“Welcome everyone, to Saturday morning cartoons,” the venue coordinator at the Ace Hotel greeted the audience before the Animated Shorts Block Saturday morning. Fifteen shorts, ranging from barely a minute to almost 14-minutes long, were selected from the hundreds that were submitted to play during the Academy Award qualifying block. Frog’s Song, a stop motion picture set in the bayou, was an endearing, music-driven take on life, death, and jazz in New Orleans. Unsatisfying Compilation was a hilarious depiction of some of the most common minor frustrations in life. Julia Pott’s (writer, Adventure Time) Summer Camp Islandwhich was a hit at previous festivals, including Sundance and Toronto, was a totally bizarre yet entirely giddying look at homesickness, summer camp, and first crushes. (Earlier this year, Cartoon Network greenlit a series based on the short.) Making its U.S. premiere, Nevada came out of nowhere as a laugh out loud yet deeply introspective consideration of starting a family. And Lovestreams returned to the early days of online courtship, using Aol’s AIM as the bridge between two remote lovers. The winning filmmaker, as chosen by the jury and announced toward the end of the festival, will receive a Toon Boom Storyboard Pro licenses for a year, along with a yearlong license for Toon Boom Harmony Premium.
That afternoon, as part of the festival’s free and open to the public programming (supported by The Helis Foundation), Joyce Wong’s Wexford Plaza made its New Orleans debut. Shot on a micro-budget in Toronto, the film employs a dual protagonist structure while telling of the misinterpreted signals between Betty, an overnight security guard at a moribund strip mall and Danny, a down on his luck bartender. Newcomer Reid Asselstine was completely relatable as Betty and hopefully has a long career ahead of her. Director Anu Valia’s comedy short Troll preceded the feature and found its leading lady in the role of an unrepentant internet troll whose vitriol causes a YouTube musician to attempt suicide. All filmmakers stood for a conversation with the audience after the lights came back up and shared their experiences bringing a film to fruition, from inception to screen. Whereas Wong wrote the script herself, inspired by a friend’s experiences as a security guard, Valia received a script from the film’s two stars, who had developed the idea (and the screenplay) through an improvisational process of comedic one-upmanship.
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