Friday, May 10, 2019

ANIMATING AFRICA: THE NEXT FRONTIER - A STORY FOR NOLLYWOOD WEEK PARIS 2019


A screen grab from the e-brochure of Nollywood Week Paris 2019
About a week ago, I got a message from the co-founder of the Nollywood Week Paris (NWP) film festival, to write a blurb on African animation for the festival brochure for their 7th edition scheduled for May 9 -12 in Paris and Marseille. 
There was no way I was going to write a paragraph about a film genre I am very passionate about and which is rapidly developing in the continent of my birth. I told her it was impossible and that I would write ‘a bit’ and she could then take out their favourite paragraph. I had to get this story out in less than two days and without a computer. My trusty work tool decided to give up on me at the time it was needed most. I wasn’t going to pass over my small contribution to the festival and the animation genre.
I submitted the article at the nick of time and it turned out my NWP folks could not take out a paragraph and decided to publish the full article (which I even abridged) in their brochure. 
I rubbed my hands with glee and grinned from molar to molar when the news was communicated to me!

NWP in its 7th year, has been celebrating and promoting Nollywood films and their professionals in the city of lights. I have followed the film festival from inception and seen their growth over the years. 
Interestingly in 2015, the first film production I worked on – Dazzling Mirage (2014) by ace African filmmaker Tunde Kelani, won the Audience Choice Award at the festival. 
This year has an amazing line up of films as usual but it celebrates the films of female directors doing very well in Nollywood. I was pained there were no animation films in the final selection this year. Hopefully, we will be compensated in 2020.
Please find below, my article which has been slightly edited for my blog. 

Screen grabs from the e-brochure of Nollywood Week Paris 2019
There has always been the quest to tell our authentic African and Nigerian stories ourselves and the reverberating success of Marvel's Black Panther (2018) has shown that there is an insatiable, global market for productions like this. 
But these productions come at a price. 

In 1998, Kirikou and The Sorceress, a full length animated feature film, written and directed by Michel Ocelot was released. 
The following year, it won the Grand Prix for Best Animation at the biggest animation festival in the world - ANNECY in France. 
The film based on a West African folktale, was a co-production between France, Belgium and Luxembourg and it was animated in Latvia and Hungary. Interestingly, most of the work on an African story was done outside the continent. Even though Walt Disney's Lion King (1994) was and is still much loved internationally, it's not an African production in the true sense. 
A few Swahili phrases and names, beautiful Savannah, American and British voice actors and some mashed up beliefs, left us wanting more of what's authentically ours.
The Lion King Image credits: Walt Disney
Despite the lack of government support for animation in Nigeria unlike their South African counterparts, or in France where the government also supports this genre, 3 Nigerian studios; Magic Carpet, Komotion and Anthill are daring to do the impossible. 
They are producing the Passport of Mallam Ilia, Dawn of Thunder and Frogeck full length animated feature films respectively which they all started with studio funds. Hopefully, they will pull these amazing projects through in good time if investors, sponsors and companies that can offer technical support and distribution get on board. 

You see, they are on a mission to show the world that everything within the animation pipeline can be done within the country and continent. 
It is worthy to note that there are no specific schools offering animation in Nigeria and it is hardly in any school curriculum. 
More than 80% of the animators, digital and VFX artists working within the space are self taught. A few schooled outside the country and continent and returned with the required skills. Before now, animation in Nigeria was done mostly for commercials. Even when burgeoning studios and creative individuals have put out productions, they have been short films and web or TV series with short durations. 

