An Interview with Independent Animator Signe Baumane

Latvian-born, New York City-based Signe Baumane has made a name for herself through her consistently intriguing works and willingness to tackle topics that others do not. Her 2014 feature film Rocks in my Pockets received widespread praise from critics and viewers alike. Currently in the midst of producing her next feature, My Love Affair With Marriage, Signe graciously took some time to answer a few tough questions from me.

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Why America Remains a Magnet for Animators: An Interview with Ricky Renna

Animation on a global scale is growing like never before. Unlike times gone past, there are now a multitude of local employment choices for animators in many countries. That said, America continues to be a draw for many foreign artists. I talked to Blue Sky animator Ricky Renna to find out why.

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Remember Inside Out?

Minions guffaw

Seems like ages ago that everyone was gushing over Pixar’s latest hit, doesn’t it?

Now Minions is the movie on everyone’s lips. The hit of the land! A tremendous opening weekend! Almost $400,000,000 grossed worldwide!!! Illumination/Universal does it yet again! Can nothing stop them???

Wait, what’s that you say?

They’re working on a Wreck-It-Ralph sequel!?*

Well if they don’t call it Super Wreck-It-Ralph someone should be fired.†

Etc. etc.

* MovieNews | John C. Reilly confirms at Galway Film Fleadh that he’s signed on for Wreck-It Ralph 2 –

† As quipped by Redditor /u/lpjunior999

Frozen contributed to my disillusionment with animation last year.

Inside Out is the catalyst this time around.

The cranial dynamo ran out of steam, and it’s no easy task to get it spinning again.

Ideally you shouldn’t have to start rebuilding a passion from scratch, and yet here we are.

With that in mind, the focus now is on creating something new,  and in order to do that, you can’t focus on the old.

Where Have I Been?

If you’ve visited or browsed this site any time recently, you’ve probably noticed that posting ended abruptly in the second week of March. Three years of almost-daily writing came to a swift and unexplained end; staying that way until now. The absence was self-imposed and total. I haven’t written or read about anything related to animation since March; an eternity in more ways than one.

In many ways it was sobering, but in plenty of other ways it was enlightening. What motivated me to call it quits was not some catastrophic event or personal failure, but rather an epiphany of sorts. Namely that the wild success of a mediocre feature film like Frozen suggests that audiences really don’t care. They just don’t; they’re suckers for whatever can be engineered specifically for them and that pushes animation as a concept into second place behind mere entertainment.

The glory days when each Pixar film heralded an advancement of sorts in animation as an artform are long over. The movie business is hardly the creative force it once was; independents are still creating and innovating, but as far as the major studios go, it’s all about pulling on levers until the audience comes in the door. Frozen proved that beyond all doubt; I strongly suspect that Big Hero 6 will be simply the union part of a Venn diagram containing Disney and Marvel. For that matter, Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea will be a wonderful feature that will be every bit the commercial failure its predecessor was because again, consumers don’t care.

Call me pessimistic if you will, but realising that this is where animation as an industry and artform finds itself in 2014 really did me in. How could I continue writing about, and being actively involved in something that seems intent on eating itself? It probably didn’t help that being cursed with the memory that I have (not trying to brag, just stating a fact pointed out to me on regular occasions), I started to see patterns and stories/news/events repeating themselves.

Unfortunately once that starts to happen with anything in my life, I tend to get instantly bored with whatever it is that I notice the patterns in. From then on, my interest is more superficial than active. I like cars, but once I saw the same kinds of articles in the magazine that I knew I read before; I checked out, and now only skim them when I’m in the book store.

So when I found myself contemplating animation as an interest that was turning into something like that; I had to stop and consider it. Which is what I have been doing since March. I really do love animation, in that deep-seated, irrational way that I can’t explain to anyone. I like it just because; I don’t know why, I just do, but when I stopped finding it fulfilling, that passion died, or rather, hid itself.

The last few months have also caused me to consider my future in animation. I love to write about it, sure. But that isn’t a paying job for me at the moment, and I don’t foresee it becoming one either. The book I’ve started writing about The Incredibles is a fun project; I’m writing it because I want to. I have to find a position that is related to animation and also puts food on my table.

I want to work in the industry, I want to create memorable, innovative and artistically astounding art; or rather to facilitate it. I’m no artist, and I know that. So I have to find another way; one that can exploit what I do know and what I am capable of. The lack of a clear path in that regard also contributed to me giving up on animation. After all, if you cannot see a way in, why bother at all?

