Interview with Festival Director Ginger Marisa Tontaveetong (ASIFA International Animation Society)

asifa.pngTheir aim is to put the spotlight on artist and animators locally and globally. Their signature event ASIFA-South RYO Animation Festival has been running for 14 years. With local panels involving professional locally as well as a monthly online panel with professionals in the industry around the world from Canada to the West Coast to Asia, they seek to provide our members and local community with the latest update of know-how.

URL: http://www.asifa-south.com

Interview with Ginger Marisa Tontaveetong

 Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Ginger Marisa Tontaveetong: Our film festival has succeeded in extending exposures for our filmmakers/animators beyond the life of the festival to worldwide locations. With our screening selection from RYO (Southern Spotlights), the block is shared with ASIFA (International Animation Society) chapters around the world in which content is selected to screen around the world with participating locations such as Colorado, Australia, China, and more.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival next year (2017)?

GMT: In 2017, we are planning to increase the size of our screening and really focus on spotlighting our filmmakers. As we have two annual signature screenings each year: RYO animation and International Animation Day screenings, we will be consolidating the two screenings into two different blocks. These blocks are competitive. As with 2016 RYO, the judges were industry professionals based in Atlanta ranging from Directors to Producer from the Emmy award animated series Archer to Bento Box Entertainment’s HULU web series The Awesome. We will also be arranging a Animation VERSUS Puppetry Smackdown event along with other professional industry panels. But perhaps most of all, at heart, we keep our filmmakers our top priority and aim for visibility and promotions. We are planning to have a platform for filmmakers in attendance to be able to showcase and talk more about their work and introduce them to the natives and local artists/ animators in Atlanta. Our RYO screening is held in the landmark Plaza Theatre and in addition to our Atlanta location for International Animation Day this year, we also are screening our International Animation Day selection in Savannah’s Trustee Theater.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

GMT: Films selected for 2017 may fall under two different categories:
For Southern Spotlights: Qualifications are for animation that are created by animators in South US or have southern ties (Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, etc. Maryland included) These films will be selected for trade and showcase on International Animation Day screenings with other ASIFA chapters (50+) around the world. They must not be longer than 15 mins. and have 70% animated content. Puppetry entries are also accepted. This is a competitive category with a Best in Show and Audience Choice Award.

For International category, all animated shorts are accepted with a special attention to animation that addresses diversity, issues, and relevant world contents. This category is a showcase with one award called Animation for All that focuses on best entry for its content.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

GMT: This is true. Film festivals are very subjective and sometimes filmmakers may not realize why their entries do no qualify as festivals rarely provide feedback as to why a film is rejected. Our screening is focused on Animation so while there are content that are great that are life action, they are disqualified right away because those do not fit our qualifications. Another criteria is based on length of content and sound quality. If an animation is too long and content is not strong throughout, it may be brushed over in favor for two shorter animated shorts. From my experience, a lot of things are also very subjective to the taste of the juries and committees involved. In other cases, I’ve also seen some animation picked because of the names they are attached to as opposed to the quality because some festivals believe a bigger name will get them more audiences. We have actually passed over some big-named entries because we didn’t believe the content this round was as strong as their other works or the works submitted by other filmmakers.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

GMT: ASIFA-SOUTH as an organization hangs on four main goals, two directly related to the festival are promotion of artist visibility and diversity in animation. In order to make sure filmmakers have a platform to showcase their film and encourage animators to produce independent work, we aim to make sure their work gets as much exposure as possible around the world. We also strongly are conscious in our choices to make sure our picks are diverse not only in technique but in narrative and have content that promotes LGBT themes, politics, and functionality diversity. We want not just diversity in content but to showcase the stories directly from representational filmmakers as we believe it is important to hear directly from minority groups their stories in their own vision.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

GMT: ASIFA-SOUTH was established about two decades ago as ASIFA-Atlanta. Our path as an organization and the screenings have changed alot since a turnover change of committee members in 2014 with a stronger and more urgent vision of what animation can be for the world and how it can influence the coming generation. We have started to focus more on diversity as a core message, with a very diverse committee with all representation of gender and race (Of our 15 committee members, we have representation in LGBT, equal parts gender, Asian, Blacks, Caucasians, Latino, etc)

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

GMT: By 2020, we will move into expansion of becoming an Animation Conference with the animation screenings as part of the hi-light. We aim to become a professional hub which caters to the advancement of the animation industry in the South. We also see ourselves working with more of our other festival partners to maximize exposure for animators so expect to see a screening of our programs not only in Atlanta but neighboring states as well so that filmmakers, especially those in the South, will be able to conveniently visit their closest location to see their films and engage with the audiences better.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

GMT: This would be a tie-in with Jurassic Park chronicles, Deep Blue Sea, and Tremors…I love animation but I also really love creature features.

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

GMT: Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but if you are making a film you are passionate about, be it narrative or abstract, that makes it a great film.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

GMT: Atlanta is a great hub for filmmakers and is booming. Due to the tax incentive here, it is one of the top locations for the film industry with lots of activities. We also have a lot of supporting organization and an amazing art/film community such as Film Bar Monday, where industry professionals gather each Monday to mingle without business cards, Atlanta Film Society that really pushes out filmmaker works with year round programs and support, as well as support groups and agency such as My Animation Life that does recruitment for animators, Art is King which supports entrepreneurial skills for artists, Georgia Production Partnership that protects the film tax incentive (up to 30%), and Georgia Game Development Association that hosts the biggest Game and Interactive Development conference in the South East (SIEGE). As a community, this is really the rising backbone of indie films and what we are working to support. We also have the Puppetry Center of Art here that support puppeteers and filmmakers with grants to create their own performance and films.

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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 Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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