Animation Director. Majored in Visual Communication Design at Hong-ik University. While working at an advertising company, she went to France to write her own story. She received her Master’s degree in Animation from the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris in 2012. Her representative film Man on the Chair was invited to the Director chief-editor section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2014, and was awarded the Grand Prize for Short Films at the Annecy International Animation Festival, one of the world’s four major animation festivals, a first for a Korean director, and was screened at about 100 film festivals around the world. The recently released animated short film The Empty was also awarded the Grand Prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival, also one of the world’s four major animation festivals, and also a first for a Korean director. She performs her work on the visual world and the perceived world, moving and fixed things, stories about contrast and symmetry, and unravels them in the time and space of the image.
A Plan for the Continuous Production of Short Animation
While going in…
When I graduated from animation school in France in 2012, I did not understood well how short-animation directors produce their films. Therefore I felt in my heart that my thesis film might be my last piece of short animation regardless of whether I lived in Korea or in France. After graduation, when I produced my first film Man on the Chair, I had the desperate thought that, “I want to make a living at this and I want to do this work for my whole life…however, is it possible?” and applied for production support to the CJ Culture Foundation, and produced the film while worrying to myself that, “In order to do this work consistently, my films have to be outstanding.”
The most common question I receive from the public about the unfamiliar field of short animation is “By the way, how do you eke out a living? Can you make a living with it?” First of all, my answer is “Yes, I can make a living with it for now. However, I cannot guarantee how long this will be possible.”
I came to write this article in order to consider how animated short films all around the world (especially in Korea and France) are being produced, with what kind of methods and funds, and what tasks exist in front of us depending on the country.
First of all, I would like to define the term “Short Animation” concretely. The word “animation” in Korea is mostly regarded as animated television series for children and commercial feature-length theatrical animated movies. “Short Animation” films are 1 to 30 minutes long, with around 10 minutes being the most common length. As it is a short form, it can be produced by any kind of method such as 2D, 3D, cut-outs, puppet, painting on glass, pixilation, etc., and is an animated medium capable of various narratives in a short period of time. It can be a pilot animation to be used for a full-length animated film or it can be an artsy film by an artistic director. Short animation is generally screened at film festivals or animation festivals, and it is categorized as “Short Film” at International Animation Festivals. The name differs slightly depending on the country, for instance in Europe animation is categorized as either full-length or short, depending on the length of the film. In Korea and in the USA, it is common to put the word “independent” in front of it.
In the USA, while contrasted with the huge Hollywood film industry, it is an animated film literally produced independently. Korea follows the production support system similar to that of Europe by policy, and uses the same terminology as in the USA.
1. The Value and Recognition of Art
Isn’t “What kind of work are you doing?” one of the most important questions for a person’s life? We can choose to do whatever work we want, however there are more opportunities for work where someone hires us. Meanwhile, an occupation as an artist (writer, film director, etc.) is one of the occupations that one can do independently without being hired by someone else. The problem is that, often in Korea artist is not recognized as an occupation, or is thought of as an occupation that burdens one’s parents or that artists are gluttons who beg for a living. According to my experience in living in France and Korea, attitudes towards artists are very different. When I meet someone new in France and talk about the animated short fims I make, they are often pleased and say, “Wow, you are an artist!” There is a fairy tale called Frederick written by Leo Lionni, who received the Caldecott Honorary Award in 1968. While field mice prepare for winter and work hard to gather food, a field mouse called Fredrick is always dozing in the corner. The field mice are displeased with Fredrick. Finally, winter comes and all the collected food is finally exhausted and the field mice become gloomy.
At that time, Fredrick sends the sunshine and color he collected to the hearts of his friends. He does so by telling them beautiful stories and poems that he wrote. Fredrick is a field mouse artist.
In France the National Production Support Policy enables the less commercialized fields of arts and culture with narrow markets to exist continuously and enables directors and writers to make a living. Quite a lot of countries have a production support policy, whether great or small, for short animation. Some people may wonder why short animation is not commercially viable and why it should survive if it cannot not survive on its own. The value of existence of the things in the world is determined by the question, “Is there any commercial value?” When evaluating a person, the value of his or her existence seems to rise in proportion to his or her salary or the amount of wealth possessed. In universities, departments whose students have a hard time finding jobs after graduation may be integrated into other departments or even removed. When discussing cultural development, commercial success is put first. The more we adhere to these types of values our lives are made more inhumane and weary. I think it is most important that various artforms exist for the development of culture, in order to make us happy, and to improve the quality of life for those mired in the struggle for survival.
