Interview with Festival Director Dave Merson Hess (Rush Process Festival of Handcrafted Animation)

Rush Process celebrates handcrafted animation. The festival’s first edition – set for August 27-28, 2016 in Houston, Texas – will combine curated and competition screenings with filmmaker Q&As and a DIY animation jam. RP aims to screen visually and emotionally stunning, non-digital animation.

I recently sat down with Festival Director Dave Merson Hess to talk more about the festival:

What is Rush Process succeeding at doing for animated filmmakers? 

On the screening side, we’re bringing handcrafted animated films to an enthusiastic audience that appreciates the gesture of choosing to work with tangible, analog materials. And with our workshops, we’re encouraging absolutely everyone to embrace low-budget, DIY animation as both a rich area for visual exploration and an accessible entry point into personal filmmaking.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival?

Eye-opening screenings of handcrafted animated shorts from around the world, workshops offering the opportunity to collaborate with complete strangers who share a passion for time-based collage and scribbling, and snacks. We’ll definitely have snacks.

What are the qualifications for the selected films? 

I’m not involved with judging, but I can tell you that we only screen handcrafted animation. These are painstakingly produced films made by hand, with real ink and paint, and often by lone practicioners. To quote our site, handcrafted is “a materials-focused practice at the intersection of DIY, auteur-driven cinema and analog animation art.”

What makes a great independent film? 

A great independent film: 1) chooses the discomfort of honesty and doubt over audience-pandering via formula and cliche, 2) embraces the limitations of the particular context of its own making, and 3) demonstrates a passionate dedication to a unique and highly developed personal or collective vision.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

The opportunity to become DIY animation enablers for as large an audience as possible, and the genuine feeling that we’re filling a niche programming void.

>Where do you see the festival by 2020?

I see the workshop element expanding dramatically. Imagine a DIY animation-focused Hack Week, with independent animators, artists and film lovers of all ages meeting and collaborating on free-form, time-bound production challenges.

How has the festival changed since its inception?

Well, 2016 will be our first edition but I’ve been working on Rush Process for a year and a half. It began as an idea for a monthly screening series, then after some reshuffling and delays it morphed into a full-fledged animation festival. On the workshop side, we were inspired by Tom 7’s Crap Art Manifesto, and our friends at Beta Theater’s Make-A-Movie Night, which was this rad monthly happy hour event where filmmakers got together in teams and each made a short start-to-finish in about three hours.

What film have you personally seen the most in your life?

As a teen: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Wayne’s World, and Jan Svankmajer’s “Alice”.

While in film school: “Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies”, by The Brothers Quay.

As an adult: I’m not really someone who re-watches films much anymore. Despite this tendency, the films I’ve spent the most time with in the last five years have been: Penny Lane’s “The Voyagers”, Terence Nance’s feature, “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty”, Karolina Glusiec’s “Velocity”, and my friend Dax Norman’s whole body of work.

How is the film scene in your city?

On the production side, it’s relatively small and a bit fractured, with grant-funded video artists at one end of the spectrum, indie genre filmmakers at the other, documentarians somewhere in the middle, and the vast majority of local film professionals focused on industrials and commercial work.

In terms of curating and screenings, Houston’s film scene is downright incredible. We’ve got Mary Magsamen at Aurora Picture Show bringing the likes of Jodie Mack and Roger Beebe, Houston Cinema Arts Fest, annual festivals hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, even more screenings at the CAMH, video art/installations/transmedia madness at Civic TV Collective, Peter Lucas’s “Jazz On Film”, the Menil projecting work in a museum context (William Kentridge, anyone?), plus Mystical Crystal Revelations Movie Club showing rad cult flicks, and newer nomadic programmers like Suplex starting to screen stuff around town.

Dave Merson Hess is an animator, media arts educator and film curator based in Houston, Texas.
Twitter: @lofiaction


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.





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