In 2015 I graduated University with a bachelor’s in Fine Arts and a Major in Film Animation with a stocky little body of work and a thesis film I spent a year attempting to fine tune into perfection. I spent that spring and summer applying fruitlessly to festival after festival after festival in the hopes of pushing my name out there….
It…. didn’t go so well. And as a fresh graduate watching your future drift away in a cloud of smoke as alum after alum from your program gets picked up by studios or manages to make a serious dent in their film fest applications…. there was… a considerable amount of panic on my end as festival after festival after festival rejected my entry.
But then I get a reply back from a festival in Switzerland and not only this, but they asked me if I would be interested in visiting the festival for the weekend so that I could speak about my film during a couple of 10am round-tables with some of the other directors.
Naturally I said yes…. and I managed to extend my stay for the week and brought my dad along for support and as a travel buddy because I hadn’t been this far out of the country ever, never-mind alone!
So we flew out in the fall for the festival. My first nine hour flight to Europe excited for what could possibly await me at the end of it. When we landed it was warm for September but not hot. We took a taxi from Zurich to Baden where the festival was being hosted, settled into our room at a little bed ‘n breakfast and enjoyed the view for a few moments– (these were not taken exactly the day we arrived but throughout the trip).
Admittedly this day we were a little bit foolish and didn’t consider how strong the jet-lag would be so we ventured into town to scope the place out and just barely made it to the first screening of my film… and both of us promptly fell asleep before the end of the screening. We saw my film but I don’t remember many of the others viewed during that particular one. From what I remember we went back to the bed n breakfast and absolutely crashed into bed that night.
Walking into town that morning we became more acutely aware that the walk was… a little bit longer than we remembered it being but we grew to learn that there were two routes. One slightly shorter cutting straight through a more metropolitan part of the city. We most distinctly noticed that if you even so much as approached or were but a mere couple feet away from a cross walk cars screeched to a halt to let you pass… Just a bit different than my experience here in Montreal.
Our second route (which we took far more often) was longer and more scenic. It took us down toward the river bend where we were met with more beautiful moments like this:
But as we made our way through the either the metropolitan area or our nifty little scenic route we reached the festival grounds and here we found big banners introducing us to FANTOCHE International Animation Film Festival. It was really pretty here. I liked these quirky parts of city spaces, more artistic, just fun.
This is also where we had definitely gotten up too late that morning and absolutely missed the first filmmaker round-table that I um… was supposed to be a part of. Woops. They managed to re-schedule me, luckily, and honestly everyone was extremely sweet and eager to help make us feel right at home. I had a little polaroid taken of me to put on a wall filled with other visiting filmmakers. I got a fancy little festival pass which I’m sure exists somewhere in my keepsakes. We were treated to vouchers for a certain number of free meals courtesy of the festival which was amazing. I think we got most of our lunch and breakfasts out of that.
As silly as this is about to sound, I honestly did not spend much time AT the festival as most would have in my place. Here I was, granted the opportunity to network, to make connections outside of my own small social circles. But I’m socially awkward and I struggle with these things and slapping down a German language barrier only serves to make my anxiety greater.
So, yeah, I did see my screening. I did pick one or two more screenings to view. Went to a talk. Absolutely knocked my filmmaker’s breakfast round-table out of the park. But who wants to be in a theatre all day watching short films when you’re in a brand new country? (No offence, obviously, to the filmmakers of said films, I’m sure they were all beautiful in their own right, but a young 23 year old is unfortunately not versed in enjoying artistic integrity and nuance and all that other jargon… when they’re in a new country for the first time…)
I’ll be honest, looking back, I don’t regret it at all.
While I didn’t spend much time cooped up in theatres and observing talks, I did spend a lot of time sight seeing, and taking photos of an environment that would only come in handy as inspiration later locations in stories of my own. I spent time loving every minute of this trip, squeezing in animation know-how into downtime moments with exhibitions. But most of my time was spent exploring the city’s nooks and crannies.
This trip comes back to me in bits and pieces, I remember small moments like the morning we first called home and distinctly realising how massive the time difference was.
Staying up late one night trying to quickly finish a small segment of animation so that it could fit into the festival’s trailer.
Exploring a small fortress with feet so sore I could barely walk the next day.
Experiencing small exhibitions throughout the festival grounds, there was a display for stop motion puppets and zoetropes. Small sets nearly impossible to imagine how anyone could animate on.
Walking through the small art store and touching all the hand-made notebooks there.
The long conversations I had with my Dad about the future.
Sitting on a terrace on one of the last nights of our trip and absolutely freezing our asses off because we started off this trip in a simple t-shirt and jeans and left Switzerland in thick jackets.
I’m a bit regretful that I don’t keep more of a journal in order to fully relive these sorts of moments.
Maybe I’ll start one…