More South Africans attended this year’s Annecy Animation Festival than ever before – 95 of us were officially recorded by Wesgro!
It was my first time. I went with the ASA delegation. Here are 5 x things I learned:
1. Annecy is overwhelming
While Annecy has been known as the intimate darling of animation festivals because of its focus on the art of animation, the business side of it has grown enormously. In 2017, the MIFA building housed stalls on one floor. This year they needed two floors, and we still had to elbow our way through the crowds.
Left: Rhiannon Reid, Yolanda Mogatusi, Kelly Walker, Diek Grobler. Photo credit: Dorette Nel
Right: Simanga Sibaya, Isaac Mogajane, Terence Maluleke & Judd Simatov
2. We’re fairly popular
As CTIAF Festival Director Dianne Makings noted, “At all our meetings this year we didn’t once have to introduce South Africa as a country – Execs had already met with others, or had seen work or had been recommended by other companies to meet with us.” I’m not surprised. South Africans have been winning Annecy awards and/or pitches each year for the last decade. This time it was Isaac Mogajane from Diprente who made the splash: “Diprente’s second animated production in development, Junk Pilots, was invited to participate in the MIFA, best global television series pitches. We won the pitch session, which was an amazing way to introduce the market to our new show.” – Isaac Mogajane
3. Diverse content is king
People of colour. Women. Representing different abilities, cultures, voices. It’s a subject that gets discussed at every festival, yet many big studios are still asking for boy-centered adventures. People like Julie Anne Crommet, Disney’s Vice President of Multicultural Audience Engagement, and organisations like Women in Animation, are pushing for this to change. Hits like Wonderwoman and Moana have helped. Black Panther proved that African stories CAN sell, so don’t shy away from sharing your unique perspective with the world – just keep the themes universal.
Wendy Spinks and Clea Mallinson pitching MUMUE
4. Nobody has any money
This isn’t entirely true, but it certainly feels that way. Even developed countries are struggling to monetize animation. South Africa isn’t an easy sell either: Our labour isn’t as cheap as the global competition and our local broadcaster can’t afford to buy our work. There is hope though: Our government is keen to support this sector, and this year it showed. DTI, NFVF, DAC and Wesgro reps were part of the delegation. SA producers are also making things happen by extraordinarily creative means, and often by sharing costs with global partners. Which leads me to my next point…
5. Foreigners are our friends
Most South African animators I know have a dream to work for Pixar, Disney, etc, and I’ve noticed some producers lean in the same direction. But Annecy forces you to look around the globe and see additional possibilities. Our content seems to resonate with Chinese and South Korean audiences, for example, so it might be worth exploring relationships there. Brazil’s animation industry is prolific despite a very rocky government, and they have so much in common with us. Australia, France and Japan, while still largely supported by their healthy broadcast system and supportive local audiences, are now looking outwards – so let’s make friends!
Thanks to the amazing support from AnimationSA and DTI, not only did I begin to learn about the global industry, but I got to meet fellow South Africans who are doing remarkable things. For example, Cate Wood Hunter is calling for behind-the-scenes footage of female animation professionals at work, to provide role model visuals for school girls. If you have footage to donate, please get in touch with Cate at [email protected].
Cocktail party at SA stand
Impressions from South African attendees:
“Annecy Animation Film Festival is truly a training ground preparing you to be the best you can be in this industry.” – Keba Nage, AnimationSA Treasurer
“It’s the largest group of South Africans we’ve ever had, which is testimony to the way that animation is growing in the country. We still need to go a long way to become truly demographically representative, but it was great to see the DAC and the DTI there in full support of the industry.” – Stuart Forrest, Triggerfish Animation
“It’s amazing to see how far our industry has grown over the past few years and there are more and more creatives entering major development deals globally and partnering with industry heavy weights on their original IPs.” – Isaac Mogajane, Diprente
“In general the market and festival has really grown, almost to the point where the venue felt too small and queues were pretty long, but it felt indicative of the expanding positive mood in the global market place.” – Wendy Spinks, Zeropoint Studios
“South Africans seem to not be the new kid on the block anymore but are taken seriously, so thank you to all the people who’ve come before us and paved the way.” – Clare Louis, Katanimate Studios
“Had great fun meeting representatives from other African countries and trading notes on where we stand as a continent. A lot of interest from Asian studios/distributors, as well as offers to represent their content in Africa which could be interesting.” – Nic Buchanan, Pixcomm
“The screenings at Annecy were unlike any I have ever been to before. There is a huge culture of acknowledging and appreciating great work and whole community of strangers celebrate you in the most beautiful way.” – Yolanda Mogatusi, Rapulani and Rapunzel
“The animation styles are getting more creative by the minute. There seems to be a massive movement with raw, real work that we can resonate with. … The level of maturity on an international level is far stronger than SA. The local industry needs to work together in order to grow and become stronger.” – Jean Mortlock, Lung
“The best comment I heard about the SA stand … was that … in other countries people are pushing the envelope so hard visually, they are straying into even ‘ugly’ territory in the quest to stand out. But SA to him was fresh and different, whilst still being very appealing.” – Clea Mallinson, Mumue
“Highlights included Glen Keane’s talk, meeting Richard Williams, the strong focus on VR and storytelling as well as gaining a better understanding of what international recruiters are looking for. … Overall the experience was hugely inspiring, and insights gained are already being used to improve the courses offered by the Animation School. We will continue to encourage and support staff and students to attend the Annecy Animation Festival every year.” – Rhiannon Reid, The Animation School
Xolelwa Mayatula, NFVF Marketing and Distribution
Photo credit: Dorette Nel
“Thanks to the Annecy veterans in the group, I had a better understanding on what to focus on, like the unmissable Share With sessions, approaching representatives at the different stands at the MIFA, always having business cards and one-pagers of concepts on hand, making use of the Annecy App and talking to people in queues.” – Tracy Stucki, Pulane’s Adventures
“I found a small UK studio interested in co-production of my film. I met a lot of festival programmers and became a member of ASIFA. I am heading to Hiroshima next … with my short ‘Please Frog, just one sip, the only film from Africa to be selected.” – Diek Grobler, Fopspeen
“Meeting up with our fellow South African animators, producers and storytellers was a huge highlight. The more we collaborate, share, inspire each other, the better we all do in South Africa.” – Thomas Blatch, Sangoman
Kerrin Kokot is an independent filmmaker and cofounder of Just Films production company