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New time, new station!

Nathan Strum


Another year has come and gone. And no, you didn't collapse into a coma and wake up seven months later (well... for all I know you didn't) - rather, another school year has come and gone.


And as usual, the annual screenings of our student films have been taking place (here's the obligatory link to last year's blog entry).


The Open Show, where we show all films from the Character Animation Program, took place in the Main Gallery at CalArts at the end of April. Here's a wacky fish-eye photo taken with 360 Panorama:




To give a sense of scale, the screen (100 feet away) is 20 feet wide, and there are around 300 people in the audience.


With 162 films submitted, we matched our record from last year. This year though, we did things a little different. Since 2008, when we moved the show into the Main Gallery, we've had to split the show into two halves to avoid other end-of-year events taking place nearby. This caused us to have a 3 1/2 hour gap in the middle of the show, delaying the second half until 10 PM. And while most people came back to watch the second half, the long break was really disruptive, made the show end really late, and wasn't very fair to students whose work was shown in the second half.


So this year, we decided to back up the start of the show (to 11 AM) and run it straight through - 6 1/2 hours worth of films (we did throw a few intermissions in there, to make it tolerable). This worked much better, as people stayed around for the whole show, and everything was done and dusted by 7:00 PM. Early enough even for dinner! (We also had a concession stand with soda, candy, popcorn and hot dogs.)


The show went very well, and despite the time change, was probably the smoothest one to assemble and set up for yet (although it's still a ton of work, and I still feel exhausted from it).


Quite a few of this year's films are now up on our 2015 Vimeo channel, if you want to check them out.


Tonight (May 6th) is our Producers' Show in Hollywood. This is a shorter selection of faculty-juried films that are shown to about 600 people including members of the animation industry, alumni, family, and friends. And if changing the Open Show wasn't enough, this year we've also moved the Producers' Show. Not just the time (a half-hour earlier), but to a completely different venue.


A few years back, we moved from our usual venue at the Leonard H. Goldenson theater (part of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences - aka the Emmys) to the Samuel Goldwyn theater (part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - aka The Oscars). That move only lasted for one year, since although the Goldwyn was very nice (and much larger), the logistics of returning there just didn't work out. So we were back to the TV Academy through last year's show.


Now though, we're trying a different venue - the Director's Guild of America theater. So, why the move? Well, simply put, the TV Academy theater is basically just a big hole in the ground. Literally. As I mentioned in last year's entry, they were planning on demolishing that theater with an eye towards building a new one. And last November - it came down. Now, it's a hole in the ground (albeit with some steel beams sticking out of it). So we had to go somewhere, and the DGA seemed a good fit. The main theater is the same size as the TV Academy, but we also get a second theater as part of the deal, so if we have overflow, we have room for another 155 people. Bonus! There's a nice, large lobby for our reception afterwards, and it's not nearly as difficult to get to as the Goldwyn, so this looks like a very promising location for us. Whether we return to the TV Academy theater again someday just depends on how well things go at the DGA, and how the new TV Academy theater turns out when it's finished.


Tonight though, we're at the DGA. And since most of the films are online, you're welcome to watch along if you'd like - and you don't even have to sit through the guest speakers at the beginning! Show starts at 7:30 PM, but you can start earlier if you want to skip ahead to the catering (sorry... you're kind of responsible for your own food, since you won't actually be at the theater itself).




The films of the 2015 CalArts Character Animation Producers' Show:


John Kim, Seth Boyden, Sasha Schotzko-Harris and about 73 other students
Opening Titles


2015 Walter and Gracie Lantz Animation Prize Winner:
Seth Boyden
An Object At Rest

2015 Peers' Pick Award Winner:
John Kim
Battle Deadline

Yonatan Tal

Erin Kim
Ear Fear

Brandon Wu
The Mountain King

Wesley Fuh


Lucas Fraga Pacheco

Julian Sanchez
Everything's fine

Megan Ruiz
A Hollow Taste

Jerrold Chong
Ways Of Seeing

Hikari Toriumi

Kendall Nelson
Truth and Silicon

Sasha Schotzko-Harris
Something Afoot

Ben Mansfield

Kiernan Sjursen-Lien
The Ballad of Possum's Broom

Warren Fok
Gnome Man's Land

José Antonio Areán Álvarez
Spider's Scramble

Aron Bothman
The Red Witch

Rhea Dadoo

Xi Chen
Eye Level


Yon Hui Lee

Li Wen Toh
Space Critters

Vincent Tsui
Made in China


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Whew... show's over! And it went off without a hitch (well, without a technical hitch anyway - which is all I had any control over). The films looked and sounded great, and we completely filled the 600 seat theater, and had maybe 30-40 in the smaller one. I'm totally wiped out now, but it was worth the effort.


Not something I'd want to do more than once a year though.


This is a shot of the large DGA theater shortly before people began arriving. The signs draped over the seats are to reserve spots for people from various animation studios.




I ended up sitting in the smaller theater, which is still a nice room, but with such a small group in there it didn't have the same kind of audience reaction, so it was hard to gauge how well the films were being received. But from everything I could tell when talking with people afterwards, the show was a success.




I'm going to collapse into a heap now, and sleep for probably the next 15 hours.

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I haven't gotten through the list yet, but I have to say John Kim's Battle Deadline is very impressive.


Wesley Fuh's Sherm is good for a quick chuckle and Hikari Toriumi's KOISHI is a wonderful non-verbal emotional experience.
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Sherm is one of my favorites. Simple, short, funny, charming. That's all you really need in a good animated film.


The amount of work it took to make Battle Deadline is astonishing. John made the very smart move of hiring actors for the lead roles, rather than just using Character Animation students. It made for a much better film.


I think this is as diverse a show as we've ever had.

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Update: Added the opening titles (at the top of the film list). This was a massive group effort by over 70 of our animation students, done in less than two weeks. I'm still not actually sure how they coordinated the whole thing, but it turned out great!

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