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What Is Berlinale Campus?
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

An international program that acts as a networking platform and academy, this brings in experts from filmmaking and journalism to pass on their experiences and expertise to the new generation. It started in 2003 and has now spread like wild fire and developed into a fantastic forum while, at the same time, is growing internationally. This year more than 350 up-and-coming filmmakers participated in this program. It is now organized in Russia, Brazil, South Africa and many other countries. This year Mexico had its first Talent Campus in March. The organizers generously offer events to the public which helps spark the imagination of those who never took themselves seriously but suddenly want to get in on the action. There is a wide range of discussion and panels going on daily as hand-on seminars and projects that are developed during this week. It is truly a networking dream for anyone who is interested in the film world.

Hands On with Animation.
The various Talent Campus panel discussions are some of the most exciting events during the Berlinale. There is always a variety with some even open to the public. From the title Pencils, Puppets, and Pixels, I could easily grasp that this would be about animation, but in what way? Would James Cameron, director from Avatar, appear to explain the newest techniques in 3D computer graphics which is revolutionizing animation or would it feature those directors doing the cartoon animation which we see on television? To my surprise, the directors were people who do characterization with puppets and hands-on work. I was also surprised to meet some audience members who were there to network and others who brought their kids so they could learn about the magic behind animation. Moderator Ben Gibson, director of the London Film School, introduced the three panelist and asked questions about how their studios work and how the magic of animation is created.

Anita Killi
She is a Norwegian animator and founder of studio Trollfilm AS. Killi studied graphic design and illustration at Kunsthogskole in Oslo and animation at Volda University College. She likes to work alone and prefers that small controlled environment even though it takes her a long time to make a film. Her last film Angry Man took her six years to make but certainly was worth the effort since it has won several awards. Luckily she inherited a farm from her father which has given her the opportunity to have a studio. She mostly applies for grants and then can carry on with her project. As far as techniques, she has fallen in love with the paper-cut-out technique where she builds up sets in rows of cubicles with pearls, fabric, sequences and glue. She also creates handmade, three dimensional puppets that are very unique. Her animation is usually based on books and, thematically, she looks for statements about the world seen through eyes of a child. Angry Man (2009) follows a tragic story of childhood abuse where a brave child reaches out and seeks help. Her animation The Hedge of Thorns (2001) which won awards at the Berlinale as well as other film festivals takes a hard look at war and how children are the ones who can overcome the conflict. This animation is a part of the animation selection of the Berlinale Kurzfilm DVD which was for sale.

Mait Laas
He is an Estonian author, animator and documentary filmmaker. He belongs to the Nuku Studios which have been handed down from generation to generation. Laas has an undergraduate and master’s degree from Tallinn Pedagogical University and has attended Vienna Advanced School for fine arts at a master’s level. He has written several books and co-authored several others. Laas has made several films and is best known for a collaboration film called Lost and Found / Six Glances at the Generation. Laas won two awards and has been nominated for one. Nuku Studios has different rooms set up where about 30 people work on each set of the film. Each director then has to direct and teach them what to do. The people in the studio are not necessarily animators but are learning how to do the process. He said it is an eat-drink-work-sleep situation that binds them as a team so they are glued together throughout the project. As Nuku Studio started in 1957, it has a political, historical connection, which has since changed the film’s content to include more social commentary. For him music plays the most important part of animation, giving it the right atmosphere needed to make the story come alive. It is also important to remain director because composers are usually trying to dominate the film with their music which also can kill it.

Merlin Crossingham
He is the creative director and character animator for the feature film department of Aardman Studios. He studied at Newport film school and Bristol Steiner School. Aardman studio is famous for the Wallace and Gromit characters. The studio started out small but has grown to a permanent staff of 200 people. They are capable of pulling off a feature animated film in two to three years. It is hard to believe how time-consuming animation is but Crossingham explained that they are doing really well if they can get three to four seconds shot per day. Chicken Run took 22 months to film and another year of production before it hit the cinema. The first creation was U.K. Morph which was made for deaf children and therefore expresses itself with pure motion. The hardest part is to make a character have a soul. In Wallace and Gromet films, Gromet doesn’t speak, so it was necessary for him to have very little jester. If the actions are too complicated, it doesn’t work. Gromet is based on Buster Keaton’s silent movies. Chicken Run was their first, big, commercial feature which was nominated for an Oscar and distributed by DreamWorks. Later Aardmann studio decided that it was necessary to include the human touch with the clay figures. A thumb print here or there is better than perfectly smooth characters. Their studio has set up ground rules when working with big companies so that they can have some control over their production.

Animation is not an industrial culture but an artistic one. Passion is the driving force behind it since there is a delicate balance between business and the creative aspects. Every time I see an animation I think about how much time it took to make it and, in most cases, it is a labor of love that brings it to life.