Montreal Stop-Motion Film Festival: Upcoming Fun for Animation Fans

Elliot The Bull - Colourblind Elliot The Bull - Colourblind

The Montréal Stop-Motion Film Festival (MSMFF) will celebrate its seventh iteration on September 25, 26 and 27. Since 2009, the festival has showcased filmmakers and animators from across the globe. It deals specifically with stop-motion, the age-old animation technique that has been recently going through a resurgence.

The festival’s director, Erik H Goulet, hopes to make this year’s program the biggest yet and he wants everyone to see that Montréal’s Got Talent, which is the theme this year. One segment of the festival will highlight productions from Montréal animators and productions that happened here in Montréal. The festival will also be welcoming the crew behind the stop motion segments in director Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince (2015), who will be giving a special behind the scenes presentation. Premiering for the first time in Québec will be Cordell Barker’s If I Was God…, his first venture into stop-motion, for which Montréal companies See Creature and Jako Lanterne lent their expertise in puppet making and animation.

The activities at the festival will be varied and include hands-on booths and behind the scenes demonstrations. The program also promises a total of 88 films from 26 countries, with a panel of judges from the stop motion community. Entries are divided into three categories: Academic, Independent and Professional.

Guest speakers PES will kickoff the event, giving us a detailed look at the process behind stop motion known as pixelation. Laurie Sitzia of Aardman Animation will also be giving us an inside look at her latest work as Lead Animator for the Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015), presented by CUPFA. There will also be free showings for the whole family presented by Brault & Bouthillier.

Festival director Erik Goulet

Festival director Erik Goulet

I had the chance to chat with the Mr. Goulet over the phone to gain some insight on the upcoming activities, the festival’s history and his own thoughts on the animation technique.

Joshua McLeod (JM): Greetings Mr. Goulet, how’s it going?

Erik H Goulet (EG): I’m doing quite alright, even though I have a million things to do!

JM: So the festival is about to kick off its seventh edition at the end of this month, what do you think are some of the enduring qualities of stop-motion animation?

EG: Hmm. (laughs) I don’t know if I’ve had that one before. I think it’s the fact that stop-motion animation connects with every single person. People can relate to their youth: playing with toys, playing with dolls, and believing those toys were alive with make-believe stories. Even though we were really young and didn’t necessarily have the capacity to understand animation, later on some people want to rekindle their young-self that still exists inside of them. And some filmmakers will do just that.

JM: What kind of variety can someone expect from this year’s entries?

EG: Well that’s the beauty it, it’s a film festival — but instead of being a story-driven festival, we get a festival where technique is the centrepiece. That means all of the stories, construction of the puppets, and the visual styles of the films are totally different. So, first of all as an audience member you get to see approximately 18-22 animated shorts in an hour and a half program. Because you’ve got so many films in a short amount of time, your mind is just subjected to a kind of rainbow of colours with all the visuals. You’re going to have action, drama, science-fiction, and you’re going to have things that are more kid-oriented while others are more for adults.

Outdreaming (2015)

Outdreaming (2015)

When we started in 2009, somebody from Poland wrote to me after I had done the first edition and said: “Erik, did you know that you’re the first stop motion film festival in the world?” In my mind I thought, ‘they must be joking, I couldn’t have had that original of an idea.’ But I did some research and turns out that person was right. When I did the first call for entries, and in 30 days, I received 114 films. This year, we received 450 films and out of those we take la crème de la crème.

JM: You mentioned that this was the first festival of its kind in the world, does that feel to you like a responsibility? Can your passion for animation counterbalance this?

EG: I think my passion can transcend borders across the planet (laughing). It’s funny, the man I mentioned who wrote me from Poland also said: “Would you mind if I would start a stop-motion film festival in Poland? It will be the first in Europe.” The following year somebody wrote to me from Brazil and she said the same thing. The most recent one is in Mexico. So we’re kind of four film festivals right now around the world. The fact that we are so far apart makes it so we are not necessarily in competition, because we are accessing different audiences.

So yeah, my passion for stop-motion animation can literally move mountains. It comes from two sources: there’s one of me discovering stop motion animation when I started at Concordia University in the late eighties; but the other source is what I transmit to my students. So in a nutshell yeah, my passion is like faith, inébranlable like we say in French.

The Little Prince (2015)

The Little Prince (2015)

JM: I feel like this passion is also reflected in the care that was put into the variety of activities. I’m under the impression that— more-so than other forms of animation or film— people are just as interested in what’s on the screen as what is behind the scenes. Your thoughts on this?

EG: Actually, you picked up on an important aspect of the festival. The first thing I did at the first edition was kind of invited myself as a speaker. It was really quickly put together and I asked a friend of mine to come and give a presentation as well. With all of us in Montréal it was pretty easy, and the public loved it because we talked about behind the scenes.

Since then, every year we keep on inviting professionals, and this year it’s phenomenal that we’re going to have four guest speakers. This time around, we’re also really lucky that there’s two big productions that were done here locally in Montréal and that’s why for the 7th edition, we’re really giving a push because we want the people of Montréal to know that we’ve got the talent here. For the workshops, I got a couple of my past students to give me a hand and they will explain to the young animators how to move objects and take the picture. This is wonderful because this is when you clearly see in the face of the child that he understands how it’s done. It’s a huge thrill and I’m really happy that every year, more and more families are coming to enjoy the hands-on stations that we’ve got.

This year, there will be the actual puppets from The Little Prince at the film’s behind-the-scenes presentation on the Saturday night. Crew members of the production will each give a short presentation on the department they were taking care of – that means puppet fabrication, set construction, and design and puppet animation. It’s truly a unique opportunity to have the crew plus the puppets on-site!

JM: You’re going to create a whole generation of filmmakers!

EG: I’m telling you, I’m preparing a legion of stop-motion artists. We’ll take over the world!

The Stop Motion Film Festival takes place September 25-27 at the J. A. de Sève Theater at Concordia University.