The 9th Future Film Festival in Bologna, Italy: Bassam and I had been invited to give a 2 hour presentation about Elephants Dream.
We both arrived on Friday, and while I was able to happily wander around and do some last minute preps for our talk, poor Bassam still had to endure the effects of his jet lag. Nevertheless we sat together, unpacked our laptops and got to work. Later that night, the Future Film people took us to dinner, where we met most of the people from the organization staff of the festival and some of the other speakers, including Geoff Campbell from Industrial Light & Magic who would give a presentation about the spectacular visual effects of Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Geoff kindly shared some of his experience with us (He's been working at ILM since the early 90s). It's somewhat reassuring to learn that a job in the VFX industry can feel as mundane as a clerk's or office worker's. Although I guess it can be far more exciting and rewarding at times than to staple and file records. In my own experience, it can be just as tedious though ;)
Saturday: The Talk
Saturday was our big day! We had been given schedules with all our important meetings, first things on the list were our interview and the press conference. We walked to one of the two locations the festival was held at, the Future Film Village, housed in Pallazo Re Enzo, an imposing castle in the middle of Bologna. Although there wasn't much time for us to take a glance at the marvels of the city, we managed to get a little glimpse with these walks.
The press conference at 12 went well, it's frightening how much you get used to this kind of stuff after one year of endless Elephants Dream interviews. At this conference we also realized that our biggest problem might be the translation. All non-italian talks had to be translated by professional translators, but not simultaneously. So at least half of the talk would be consumed by the translation.
At 3 in the afternoon we went to the Capitol Multisala, a big cinema with four screens, showcasing the presentations, many short films, animations, movies, and documentaries. Geoff Campbell presented right before our talk, so we sat back and listened. My head was still buzzing with dreaming elephants, hoping that the next two hours would go by as slowly as possible (after all, this was a huge hall filled with people, the biggest thing we were ever invited to do). But time flew: I was absolutely blown away by ILM's marvelous effects work, so the stage-fright drifted away.
Around 5 our talk started.
And at 7 it was over.
Wow, what did I miss? Was that all? Seconds later Bassam and I were surrounded by clapping people, shaking hands, exchanging the mandatory business cards (Funnily enough I forgot mine). Yup, it was over, and those two hours did go by pretty fast! We managed to talk about many things we hadn't mentioned before. Bassam really went into detail of the movie-making aspect of our film, the long, sometimes tedious pre-production, the endless script and animatic revisions. But also digging deep into the story and meaning behind Elephants Dream. He also spoke about the meaning of an open movie, and how that related to many decisions we made. I talked about all things visual: Machine and character design, color concepts and influences. Having written down full blown 20-page manuscript days before the festival, it was not very hard to find something to talk about. We couldn't talk about everything though. As I mentioned, a large part of the time was swallowed by waiting for the translation. Some of the most exciting (and shocking) parts of our production we could only touch on (Such as the exhausting, tiring, back-breaking race against time at the end of principal production). We also barely spoke about the animation and editing, sound design, and other technical aspects of the movie. But I still have those 20 manuscript pages, and hopefully (and if people are interested) I can transfer them into something to share with our audience.
Anyway, it was fun and we made it!
We had more fancy Italian food that night and more talks with the friendly festival people. Among them Amanda Parkes from the MIT Media Lab, who would demonstrate their research with an animatable construction toy set with kinetic memory for children (but adults too!) called topobo.
Sunday: Interview, Relax
On Sunday, the very last day of the festival, we could finally take a breather and relax a bit. We still had to do one short interview for the festival DVD, but in the wake of the day before that seemed like a piece of cake. We watched a short film retrospective of Paul Driessen (whom we met shortly to express our admiration). He creates wonderful hand-drawn 2D animated movies with very complex yet funny stories that seem to spill over outside the frame, playing with dimensionality, framing and the audience's perceptions. Despite their formal complexity, they were humane and engaging, showing his mastery in animating volumes and weight. We also joined the talk about the making of Luc Besson's latest masterpiece, Arthur and the Invisibles. Geoffrey Niquet from BUF Compangie presented their work on the amazing CG environments and characters. We managed to grab him during a cigarette break to ask some questions, pretty much like any other average film fan :) BUF's story shares a similarity with the roots of Blender; they develop their own in-house software tools, rather than use the typical commercial offerings. After twenty years of development, the results are quite impressive.
Then the award session would take place, where the highlights of this festival would get their well deserved recognition. Most notably Gentlemen's Duell by Blur Pictures, and the provocative danish animated feature Princess by Anders Morgenthaler.
Again, we had a great dinner that night. A lot of pasta and talking, sharing ideas and experiences. The last brave bunch of festival survivors would meet again in the afterparty at 0.00 hours, which was held in a cool underground basement with video art, drinks and music. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera.
Long story short, we had a great time, met lots of interesting nice people, shared knowledge and made contacts. It would have been great if we've had more time to check out the other festival activities and the city. But all in all it was very rewarding. And somewhat luckily enough, we were just small specs in the big festival crowd. We are deeply grateful that we were invited to this exclusive event, with the chance to share our experience making the first Open Movie in history. Thanks Future Film Festival!
Bassam and Andy