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Canadian Animation Resources presents: the 30 Second Film Challenge

We’re trying something new here at Canadian Animation Resources.  It’s called the 30 Second Film Challenge.

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Here’s what it’s all about.  For the last few years, I’ve been informally challenging recent grads to use the time after graduation to make a second film.  These kids, at that point, have just come off the most productive phase of their young lives, having busted their collective asses, for the most part, to complete their student films.  For the very first time, they’ve really come to understand how much work has to go into cartoon-making, and they’ve conditioned themselves to actually do it.  The films are usually amateurish and full of flaws, but they’re done, they’ve gotten their first films out of the way.  Chances are though, for most of them, it’s also the last film they’ll ever make.  Most of these kids will grab themselves jobs in the industry, get into the grind, start collecting paychecks, and start accumulating that file full of ideas most of us have that never actually go anywhere.  For all the animators working in the business, how many Mike Geigers or Nick Crosses are there?  Not a lot.  And it’s a shame.  When you watch these first films, particularly if you know the film-makers a bit, you can see the basic ingredients of what could be.  They all look something alike, they’ve been taught similar things from the same teachers, and are mostly using the same technologies and techniques.  But each artist has the potential to grow a voice, an the very first mutterings are there.  So a few years ago I gathered a few pros together and sat down with one group of students who had made a particularly good film.  They all wanted to continue their collaboration and were keen to make a sophomore cartoon.  They pitched their ideas, which were good, but ambitious.  Like most artists, they were itching to make that film-they’ve-always-wanted-to-make.  Great goal, but I countered with an alternative.  Why not make the film you can?

We looked at the situation: 3 artists with varying levels of employment, mostly part time.  But how long would that last?  We counted up the number of hours each could realistically commit to a project like this per week and set a deadline of two months.  And that’s where we started.  Here’s how much time you have, what can you do in that amount of time.  They put their heads to it, settled on a concept, and we set to work designing a film that they could execute.

It never happened.  They got jobs, moved on, enrolled in Animation Mentor, stuff like that.  No sophomore film.  No harm done.

The following year, more or less the same story.

This year though, something’s different.  We started talking about it in the 3rd year class I teach at Algonquin about a month before graduation.  As usual, a lot of keeners.  I told them I was impressed with their enthusiasm, but the numbers were against them.  The likelihood of any of them making second films was very small.  But they wouldn’t drop it.  So neither did I.

Now here we are, a month into the first ever official Canadian Animation Resources presents: the 30 Second Film Challenge.  There are about a dozen of this years grads who come to my house every Wednesday night.  They’ve pitched their films, completed boards, designs and animatics.  We’ve hacked them up and cut them down into economical, potentially do-able films.  I’m enlisting sound designers and an After Effects pro to give us a hand, and lining up some other technical assistance.  And they’re all still at it.  We’ve got 6 films in production.

And you know what?  These kids are going to make me eat my words.  Out of the six films, I haven’t seen one that looks like it won’t get made.  How am I supposed to remain jaded and embittered around that?

We’ve launched a production blog to follow their progress.  It just went up, so there’s not too much there yet.  I’ll be posting intros to each of the film-makers, along with links to their various sites, and I’ll embed their student films there as well.  I’ll be getting them to discuss their progress as well, so it won’t just be me you’ll be hearing from for a change.  I invite you all to come and take a look, maybe even offer some encouragement and advice.

Some of them are already talking about what they want to do for their third films.




  1. Bryce Hallett Bryce Hallett July 11, 2011

    Yaay! That’s pretty awesome Mike. I’m looking forward to seeing all these films. Go animators!

  2. Trent Trent July 12, 2011

    That’s amazing, nice job animators! Mike, great work motivating the young guns to show their stuff. Can’t wait to see the films.

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