May 3rd, 2003
At long last - day 4 of the festival, and the eagerly-anticipated world premiere of Wonderful Days at the Waterloo Galaxy.
The film was originally scheduled to play on Thursday at 9:30pm, but i) we couldn't confirm the usage of the digital projector during weekday evenings at the Galaxy; ii) what better way to start the final day of the festival, than with a big bang? So here we were, bright and early on a gorgeous spring day, to duck into a dark room to check out a stunning piece of work. The film had the biggest turnout yet at the 2003 festival, with some people travelling quite a bit just to catch this film. There was one fellow who drove more than three hours that morning from the States; another dropped in to the festival on his way from Colorado to visit family out east. Wow.
Before the screening, Seung finally cracked. He and Jung had both been a bit quiet up to that point, but now, both of them started to talk more. So this was the moment they had been waiting for, for the past few days! He told me he was very, very nervous about how people would see the film; his heart was racing, he was hopping around just to dissipate some nervous energy. Fifteen long minutes after we let people into the cinema, we began. With the help of a wonderful translator (thanks, Beth!), Seung introduced the project, explaining the story to the audience. Then we all took our seats, and the film began.
I shall not describe the film further, except to say that it was a most impressive display of animation; its music, such majestic accompaniment; its story, quintessential anime. For two hours, the audience of the WFAC was privy to a great film. The rest of you in the world will simply have to suffer 6-12 months. Even the home market will not see this film until July. The Christie projector and the QuVIS encode were great - there was stunning clarity in the image. We can't wait to see it again.
After the screening, Seung took a fairly long Q&A; from the audience, then it was his turn to ask the questions - hopping around with his video camera and interviewing people (including yours truly), asking them what they thought of the film.
What I didn't want to say to the camera (as it would sound too flattering), I will say here: Wonderful Days has the potential to do for Korean animation what Akira did for Japanese animation. Wonderful Days would be a better representative, actually; Akira really was too inaccessible, and created a lasting impression of anime that has done it no favours in terms of mainstream acceptance, even to this day. As many anime fans as there are, there are probably just as many (if not more) who think anime is the "weird Japanese cartoon stuff." Akira was definitely weird. Wonderful Days is decidedly not.
Let's move on to the rest of the festival, since we've now talked about Wonderful Days for six paragraphs. The rest of the festival would run at the Princess. First: Perfect Blue, a classic Satoshi Kon film of a singer who abandons her career to begin a new one as an actress. The film was programmed originally to go alongside Millennium Actress, Kon's next film; alas, we tried to programme Millennium Actress twice (WFAC 2002, WFAC 2003), and it was simply not to be. Dreamworks, its distributor, is holding on to the film for now. I wished we could have persuaded them to screen this brilliant film... At 4:00pm, Tidbits! A wonderful set of short films, all. Escaflowne then played at 7:00pm, then at 9:00pm, the warm and genuinely fun film Princes and Princesses.
The grand finale of the festival came at 11:00pm, when Matt and Dan O'Donnell presented Officer Down and Missing Persons. Again presented using Christie's DLP, we ran this one using a massive Windows Media Player 9 encode instead of the HD-SDI feed from the 720GB RAID, since problems developed with the uncompressed video feed. Damn. We were really looking forward to seeing the RAID in action. It was quite fun seeing the crowd take in this oddball film, with a narrative that was decidedly personal and humourous. It's not a film for everyone, but it certainly suited many of the folks who stayed up late for yet another midnight madness film. Dan and Matt showed their humourous sides during the Q&A; that followed the film as well.
All in all, a great festival, and the best ever! The only disappointing thing about WFAC 2003 was the overall attendance, which was quite a bit lower than we were hoping for. We'll see if we can round up even more publicity for next year, and get rid of the things which slowed us down this year... but in the meanwhile, we are already planning WFAC 2004!
Thank you all for your support, and check back about once a month or so to see how things are developing. WFAC 2003 is only the beginning of our new initiatives. The work is far outstripping what was necessary for the inaugural festival in 2001, and in 2002; but, the rewards are far greater. Expect an expanded Tidbits programme, many more films from Europe, and the latest anime films from Japan.
See you at WFAC 2004!
May 1st, 2003
Day 3 of the festival began behind the scenes, with a digital check on the load of Wonderful Days on the server for the first time. This was where we would make the final call on which version to screen.
By 10:00am, everyone involved was gathered and ready to see the film fired up. Present were the good folks from Christie Digital and Dynamix, including Terry Schmidt (chief scientist, Christie Digital) and David Kinzinger (president, Dynamix); our guests from Tin House, Kim Jung-Bae and Hyun Seung-youl; Brent Dawes, our guest from Sunrise (more about him later); and, of course, yours truly. The lights were dimmed, and the show began. A gorgeous image filled the screen, and there was much rejoicing. But, four minutes in, we began to see artefacts on the screen, and the sound began to break up. The errorsi lasted for about 90s.
