Cannes’ Animation Day Opens Doors for Artists Looking for Funding, Distribution, Sales Agents and Networking Opportunities

May 19 is Animation Day at Cannes, with a full day of programming that includes an animation showcase, a panel discussion and other networking opportunities. The event is held in partnership with the Marché du Film.

The highlight of the program is the Annecy Animation Showcase, which spotlights five works-in-progress. Titles chosen for the event are handpicked from a large group of international submissions.

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The showcase began in 2016 as a small selection of films designed to focus on work-in-progress that would later be shown elsewhere when completed. Formerly known as AnnecyGoes to Cannes, it’s now a central part of Animation Day.

The films included this year are Yoshitoshi Shinomiya”s “A New Dawn,” Estefania Piñeres’ “Mu-Ki-Ra,” “Conference of the Birds,” from Atiq Rahimi and Caroline Piochon, “In Waves,” the adaptation of A.J. Dungo’s memoir directed by Phuong Mai Nguyen, and “The Language of Birds,” the Mexican feature helmed by Cynthia Fernandez Trejo.

Piñeras’ “Mu-Ki-Ra,” co-produced by “Unicorn Wars” backer Abano Producións. The film was inspired by the filmmaker’s sense of her country. “Colombia is this amazing biodiverse country and that also comes with war, with good versus evil. There are two sides, and you have to choose. We all have to choose.”

Trejo also took inspiration from her the world where she grew up. As a Mexican filmmaker, she wanted to explore a horror fantasy that also reflected on children’s lives in “The Language of Birds.” “I wrote this script in 2018 about a girl named Natalia and her mother,” says Trejo. “They arrive in a town and discover that there are no children there. So, it’s a story about disappearance and a story about the invisibility of children.”

Inspired by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, Yoshitoshi Shinomiya”s “A New Dawn,” follows the journey of three young people as they struggle to survive natural disasters and weather events around them. Along the way they learn about themselves. Shinomiya is a veteran animator whose credits include the Makoto Shinkai films “Your Name,” “The Garden of Words,” and “Children Who Chase Lost Voices.” Asmik Ace is handling sales.

“Conference of the Birds” is co-directed by project creator Caroline Piochon and Atiq Rahimi. Made in a 2D style, the story is an adaptation of Farid al-Din Attar’s 900-year-old Persian poem by the same name. Rahimi co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Nahal Tajadod-Carrière. Le Pacte has sales.

“In Waves,” the adaptation of AJ Dungo’s memoir, from Phuong Mai Nguyen is done in a mixed style combining 2D and CG. The story focuses on two lovers whose romance is undone when one of them becomes ill. The film is produced by Silex Films and co-produced by Anonymous Content, Belgium’s Panique and leading sales agency Charades.

“We sent out materials to the people at Annecy and we were so happy to be selected,” said Trejo. “We had been at a festival in Argentina. Our film has Mexican investors and we’re looking [for] a co-production and to find distributors.”

On Animation Day, filmmakers are given about 15 minutes to present a trailer or short portion of their movie in hopes of getting some interest for their project. Before that happens, they’re offered help in designing their presentation so it will give the audience a sense of the movie they’re trying to make.

Mickael Marin, CEO of Annecy organizer Citia, estimated that about 95% of the films shown go on to be completed.

“We know that by experience now that they have meetings right away after the session,” said Marin. “We exchanged information with the different teams from all the films and we know that every year they have meetings with distributors, with sales agents, with producers, with journalists. We show them trailers and presentations from past films that have been to the showcase when they’re getting ready for the showcase so they can take inspiration from that.”

Filmmakers like Piñeras are sometimes in the very early stages of their project but the themes and ideas catch on with the showcase.

“I think we’re going to show the part of the animatic that we feel is strong, which is enough to show what we want to do and what we want it to be when it’s done,” said Piñeras, who is working with a 50-person crew on her animated musical. “We began production in March and we’re working on preproduction and production simultaneously. Part of the inspiration comes from the experience of being raised in Colombia and all that entails.”

When a film is included in the showcase, it can become a game changer for the filmmaker, but it’s often a long game because of the time it takes to complete animated projects. Two films that were included in the 2022 showcase are making headlines this year. “Silex and the City,” which includes voice work from former French president François Hollande, follows the adventures of a dotcom family and was screened as part of Cinéma de la Plage. “Rock Bottom,” an animated musical based on the life of Robert Wyatt and Alfreda Benge, helmed by Maria Trenor and made in Spain and Poland, is being sold in the Cannes Market.

“It’s a long journey (for the filmmakers),” said Marin. “It takes several years, especially for an independent animation movie, it can take five to seven years or even more to find the idea, develop the idea and then find the money to produce it. It can be a drawback but it can also be an advantage because every year you can have a different milestone where you show what you have to an audience, a professional audience where you introduce the project. This is a way for [the showcase] to promote and support the project in order for it to find other partners to close the budget, or a co-producer or a sales agent depending on what it needs.”

The organizers are set on holding the list of films shown at the showcase to five to preserve the high quality of the submissions and to provide time for the remaining events at Animation Day. There has only been one year when there weren’t five. In 2016, there were just four.

“The session gives hope [to the filmmakers],” said Peggy Zejgman-Lecarme, head of culture division for Citia. “We also have many projects directed by women from all over the world. There are different projects this year. Some have very small budgets and some may be a little more expensive in terms of budget but we can keep them on the same platform and treat them with the same care. It’s really important to us.”

This year four female directors or co-directors are represented in the five films. They were produced in Japan, France, Belgium, Spain, Colombia and Mexico.

“We have a strong commitment [to representation],” says Marin. “We look for films from all over the world. We work a lot with Women in Animation in the U.S. We want to have films from many different places. We want to push it.”

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