Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Animated Thoughts: OIAF 2019, pt. 2


As always, the drive to Ottawa was lovely. The weather was simply gorgeous, sunny and blue skies the entire way -- a far cry from the wall of rain I encountered in years past (no matter how visually stunning it was at the time, wish I had taken a photo of it when I could). Skipped my yearly breakfast at Marche in favor of extra sleep. The correct choice. Meant I was very hungry when I arrived in Ottawa though. Eh, I'd be able to visit Marche in November when I returned for the TAAFI Industry Conference. Nostalgia can wait a month.

The rest of the day was like clockwork: shuffled over to the Arts Court, got my festival pass, bought all the books and DVDs off of my list at the Aniboutique, chatted up Chris Robinson, got settled in to my room, then it was over to Level One for a nice meal.

Festival was off to a good start: Saw friends Lynn Dana Wilton, Lynne Slater, and Ellen Besen at the evening's competition screening. I even got to touch base with fellow ASIFA International member Thomas Renolder before the screening. Saw our ASIFA Central members Gary Schwartz and Jim Middleton. Even got to say 'hi' to Joan Gratz. Glad to see that she's still attending the festival.

Gonna be a good week.

It's all about that garlic mayo sauce for the fries!


My screening schedule was well planned out for Thursday: spent the entire day at the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG). It was all panoramas and special screenings in a venue right across the street from my hotel (meaning I wouldn't have to walk anywhere across town). After one of the screenings, Lynn Wilton introduced me to Jennifer Hinton -- should probably ask her for an interview. Her film was a little outside the realm of my experience, but I liked the quirky sensibilities of her film. Between the screenings, I spent some quality time talking to Jim -- don't always get that one-on-one conversation time at our ASIFA events. As more people drift into the festival, I'm recovering that sense of camaraderie with other filmmakers, the one thing I wish I had more of in East Lansing. Also took the opportunity to do some healing this year by making piece with some people I've clashed with in the past or at other festivals (rude behavior and all that). The efforts were rewarded.

In other ASIFA news: ASIFA China shipped the North American batch of this year's ASIFA magazines to the festival office in order to save money on shipping, so I picked up ASIFA Central's allocation from the festival and secreted them safely in the trunk of my car (along with a batch of OIAF program books generously donated by the festival for our membership). Was nice to have that task out of the way so I could enjoy the rest of the fest without having to check-in constantly to see if the magazines had arrived.

Then got a text message from my folks. Turns out that the vintage stereoscopic viewer that I ordered from a pawn shop in Pennsylvania arrived at the office. Dad seems to like playing with it. Another fun little toy for the students in my animation history class to play with.

Went to the Salon de refuse party later that night, but didn't see anyone I knew. Just wasn't feeling social so got some food at the Metro and called it a night.


The healing continues. Saw a friend at the morning competition screening and she "introduced me" to another person who has been a burr in my saddle for a couple years now. Took the opportunity to mend fences in my heart with them as well. Felt like I was being rewarded by God when Lynn Slater unexpectedly sat down next to me in the theater and we had a lovely chat about the Toronto independent animation scene before the show.

Linked up with Jim afterwards and went to the picnic. Got kind of a slow start to networking but it picked up rapidly when I got to chat with Barry Sanders, Steve Stanchfield, and Glenn Ehlers. And while I did get the chance to chat up fellow R.I.T. grad Sarah Hanson several times over the fest, this was the first time in years that I didn't cross paths more than once with Glenn. Felt kind of wrong to not have the opportunity to spend time catching up on the year's events with my friend -- is honestly one of the things I look forward to the most every Ottawa Fest. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to hear about what he's been up to in Toronto next month. Being friends on social media can never replace that face-to-face time spent with a good friend.

Unexpectedly, I even met a recent grad from R.I.T. at the picnic (helps to identify them when they walk around wearing shirts and baseball caps from our alma mater). Wish I had better contacts in the industry to help these kids find a job. But, you do what you can. Like me, he didn't want to move to California for work, but luckily, he lives in Buffalo, so Toronto might be an option -- especially now since they're looking for animators and seem to be relaxing some of the restrictions on Americans working in Ontario.

The Cartoon Network Picnic, now with truffles! :)

Rode back to the festival on the bus with Lynne and Lynn. Now that my plans for attending Youmacon are a wash (a friend from out of town had to back out from her plans to attend), it looks like I'm going to TAAFI that weekend. Made plans to have dinner with Lynn while in town.