That kind of thinking caused a certain degree of, shall we say, anguish. Ultimately, I realised that my future does lie in animation in some way shape or form. That’s the part I’m trying to figure out now. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year brings lots of potential with it and 2014 is no different. The recent hiatus was caused by a trip home to Ireland and the decision to take a complete break while I was there. It was also a time for contemplation in regards to the blog and how things will progress in 2014.

The posting schedule will continue on an almost-daily basis. The last few months of 2013 weren’t great for such a schedule, but things should be better in the new year with less things vying for my time.

I intend to get a proper podcast schedule up and running with guests on a regular basis to discuss all things animation. The first few trial episodes have given me a bit of a taste for it!

A few other ventures are in line for 2014 that I can’t talk about yet mainly because I’m still figuring out all the details, but needless to say I’m quite excited to get them up and running.


What I Learned At A Simpsons Scoring Session

Related to yesterday’s post, my presence in the Los Angeles area for the 2013 CTN Expo did not go unnoticed. Chris Ledesma sniffed that I was in town and arranged for me to attend one of the music recording sessions for the Simpsons.

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The 2013 CTN Expo Recap

Reviews are a rare thing here on the blog, and that’s partly because I haven’t had time to review things properly this past year but also because I’m neither a poet or a truly objective person when it comes to animation.

That said, events are bit different from films and TV shows. This year I was privileged to attend the 2013 Creative Talent Network Animation Expo, otherwise known as CTNx in Burbank, California.

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Animation Idioms from 1938 You Might Find Relevant

Disney tryout book idioms
Via: Animation Resources

Today’s post was going to be about linking the seminal artist tryout book for Disney from 1938, but as I was reading it over on the Animation Resources blog (and you ought to as well), I decided instead to focus on the little idioms scattered throughout. Although merely complimentary to the book as a whole, on their own, they serve as a powerful reminder of what animation is really all about.

In today’s hectic world, it can be easy to forget that at its core, animation is a format of expressing artistic creation. It is disheartening to see it sometimes reduced to mere entertainment or as a babysitter for kids. Walt Disney strived to push the animation technique and the idioms below embody that spirit; coming as they do from an early high-point in the history of the Disney studio.

If anything, I hope you take away from this post and these idioms, the idea that animation can and should be more than simply a job with an artistic theme. Creating art than can inspire, entertain and stand on its own for many years ought to be the goal of any studio, not just ones confined to the history books.

The Idioms

The first duty of the animator is to caricature life and action for the audience.

The animator brings to life the inherent possibilities of a good story or funny gag.

To synchronize an action to its background the animator must compose an ever-changing picture.

Upon the animator’s ability to dramatize personality and action depends the success of the story.

The animator brings to life the director’s visual conception of timing, acting, and continuity.

To coordinate drama, music, action, and graphics, the animator must work with all the arts.

The animator, through experimentation, has opened a new field of expression for the artist.

Have you any of your own? Why not share them with everyone in the comments.


Fred Seibert Is On the Money (When It Comes to Copyright)

Apologies for the unrelated pic but it does highlight the uncertainty surrounding copyright by many people.

Fred Seibert is a guy I have a lot of respect and admiration for so it was quite surprising (and delightful) to see a post from him on the subject of copyright (something that is inexplicably fascinating to me). Fred’s post is actually a discussion/opinion on the news that Republicans in Congress released a paper in which they did a surprisingly good job of analysing the impact that copyright has and some of the myths that surround it.

I won’t go into the details because I want you to read the full post over on a regular haunt of mine, Techdirt. However, I do want to point out that Fred, being in the creative industries that he is, takes a very rational approach to the fact that copyright and the industries linked to it, are rapidly changing.

Rather than stick his head in the sand, Fred details, quite clearly, outlines why increased penalties and terms on copyright protection is detrimental:

….Completely aside from the fact that in this era of expansion of ease of sharing and distribution that more stringent copyright defense is the equivalent of putting up higher and higher anti-immigration fences along our borders, it just isn’t helpful to creative enterprise. Seriously.

And, we’re gathering the forces to realize that all the technological changes in our lives are *demanding* legal change.

A long time ago, copyright was the preserve of entertainment industry bigwigs and specialist lawyers. Today, everyone is at least familiar with the concept of copyright but unfortunately most do not understand the ramifications of the legal rights and restrictions it imposes on the person on the receiving end.

I’ve discussed the importance of copyright knowledge to animators and other creators before and I would encourage you to read up on it if you are not familiar with it beyond the basics. As Fred says:

What should you do? One, be smarter about the what’s what in the business you work in. And two, write your congressional representatives. Let them know what you think.

Be an informed citizen and creator. We are in the same era as those people living when the first Gutenberg bible was printed. They lived through the proverbial wringer; now it’s out turn.