Organizers discuss the Montreal festival’s origins and this year’s slate, which includes a focus on France and a metaverse experience.
For its 10th anniversary, Animaze – Montreal International Animation Film Festival is giving a nod to past filmmakers, and also embracing the future with a metaverse experience for its audience.
“We want to celebrate in the biggest, baddest way,” festival director and filmmaker Laurie Gordon (pictured above, right) tells Playback Daily.
The three-day festival and industry conference runs from Sept. 17 to 19 through virtual screenings and in-person events at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with opening day highlights including a keynote speech by Canadian animation producer Michael Hirsh, CEO of Wow! Unlimited Media. The full festival lineup is yet to be announced.
For the 10th anniversary, there will be a special focus on France and its renowned animation industry. Animaze — the registered non-profit organization that produces the festival — has had a strong relationship with France, holding an Animation Day at the Cannes Film Festival since 2015.
This year’s festival will launch a metaverse experience in partnership with Montreal tech company iFeelvirtuel. The interactive feature will allow both consumers and animation industry members to connect to the festival via mobile, PC, tablet or a virtual reality headset “for a fully immersive experience.” There will also be VR streaming, augmented reality experiences and “Spawnable Popcorn.”
The metaverse direction is boosted by the recent additions of Julie Breton and Lowell Hall to the festival’s executive board.
Breton (pictured right), co-founder of iFeelvirtuel, brings the experience of VR/AR event curation, creating immersive content along with a business development portfolio and a marketing and interactive media background.
Hall brings a wealth of marketing and PR experience at companies such as Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana, and supported the launch of Wow! Unlimited Media with Hirsh. Hall will participate in the festival’s diversity, equity and inclusion program developments, along with corporate sponsorships, brand activations and marketing initiatives alongside Breton.
Breton connected Animaze with metaverse initiative Near Hub, which created a virtual theatre for the festival that was soft-launched at the ninth edition and will also be a feature this year. It’s tech like this that gives the audience more accessibility and sponsors another platform to gain further visibility, Hall says.
“We want to bring that to the forefront, the experience the participants in the festival will take away,” says Hall (pictured left). “There are some exciting names that we’re having conversations with, some exciting brands, whether it’s in the financial sector, the animation or the gaming sector. Montreal is a gaming behemoth for Canada and there is a need to engage that sector of animation and into the festival. That’s a big goal of ours.”
The festival’s origins stretch back to 2011, when Michael Dahan founded the Animaze Animation Film Festival. Gordon, who describes Dahan as “an accountant by day and an animation aficionado by night,” says she met him at the inaugural edition where she was filming a documentary on director Gerald Potterton, who was the guest of honour and in attendance for the screening of his animated cult classic, Heavy Metal. This year’s festival will celebrate the late Potterton’s work.
Gordon, an international festival circuit pro, initially worked with Dahan to build the face of Animaze for its second year, but was soon running the event in its third year.
The 10th anniversary being celebrated now marks when Gordon took over and rebranded Animaze – Montreal International Animation Film Festival. The goal since has been to “democratize creation in animation,” says Gordon.
Animaze has partnered with Telefilm Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the English-Language Arts Network, among others, over the years. Sponsors in the past have included FilmFreeway and Corus Entertainment, while sponsors for the 2023 edition are yet to be announced.
In 2022, the festival screened 270 titles, including online and in-person, from more than 400 submissions from over 47 countries.
Over the years, it has been a platform for some notable films like the Les’ Copaque Production-produced Malaysian feature Upin & Ipin: The Lone Gibbon Kris, which was submitted to the Academy Awards; the Ringling College of Art and Design-produced short In a Heartbeat (Oscars short list); and Gints Zilbalodis’ Latvian silent film Away, winner of the Contrechamp Award at the Annecy festival.
The festival also has a careers day, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Gordon says the festival can benefit the “current animation studios that have found and called Montreal home partially due to favourable incentives by the Quebec government” while also filling “in a gap that addresses the needs for the studios that are currently in Montreal and those who want to come and have a great time in the city and learn something from their colleagues and peers.”
The 2023 festival will also have several free public screenings in the summer. Submissions are currently open and Gordon says she wants filmmakers applying to the festival to take some cues from the work of pioneering animator Ryan Larkin.
“I learned one thing from Ryan Larkin: less is more. Sometimes when you think you can’t make a film any shorter — yes you can. Will it have more impact? Probably.”
Source : www.playbackonline.ca