By Edwin Rostron
The existence of GLAS (GLobal Animation Syndicate) is a beacon of light for independent animation. Encompassing a grant programme, a magazine, and now a festival, GLAS provides valuable resources to independent animators and a world-class platform to showcase their work. There hasn’t been a festival quite like GLAS in the U.S for many years, and its pronounced emphasis on ‘what is new, innovative, and exciting’ is to be warmly welcomed. In its huge breadth of programmes, guests, workshops, lectures, and installations, the 2016 GLAS Animation Festival reflects the best of contemporary animation whilst honouring and celebrating the work of the past.
Ahead of the inaugural edition of the festival (taking place from March 3rd to 6th, 2016 in Berkeley, California), I spoke to Co-Founder, Director and Artistic Director of GLAS Animation, Jeanette Bonds. We discussed how GLAS began, what we can look forward to in the festival, and the plans for the future of this remarkable and much-needed organisation.
In addition to her position at the helm of GLAS, Jeanette is also an acclaimed animator. She received her BFA from CalArts in Experimental Animation and her MFA at CalArts in Experimental Animation. Jeanette also programs for Slamdance and writes for Short of the Week.
GLAS Animation Festival 2016 Trailer
EoF: GLAS existed as an online resource before the festival was announced – was the festival always planned as part of GLAS from the beginning? Can you tell us how GLAS and the festival itself came about?
JB: After graduating from CalArts with an MFA in Experimental Animation I began looking into grants so as to continue my art practice outside of the academic institution. After months of extensive research I was surprised to see how few opportunities there were for individual animators making personal work in the US. Of the grants that I found that were available to filmmakers, very few were specific to the process of animated filmmaking or had stipulations and limitations with regard to location or topics. Additionally, many grants available were rather small and often asked artists to fill out absurdly long applications.
All the while I found other countries with superior grant systems in place and asked myself ‘why is there nothing this in the US?’ The effects of these international grant systems have been undeniably positive. Some of the best short films in the world come out of these systems and it’s because they value and nurture independent filmmaking. In the US it often happens that filmmakers make incredible shorts while in school but upon graduating cease to make personal work. And this I think can be easily attributed to the fact that there is no grant system in place for independent animated filmmaking. This is a problem I hope GLAS can help solve.
I originally had intended GLAS to provide grants as a non-profit organization but within this I wanted it to be setup and built to grow. From its onset, the trajectory for GLAS was to become an institution and always had a festival as part of that institution. Our long term plan is to expand the festival, provide more grants to filmmakers, and to establish a space for cultural exchange and artist residencies. When applying for our non-profit status this complete plan was laid out and it’s exciting to see it rapidly taking shape. And as the years progress I hope to garner more support and donations from individuals, large institutions, and companies who share our vision to cultivate independent animation in the US.
GLAS Animation Festival 2016 Signal Film
EoF: The festival looks like a huge undertaking. How many people have been working behind the scenes on this and when did you start putting it together?
JB: It’s difficult to say. For the most part I’ve done almost everything by myself. I watched every submission, raised funds, compiled all print and web materials, collected files, contacted everyone, everything. But this is not to say I’ve not had any support. After watching all the films and weeding out the bulk of them I created two selection committees which consisted of Einar Baldvin, Pia Borg, Sean Buckelew, Christine Panushka, Jisoo Kim, Rob Munday, and myself. Their curatorial voices were vital to the outcome of selections of which I’m very happy with. My husband, Einar Baldvin, and my dear friend Sean Buckelew have helped me the most in shaping the festival itself. I talk to them both incessantly about GLAS and bounce ideas off of them; and I think it’s safe to say the three of us in one form or another comprise the general GLAS programming committee.
Irene Kotlarz (who first introduced me to animation festivals and I wouldn’t be involved in independent animation if it weren’t for her) talked to me on the phone for hours giving me advice. The board of directors which consists of Jerry Beck, Christine Panushka, Brooke Keesling, Maija Burnett, and our newest member Pia Borg have been extraordinarily helpful in connecting me with the right people and have, as cheesy as it is to say, believed in me from the very beginning. Additionally Gerben Schermer and Nobuaki Doi have been extremely supportive and have really helped me along the way in shaping the festival for all the minor details that really matter. It’s been very surprising to me how helpful and supportive the international animation festival directors and members of the festival community are. Igor Prassel, Daniel Suljic, Chris Robinson, and Clemence Bragard have been incredibly supportive.
So again, while all the labor has been done by me, I would not have been able to do this without having such a strong and supportive group of family, friends, colleagues, our board of directors, and advisors. I’m not even sure if many of these people I’ve mentioned would consider themselves to have assisted in any way but by simply talking to me it has helped me more than they might realize. The rest is simply emailing people and keeping organized files which is easy (especially compared to animating).
Move Mountain (2013) by Kirsten Lepore, juror and guest filmmaker at GLAS
EoF: Can you encapsulate what the ethos behind your programming and choice of guests etc is?
