Monday, June 9, 2008
The Gangs of New York (Indy Animation)
One of my favorite moments in The Beatles Anthology video series is when Ringo Starr discussed the period when he temporarily quit the Beatles. It was during the making of The White Album, and as Ringo tells it, he was feeling unloved and underappreciated. He visited the other three Beatles, one-on-one, and explained, “You three are really close and I’m not fitting in,” or something like that. Paul replied, “I thought it was you three.” George replied, “I thought it was you three.” John replied, “I thought it was you three.”
What the hell does this have to do with animation, you may ask? Well, it happens to remind me of the many clicks or subsets that exist in the New York Independent animation community. To the uninitiated, it might look like the independent scene is one close-knit community. The reality is that New York City’s independent animation community is so large that it is divided into many groups. Case in point– I had breakfast with Will Krause this week and at one point he referenced the independent animation scene in New York as “those people.” I chuckled and asked him if he didn’t feel a part of it. At that point our omelets arrived and we fell into a food coma.
The truth is that one can be part of something (like an community of independent animators) while still feeling apart from it. My feeling is that like-minded people always find each other and form close relationships. I believe that’s what goes on in this community, more than any deliberate exclusion. In my mind, the modern era of NY indy animation began when twelve animators banded together to create the two compilation DVDs, Avoid Eye Contact Vol.1 and 2. This action separated the past from the present. The past model had independent filmmakers acting alone, making films and entering festivals. Avoid Eye Contact presented this challenge to status quo:
1- Animators don’t have to act alone (anymore) to promote their films.
2- Through the DVD we can define ourselves as “The Best of New York Animation.”
Twelve people acting together can have the audacity to say that they are “The Best of New York Animation.” One individual would never have said that, and so the break from the past tradition in this community is obvious. The new era arrived through a $10 DVD!
“The Best of New York Animation,” was the official subtitle to Avoid Eye Contact. Not only was this new group willing to enter into a joint-venture to cross promote their films, they were also seeking to define what “The Best of New York Animation,” might mean for the present, and also for posterity. While this was a good commercial tag-line, which probably helped to sell DVDs, it also instantly made this an exclusionary compilation. So rich is the NY animation scene, that the artists and films left off the two DVDS (to date), threaten to outshine what was included.
Of course, there’s no stopping anyone not included on this two-volume set from making their own collectives, featuring a whole host of other artists. The fact that this hasn’t happened shines light on just how special the Avoid Eye Contact artists were. These 12 were fully committed artists ready to promote like-minded filmmakers to a mutual benefit. The DVDs may be inadvertently exclusionary but, the model of a joint-venture by independent artists, belongs to us all.