South Africa is the leading emerging animation industry in the African continent. 
The Cape Town International Festival (CTIAF) for the past few years, has had the consistent support of WACOM, the leading tablet manufacturer. 
Most animators and digital artists internationally, hanker after their products. 
This year's CTIAF had Peter Ramsey, the third director of the award-winning, animated feature blockbuster –SpiderMan : Into The SpiderVerse, speaking with and inspiring creatives. This film was also co-produced by 3 big studios. 
Adventures in Zambezia Image credits: Mybookshow
Triggerfish studios in Cape Town produced the full length animated feature films - Adventures In Zambezia (2012) and Khumba (2013) which were translated into several languages and became South African blockbusters. 
Khumba sold over a million tickets in China alone and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival TIFF in 2013. These two films are two of the five top grossing South African films of all time!
Animation is more expensive, more time consuming and requires much more skill sets than live action and distribution is another matter.  
Many still believe it is only for children and don't see why they should be part of its development even though we have over 400 million children in Africa. 
This is where funding, international 'balanced' and fair co-production and distribution deals, training and equipment support play a major role.

About 2 years ago, some professionals working in the Nigerian animation space, set up Animation Nigeria. The organization was set up for the purpose of creating opportunities for animators and animation content producers across the country and fostering co-production between animation companies where possible.
An incubation lab like the Digital Lab Africa (DLA) launched 3 years ago in South Africa, supports creatives working in Sub-Saharan Africa in 5 multimedia categories including animation. DLA provides funding, technical support, training and distribution in conjunction other partners but only 2 animation projects are picked yearly.

A tiny drop in the mighty ocean of storytelling and creativity in the continent. 
Ayodele Elegba, a Nigerian was one of the winners of the first edition. 
Cartoon Network launched a competition in search of content from Africa for their platform last year and a Nigerian Ridwan Moshood won. 
African Animation Network (AAN) in conjunction MIFA at ANNECY also called for animation projects from the African continent last year. 2 projects emerged from all the pitches across 4 African regions. 
Nigeria's Damilola Solesi will go head to head with other international projects and pitch her TV series to get the coveted production, technical and distribution price at ANNECY this June. 
The children on the continent and in Diaspora long for productions that show their stories, realities and people like them which doesn't take away their being citizens of the world. Representation does matter even though it sounds cliché.

If anyone can read between the lines and seasons, it is clear that we have thousands of stories to tell in animation but the process for telling them is the crux of the matter and needs support.

There is a fast moving animation train in Africa and Nigeria and the best time to get a coach is now!  

For more about the Nollywood Week Paris visit www.nollywoodweek.com 

Image credits : Nollywood Week Paris

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

CTIAF 2019 AND WACOM COMPETITION WINNER STEPHEN HOWARD-TRIPP SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE


Stephen Howard-Tripp with his Wacom Intuos win at CTIAF 2019
Stephen Howard-Tripp is a freelance concept artist, illustrator and storyboard artist living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. Graduating from Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2016, he has worked on projects like 'The Highway Rat', 'Zog' and is currently in the production team for the forthcoming full length animated feature film 'Seal Team' at Triggerfish Animation Studios.
He is also an emerging director and writer who has directed and written two short films.
This year at the Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF), he won the 2019 Wacom Instagram Digital Art competition and added the Intuos Pro to his artistic artillery. Last year, Stephen entered the same competition but didn't win. 
The difference dedication, tenacity and 365 days make. You just have to kept at it till you get what you want and love!  
He shares about his work and experience at CTIAF 2019. 

Taught By Thirst by Stephen Howard-Tripp for CTIAF 2018
Congratulations on finally winning the Wacom Intuos! How was it participating in the CTIAF/ Wacom 2019 competition?
Thank you! Last year, I submitted a digital art work – ‘Taught by Thirst’ for fun but with my eyes on the Wacom Intuos. The winners get chosen by the number of likes their works have. I never like art competitions that are based on a popularity vote rather than being professionally judged on merit.
Nevertheless these competitions are a great way to showcase your art and get more eyes on it. Since the CTIAF is an industry event in my hometown, I always feel excited to participate. A few of the other entrants were my friends and co-workers so it made it a fun race to the finish.

