Never underestimate one’s love for filmmaking and storytelling, no matter how those images and ideas are being presented. The Animation Showcase is the brainchild of Benoit Berthe Siward, a French animation enthusiast who created the initiative in summer 2016 as a joint collaboration with the Soho House London. Rather than a film festival, the Animation Showcase is a not-for-profit screening series that tours around the world, looking to offer viewers with the best that the medium can provide. The films are picked by Siward, with all the selections included in the long list of shorts that are up for Academy Award consideration. With stops already made in New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin and at Vancouver’s Spark Animation Film Festival and Pixar headquarters in San Francisco, there seems to be no slowing down.
“I have a strong passion for good stories,” says Siward. “Animation can allow for a more personal approach to storytelling, as the visual aspect, through design, movement, and abstraction opens a potential new world to discover each time for the audience. “The origin and main idea that motivated me to create this series started from a few observations,” Siward says. “We’ve been living in a golden age of animation creation over the last 30 years, but the main public doesn’t know about it, and the creative industry still underestimates the power of the animation medium,” Siward says.
“Today, animation is still too often associated with kids’ entertainment by the public, and marginalized in some institutions. They consider animated films to be a separate genre, and this world needs more voices to gain visibility. And for that to happen we need to support upcoming talent.”
Cue the Animation Showcase. “The goal is to promote animation in the world as much as possible, and to increase public awareness [about] the level of creativity that goes into making animated films,” he says.
As always, there are challenges. “It would be wonderful to find ways to make the animated short production world more profitable. Animated short films are a prerequisite step before directing an animated feature. We also need to work to keep the showcase free of charge and totally independent, as well as accessible to the public.”
Four of this year’s five Oscar nominees for animated short were screened in the Showcase during 2017, while Siward also preformed strategy and PR duties on the nominated “Garden Party,” and will be re-joining the team in Los Angeles for the rest of the awards campaign.
One of Siward’s other hopes is to help filmmakers by getting their projects out there for the world and industry to see. “The Animation Showcase helped many projects, such as a bunch of short films that were looking for Academy Awards eligibility, and we’ve also helped to the create the first European Animation Academy.” And even in its infancy, continuing to grow the Animation Showcase is also very important. “Even though we’re still relatively new, we want to strengthen the collaborations with existing partners, and we want to bring the showcase to a wider audience in as many cinemas as possible.”
Of course, there’s also competition. “There are some other great initiatives out there that are similar to the Animation Showcase, like Animation Night New York and [Animation] Show of Shows [ASOS] in California. But there’s room. We all have our own particularities and there are many ways we can all work together. It’s always a pleasure to share and discuss with ASOS founder Ron Diamond, and we have already discussed a possible collaboration with Yvonne Grzenkowicz, who founded Animation Night New York.”
It’s clear that Siward is up for the any challenge. “It’s an adventure, and it’s not always smooth, but it’s a beautiful one. I’m learning a lot and grateful for everything I’ve discovered.”