If anywhere there are coherent notes on film festivals I am not the one writing them. I arrive to a film festival uprooted from my soothing daily routine that revolves around being productive, with a mind taken by drawings I have to make and am not making because I arrived to a film festival. It takes a day or two to get into the swing of things and by the time I am ready to have fun, am surprised to discover that the festival is over.
Like, I took my camera to Woodstock Film Festival this past weekend. When I returned back to the safety of my studio I looked through the pictures I took. There was NOTHING in the pile that illustrated the amazingness of the festival, no photos of celebrities (although plenty attended), no pictures of the popular hangout places, no hippies, no naturally aging beautiful older women, not many other filmmakers, not a single selfless, hardworking festival volunteer. Instead, I took pictures of fungus:
I do love Woodstock Film Festival. Love doesn’t always have to have a reason, but in the case of WFF it is because the festival brings New York filmmaking community to local Woodstock community and it is like bringing yeast to dough – magic process takes place and the result is delicious. I love Woodstock audience – it is sophisticated and at the same childishly eager for new thrills. I love the way Woodstock Film Festival treats it’s filmmakers – with admiration and respect. I love every single Festival volunteer – they are the most generous, kind people I have met.
Me and Bill Plympton have been programming animation show for Woodstock Film Festival since 2002 (with an exception of 2007 when Pat Smith replaced me). When we just started programming some people misunderstood what animation at a film festival means and brought their children along.
– Animation!- they said. – Cartoon Network! Pixar! Simpsons!
Our selection of sex, violence and some really difficult films with a message deeply dark didn’t please them. The complaints were filed, angry phone calls placed.
The next year the festival’s director Meira Blaustein and co-director, programmer Laurent Rejto placed a warning in the festival’s catalogue: Animation program is for adults only! It saved the day. Now the children that come to our animation program are just as sophisticated as adults.
– This is Woodstock! – a nine year old boy told me when I tried to alert him to the dangerous content of the animation program. – We have seen everything.
I didn’t dare to ask what ‘everything’ was. Some things I just don’t want to know.
Being part of Woodstock Film festival means also paying your dues. Several filmmakers were invited to participate in the Festival’s Career Day at Onteora High School, to explain to high school students what filmmaking was all about. Me and Bill were supposed to talk about animation to six groups of students.
Do you remember being in high school? You had to be cool and remote. If you had a strong interest in something under no condition you were to show that interest unless it was expressed by yawning and pretend-napping. Luckily for us, Onteora students were better than that and even asked us questions!
So, here were are, in front of a group of cool students:
The problem was that me and Bill could not agree on two basic things: 1) Bill thought one can earn good money by making animated shorts and I thought making animated shorts is the fastest way to a ruined bank account 2) I thought animation was tedious hard work, one had to be borderline mentally ill to do it and Bill thought there was nothing more healthy fun than making thousands and thousands of drawings.
Here’s the argument caught on camera – Bill sitting in front of his “Plympton Dogma: Fast, Cheap and Funny” making face while I am flailing my arms, unsuccessfully trying to waive to Dogma away:
Then I went to see a couple of films. Then I felt a need for fresh air and went for a long walk in the mountainous forest. Unfortunately, fresh air always does this to my face:
But while struggling through the fresh air I came across a strangely shaped piano. I’d think I had drunk a cup of LSD if I didn’t take this picture as a proof of reality. Unless my camera had the same cup of LSD, too:
Now, one must play the piano! Rapture! Ecstasy! Music!
About sound: after the flooding caused by hurricane Irene and recent heavy rains most of the rivers near Woodstock had strange brown color instead of the usual – none. Interestingly, the sound of the muddy water seemed the same as the sound of transparent water. But I wonder if LSD would help me to make the distinction? Has anyone tried?
Back to reality – back to Woodstock Film festival. Part of the fun of going to film festivals is doing Q&A at the end of the show. That is the moment when a filmmaker can connect with her film’s audience and see how wrong she was thinking that her film about depression was to arouse some compassion.
– When will you finally commit suicide? – a question from audience. – Can’t wait!
– I mean, when the film will be finished?
Here’s a shot of that Q&A with Bill Plympton, me, Andy Kennedy (“Accumulonimbus”), Jacob Kafka (“Giraffe-stronaut”):
Well, one burning question I had for Andy Kennedy:
– Why did you name your film “Accumulonimbus”? It is unpronounceable, impossible to remember and it spins!
– If you spent more than 4 hours in a laundromat, the name would make sense to you, – Andy said.
He was right. Last time I was in a laundromat longer than 15 minutes was in 1995. After I got washing machine in my apartment it didn’t make sense to go a laundromat for just title inspiration.
The world famous Animation Twins – Joy Vaccese and Noelle Melody (you can tell one of them got married, right?) are an inherent part of the Festival’s animation program. They made several trailers for the festival in the past and this year their film “Place Stamp Here” rocked the audiences:
I really liked Jane Wu’s film “Book Girl and Cabinet Girl”, here she is, a little overshadowed by Bill (but we all are and I assure you it is a very generous shadow):
The only reason some people go to film festivals is for awards. Here they are – beautiful and coveted, Woodstock Film Festival prizes:
But for some other people the only reason to go to film festivals is to give out prizes. This year animation studio Blue Sky ( have you seen “Ice Age”?) gave a serious lump of prize money ($2000) for Best Animation. Chris Wedge represented Blue Sky at the Awards Ceremony. Here he is waiving the sculpture of Scrat from “Ice Age”, part of the award:
If you are curious, the Best Animation award went to Argentinean “Luminaris” by Juan Pablo Zaramella. The film is very nice and Pablo is even nicer. If you wish to contest this statement please send me your name and address and we’ll have it out in a boxing match.
All the good things end and after napping at the awards (I think celebrities suck all the air out of the room that’s why I inevitably fall asleep when there are too many celebrities present) I had my picture taken with my favorite two celebrities – Bill Plympton and Chris Wedge: