SoDak Animation Festival Recap
This weekend I was lucky enough to be screening in 2 festivals; the 3rd Annual SoDak Animation Festival and the Dark Carnival Film Festival. Since cloning doesn’t exist and I could only make it to one, I decided I’d take part in the SoDak Animation Festival held in Brookings, South Dakota. There, I screened my animated short, “A Cock Tale,” which I’d finished earlier this year. Here’s a recap of my experience.
Hitting the road
4 and a half hours of driving west through Minnesota and part of South Dakota have shown me that I would have been a horrible pioneer. After getting stuck behind a tractor (for about the 7th time, mind you) on a narrow road (that did everything it could to prevent me from safely passing that tractor), I started losing my patience, and embarrassingly, any semblance of maturity. After a lengthy stream of obscenities, I caught the gaze of my wife/navigator and realized what a complete douche I was being.
This also made me realize what a horrible pioneer I would have been. A vision flew through my head of leading a wagon filled to the brim with my possessions and family. Smash cut to this wagon and me arriving at our destination somewhere out West: wagon empty, family and possessions no where to be seen.
“Where’s your possessions and kin?,” some bearded imaginary pioneer asshole might ask me.
“Oh, I murdered them all and burned all my shit.” I would have replied in this imaginary scenario.
“Why?” the confused ass-less chaps wearing pioneer might inquire.
I’d pause, scratch my beard, finish my Pop-Tart, then reply, “Cause I got stuck behind a goddamn tractor.” Star fade. Roll credits.
The SoDak Animation Festival was held in the Performing Arts Building at South Dakota State University. The films screened were a fairly broad mix of techniques and tone, lending to a diverse viewing experience. Stop motion, CG, digital, and traditional cell animation were all fair game in this crop. Several animators came from all around the country to promote their work and rub elbows with other animators/film makers. I was there too.
Can you say awkward?
My film screened in a later block of films; expected, given its mature immature humor and extreme violence. I was super stoked, though, as I always am when showing my work to a new groups of people. Whether they like it or hate it, I just get a huge kick out of it. By now, I have screened my film in front of a wide variety of audiences. Some respond favorably to it and some groups not so much, but I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’ve developed a Teflon guard to how people react to what I create. That notion was certainly put to the test this Friday night.
Now to set things up, after each block of films, animators would go to the front of the theater and engage in a Q and A with the audience about their film. It just so happened that for the block I was screening in, I was the only filmmaker present, so I’d have to go up and do a Q and A alone (which I genuinely love doing and was excited for). So all the films screen, audiences applaud and do what audiences do. Then my film comes up.
Now, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, my film contains a lot of raw humor and is meant for a more mature audience… and it’s a cartoon about chickens so why would you take it seriously in the first place? That said, I wasn’t expecting this audience to love my film because it’s just not for everyone. But the 11 minutes of complete and utter silence that played out during my film… well… I can’t honestly say I was quite expecting that. About the only audible reaction I heard was a collective gasp during an abortion joke midway through the film. Not even a hint of laughter! From there on out, one could hear a pin drop in that theater. It was epic and completely uncomfortable… and I loved every single second of it.
I think the only thing that could appropriately follow up 11 minutes of awkwardness would be having to get up and do an impromptu Q and A session in front of that same room of people you just offended with your film. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what happened. Thankfully no one smashed a beer bottle over my head or yelled obscenities at me (although some may have muttered them under their breath), but I wasn’t going to back down from my work at all. You create something, you have to be willing to own it no matter what. I discussed my process, talked about the life/art balance, and a little on writing. I think I may have even won a few audience members back in the end (or at least quelled their hatred enough to be able to get back to my car unscathed).
And the award goes to…
After that, the Cow Bell Award was handed out to the best animation in show, as determined by a panel of judges. Taking home the prize was the much deserving and cleverly animated short, “Place Stamp Here.” This film was animated and directed by twins Joy Vaccese and Noelle Melody, who flew in from New York and Tennessee. To learn more about them and their work, check out twinsareweird.com and helloagaingirls.com.
After the show, there was an entertaining after party at a local coffee house called the Cottonwood Bistro. In addition to some drinks and eats, organizers had set up some light tables for folks to test their animating skills. Naturally, it was the perfect setting to rehash the event and learn about the creative people whose films we’d just watched. All in all, it was a fantastic time, and as most great times tend to do, it went by way too quickly.
As I drove home the next day, I couldn’t help but smile about the evening I’d just endured. I met a lot of great people, saw some wonderful films, and endured one of the most unique screening experiences of my life. Sure, there’s a large group of people who’d never heard the name Greg Bro before Friday night that probably hate me now, but I couldn’t care less. As an artist, I have to be willing to own my work and stand by it, even when it’s uncomfortable. For every person that hates it, there’s probably going to be a person who loves it. And for every person that really REALLY hates it… well… fuck em!
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