JB: We are introducing new ideas and expanding the scope of animation by bringing new voices, new talents, new themes, and a new generation of independent filmmakers and curators to the United States. We aim to emphasize emerging artists while highlighting directors who have inspired the latest generation of filmmakers. GLAS is about the films, about the filmmakers, and about aspiring filmmakers. The animated short is where the most interesting and fresh things are happening in the world of animation and at GLAS that is what we emphasize the most. We are also highlighting independent animation from the US as it has very little representation in the international community.
In the US I think the vast majority of people tend to associate animation with being a genre exclusively for children or as something to make us laugh. We hope to broaden, cultivate, nurture, and expand the culture of animation in the US.
Picnic (1987) by Paul Vester, GLAS Festival Honoree of 2016
EoF: Have you modelled it on any other festivals in particular? What do you see as the best and worst aspects of animation festivals in your experience?
JB: I wouldn’t say I’ve modelled it after any one festival in particular. More a culmination of festival experiences. Each festival has its own identity. And while much of a festival’s identity is rooted in programming (not only the selections but the arrangement of selections) the space and city in which it takes place is pivotal as it’s such an integral part of the experience.
Curation-wise, I tend to find the best assemblage from the festivals who have the director in charge of selections. Even when festivals rely on a selection committee to narrow down selections, the strongest programs seem to come from a director with a strong vision. When selections are solely based on committees I’ve found the results to be too safe and diluted. When it comes to curatorial orchestration I love how OIAF compiles competition selections together. It’s great to see professional films alongside student films. HAFF has an ideal setup for interaction which is something I wanted to strive for and the strength of his curatorial voice is something to respect. Zagreb and Chitose both take the filmmakers out on an excursion which is something I hope to strive for in the coming years. I’ve yet to attend Georama or Eyeworks but I hope to one day.
There are a lot of things these festivals are able to do that are prohibitively expensive for us in our first year. We have very little government support and it’s difficult to get donations and sponsorships. Not to mention grants for organizations which are extremely competitive and tend to go toward well established organizations. We’ve made up for it by calling in lots of favors and putting a lot of sweat equity into this years events, but hope to be in a position in the next couple years to scale everything up to the level of some of the aforementioned festivals
Fruit Fruit (2013) by Peter Millard, juror and guest filmmaker at GLAS
EoF: How does the content of the first year of GLAS compare to your original vision of the festival? How would you like to see it progress?
JB: Originally I had intended on showing exclusively independent short films throughout the festival. But when planning for special programs it became evident early on there were many films I wanted to include that didn’t fit within this restriction. With that in mind we opted to expand the vision to include the works that have shaped and will shape the landscape of contemporary independent animation.
EoF: You are an animator yourself, how has this helped you shape the festival? Are you managing to continue your practice now you have embarked on GLAS?
JB: Making films is what allowed me to learn about festivals in the first place. Prior to attending my first animation festival I made exclusively video art and installations. I wouldn’t be making films if it weren’t for my first time attending a festival. I find the films one encounters at festivals and the experience inspiring. I love seeing films and meeting all the filmmakers in person and establishing friendships with them. I will certainly continue my practice. I have two films in the making, one which is a larger project and the other is part of the upcoming LNWC anthology.
Trusts and Estates (2013) by Jeanette Bonds
EoF: What are some of the programmes/events you are most excited to have in the festival?
JB: It’s difficult to select just one as it is my first year and to be quite honest I’m genuinely excited about everything. But first and foremost I’m most excited about the shorts competitions and additional shorts programs. I’m happy to have Paul Vester come to the festival as our honoree. Aside from his films being unique marvels unto themselves, he has had a major and direct impact on me and many of my close friends and colleagues of which I am truly grateful for. I’m excited to have Henry Selick and Phil Tippett, each of whom have made such major and permanent impacts within independent and commercial animation. I’m excited to have Sara Gunnarsdottir, Kirsten Lepore, the Dutch programs programmed by Gerben Schermer, Hisko Hulsing, Jeremy Clapin, Peter Millard, Caleb Wood, Ghosting, you name it. I’m genuinely excited about everything.
EoF: Will GLAS be a yearly festival? How has the response been so far?
JB: Absolutely. We have every intention of making it an annual event and already have plans and ideas about what to include next year. The responses thus far have been overwhelmingly positive. Each pocket of the world has several animation festivals for nearby filmmakers to attend. The US doesn’t have strong representation in the international animation festival world and within the US our options are rather limited. For the most part the US has great live-action film festivals that only have animation screening consisting of 7-12 films. I think people are excited to have something representing independent animation in the US on a much larger scale. It’s important for the US animation community to have a festival that speaks to the independent filmmakers. And I think GLAS is filling that void which has truly been missing for quite some time in the US.
For passes, tickets and more information on the festival, visit the GLAS website
© Edwin Rostron 2016