Stephen Howard Tripp's winning piece at CTIAF 2019
Can you share with us about your winning piece?
My passion in visual art is character and storytelling, so I always aim to at least create something that is exciting in an unusual or unsuspecting way.
I always try and find my way to something that isn't typical or something that has a slightly 'off' or mysterious quality about it.
Currently I have quite an obsession with the 'cyberpunk' genre hence the sci-fi theme of my piece and I wanted to push myself to create a dynamic energetic pose for a character.
Through sketching out some ideas I landed on a crazed, cybernetically enhanced, bad-ass chick taking out a robot cop with a baseball bat.
There's quite a bit of sub-text filling the piece that came with some of the choices I made, but it's probably too blunt to even bring up. I'm just super glad that other people enjoyed the piece. I had tons of fun making it and to win the competition (my first win in an art competition) feels pretty damn good.


Skater Bot
Sisters
RainMaker Bot
At work
Were you able to meet Peter Ramsey at CTIAF and who are your mentors/ inspiration in animation in Africa and internationally? 
Unfortunately I didn’t meet him ! I think I missed my opportunity to bump into him a few times by hair's breadth. 
I have looked at so much art and watched so many movies that it would be hard to list all the people that have breathed inspiration into my heart, but to name a few big ones: Guillermo Del Toro, Gerald Brom, Izzy Madrano, Marko Djurvik, Jesper Ejsing, Karl Kopinski, Adrian Smith, Christopher Nolan and the list keeps on going.
I have longed for mentors for most of my career, but I never seemed to find someone to watch over me. I have tried hard to push myself to seek criticism and guidance from the professionals around me. My friends like Malcolm Wope, Philipe Rios, Willem Samual, Dawid Strauss, Kyle Herring are all incredible artists and always graciously give me feedback and criticism when asked. They are my mentors now.

Illustrations for The Last Lion project
Panels from The Highway Rat project

What inspired your study of art and interest in digital art?  
I had always been interested in creating art and content from a young age, my imagination was captured by movies and video games (video game specifically). I fell in love with getting lost in fantasy and sci-fi worlds. It was when I discovered that I could actually earn money creating those worlds for movies and video games that I got hooked and my dream was set.

Is there any other artist in your family?  
My older brother is a special effects makeup artist in the film industry, possibly the coolest and hardest job out there.
 

Did you ever learn animation in art school or are you self taught?
I have never learnt animation. My skill base is mostly 2D digital art, drawing and painting. Even though I completed a Fine Arts degree, I taught myself most of what I do now since I was in high school.

Is your current work at Triggerfish Animation Studios project based or you work with them constantly as a freelancer?  
Yeah its project based. I get hired on for some time on a project in house, usually during pre-production. I am currently working on their next Seal Team animated full length feature.

Studies

How is the art and animation landscape in Cape Town and SA in general?
It's very exciting at the moment. With Triggerfish alone, things are growing very fast, and the rest of the world is starting to see the talent and quality being produced here. All eyes are on us right now.

How did you get a leg into Triggerfish studios?
It was in quite a roundabout way. I put some of my art on a local video game making community and through that, I met a long standing employee at the studio who encouraged me to apply for ‘Stickman The Project’ gearing up at the time. I didn't get a job, but with a little nagging and some help from my friend, I managed to get a short internship on Stickman. From there I met the team and formed a bit of a relationship, so by the time I graduated from the university I had a bit of a foot in the door. Then I had quite a bit of luck with the timing of the projects and got involved with Highway Rat. Morale of the story; put yourself out there, even when you don't feel ready or good enough. 


Are the short films you wrote and directed available online and are they your personal projects or you worked for another production company? 
Yes they are online and both were for the 48hour Film Project for 2015 and 2017 respectively, but I guess you could say they are personal projects.
Taking part in the project and making the films is part of my dream to make films and tell stories. The 48 Hour Film Challenge was an amazing way to pull a team together and create a finished product in no time at all.
My big ambition is to be writing and directing film whether live action or animation. 
CyberPunk Knight
Are you South African or you just live and work there?
I am South African born and raised.


How do you relax/ spend your leisure time?  
I play video games, watch movies/series, walk, hike, exercise, draw and go out with friends.

Stephen Howard-Tripp about town

Image credits: Stephen Howard-Tripp

Contact : 
Instagram @stevehowardtripp