meals and snacks. While I personally don't recommend the takeout pizza and ramen diet to stretch your budget, the fact is that fruits and vegetables 'can' be a little more expensive than processed foods (and a little hard to find depending on where your internship is, but we'll assume you're not working in a food desert). So, if you want to stay healthy during your internship, plan for a little extra room in your budget for healthy eating.

When you have reasonable estimates for the above categories, the total monthly sum will give you a number for the bare minimum you will have to make in order to live while working at the internship.

If we use the examples listed above for our monthly budget, we're looking at:

Clothes cleaning:$24.00$30.00$35.00
Monthly Total:$927.00$1,055.00$1235.00

The minimum wage here in Michigan is $8.50/hour. Assuming a forty-hour work week, you're looking at $340 per week before taxes or $1,360 per month. Your average tax rate being single, a dependent of your parents (meaning, they're probably claiming you on their taxes), and making minimum wage is approximately 6.28% (source: www.dinkytown.net/java/TaxMargin.html). So, on average, you're looking at $854.08 take home pay per month. As you can see from the numbers in our example, you wouldn't even make the minimum amount necessary to live in the area. So, you're going to have to look at alternatives. Is there a cheaper place to live a little further from your job site? Can you get a roommate to split the costs? Is there a friend or relative you can live with during the Summer? Can you get a part-time job during the evenings or weekends to help out? Or can you negotiate for a higher wage?

In talking these numbers over with my accountant, he told me about several apartment complexes about a fifteen minute drive away from my example's target area where the apartments are in the neighborhood of $415 per month for a studio and upwards of $840 per month for a 2 bedroom apartment. So, the landscape is not as bleak as it may look at first glance, but you'll have to do some digging on the internet and make some phone calls in order to find a good fit for your situation. Always call around!

The end of the school year can be overwhelming with all the exams, projects coming due, and that 'must move out of the dorms' deadline. But doing your homework beforehand demonstrates to a potential employer that you're prepared. The above budget should be determined BEFORE you even talk wages with the recruiter. On the one hand, they have very likely already determined the amount they want to pay for the internship. But on the other hand, you don't want to be in the position where you've accepted an internship offer and then you have to go back and reject it because what they're offering isn't enough to live on while you're there. And don't assume that the HR Director has done their homework on the cost of living in the area. Some internships will only pay minimum wage regardless of what it actually costs to live in the area around the business. Having your numbers figured out beforehand will give you a good bargaining position should you have to attempt to negotiate a wage that is more realistic given the cost of living in that particular geographic location. The HR Director may just dig their heels in on the wage for the internship, but, being able to make a polite, reasoned argument with hard data to back up your position can only help you during negotiations. At the very least, you'll know whether you can take the job or not. Of course, again, you can always take the job so long as you can find a part time job in the same location that you can work during your off hours. Would make for a very busy summer, but sometimes compromises have to be made. Especially if you want to save some money for the next semester!

Disclaimer: The advice being provided is intended to help the reader gather information so that reader can make an educated decision. It is not intended to be all-encompassing nor intended to be legal advice. The author takes no responsibility for your decisions and provides this advice solely as a starting point for your own research that fits your particular situation. "Do your own homework!" :)