My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: J'Anime Competition - an avenue to fame for animators

Saturday, April 3, 2010

J'Anime Competition - an avenue to fame for animators

Animation as a source of income is a very real possibility, or so it was suggested by Professor Michael Smith of the University of Trinidad and Tobago and echoed by CPTC CEO Angela Patterson who said “What I want you to take away from this is there is an economic opportunity for us to exploit in Jamaica”.

Understand the technology that is available and how to play your part in it," at the Jamaica Digital Arts Festival in September 2009 as stated in the article “Lively animation discussion at Digital Arts Festival”, published, Saturday, September 26, 2009 by Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer, The Saturday Gleaner.

This is especially true in the case of Japanese Anime, as their is now currently a slump in the Japanese Anime market that the Chinese are attempting to fill as stated in the article “China making anime push as Japan hits slump”, published Monday March 29th 2010, AP, The Daily Gleaner.

 Not only does it have applications in mathematical modeling, engineering and illustration but it’s most obvious use is in the advertising and film making industry, which benefits the greatest from the talents of these animators, as can be clearly seen from such movies as Transformers (2007), Shrek (2001) and Toy Story (1995) but more recently in feature length films such as Up in the Air (2009), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).

Such memorable feats of computer animation may seem light years away, but what I remember most about the two (2) day Jamaica Digital Arts Festival, showpiece of the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) and the Media Technology Institute (MTI) that was held at the Knutsford Court Hotel was the “oohs” and “aah” of the young people in attendance.

This as they were made to realize how easy the process of animation was, especially when it cam to light that  a Senegalese company Pictoon, produced high quality animation and only a staff of ten (10) persons was required to achieve such high quality.

Participants left, realizing all they needed were the hardware and software tools, some organizing of at least ten (10) individuals – and the fact that with a good project, it made alternative use of computers other than burning music CD’s and DVD’s.

The first thing that one could plan to do, upon learning this newfound knowledge would be to seek to get some friends and some computer hardware and software together and start an animation studio. Whereas the financing part has become a bit easier as various loan initiatives exist and at significantly lower rates of interest due to the recently successfully concluded JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange). But then the question begs: How do we initially finance ourselves and who would buy our work?

After all, as a startup you would be basically self financed, embarking on a project that you love but possibly you are unable to secure financing from investors be they banks or angel investors, your potential clients do not have enough faith in you to do a project for them and broadcasters may potentially shun your work especially if it is edgy, new, lacking in commercially viability and no immediate promotional sponsors.

This sounds a lot like the Digicel Rising Stars hopefuls, who are also unknowns looking not only for a chance to win the top prize but also to get exposure for their work and thus be discovered, whether by Hollywood or a local advertising agency, as in Jamaica, the Visual Arts do not earn as much recognition as other art forms, often looked at merely cartoonists.

And yet this perception can be used to the advantage of the contestant hopefuls, who upon gaining exposure for their craft, would establish themselves as an animation team, making their expenditure in time and equipment on their pet project worthwhile.

Thus the idea is simple, but has a degree of complexity to it by virtue of the fact that the target audience watching will most likely be families and their young children, potential purchasers of WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) netbooks and modems from Digicel. The Japanese Embassy and the Jamaica Japanese CosPlayers in collaboration with:

  1. Intel, Apple Inc., Netflix and Walt Disney as International sponsors
  2. Digicel, Watt’s New, Multimedia Jamaica Ltd., Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) and the Media Technology Institute (MTI) as local sponsors.
Together, as major sponsors, the could start this concept for a competition open to everyone between the ages of 18 to any age, to be called J’Anime, effectively a search for new animation talent.

J’anime is a concatenation of the words “Jamaica” and “Anime” and would be a competition that would be broadcast both on television as well as on the internet simultaneously as a means of continuously promoting the medium of Web Streaming in Jamaica via Netflix, which is looking to make an International push via Streaming this year as stated in the article “Netflix said to be planning 2011 International push”, published December 28, 2010 3:09 PM PST by Don Reisinger, CNET News - The Digital Home.

 WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) Network has been launched as per the article “Digicel goes 4G”, published Saturday, August 21, 2010 By ROSS SHEIL Online co-ordinator, The Jamaica Observer. Established as an animation competition with the support o these sponsors, it would serve as the creative platform to continuously promote the network months and years onwards after the new network has been launched.

Teams made up of ten (10) animators would sign up and audition at the various cinemas around Jamaica, specifically at the Carib 5 in Cross Roads, Kingston, Palace CinePlex in Portmore, St. Catherine, Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay, St. James and Odeon CinePlex in Mandeville, Manchester bringing their work on either a removable storage format i.e. thumb drive, laptop or portable hard drive.

They would then have it displayed on the cinema screen and judged by a panel of five (5) judges representing Intel, Apple Inc. and Walt Disney as international sponsors with Watt’s New, Teenage Observer, the Gleaner Youth Link, Multimedia Jamaica Ltd., Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) and the Media Technology Institute (MTI) as local sponsors. Television Jamaica (TVJ) would be the local broadcaster of choice with local celebrity Amita Persaud Webb and Pepita as LIVE Show host and Behind-The-Scenes Show host respectively.

It would be a hour and a half (1 ½) televised competition on a Saturday night (8:30pm to 10:00pm) that would pit Animation Teams against each other to design animation both for television and print media, effectively two (2) categories, Video Animation and Print Animation using any type of animation technique and challenges set by judges and voting by viewing audience on a FaceBook and Twitter page.

The Video Animation work from the various Animation Teams would be posted on the YouTube site established for the competition with links to the YouTube site being placed on the FaceBook and Twitter pages established for the competition for each Animation Team as well as their contact information and pictures.

The Print Animation work from the various Animation Teams would be posted on Facebook and Twitter pages established for the competition and also printed both online and in print versions of the Teenage Observer and the Gleaner Youth Link Newspapers for each Animation Team as well as their contact information and pictures. Each live studio audience show would be hosted at the Carib 5 in:

1.Cross Roads
2. Kingston
3. Palace CinePlex in Portmore, St. Catherine
4. Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay, St. James
5. Odeon CinePlex in Mandeville, Manchester

They has the largest viewing screen onto which the animators work can be displayed, effectively making the show have a “night at the movies” feeling, both to the studio audience as well as the television viewers.
The live shows would be held at each of the above Cinemas on Saturday nights in a clockwise manner around the island, with tickets for entry being charged by the Cinema. The competition format would accommodate the various types of animation that exist, with the winners of each live audition show being chosen via text message voting.

Fan base interactivity would be maintained via FaceBook and Twitter status updates and simultaneous broadcast via Television Jamaica and publication in the Observer Teenage and the Gleaner Youth Link Newspapers.

The eventual three (3) top teams inclusive of the overall winner would not only receive cash prize and animation software and hardware from Apple Inc. and Watt’s New but also a contract to do advertising animation, feature length movies, shorts and series cartoons both Video Animation and Print Animation for not only Multimedia Jamaica Ltd., Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) and the Media Technology Institute (MTI) as long as the animators are still in Jamaica.

Obviously, with the advent of YouTube, they can promote themselves online and be discovered and get an international animation contract by a Hollywood animation studio or even Walt Disney. This is very possible considering the fact that Walt Disney currently has a deal signed with Tuff Gong to distribute their content and promotional items here in Jamaica as stated in the article The Lion and the Mouse join forces - Tuff Gong signs distribution Deal with Disney” published Sunday September 13, 2009, The Sunday Gleaner and posting ones work on YouTube alone guarantees exposure for your creative work while the competition is being shown live on television.

J’Anime would be a very big push for what is possibly the lowest hanging fruit in the burgeoning and still fledgling Jamaican Film Industry that can be cost effectively be utilized by budding Visual Artiste and Animation Teams as not only a means of showcasing their animation talent as a team but also giving them that much needed financial boost and international exposure so that when they “wish upon a star” their dreams can really come true.
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