Sunday, March 11, 2007

Animated Adventures at DC Independent Film Festival


Chris Carella (Satchmo Prototype) from The Electric Sheep Company posted about DCIFF.
Thanks to him, I can add the panelists here:

Michael Attardi - (see below)
Keith Carter - (Captain Amazing-lad)
Donald Phan - (EA Mythic - Warhammer Online - Student film Glimmer)


Saturday morning I attended what has turned out to be one of the most entertaining and educational events at a film festival I've ever been to (then again, I haven't been to many).

The DCIFF had an animation showcase that was supposed to contain some machinima, although only one was shown. The rest were 'classical' animated films.

The films shown were:

1. Danger Attacks at Dawn - (not shown though - but you're already familiar with it - site).
2. Mirage - Youngwoon Jang (site).
3. Saul Goodman - Jim Connell (site).
4. Single in the City - Phil Browne (site).
5. The Toll - J. Zachary Pike (site).
6. Once Upon a Christmas Village - Michael Attardi (imdb).

From that list my favorites were:

Saul Goodman - the animation was not great (it was good enough) but what made this film brilliant was the script and dialog - two men meet (by accident) in a train station and what follows is a machine gun dialog between the two about government conspiracy during a presidential campaign. Brilliant and darkly humorous.

The Toll - this was a 'real life' interview with a troll who lives under a bridge collecting the tolls from those crossing the bridge overhead. Very funny and the animation was fantastic.

Once upon a christmas village - the film was ok and was very Disneyesque, but see below.

After the films there was a panel discussion that was fascinating. Michael Attardi was the guest of honor and definitely stole the show. If he doesn't make it as a film director he could become a motivational speaker. Very charismatic and extremely passionate about his craft. His life's story could become a film itself.

Apparently a kicker for the Los Angeles Raiders, he came down with cancer, which he survived, but basically expended his life savings fighting it(?). Working and building a career, during his honeymoon(?) he's standing in line at a ride in Disneyworld (Disney is a big influence) and he turns to his wife and says that he has an idea for a movie. He sits down and writes it in two weeks and after a very long fight to find somebody to finance the film he meets the head of Dream Balloon Entertainment who agrees to do so. They put together this 15 minute short film in order to showcase it to likely investors, manage to get both Jim Belushi and Tim Curry to do some of the voices, and now have some potential distributors and maybe funding to do a feature length film.

This man is obviously talented as both writer and a director and he also wrote all of the music for the film. Apparently he had attended the University of the District of Columbia (UDC - where the film festival was) during college, and had taken a course in African American poetry, which he said was very difficult but it inspired him to write. So to him it was nice to come back and premiere his film at the same university that helped inspire him (brief - but out of date biography here).

The film was an interesting mix of animation, motion capture, and miniatures. The director is obviously paying homage to classical Disney. It starts off with a very real Santa Claus (Jim Belushi) on his way to deliver presents during Xmas eve who happens to drop a very important magical watch that falls into a chimney and brings to life a Xmas village that is set up under a tree (Attardi says this was inspired by the village and villagers he used to setup under the tree as a child). The rest of the film follows the characters in the village as they come to life and fight an evil knight (Tim Curry) who lives under the 'dark side of the tree'.

Onto the rest of the panelists (sorry I cannnot find their names on the site):

1. Someone from The Electric Sheep Company.
2. An animator who now works for a company which was bought out by Electronic Arts (working on a MMORPG now), but who had released an animated film as his graduation project.
3. A guy who has toiled away for a year and a half to release a set of one-minute episodes of a superhero series (Adult Swim style).

The discussion and stories were the highlight, perhaps even more so than the films. The discussions ranged from machinima, to animation, to techniques and software, to games, to how to get funding. One of the key points was to just have the discipline when you are starting out and the will and determination to keep going. Another one is how important networking is, and Attardi had several stories with regards to meeting people in unexpected places, which led to getting his foot in the door.

Definitely inspirational stuff (they should film the discussions and put it on the web). I hope to see more from these directors in the future.


Anonymous said...

I wanted to thank you for your kind words. I am happy that you enjoyed the film and I hope you keep an eye out for my feature. Again, thank you for your kind words.
All my best, Michael Attardi

bllius said...

NP. Best of luck.

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