59th THESSALONIKI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL || 1-11/11/2018
Jordan Ananiadis Masterclass
The multi-awarded Greek animator Jordan Ananiadis presented a masterclass on Monday, November 5, in “Pavlos Zannas” theatre, on the occasion of the 59th Thessaloniki International Film Festival’s tribute to his work.
Welcoming the pioneer artist, the President of TIFF’s Board of Directors Yorgos Arvanitis admitted that his admiration for him lasts for many decades, ever since animation was not much of a thing in Greece. He said that animation was little known in our country for several years and still has not been recognized as it should. Jordan Ananiadis thanked the audience for attending the masterclass, and Mr Arvanitis for his kind words, and spoke about the first crush he had as a child for the world of animation. “At a time when the other kids were learning the alphabet, I was making caricatures in my notebooks. Coming from a family closely connected to cinema had also proved a key factor. The first cartoons I watched -Mickey Mouse on the big screen- had a profound impact in me and formed me as an artist”, he added.
The artist presented in short his technique, and spoke both about the artistic value of animation films and their key part they play in live action films. “There is a key connection between special effects and animation. In fact, animators are behind most of the special effects we watch on films. Whatever works on a frame-to-frame basis falls under the general category of cartoon”, he explained. As to the key role of storyboard, he noted: “Storyboard is a form of visual scripting, the visual illustration of the film script. In my opinion, the attempt to visualize the script in advance is the cornerstone of the first stages of film production. Unfortunately, in modern cinema, and in our country in particular, the script visualization takes place with no previous planning. He stressed that storyboard is a tool for illustrating the emotional development of characters, which contributes to each and every element of a film: “In fact, in more advanced film industries, as well as in advertisement, storyboard often reaches perfection, it almost becomes an autonomous work of art”. In that point he made reference to the legendary film director Sergei Eisenstein, who would draw countless versions of the faces of each main character before beginning to shoot the film, using an early storyboard which he called “visual grammar”.
Consequently, Mr Ananiadis explained the audience what exactly is layout, as animators call it, as well as its key role in designing an animation film. “Layout is what shapes the setting where the characters will be placed later on. Very often, a large part of layout is not present on screen, but works as a basis to the final setting where characters will be placed. An early form of what we now call “layout” can be seen in the great Renaissance painters’ rough drawings -by the way, I’m sure that if Da Vinci was alive today, he would show interest in animation. To understand the meaning of my words about storyboard and layout, consider that in any expensive animation production, at least one third of budget is funneled to these preparatory stages”, he said.
Consequently, the Greek animator talked about his latest film Strength through Joy, a short 15-minute film whose rough outlines he was keeping in his mind ever since 1974. “The story unfolds in a totalitarian state, a dictatorship, where the main character, Emil Krasnik, is the only one who resists, doing things which oppose to the expected, gregarious conduct. For instance, he wanders in a swimsuit in the frost, wears a coat in the heat, stands up to the usurpers of Democracy”, he said summing up the film plot. Jordan Ananiadis showed the audience a series of drawings of the film’s main character, noting that you have to make a lot of those before being able to depict on paper -and finally on screen- each character’s move.
In that point, Mr Yorgos Arvanitis talked about some personal experiences of his own, saying he found storyboarding very helpful when working in Theo Angelopoulos’ films Days of ‘36 and The Suspended Step of the Stork, as it offered him a reference framework as to the film’s characters and settings. “Sadly, I see that things like storyboard tend to vanish from modern cinema. I’m afraid that the overwhelming advances of technology eventually harm cinema and eliminate both thinking and the creative procedure”, he added.
In the last part of masterclass, Jordan Ananiadis had a discourse with the audience. Asked about the experience an animator must have in drawing, he replied: “The film director must be familiar with drawing as a concept and procedure, in order to be able to evaluate and complete the material. Imagine that in every animation film there are about 20 different animation specialists, each one with their own special duties. The important thing is not to try to imitate nature, not try to make an exact copy of the real movements and actions. Not only because it is impossible to copy nature and life, but since this way the animation film will eventually look fake and artificial, far from its own autonomous universe”.
Asked about his sources of inspiration, Iordanis Ananiadis said he is a big fan of classic cartoons, which inspired and shaped him as an artist. “I grew up with Walt Disney films; in fact, I remember having seen Peter Pan twice as a little kid, here in Thessaloniki, at Pallas theatre, while my parents were looking for me. I have to add that I’m very skeptical towards 3D animation, which of course offers plenty of opportunities, but makes many filmmakers believe that they can achieve anything by only using a computer, without exploring the essence and the constitutive elements of animation”, he noted. Concluding, he said that his latest film is 70% complete and the remaining 30% is about embedding the actors’ lines in the drawing, as well as coloring the frames. After completion of the masterclass, the audience had the opportunity to look through albums with storyboards from the Greek animator’s older films.