Tuesday, May 26, 2009

in the works

There's a new bitfilms Twitter account you can follow if you want the most breaking news about all things bit films related. No I have not posted to it yet. I'm just waiting for that right first moment.

The Motion Film Festival officially posted their awards, and some extra accolades came our way in the form of screenplay and audio design honorable mentions!

SIGGRAPH has posted their preview video for the 2009 CAF, and though we're still waiting for a schedule it's great to see some of our shots cut in with all sorts of other work:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

summer studio week 1 update

Thanks to all who applied for 2009 summer internships! The deadline has passed and the internship supervisors have already been meeting to discuss the applications.

I've got to say, it's great having daily Bit Films activity going on. We spent Monday cleaning up the studio space. Work began in earnest on Tuesday, with Evan working on concept paintings for Corset Sunrise and Bassam doing something that I can only assume was rigging. Josiah and Bassam had a lively open source/free software discussion behind me yesterday, too. I didn't grasp all of their insights but I could tell they were quite into it. When Blender Nation posted our internship call, we all watched the visitor traffic rocket up on Google analytics (and the application count, too).

I need to get my remaining spring term Hampshire work behind me so I can move onto my project! I will also try and tap the summer crew for imagery (and more) to include in these updates.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SIGGRAPH nomination and Bit Films internships

Two things to report today:

First, news came in off the wire this morning reporting that "The Incident at Tower 37" is a student prize nominee at the SIGGRAPH 2009 Computer Animation Festival! Congrats to all involved. I trust the screening schedule will follow soon, so that we can all make plans to descend on New Orleans in force.

Here is the press release from the SIGGRAPH 2009 site. I had previously posted a link to it from Animation World Network's Headline News (but you have to wait through an ad to get to it there).

Second, our significantly-less-well-distributed and much-less-sexy announcement about Bit Films summer internships went out via email last night. Multiple (unpaid) internships are available for the summer on three different independent film projects. Details are posted at the top of the Bit Films website for now and will be removed once the internship application deadline has passed.

Apply soon! The deadline is Tuesday May 19th.

Monday, May 4, 2009

more award goodness

A packed and pleasing last 24 hours:

The USA Film Festival gave Tower 37 a Special Jury Mention, and the Motion Film Festival awarded us Best in Show and Best Animation!

As of this writing there are no online announcements of these awards, both came via direct contact with the festival organizers/juries.

Newport Beach wrap up (guest author!)

Please enjoy the following from Tower 37 producer Daniel Inkeles.

This past Friday night I received some very exciting news. The Incident at Tower 37 won Best Animated Short at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Nothing could beat getting to make that phone call and be the first one to tell Chris the news. It's a great honor from the festival and it was just the kick in the pants I needed to get me to actually finish my write up of my personal experiences at the festival.

Thursday April 23 was an uncharacteristically overcast and dismal day in Los Angeles, the whole city had a green/gray/yellow tint to it. However, that sickly film started to wash away the moment I passed out of Los Angeles County and into Orange County. An hour and a half after leaving LA I arrived in Newport Beach. Clear skies, clean air, opulent estates, countless yachts, and plazas full of some of the most upscale shopping and dining establishments I've ever seen outside of Manhattan and Beverly Hills; it truly felt like I had walked into an episode of The OC (which, after all, was set in Newport Beach). I would spend the next three days in this playground for socialites, taking in ten feature films, numerous shorts, attending nightly after parties and hobnobbing with other filmmakers, industry professionals and press.

When I arrived at the Edwards Big Newport Theater for the opening night film, Lymelife, the line to get in was already running around the block and the press were swarming around a red carpet that had been laid out in front of the theater for VIP guests. I quickly found the filmmaker check in where I received my filmmaker pass, and got in line for the film. The wonderful thing about wearing a filmmaker pass (beyond having the ability to walk in to any screening or party) is that it announces to the world "I'm not from around here, but if you talk to me I might be able to tell you something interesting." A delightful couple behind me in line immediately struck up a conversation with me about Tower 37...they even had me circle it in the festival program. This scenario would repeat itself countless times, whether it be standing in line to get into a film, sitting next to a stranger in a theater, meandering outside the theater (where a very articulate 11 year old girl asked me a number of pointed questions about the film) or while standing in one of the ungodly long lines to get drinks at one of after parties.

So, let's flash forward to Saturday afternoon and the first Tower 37 screening. I was a little nervous going into our screening. I was the first person in the theater (a very nice theater that could easily seat at least 200 people) and suddenly this wave of terror washed over me and I thought that I was going to be the only person to show up. For some reason, the festival programmers had seen fit to schedule a free seminar/panel on animation at the exact same time as their block of animated shorts were screening. Then a small group of young filmmakers came in, all wearing clothing bearing the name and logo of their production company. I introduced myself and learned that this was the team behind the film Escapism, which also screened with us at SENE. Slowly people began to trickle in, and that trickle soon became a flood and before I knew it the theater was nearly full. The audience was a great mix of young and old and as I scanned the seats it was a real joy to see that so many of the people who I had spoken to about the film hadn't just been humoring me when they said they were going to try to make it.

After a brief introduction by one of the festival staff they started up the projector and up came the grand festival logo, a great little animated piece in and of itself which I suggest you check out. Eleven films screened in total, ranging from high school student productions (Escapism) to shorts by animation veterans (Bill Plympton's Hot Dog). On the whole we were in great company.

