It seems like that to become an independent animator isn’t as hard as to keep being one after one leaves the safety net of your animation department. During these past 2 years while conducting my PhD research about the creative conditions of contemporary independent animators, I’ve done a lot of field interviews with similar comments coming out. “I can’t even imagine that someone would come around and tell me: ‘Here you are, here is the money you need’, I would be so scared [Laughter]. You are like a cactus; you’re used to surviving on a drop of water,” commented young graduate animator from Prague Lucie Štamfestová.
That influenced my research to focus more on the role of independent animation community, the networking and collaboration between animators…because that’s free, isn’t it, and especially important in such a marginalized fields as independent animation is (at least from a financial or media point of view). Also paradoxically, the luck of finances turns out to be helpful this time: “The world of animation is not as competitive as live action films because there is not so much. Probably it is different with animated features because that is a business. But animation shorts are something that no one needs and mankind can survive without it. We are just like crazy people who damage their eyes and vision with animating but somehow we like doing it,” shared Oscar nominated animator (and live-action film director) Michaela Pavlátová.
The independent animation community also has a lot in common with the concept of “imagined communities” presented first by a politologist Benedict Anderson in 1983 in his book by the same name. In his theory, imagined communities (on contrary with the actual ones) aren’t (and, for practical reasons, cannot be) based on everyday face-to-face interaction between its members. Many times during the research interviews, I’ve heard animators pining for and nostalgically remembering the precious moments from animation festivals where “there were suddenly plenty of people who were interested in your film, who wanted to discuss it with you, who were actually doing something very similar right then. You had a beautiful sensation during that festival that animation is the most important thing in the world, even if you knew that it is not true.“ (Pavlátová) But the feeling of momentarily deep connection usually quickly disappears when one’s back alone in the studio (or a faculty department’s office?) for the rest of the year.
That’s why it’s so important (and up to everyone who feels like part of it) to keep our animation (studies included?) community not just imagined. One of the ways to stay deeply connected (apart from the very helpful but mostly practical and information sharing Society for Animation Studies (SAS) mailing list) can be this SAS blog or other community blogs (http://animatedwomen.blogspot.cz/); some associated for example with different branches of ASIFA (http://www.asifaeast.com/anymator/ ). Especially in my home region of Central and Eastern Europe (filled with smaller countries with different culture backgrounds) the networking and cooperation is crucial. And the new online community efforts like Homo Felix Journal http://homofelixjournal.com/ or Visegrad Animation Forum http://visegradanimation.com/ clearly understood that. I really do believe that writing and thinking about animation can be as important as animating itself. It can bring many things to live too. We just need to do that (as everything that matters) continuously so that our community is more real and less imagined every day.
Eliska Decka is a first year Ph.D. student at Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. With her academic past including MA from a Film Studies Department, Faculty of Arts, and MA from a Law Faculty, Charles University in Prague, she focuses with her research and publication activities on the connection between animation theory and practice, with especial interest in gender issues and the social influences on animation and vice versa. She teaches film theory and history at J. A. Komensky University in Prague, publishes in various Czech and international cultural journals and compendiums and collaborates as a dramaturgist with a Czech Festival of Film Animation Olomouc.