Well, Marona's Fantastic Tale was a tough film to watch. After losing two cats this year, the bittersweet story of a dog's life was tough to process. I'm not a dog person by any means, but it was a very well crafted film that skillfully dealt with the melancholy in it's story without it becoming a painful dirge. What really helped, and what I appreciated the most, was the visuals that seamlessly flowed from concrete to abstract along with the emotional ebb and flow of the story. Glad I had Jim there to watch it with me, though.

And the Canadian student films? They were all very well produced, as expected.

Walked over to Darcy McGee's for dinner after the competition screening -- another old haunt with good memories attached. Was way too loud, but the food was as good as I remembered it. Didn't feel the same without my brother there though, smartphone in one hand, pint of Guinness in the other. As I reflected on the films I had just seen, one stood out among the rest. Acid Rain, impressed me. Based on the first couple minutes, I thought that it wasn't going to do it for me, but the story and the character development really drew me in and it turned out to be a very engaging film.

Catgot from Wing Ho on Vimeo.

But I have to say, Catgot was easily my favorite film at Ottawa this year. It's funny how back when I started attending the festival, I couldn't stand abstract animated films or visual music, but with a little education and from watching a lot of them, I've developed a taste for non-narrative films. Hrm. Personal growth. Who'd've thought?


Wow! What a Saturday! Met up with Jim at the Disney shorts program, then over to the Lizzy Hobbs presentation. Sat with Joan and had a nice chat before the program. Afterwards, saw Ellen Besen and talked to her for an hour! As I was walking out of the Arts Court, there was Stephanie Maxwell! Ended up chatting her up for an hour as well. Also saw Torrill Kove on the elevator. Such a friendly and gracious person.

Skipped the Spike & Mike documentary in favor of having lunch/dinner at the pub. Mmmm... scotch eggs. Was kind of a mistake. I got my wires crossed, was hoping it'd be a documentary but heard that it was a retrospective of films that they'd shown so I skipped it. It was a documentary after all. Met back up with Jim and watched the Children of the Sea anime feature. Then the competition screening. So far Comp 3 had the largest number of films that I liked. Later on, the NightOwl party was kind of a wash, so I bailed early. Saw Jim and Barry in the lobby though. Was nice to chat with them, but I'm really not feeling too social--kind of burning out. I'm not ready to go home yet, but am getting there. I am, however, looking forward to my yearly Beavertail and steak dinner at the Keg tomorrow.

"Another" food picture?! Eh, screw it, I'm on vacation after all.


The World Student Panorama was pretty good. But I went to the competition screening at the ByTowne and it really wasn't for me. I ended up leaving partway into the second film. The people behind me were too noisy and an usher kicked over my popcorn when leading someone to their seat. Sometimes you gotta listen to the signs that you're being given. I couldn't take it so went back to the Arts Court to see if a screening station was open... and bumped into Torril Kove on her way out of the OAG. Pretty heady when Academy Award winners at the festival recognize you by face. Then saw Gary Schwartz--glad to see more ASIFA Central people attending the fest, even though Gary is a regular attender like me. A screening room viewing station was open by then, so I watched a selection of films from Comp 2 and then watched Catgot a couple times more. Went to the Chez Ani and there was Lynne Slater. We started to chat and Lynn Wilton sauntered in. Was a very good conversation with both. Wish I'd had more time to chat with Bryce Hallett though. Then it was off to my yearly steak at the Keg and some exploring at the Byward Market (somewhere, there were macrons waiting to be devoured). A quick nap later and I hurried over to the party. Said my goodbyes to Thomas Reynolder and left for my yearly Beavertail. The OIAF drew to a close for me. I'll be back in Canada next month for TAAFI, but until then, there's lots of work to be done back in Michigan. I hardly feel like I've spent any time away from home, but I already feel like I want to be home, sleep in my own bed, return to my routine. And hopefully complete a few new projects.

* * *

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Animated Thoughts: OIAF 2019, pt. 1

Flowers from the Victoria's Mansion's Faerie garden
greeted me upon my arrival.
Fall is upon us, which means that it's time for my yearly pilgrimage to the second largest animation festival in the world (largest in the Western hemisphere) -- as well as time for my yearly rambling blog posts about "what I did on my (working) vacation".