Over the next couple of hours, and after much creative thinking involving the IDE backup, the HDCAM/DA88 copy and a 35mm print of the film, the festival decided to go ahead and do the digital screening the following day, errors be damned. The 35mm print had a bit of jitter in the subtitles, and it would have been too distracting. The DA88 would have been a nightmare to sync, the IDE had the same artefacts, and downloading/reencoding the problem section would have taken too long. So, that was that.
Later on that evening, WFAC held its very first screening ever at the Princess, with Laputa - Castle in the Sky, first screened on Wednesday at the Galaxy. The real fun was to come during the Gala, though. A pair of audio cables needed for the screening had their ends chopped off, and a mad dash began to try to get replacements, even as the Symposium began to fill up with eager guests. This was the fun event - no screening of films, but a presentation on an animation project we found fascinating: The Legend of the Sky Kingdom, Africa's first animated feature film. The speaker, Brent Dawes, arrived. We could tell he was still a bit apprehensive about how his presentation would go, and now we have A/V problems to deal with! Another mad dash to get a VHS deck and the cables, after we gave up on the DigiBeta deck. Brent began speaking. We returned with a VHS deck. Sound is now okay. No video! Much fiddling and cursing later, off we go on a third mad dash, to bring back an SVHS machine and a second projector. Brent sweats, talks lots, answers lots of neat questions. The audience has been an absolute sport, as was Brent. An hour later, finally! Sons et lumiere! And there was much rejoicing. Brent sighs in relief. The documentary plays, and there was much applause.
The Legend of the Sky Kingdom is a project done entirely in stop-motion animation, using junk as the base material. Cans, drums, bits of wire, tinsel... all brought together into a story with incessant energy and motion. The film will be competing at Annecy this year, and we wish it and the Sunrise team the very best of luck.
Later, the Princess Cinema's 9:30pm film ran very late, and forced us to start Utena more than 45 minutes late - making it a true midnight madness movie. The audience was understanding, and this fine film capped our day of mad dashes with its own brand of madness.
This weekend: the report on day 4, and our world premiere of Wonderful Days!
April 25th, 2003
The Festival is in full swing, and we've finally been able to take a bit of a breather. Now we'll tell those of you who cannot be here with us what has happened so far.
The first day of the festival was an adrenaline rush: 3.5 hours prior to the beginning of the festival, while doing final checks on the prints that had come in just the day before (such as Mari Iyagi - held up due to customs complications in Korea), we discovered that the print of Mari Iyagi was unsubtitled - and guess which film opens the festival!
With some soul searching, a bit of clever thinking and some hard work, we used a second projector to overlay the existing film image with subtitles. With some tweaking, most of the contrast was preserved. It worked about as well as could be hoped, and could be expected. The day was saved, and this Canadian premiere played!
Following Mari Iyagi was an English dub of Laputa, played on the big screen for the first time in a looong time. The film was as fantastic as ever. The new soundtrack is a distraction for those who've experienced the Japanese soundtrack, which is less verbose and less full of sound and fury - which makes it easier to appreciate the pensive moments.
Finally, Wednesday evening finished with a screening of the fan-service-loaded Last Flight of the Osiris from the Animatrix series. A great prelude to the eagerly-awaited Matrix Reloaded - and the Canadian premiere of WXIII Patlabor went off without a hitch. A film that dwells on human relationships, the print was gorgeous. The soundstage was excellent.
The second day of the festival had some more fabulous films. My Life as McDull got a warm welcome, with some in the audience who were a bit confused by the nonlinearity of the narrative, but one thing was for certain: the witty songs were a great hit, and if we had steamed meat buns to sell at the WFAC, we would have sold out after this film.
Second film: the North American premiere of Princess Arete, which I think caught the anime fans by surprise by how really lovely and profound he film was. I'll add that Princess Arete and End of Evangelion were both conceived and influenced by the search for self that seems to be sweeping Japan - except in one of the two movies, the message is not delievered in an unnecessarily heavy way.
Finally, the North American premiere of Corto Maltese, with Marc Minjauw (executive producer, Pomalux) in attendance for introduction and Q&A.; This breathtaking vision of romantic hero in a romantic age gone by is a simply wonderful example of adult storytelling, animation style. The Q&A; was intimate and information - many thanks to Marc for making this a success.
