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April 20, 2009

Fest Bests

Top Animation & Digital Arts Projects Unspool at Adobe First Frame

By By Teresa Lo

A young girl wanders into a forest and meets a satyr, who becomes her best friend for life. Salome seduces an ancient king into beheading John the Baptist. A woman discovers the secret of her Aunt Nell when she finds an old, mechanical peep box. These stories and others were among the short animated films screened at Adobe First Frame 2009, engaging the audience that packed the Directors Guild of America Theater on March 5 with bold narratives and imaginative visuals.

"When an animated film screens at Adobe First Frame, it is the culmination of years of intense study and meticulous work," said Geer DuBois, a 2008 M.F.A. graduate of the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts [Hench-DADA] and creator of the screened Stranger's Poem, an experimental piece that explores a relationship between two strangers.

Clip of  Stranger's Poem by Geer DuBois M.F.A., 2008.
Note: Click audio for sound.
"The achievement becomes an honor not only for the filmmakers, but also for the entire USC animation community past and present," DuBois said.

In addition to offering members of the general public their first glimpse of the films, the annual showcase also enables students and recent alumni to meet with representatives from across the entertainment industry.

"The show benefits the students and alumni by giving them recognition and exposure, networking opportunities, experience with a theatrical screening, and a DVD which they can use as a tool when looking for a job," Hench-DADA instructor and Exhibits Director Lisa Mann said. "The show serves to promote the division, the students, and animation as an art form for the 21st century."

First Frame begins each spring when the division issues a call for submissions to current and former students. Participants are invited to contribute any original films or videos that were completed while attending USC. The selections that are presented at the event undergo a rigorous selection process, ensuring the highest quality.

"Every year since 2002, the Hench-DADA core faculty have met and juried Adobe First Frame, selecting only the films which excel in terms of artistry, technical quality, bold originality, and passion," Mann said. "A character animation with a traditional narrative structure must meet high standards relative to its genre; just as an experimental, non-figurative animation will be judged on quite a different set of criteria. The resulting exhibitions have been wowing audiences at the DGA for years."

2008 Hench-DADA M.F.A. graduate Joanna Griebel screened her film Tomboy, a short about a young girl sent to a special camp to "cure" her of her desire to be like a boy.

Clip of Tomboy by Joanna Griebel, M.F.A., 2008.
"It means a lot to me to screen the film in front of a live audience," Griebel said. "When I'm with an audience who hasn't seen it, I'm able to watch it again like it is the first time."

Griebel said that while she was a student in the division she felt free to tell the stories that she wanted to and gained a lot from working with well known professors who were masters in their field.

"The professors were really great about putting me in touch with people in the industry," Griebel said. "I got to shadow people at the Cartoon Network and meet people from the major studios. It was through the very personal recommendations that my professors gave me that I landed my first job at Sony Pictures Animation as a story production assistant."

Like DuBois and Griebel, fellow 2008 Hench-DADA M.F.A. graduate Benjamin Hendricks also had a positive experience when he screened his film Hircine Airlines, a CGI-animated film about a wealthy corporation owned by a greedy duck.

"First Frame served as a premiere for the biggest project I've ever worked on, and it served as a more personally relevant screening than anything I had experienced at other venues," Hendricks said. "Not only were there important industry connections to make at First Frame, but the animation program is full of meaningful friendships, which were strengthened by us coming together and putting on this show."


View all First Frame 2009 clips online.

    Clip of  Hircine Airlines by Benjamin Hendricks, M.F.A., 2008.