TREBON: The new CEE Animation Forum taking place during the Anifilm festival, running through 12 May 2019, and transitioning out of its former and more restrictive designation as the VAF (Visegrad Animation Forum), opened on 6 May with a new director, Matias Sturm, in a new rotating management structure.
The forum has grown exponentially since a small cadre of Czech and Slovak animators met over a quiet lunch a decade ago to discuss how the small but beloved festival could create an industry section. Since then it has outgrown setting and schedule, turning into a non-stop three-day forum as its main event, and expanding even beyond those borders. During the past year the forum added a three-part workshop taking place in three locations in the CEE region beginning in December in Ljubljana. The third module of the CEE Animation Workshop concluded in Trebon in the six-day lead up to the Forum.
Animation from the region is also branching out. While many CEE animated series (especially the non-verbal ones) racked up international sales in years gone by, there was little thought given to creating English language versions for the international market. A few years ago, the idea of even dubbing an animation project into English was as foreign as the language to many producers. A concrete example of how rapidly the previously provincial animation industry has itself transformed into an international industry surviving and thriving on coproductions was evident in the well-attended lecture given on Day One by Irish voice over and dubbing specialist Moe Honan. CEE animators were openly questioning whether or not to make the original version of their animation projects in English, rather than in the language of the main producing country, and wondering about the real value of getting a name actor to headline their animation film.
The question of CEE animation on the international stage is also becoming a more nuanced topic. The original Visegrad Animation Forum was a place where Central European animators could find a place to pitch their projects to their national TV stations and their neighbouring production companies. Those CEE TV stations are no longer manning the jury benches in full force and the pitches this year are as likely to come from France or Italy as from Poland or Hungary.
Italy, in fact, is making something of a grand entrance in Trebon, with multiple projects being pitched across the short, full-length and TV series sections, and more Italians turning up as jury members. An overall increase in the range of international consultants is in evidence throughout, with the CEE Animation team bringing such recognised names as Jozko Rutar and Matthieu Darras.
That being said, there are still some aspects of CEE Animation Forum that focus exclusively on projects from the region. Those include CEE Animation Talents, which selects a small number of quality films to support dissemination at film markets and beyond; and the CEE Animation Workshop with four feature films, four series and four shorts, along with five participants without projects, representing 14 CEE countries.