Montserrat Community at 2014 Ottawa International Animation Festival

October 9, 2014

A few of our Animation + Interactive Media students attended the Ottawa International Animation Festival this past September! (L to R) Brandon Troelstrup ’15, Shelby Hamel ’16, Bronte Pirulli ’16, Kaitlyn Assmann ’15, Ayden Borowski ’16 & Jesse Strauss (in back).

Here’s an excerpt from Kaitlyn Assmann ’15 about her experience:

I am currently at the start of my senior year at Montserrat College of Art in the The festival itself lasted from September 17th to 21st, and we began our journey bright and early the very first day. The bus trip from Massachusetts to Ottawa was understandably pretty long, but good company certainly made it go by faster. Montserrat was being joined by a few other local art colleges as well, adding to the diverse range of animators that I would be meeting throughout the festival. We made to the hostel at which we were staying (the Ottawa Backpackers Inn) at 4 pm, picked up our passes at the Art Center, and were set loose onto the city, giving us plenty of time to absorb what day one of the festival had to offer. Throughout the festival, several events would be happening scattered throughout a small area in the city, animation screenings being the primary ongoing. After attending the very first two screenings, I knew that I was in for a treat. The first was “Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange: A Rapid Love Story”, an Estonian film competing in the feature category, and the second was the first screening for the short film competition (there were enough competitors to fill five separate screenings in total). These made it loud and clear that throughout the upcoming weekend, I was going to experience a massive range of animation, some of which I’ve never seen anything like before. For instance, I had never seen a film from Estonia prior to this. It was so unlike all of the material that was created in the United States and is so dominant in our culture, so naturally I became fascinated in what the work from other countries had to offer (I eventually became quite enamored with a Brazilian film, “Until Sbornia Do Us Part”, in particular). The short films were incredibly gripping as well. The sheer diversity of that screening I think is what drew me to it. Not only were the pieces from different artists all over the world, but there were so many categories as well. High school, undergraduate, narrative, experimental/abstract, music videos, and commercial art were all included, mixed among each other at every screening. Whatever it was that you as a viewer preferred in animation, it was there for you. If there was something that didn’t suit your fancy, there was sure to be something that gripped you coming shortly after.

Just from that first evening of watching films in the Bytown Theater, it was made clear that I had a lot to look forward to, and I had definitely made the right choice in applying to come.Animation and Interactive Media Department, and hearing about the annual Ottawa International Animation Festival had been something of a yearly occurrence for me. Every year, an offer would go out to students at the school to apply for a scholarship that would accommodate travel and living expenses for the trip, but it was only this year that I had mustered up the courage to apply for it myself. I think it might be my impending entrance into the “real world” of animation that finally motivated me to do it, and I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that I had been chosen to be one of the five students to travel up for the 2014 event. Admittedly though, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect beyond the bus trip up and that animation screenings were a heavy part of it. In reality, what was waiting for me was a rich variety of experiences that I think certainly enriched my knowledge as an artist and inspired me so much to go forward and make my own animation the best it can possibly be. Montserrat has really given me something valuable here, and the Ottawa International Animation Festival isn’t something I will soon forget.

The remainder of the weekend flowed in a similar fashion of feature film screenings mixed with short film screenings (all of which were incredibly entertaining and inspiring), with an interesting sprinkle of talks and social events in between. One of my favorite things about the festival I’d learn was that the artists had such a great presence there and were so accessible. Each short film screening had a matching Q&A session with a few of the artists, and you never knew who you might be running into at the evening parties (I actually met the screenwriter for the aforementioned Brazilian film that way). Even big corporations, such as Laika and Disney Animation had a great presence there, giving talks on their upcoming films, screening their shorts, giving exclusive behind the scenes looks at their work, and answering the questions of the public (I now have the autographs of the two directors of “The Little Mermaid” and I’m admittedly pretty emotional about it). There was even an Animator’s Picnic on that Friday, where everyone was invited to eat, mingle, and carve pumpkins. My personal favorite moment in that vein would have to be the Professional Development Day that took place on Saturday. A career fair took place, and multiple panels were held that gave all sorts of insights into the professional field and how to better prepare yourself for it. As a senior about to graduate, I figured this would be either very stressful or very inspirational to me. Fortunately, it was the latter. Hearing professionals give advice about how to land that job and talk about what it is they do in their own careers just made me want to go out and do it myself all that more. A particularly meaningful moment came while speaking to a representative of the Disney Animation Studio. I was asking her about internship and trainee programs, and she told me about one person in particular who had applied with them four times and was rejected four times. On his fifth shot though, he finally got it. The moral was that you should always keep working and never give up on applying for that position if you really, really want it. Earlier this summer, I myself had actually applied for and been declined a position as a Disney intern. While I knew it was a fact of life and was bound to happen, it was still somewhat discouraging. After hearing that though, I’ve never been more motivated in my life to keep trying. I plan to stick to that dream now and never give it up, so I suppose Disney Animation’s hiring department is going to be stuck dealing with me for quite a while now. Hopefully, I can become a similar success story, now that I have this knowledge.

Overall, throughout those five days, I had experienced something that influenced every part of my artistic growth. Saturday nurtured my professional drive beyond a doubt. The short films inspired me in every approach to my own animation work, from the more serious and grounded to the more light hearted and fanciful.  As for the feature films, they opened my eyes up to the massive variety that is out there, and tempt me to learn more about my medium in the world view. I have spoken to people within the field who have created great things and also fellow students who are still working towards their dreams, and have been equally influenced by both. Of course, travelling outside of the country has been a great experience in itself, one that I won’t soon forget. Though we did have to sacrifice any events taking place on Sunday in order to get back at a decent hour, I still feel as though I have received a very extensive, rounded experience to drive me forward in my art making. I am insanely grateful for Montserrat College of Art’s choice in giving me this opportunity, and I surely wouldn’t have thought to have done it without them. The college and the Ottawa International Animation Festival have given me something great, and at exactly the right time as well. Now, I just have to make my own thesis film the best it can be, and make it comparable to the wonderful pieces I have watched over that weekend.

– Kaitlyn Assmann ’15