That's it for days 1 and 2! Coming up tomorrow:
Brent Dawes of Sunrise from Harare, Zimbabwe will be presenting a wonderful new stop-motion animation film from Africa! Learn about how The Legend of the Sky Kingdom was made, ahead of the debut at Cannes and Annecy this year!
April 13th, 2003
We've heard from some of you that you are concerned about the security of ordering online - so we'll take this opportunity to talk to you about how we do it. Hopefully, this will ease any concerns you have.
The WFAC box office uses credit cards, but the transactions (the payment portion) are through Moneris. Moneris has over thirty years of experience, and is a joint venture between the Royal Bank (RBC) and the Bank of Montreal (BMO). Ticket tracking is done by e-RegisterNow, the same company that tracks tickets for the Royal Ontario Museum and the Toronto International Auto Show.
Moneris knows what it's doing, and how our box office works is: we get out of the way, and let Moneris do its thing. Ordering online is secure, using 128-bit encryption just like the banks, Amazon, etc. One improvement that we have: we do not keep any of the personal information or credit card numbers, unlike online retailers like Amazon. All information is sent securely only to Moneris, so that they can verify your card and approve the transaction.
So, we have no databases full of credit card numbers for anyone to hack into, or your addresses/phone numbers/etc. for people to steal. All we have are receipts of your tickets, so that if you do misplace them, we can try to help you. That's all!
Any other questions, please feel free to email us!
April 6th, 2003
What was it that possessed me to call this a "weekly" journal?
The past week certainly has been one of extreme excitement and frustration. As many of you know, the box office did not open on March 31st. Getting the payment processing project done has been quite a set of challenges, many of which were completely out of our control. We apologise for your inconvenience, and beg for your patience. It is currently 04:32 EST, and in less than fourteen hours (18:00 EST), you will be able to order tickets online. For those of you in or near the Kitchener-Waterloo area, you will be able to purchase tickets in person by visiting the following stores, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude which we hereby acknowledge:
film schedule is now available. Have a look to see playtimes and locations. There are a few things which we will explain below. There will be another set of web updates today, including the formal announcement of the box office opening.
And now, onto other news:
The Animatrix is returning to the WFAC! We'll be screening "Last Flight of the Osiris" to open the festival, in front of Mari Iyagi.
Addition to the WFAC 2003 lineup - and it's a doozy. The WFAC is pleased to announce that Pascal Morelli's Corto Maltese - la cour secrète des arcanes (Corto Maltese - the Secret Court of Mysteries) will be making a premiere at the WFAC on Thursday, April 24th. We now have twelve feature-length animated films in the WFAC 2003 programme.
We have wanted to bring Corto Maltese to the WFAC for a little while, and we're thrilled to be finally able to do it. Corto Maltese comes from a long, glorious tradition of great European graphic novels, expressed lovingly by one of its greatest masters, Hugo Pratt. A wondrous adventure based in the period of chaos during the fall of the Russian and Chinese empires in the early 1900s, Corto Maltese is a sensitive interplay of complex characters, with real emotions and goals rooted deeply in actual historical events. The result is a true delight.
Be sure to catch the trailer on the official Corto Maltese website!
We are extremely excited about the African film, "The Legend of the Sky Kingdom." The film is proof that necessity truly is the mother of all inventions. The team of dedicated artists had many skills - except animation. They had to invent their own system from the ground up, cope with a very limited budget, and shape found junk materials into living form. A marvellous project. Come and hear about it at the Gala.
March 16th, 2003
In the past ten days, we've been busy finishing up the publicity plans. It was in the course of this that we received some great news: that Studio 4C confirmed their entry of "Princess Arete", thus bringing fruitful closure to a six-month discussion. This is a wonderful film that could have easily been born at Studio Ghibli; the years that director Katabuchi spent at Studio Ghibli, working directly under Mr. Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Laputa: Castle in the Sky) have clearly influenced this work. We've also added three shorts - Mt. Head, The Cathedral and Das Rad, all nominated for this year's Academy Award for best animated short film, all wonderful films.
Then, there is the not-so-great-news - that while confirming The Animatrix, we learned that head office at AOL Time Warner had gotten involved. See the discussion here. We hope that AOL Time Warner will participate at the WFAC with these wonderful short films. We shall see.
The round of interviews, newspaper articles, radio shows and other media coverage is being arranged now. One of the journalists who has been so gracious and helpful in preparing the press materials is adamant that I personally do every appearance. So much for the plans for delegating this to a spokesperson in cosplay...
We've also been quite amused in our initial talks with folks in Toronto. Some of them don't seem to believe that there could be fun to be had beyond Mississauga. We hope to persuade them otherwise.
