Austin Film Society Presents a Night of Texas Animation
Animation showcase draws artists together
By Richard Whittaker, Fri., July 22, 2016
It's been 15 years since Richard Linklater's dreamlike Waking Life put Austin on the animation map, and the imminent release of Keith Maitland's UT Tower shooting documentary Tower looks set to draw eyes back to the city's animators. Now Austin Film Society and local animation studio Mighty Coconut bring the whole scene into focus with an evening spotlighting Austin animation.
The genesis for the night came from Mighty Coconut co-founder Christina Martell and AFS director Holly Herrick having a conversation over drinks, "as most good things do," Martell said. "We kind of blinked, and three years later she said, 'Yeah, let's do this!'"
Having taken two shorts – "Pigeon: Impossible" and "The OceanMaker," both directed by her husband, Lucas Martell – on the festival circuit, Martell has seen hundreds of animation packages, and had a clear idea of what the evening should represent: "If I was having an event at my house with a big screen and 300 friends, what would I want to see?" For her, the night reflects the eclecticism of the art form, and the diversity of the Austin scene. "Things we like from people where we love their work, and style very different from what we do. 2-D, 3-D, hand-drawn things, rotoscoped things, things that are super-super polished. Wanting to see animation from all sides, inside out and upside down."
AFS lead programmer Lars Nilsen described the night as fitting into the society's regular schedule of workshops and moviemaker dialogues, highlighting Austin talent. However, while he saw animation as "a steadily percolating stream that is always running through our film community," before the collaboration with Mighty Coconut, he said, "We hadn't really had a way to put together animators so we could see local work and have a way for people to greet each other and get to know each other."
That intention resonates with Mighty Coconut producer Tim Cunningham. He said, "The animation community doesn't have many opportunities to get together. The live-action people, you float around between different projects and bump into them all the time. Whereas on the animation side, people are in front of a computer or a workstation."
The lineup for the event includes its fair share of Mighty Coconut artists and their work. Laura Skowronski Nattam was animation supervisor on "Danny and the Wild Bunch" (Robert Rugan's award-winning tale of a children's author trying to keep her books innocent in a grim world). She'll be present alongside Michelle Yi, who screens her high-art sight gag "The D in David." Martell said, "I feel proud that Coconuts are involved."
However, when the team booked the show, it was important to them to reflect the breadth of Austin's animation talent. Working from a list of their peers and associates, plus AFS grant recipients, they curated a collection that includes work as diverse as Okay Mountain's video for Bill Callahan's song "America," Sai Selvarajan's PBS and SXSW-endorsed watercolor travelogue "Sugarless Tea," and new work by Mars director Geoff Marslett. There will also be an educational component. Lucas Martell will give a brief overview of 3-D animation, including part of the studio's new work-in-progress, Koalaroo, plus there will be a preview of Craig Staggs' work on Tower. Martell said, "It's been exciting to throw a net to our friends and not have this be the Mighty Coconut show, because we're more of a variety, ragtag bunch."
Underlying it all is that opportunity to bring the audience together with animators, and animators together with one another. Martell said, "My whole premise has been laid-back. Get inspired, have a conversation."
Austin Film Society and Mighty Coconut present Texas Animation Showcase: An Evening of Austin Animation, Wed., July 27, 7:30pm, at AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville. Tickets and info at www.austinfilm.org.