Thessaloniki Animation Festival 2023: interviewing Theodore Grouya, Stavros Savvaidis and Arba Hatashi.

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Thessaloniki Animation Festival
Thessaloniki Animation Festival

During one of the TAF master classes, “A glimpse behind TAF, AmDocs and Anibar Festival,” which focused on the process of organising animation festivals, we were able to ask multiple animation festival organisers. Those including people such as: Theodore Grouya, the Founder and Director of the American Documentary And Animation Film Festival and Film Fund (AmDocs); Stavros Savvaidis, one of the Festival Directors of Thessaloniki Animation Festival (TAF); and a film scholar Arba Hatashi. We asked about their opinions on independent animated projects, crowdfunding, policies of admissions for animation festivals and such.

What do you think about independent animation starting on YouTube as well as animated movies being crowdfunded[to collect funds for a project from groups of people, typically from the internet]?

Theodore “Teddy” Grouya: Well, crowdfunding is a separate issue unless you’re cross promoting with those other platforms, however you’re able to get your money, you have to hassle. So whether you’re able to do it on Kickstarter or Indiegogo [two companies that focus on global crowdfunding, allowing people to gather funds for their project on their websites], it’s fine by me. In fact, recently Indiegogo interestingly reached out to us. My theory is that they did it ‘cause they lost quite a lot of money to Kickstarter[that’s because Kickstarter has more media presence, but both suffer due to shadow banning(as in hiding)users campaigns]. But I don’t care how you get money for your project whether you ask your next-door neighbour, people on the Internet or people in Hollywood. If I want something I’d ask anybody. 

As far as YouTube, we’ve actually tried to work on trying to get them to become a partner. Not easy to get to, they are even bigger than they were a few years ago. There’s gonna be a lot of low quality stuff, but there’s an amazing number of brilliant filmmakers. But what’s fascinating to me is that everyone on YouTube is a filmmaker whether it’s good or not. I’m not against YouTube. The only thing is, you have to be strategic with YouTube if you wanna sell yourself. It may be that you put your content there for free for 30 days and then when you’re ready for a paid platform you put it there and restrict the free YouTube version. Or after the word spreads, after some marketing if 30 days is not enough. So then it could be a situation like this: “I wanna see it, but it’s no longer available on YouTube anymore so now I have to go here and pay 99 cents for it.” There’s different utilizations on YouTube. 

I was thinking about independent, smaller projects growing bigger and then becoming part of the mainstream, on bigger platforms…

T: They’re monetized. It’s great, it’s an alternative to the mainstream. Most people can’t get it on Hulu, Netflix, Disney+ etc. and they can use that strategy to put their projects on YouTube. But they’ll have to put more effort, because YouTube has made it even harder. As far as the number of views, subscribers, visibility and stuff. I don’t know about the policy of other festivals such as AniBar or TAF, but I will tell you this, we get submissions from people who are on YouTube. If we really love the film, we tell them that “for this month, before and during that event you have to pull it from YouTube or we can’t screen it. Because if we’re going to charge for a ticket, it’s not fair to the audience that someone else can watch it for free somewhere else.” That’s our humble opinion. So they have to freeze it.  And we’ve had a few instances with that. And one or two that actually didn’t want to freeze it. In that case we thank them for their cooperation, but we do not feature their films.

Arba Hatashi: We have different policies. YouTube and festivals don’t work so well together. Once your film is online on YouTube, then competition inside of the festival is kind of a problem. But then if you do special programs inside festivals, we have had multiple cases of doing retrospectives or special programs about famous YouTube animation channels that are very successful. For crowdfunding, it’s a fantastic way not to get hooked onto any kind of sponsors and fulfilling their wishes, if you can make it through crowdfunding. We have had this year the feature film of Cygne, My Love Affair with Marriage, which has been crowdfunding for it for the last eight years. After eight years, she has found all the money,  finished her film, and now is doing great on festivals. And it’s a feature one, so there was a lot of money that was needed, but it was all done through crowdfunding. It was her strategy to secure the funding to create her film. So I think as long as there’s a will to push forward, then it’s possible to do it. 

Stavros Savvaidis: The only thing that I would like to add is that I think that most of the artists, they’re not putting their films just on YouTube. Very few of them do that. Usually, they try to have their films be featured on a festival first, and after two, three years, maybe they put it on YouTube, but afterwards. But before that, I don’t think so. 

Arba Hatashi: Most of the festivals, like the independent animation festivals, have a policy: a film featured during the festival shouldn’t be online, and it needs to be at least no older than two years old as a film in order to compete. So after that, it falls into the filmmakers’ choice what they want to do with the film. But there are also cases where it is posted online as well. 

This interview was taken on 22nd of October 2023. The Thessaloniki Animation Festival lasted from 21.09.2023 till 30.09.2023 in both live and digital versions. You can visit the TAF website here. You can also read our interview with Stavros on our website here and with the directors Eudokias and Faidas from FUNNY TALES STUDIO on our website here as well.

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