Well, no trip to the Ottawa International Animation Festival would be complete without a stop over in Toronto. So, I massaged my schedule such that I'd drive out to Canada on Monday morning and leave for Ottawa on Wednesday. Wouldn't have as much time on the shores of Lake Ontario as last year, but such is life. I enjoy every minute spent with our neighbors to the North.


It's been an odd year. For whatever reason, 2019 has felt really surreal, even moreso because it was the end of September and it was time for my vacation. As I drove to Toronto, it honestly didn't feel real, like it was still the beginning of the year and I was looking months down the road on the calendar.

But, time off is time off, so best to make the most of it.

My plans for Toronto were to enjoy a "Best of" tour focused around the two Tasty Tours I did last year ('Chocolate Lovers' and 'Kensington Market'). So as soon as the car was parked and the suitcase was in my hotel room, I beat a hasty path to Monga Fried Chicken and Soma Chocolatemaker for a late lunch followed by hot chocolate and cookies for dessert.

Walked around town afterwards and found a good used book on origami at the ABC Book Store as well as some hard-to-find comics over at BMV Books for my old college roommate. Wish I could see the look on his face when he opens up his 'care package' from up North.

I went for the Mayan recipe.
Tasty with a little bite from the peppers!

Stopped by Ginger for dinner and then curled up with the 'Origami Omnibus' -- visions of animating 3d CGI origami critters danced through my head as I drifted off to sleep.

I needed my rest, it was going to be a big day tomorrow.


Sleep was fitful -- got to sleep, woke up at 4 a.m., tossed and turned, slept a little more. Finally got out of bed around 8-ish. Made a quick run to the St. Lawrence Market and bought my brother his yearly ration of mustard from Kozlick's. Once they were safely deposited in the trunk of my car, it was off to the CN Tower for the Edgewalk!

For years, I've been joking with family and friends about going to the top of the CN Tower and walking around the outside, just above the 360 Restaurant. Well, it was put-up-or-shut-up time, so I plunked down the cash and donned the flightsuit.

For those who don't know, the Edgewalk is where they take you up to a secure room 351 meters (1151 feet) from the ground and from there you get to walk around the outside of the observation deck/restaurant area.

The Edgewalk is below the Skypod and
above the restaurant.

Well, the folks I went with made the Edgewalk experience really fun -- as did the handlers who took us through the event. It was a really good time, I'd recommend it to anyone. And while it was really tough to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, I'm really glad I did it. I've always had a sort of love/hate relationship with heights that has become more 'hate' than 'love' as I get older. Knowing that I'm capable of facing my fears was well worth the time and money spent -- and you couldn't beat the view of Downtown Toronto!

The following is a video that they gave us of the trip if you'd like to see highlights of what you do during the half-hour experience. If you pay close attention, you can also see all my nervous tics as I'm standing there, debating all the life choices that brought me to this point in time.

On the way out, I picked up the Lego CN Tower kit in order to commemorate my Edgewalk experience. I had planned on doing an animation of the CN Tower last year but couldn't find the model so ended up doing the Arc d'Triomph instead. It actually worked out for the best. Once I got the set home and put together, it was pretty clear that trying to animate that kit would have been an exercise in frustration.

The rest of the day was a blur. I skipped going to the ROM (eh, the Dutch Masters paintings exhibit will still be there when I return for TAAFI's Industry weekend in November) and instead went for some gourmet popcorn and poutine -- Toronto Popcorn Company and Moo Frites in Kensington Market. Then had my yearly Cherry Arctic Rush over at the Dragon City Mall.

Yup, this is pretty much my idea of a relaxing vacation.

Did a little more sightseeing, then went back to the CN Tower that evening. Part of the Edgewalk experience is a full-access ticket to the Tower and Skypod (to be used within the following three days) and I had planned something special for that night.

Ah, my sweet, sweet Toffle...

Last year, I received an extra Toffle when on the Kensington Market tour, so I saved it all year for a special occasion. I ate this remaining Toffle to commemorate the day's experience, slowly savoring the taste of butter tart and chocolate. This time I enjoyed the view of Toronto from the enclosed observation deck and the Skypod. Was still a little difficult to force myself to walk on the observation deck's glass floor, but... little steps and all that.

The next morning, it was off to Ottawa for five fun filled days of animation screenings, retrospectives, panels, and parties!

*  *  *