Now, back to executing the publicity drive... and other fun stuff. It's all fun. Really.
March 7th, 2003
Three weeks since our last update! Dear readers, we apologise for keeping you in the dark. I hope this journal entry makes up for it.
We've been working extremely hard on two main fronts: programming, and ticketing infrastructure. Programming is a severe bottleneck in running film festivals. Without an almost complete programme, schedules can hardly be planned; a final advertising campaign cannot be made; accurate financial projections can hardly be set.
That said, we're finally comfortable with our current programming level to announce our titles, and go to the next level of the publicity drive. And, we'll be ready to handle your ticket requests with much more convenience to you than in past festivals. You will be able to pay for your tickets online via credit card, and print them. No more waiting for the postman, even if you don't have a printer; no more frantic calling or last-minute phone calls or emails to us to ask us where you can get tickets. We hope you like the new system.
Since our last journal entry, we've added quite a few new titles. We announced most of these on March 4th, here. We're now ready to announce one more that we're very pleased to be able to bring to you.
Fans of animation, please allow me to introduce you to Wonderful Days, the animated film that will put the Korean animation industry firmly on the map.
We'll be shortly putting up the film guide entries - a few of them remain to be written. You'll see exactly why we are so pleased to be able to bring you these films.
We're also pleased to announce two other initiatives. First: we are pleased to announce our first-ever guests of honour. Matt and Dan O'Donnell, the directors of "Missing Persons", will be attending the festival and be on hand for the screening. So, start writing down those questions you'd like to ask about the film. You'll be able to get your answers from the only people who can give you authoritative ones. Other guests will be announced in the coming days.
Second: we are pleased to announce that Christie Digital will be sponsoring the WFAC by contributing their world-leading digital projection technology to the festival. Much modern animation is entirely in digital form. We now have the ability to bring you some of those works directly in digital form. Our sincerest thanks to Christie for making this exciting experiment possible.
In closing, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the people who truly make this festival possible and worthwhile: the gifted artists and companies who have made these films, and you, the audience, the patrons of animated art. The Festival is proud to be a conduit between the artist, the industry, and the audience.
Welcome to the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema. I hope you like what you see here, and I hope that you will join us for this celebration of animation.
February 15th, 2003
The past week has been a hectic one, with lots of action behind the scenes as we firm up commitments, push out an ad, predict the future, wash the cat, save the world, and squeeze in long hours at our day jobs (school for some of us) to boot.
The result: one of our film requests denied, one confirmed (a French film), and another confirmation under way as I write this, that I'm very excited about. Six other films in various stages of discussion, ranging from "under discussion" to "confirmed pending ability to find the one film print that exists in this world." The week that started so poorly has shaped up quite well. Thank goodness.
I suppose it's a bit unfair that Princess Guide readers would have an almost two-week sneak preview of the WFAC 2003 programme, ahead of the formal announcements. The Princess Guide lists about half of the titles in the programme, as the print deadline precedes the formal festival entry deadline. I'm beginning to appreciate why some film festivals have six-month entry deadlines...
So, for you faithful readers of this interminable journal, here are the films listed in the Princess Guide, in alphabetical order:
February 7th, 2003
Welcome to the WFAC web site, animation fans.
The third WFAC is going to be held less than six months after the second WFAC. Why, you may ask? There are two main reasons: scheduling, to better integrate ourselves into the worldwide cultural fabric of film festivals; and a blessed escape from having to deal with the Canadian winter at the same time as arranging a major social gathering.
So, we're back - bigger than ever before, with weekend as well as weekday programming. In April. And in Aprils to come.
Planning for this move and WFAC 2003 actually started at the same time WFAC 2002 was being planned, but it was not until January that we were able to confirm the dates. People who've come to previous festivals will notice that WFAC 2003 has a few other firsts: the Princess Cinema will be hosting a portion of the festival; non-Japanese animated feature films; a huge leap in the size of the programme...
Oops. We haven't announced any specifics about the programme or its size to really let you know what it's like, have we?
The entry deadline hasn't come up yet, so we're going to wait patiently ourselves, and tease you with what lies ahead. Every Friday, please be sure to check back in this space, or sign up for our email announcements list by sending a blank email to email@example.com. There will be a new journal entry every week, with personal observations of the week gone by behind the scenes at the WFAC, and a movie announcement or two. Detailed pages for each movie will be posted with each announcement.
So please have a look around on the WFAC web site, and enjoy. We leave you with these thoughts to ponder:
Movies from Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Israel - and more to come.
And, for those who enjoyed "Spirited Away" at WFAC 2002, Studio Ghibli - the animation studio behind the creation of that film - will be represented again at WFAC 2003.
Have a good week!