Tower 37 played about 2/3 of the way through the series. The film looked gorgeous and sounded amazing. Up until this screening I had only ever seen the film played off a DVD or on a computer, so getting to see the DigiBeta was a real treat for me. Nothing beats getting to watch the film with a fresh audience. The film seemed to really score with the crowd; they laughed, they were silent in awe, and they were tense and worried as the film propelled itself to the climax. The applause following the film lasted well into the credits.

Of the films that screened my favorite, by far, was the short The Bridge. A co-production between Belgium and France, this beautiful stop motion film tells the story of a young boy and his father who live in total isolation from the rest of the world. Despite the father's best intentions, as the son grows up he is drawn to the outside world (in this case, the flashing lights of a distant city). I could only find one clip of the film online, but do check it out. The film floored me on both a visual and emotional level.

There were a number of other good shorts, including Because You're Gorgeous, a very funny animation from South Africa about a vain warthog whose attempts to get his hair just right eventually lead to him losing all of it. It had a really great old-timey cartoon short feel to it. I also really enjoyed a short from Ireland called Granny Grimm's Sleeping Beauty in which a grandmother recounts the story of Sleeping Beauty to her terrified granddaughter. Granny alters the story to be about how a scornful elderly fairy who was not invited to Beauty's christening takes revenge on the young and beautiful people who were invited. The scenes of Granny telling the story to her granddaughter were in 3D and everything was colored these wonderful dark blues and grays while the Sleeping Beauty story world was 2D and full of bright oranges and golds.

Following the screen I was invited up in front of the crowd for a Q&A and was joined by the directors of Escapism and Heart Attack. It took the crowd a little while to get warmed up, but I fielded some excellent questions about the inception of the film, the challenges of production and the programs we used to make it (which allowed me the opportunity to really plug Helga). After Q&A a number of people came up to me to tell me how much the enjoyed the film and to tell me how beautiful it was, it was a great experience and I only wish more of the crew that made it all possible were there to see how warmly their hard work was received.

Of the 400 films playing at the festival, Tower 37 was one of only a handful that played more than once. On Sunday morning we played during a series of Earth Day themed shorts at a local cultural center that was having an Earth Day event (music, artwork, informational booths, kids activities, food...the works). When the screening started there were only five or six people in the audience, but more people came in as the screening went on, and lucky for us, we were the last short to screen. By the time the Bit Films logo came up there must have been about 30 people there. Once again, we screened with The Bridge, this time we were back to back, which made for one of the most depressing 25 minutes of animation I have ever watched. There were a lot more parents with kids in this screening and I have to say, I was really impressed with how attentive the kids were to Tower 37, the visuals seemed to have them transfixed.

We screened with a very cute short film called Goldfish about a young girl who decides she is going to free all the goldfish in her elementary school class. The girl ends up flushing the fish down the toilet, thinking that they will be returned to their families in the ocean. She gets the idea because in Finding Nemo they say "all pipes lead to the ocean."

Following the shorts, a documentary called Blue Gold was screened, which is all about how water is becoming scarcer and the dangers of privatized water. It really was the perfect companion piece to Tower 37 and I am so glad they were screened back to back. After the screening I spoke with the director, he had missed Tower 37, but I made sure to get a screener in his hand which he was very excited to watch.

And that was my weekend in Newport Beach. Here are a few other selected highlights of the festival:

* While hanging around the Filmmaker Hospitality Lounge (eating free food) I struck up a conversation with the Festival Organizer of the Delray Beach Film Festival in Florida. I told him about Tower 37 and sight unseen he said he'd like to put it in their festival.

* The after parties was crazy. After walking the red carpet to enter the opening night ceremony I was greeted by complimentary food from Newport Beach's premiere restaurants, free drinks provided by festival sponsor Absolut Vodka, a fashion show put on by Bloomingdales, and a very racy performance by Cirque de Soleil. The after party on the second night was held in the showroom of the local LandRover dealership, Danny Masterson (Hyde from That 70s Show) was DJing while scantily clad girls danced on tables. The third party was probably the craziest, held both inside and poolside at a local fitness club, a DJ inside and a live band outside...it was the quintessential SoCal party. I briefly crossed paths with actress Bai Ling.

The funny thing about these parties is that, like geeky kids at middle school dances, all the filmmakers seem to end up together in a corner, just discussing their films and watching the craziness unfold in front of them.

* I attended a directing seminar in which honorary festival chair McG (Charlie's Angels 1 & 2, Terminator Salvation) talked about his experience directing films in Hollywood. He then showed the entire audience some footage from the new Terminator film, however when the footage started to play there was no sound. Quickly jumping into action, McG started narrating the entire piece...truly some of the best improvising I've seen in a long time.

* Saturday morning I took a yacht cruse around Newport Beach with most of the other short filmmakers. We all noshed on breakfast pastries and exchanged contact info and screening times. We were all asked to take out shoes off when we entered the yacht, and all the carpets will covered in plastic...it was really funny, it reminded me of visiting my grandparents house when I was young.

* If you get an opportunity to see any of these films, do: Lymelife, Adventures of Power (directed by an old high school friend of Chris's, Ari Gold), Answer Man, and Poundcake. I saw a number of great films, but those were probably my favorite features.

Well, thanks for reading. Hopefully I'll get to see some of you at some of the next batch of exciting festivals we will be playing in.

~ Daniel

a new home for the blog

I have moved this blog from my own server to bitfilms.blogspot.com. I hope this will allow me to make the archives easier to access (in a few days). I'm sure a few links will be bad for a while, but I will try to fix them soon. If you let me know about broken links that would be terrific.