I had a good time at Sheridan College. The students are sincere and have a serious attitude towards their work. Sheridan has always had a reputation for being one of the top animation schools in the world and I was happy to see that they still deserve that reputation. True, I was asked about the software I used and quite a few students came up to me after the lecture to write down the name. I gave a lecture there while I was attending TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) which has gained during the last few years the coveted distinction of being the top festival among the worlds most prominent feature film events such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Pusan. Toronto clearly deserves the unofficial grade.
This is because TIFF has been attracting the largest number of entertainment journalists and film buyers and the festival's official selections have received more Golden Globe and Oscar nominations and awards than any of the other festivals I mentioned above, while at the same time the festival is a non-juried event (no competition for awards, thank God!) and does not claim exclusivity. This means that there is no precondition that all films entered must be a world premiere screening, such as the other top festivals demand. All this tumbles the old myth that without having films compete for coveted prizes, the world press, the super stars and the buyers would ignore the event. Three hoorays for Toronto.
To my great relief, Tulip was received exceedingly well (opposed to my experiences with Tulip at Annecy). The first day I was dragged through a grueling lineup of a dozen media interviews, our film was reviewed in twenty articles in the local press (all good with the exception of one, which said at the end "...frankly, I was bored and if you are not a dog lover, don't go...)ouch! Then there were countless blogs following the screenings (several placed Tulip among the 10 or 15 best films) and Jake Jacobson of CBS claimed that Tulip is one of the 10 best films he has seen this year. All this led to several serious bids for distribution rights by several top tier buyers, which our producer is contemplating this week and will make a decision today or tomorrow (can't wait).
The festival has several traits I have been dearly missing at animation festivals of the past 10 or so years; there is a precondition that directors must be present at least at the first screening and it is highly recommended that they attend all 4 or 5 of these. The director is introduced to the audience before the film starts and is expected to say a few words and each screening ends with a Q&A session which doesn't close until there are no more questions asked by the host or the audiences. Each film has one screening delegated exclusively for film directors and other members of the industry. This is done so that all present professionals can have a chance to see any of the 190 official selections without having to stand in long lines and without fear of not getting to see sold out films.
Another element missing in any of the large animation festivals I have attended in recent years is the high technical level of screening venues. Producers are encouraged to talk with the projectionists before their films are screened and are given a chance to watch a short run to make their personal choices for sound levels etc. The audiences are mature, serious viewers who would never think of throwing a paper airplane at the screen or booing a film director. Their questions during the Q&A are sincere, poignant and helpful. To prove how much the audiences follow the festival and appreciate the presence of the filmmakers, I was several times stopped on the street by individuals who wanted to tell me what they thought of Tulip (some quite critical) and sometimes someone would just shout "Thank you for Tulip", while passing by. Admittedly I felt flattered, particularly since this was happening at a festival studded with celebrities and superstars. In three weeks I go to Ottawa and that will be it, at least for this year (except for attending the public premiere in London, whenever that might be).
I do admit that the event turned into an ego-booster for me and I hope you won't feel too ill of me for posting this (I press Submit with trepidations) it's just been such a rare experience, but I also do feel relieved that I can now go back to my grumpy hermit ways.