The Savannah College of Art and Design is hosting its AnimationFest virtually for the first time.
The two-day festival, now in its fourth year, will use innovative streaming platforms like Cinesend, Perigon, and Squadup, to present an exciting and educational festival featuring some of the most creative studios and artists in the film, television, video game, and animation industries.
"Ultimately, we realized that Zoom fatigue is very real, especially for our students, and finding a way to design a dynamic and interactive festival experience without being able to be together in one theater was the challenge we needed to overcome," said Leigh Seaman, Senior Executive Director of SCADFILM.
"We’ve had a lot of success in doing that already with our SCAD virtual program, ‘Guests & Gusto,’ where visitors have being coming in since Spring quarter...We’ll have lots of interactivity and audience participation."
Previous AnimationFests were held in-person in Atlanta, but taking it online has several advantages. For one, the audience outreach is much broader and guests and participants are expected to join in from all over the globe. It is also easier for general audiences to tune-in to the acclaimed festival.
"SCADFILM is an initiative that President Wallace started for that very purpose, recognizing that the film industry in Georgia was growing and expanding," explained Seaman. "She wanted to be sure that members of our Atlanta and Savannah communities could be a part of these extraordinary events."
Operating virtually has also given SCAD more flexibility in booking guests who are not always up to speaking in front of a large live audience.
"One thing that we’ve noticed that’s really cool is that there are guests out there, experts and industry leaders, that are completely uncomfortable on a stage, but yet they are completely comfortable virtually," said Seaman.
"This is a great way for us to expand the opportunities to bring in more people because we have another way of incorporating them without traveling and having to give up their time to be here...I do think we will be looking at ways to capitalize on what we’ve learned with this virtual pivot."
Animation is currently the most popular degree program at SCAD, and the level of quality programming at this year’s festival reflects that. Some of the panels and screenings include a presentation by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy, co-creators of Amazon Studios’ "Undone," the making of HBO’s "Lovecraft Country" with the FX team, Framestore, and a discussion with the creators and animators of "Star Trek: Lower Decks."
There will also be a panel celebrating "How to Train Your Dragon" led by Jason Mayer, the head of FX at Dreamworks and a SCAD alumnus, and other SCAD alumni that worked on the film.
"I’m particularly excited about the SCAD alumni we’re welcoming back to the festival this year," said Seaman. "Pixar, Dreamworks, and Riot Games are all sending SCAD talent, and we have alumni coming who are working at Blizzard and Netflix and really a lot of impressive industry leaders."
Another highlight is a presentation of SCAD Animation Studios’ very first film, "Bearly," a musical about a bear who resists hibernation so that it can enjoy the changing seasons.
"That is a very cool collaboration that our students did together and it crosses over from performing arts and school of entertainment arts students to our SCAD animation and school of digital media students," said Seaman.
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Another exciting, and aptly timed, panel is a conversation with Bryan Konietzk, creator of Nickelodeon’s "Avatar: The Last Airbender," which is currently seeing a resurgence in popularity.
"’Avatar’ debuted on Netflix right around the time the pandemic sent everyone home and it broke records for viewing even though it originally debuted on Nickelodeon in 2005," explained Seaman. "Avatar unseated Ozark and was in the top 10 new shows for a record breaking 65 days, so that series has enjoyed a renaissance."
Konietzk will also be on hand for a special masterclass exclusively for students where he will talk about the many roles that contribute to a successful series.
"That’s a real signature of our festival is that we’ve got all this outward facing, great stuff for everybody to attend, but students will get extra benefit because guests will hang back do masterclasses, or workshops, or look at portfolios, just for the students," said Seaman.
Even though the format may have changed, the SCAD AnimationFest continues to highlight the amazing work being done by SCAD students—current and former.
"He have over 40,000 alumni working in the entertainment industry and many of them come back to SCAD to advise and mentor, and they bring their friends, they hire SCAD students and graduates, and they represent our university, they win Emmys and Oscars," said Seaman.
"I think, generally speaking, we adapt to the times and continue to send really well trained professionals into the workforce who in-turn hire more SCAD alumni and share their expertise to make our current students better."