The Ars Electronica Blog recently published an interview with Christine Schöpf and Jürgen Hagler about the Prix and computer animation. In this installment, they discuss the Animation Festival.
The works featured in the Animation Festival were submitted to the Prix’s Computer Animation / Film / VFX category. How did the idea of launching this festival come about?
Schöpf: The format itself has existed for 5-6 years. Since 2009, it’s been produced jointly with Jürgen Hagler. Right from the start [of the Prix], there have been screenings, a video, the CD that showcased a selection of 15 especially noteworthy works. The Animation Festival is the outgrowth of Gerfried Stocker’s insight that we had all this excellent material available and we ought to do something interesting with it.
Which criteria are used to select the works in the festival lineup?
Hagler: The process begins with a preliminary selection, which we do together. We assemble all the works from a single year, view all the submissions, though we’re already familiar with some of them because we also attend other festivals.
Schöpf: But we go through all the submissions to come up with a short list of candidates for the Prix judging in order to get down to a number that’s manageable over the course of only three days.
Hagler: I mean, there are a lot of entries! In recent years, it’s been in the 550-700 range, and it takes quite a bit of time to screen so many films.
Schöpf: In this preliminary judging, we make note of films that we believe have no chance in the competition for Prix honors but might be a good fit on the Animation Festival program. This year, there were 210 works that made it to consideration by the jury. First comes the KO round—if the work doesn’t get Thumbs Up, it’s eliminated. Then, we look at the survivors, and really focus on 80-100 works.
We screen the 15 best films and think about which thematic cluster we could assign them to. Is it Narration, is it Sex & Crime, is it Dark Stories, our sort of late-night lineup? We scrutinize the 15 films with emphasis on the best way to group them together, which is also the way we come up with new themes.
Hagler: The preliminary selection and the jury session take place within the span of two weeks, which means a really intensive encounter with the material. So, first we have a little huddle. Then the jury convenes, which is also an extended process—the discussion continues through lunch about things like the latest trends that are evident in the first round. And these elaborations give rise to concepts and themes that just might develop into a new category.
Does this mean that the Animation Festival’s themes differ from one year to the next?
Schöpf: Exactly. Narration, for example, is on the program every year. But there have also been themes for which we had a couple of terrific works but just not enough to assemble a whole package.
Hagler: For example, Position & Messages, which deals with political statements, or Psyche, Reality—we find substantive approaches that are really exciting and dovetail into a one-hour block. Short films are a mainstay of every Animation Festival; we have a short film program with an approximately one-hour running time that consists of 6-10 animated films.
The Animation Festival is also being screened in the Center now.
Schöpf: Right. Here we have the proper setting and infrastructure, the projects, etc. And it’s a perfect fit for Center visitors, who differ somewhat from the festivalgoers. There is already an extensive audience of dyed-in-the-wool animation enthusiasts, who aren’t necessarily the kind of people who would attend the Ars Electronica Festival.
And this is also a format that comes across really well in other countries and cultures.
Schöpf: Definitely. Thanks to Manuela Naveau’s initiative with Ars Electronica Export, the Animation Festival is touring the world. This means that lots of stuff is coming to Linz and Linz is making a name for itself in the big, wide world. The Festival is being booked by institutions that might combine it with a symposium or a series of speeches as a means of attracting the attention of new user groups.
Details about the Animation Festival are available on the Ars Electronica Center’s website. Here’s a link to a pdf folder about the current festival with information about the works and the categories.