It is said there are two kinds of movies. One is a movie which lets you forget reality, and the other is a movie which makes you realize reality. We watch movies with friends, lovers, and family members after work or on weekends. We want to get away from our weary or boring reality sometimes for 2 hours and enter into another world. “How much does the movie make us forget reality completely?” may be the criteria to judge how interesting a movie is. Meanwhile, some movies tell us about the reality we are living in. They speak about unfamiliar lands, wars of the past, internal happenings of the mind, and also sharply reflect harsh realities. Some movies have no stories at all. Through watching these movies, we may become interested in people in places we have never been to, or we may look at the world with slightly more open minds. Also, we can think about it by comparing it with the reality we are facing, and use our imaginations while creating a story. I think that by watching various movies, we become people who can think by ourselves. There have been times in the past where in an attempt to prevent people to have the ability to think for themselves the reading of certain books was prohibited. This is because it becomes to easy to control people only when all of them become similar. Is it possible to say that the current reality where similar commercial movies fill the theater is indeed any different from that era? If the autocracy had wanted to control people back then, it seems that in the present money has taken their place. If one grows accustomed to the same story repeatedly fabricated by changing only the occupation and background of the characters in the same structure, only one kind of life may be regarded as the correct answer. It will become more and more difficult to understand other diverse lives and stories. If we reflect on the education we have received, it was not one that taught us the way to understand and interpret by ourselves, but simply informed us of fixed answers. The di culties that art films or short animation face may be due to the fact that they have not had as much exposure as other diverse forms of culture and literature. Among the people I met in Europe, the more a person habitually watched films, the more that person had their own interpretation of films. They would give their own opinion on what is good or not, and wanted things of higher quality. It is very important that such varying types of movies and animated films are created and that the public see them.
Various genres of art, architecture, painting, design, movies, philosophy, science, technology, etc. have influenced each other according to the era, and have changed and evolved together. What leads and steers changes may be surely experimental and there is no other way than to be something new. New things accompany danger. Only by taking risks does the chance for creating something better become possible. Many production companies want to invest in something popular, something guaranteed to succeed, or that is already proven. However if we only invest in and support these things, we will forever be forced to imitate others while chasing culture created by someone else. In addition, it is necessary to take a distant view and think long term, not to expect only short-term results and give up if the results of an investment do not pay off right away. Sometimes culture seen in the long term and experimental artforms bring about new commercial opportunites.
One of the things that France does well is the formation of markets that utilize such forms of culture. In France, there is the Cannes Film Festival, which is one of the three largest film festivals in the world, and the Annecy International Animation Festival, which is one of the world’s four major animation festivals. Both feature movies and animated films with high levels of cinematic quality. At the same time, these festivals open the largest film markets in the world. Production companies and the film distribution companies throughout the world gather to buy and sell movies. The Cannes Film Festival sometimes supports directors they have discovered and noticed, as well. It embraces talented foreign directors and considers them as cultural assets. As France has the most production support for movies and animated films in Europe, a lot of countries co-produce with France. It has also has just as many of its own production companies and producers. Producers raise production funds by seeking support for the production, and manage the production. They carry on PR, marketing, and an integrated design in order to create a virtuous production circle from start to finish, such as negotiating distribution through a television channel.
2. National Production Support
Most countries have policies, whether great or small, to support short animation. There are several countries though where no production support exists at all, such as China or Thailand, or the amount is rather small or very few films are supported. In this case, short animated films are produced by the director alone or by social funding.
Production Support in Korea
In Korea, the Korea Creative Content Agency and Seoul Animation Center hold contests once a year to support the production of a total of seventeen (17) animated short films. The Korea Creative Content Agency grants support funds of around 40 million won to produce twelve (12) films. A corporate business operator or individual business operator can apply, awards of support are announced at the beginning of the year, and the contract is concluded through first and second evaluations. The grant is given partially, and the full amount of the grant is given after passing an evaluation for the finished product after approximately 12 months.
Seoul Animation Center provides support of around 25 to 35 million won per project for five films. It is possible to apply even if there is no business operator, it is announced at the beginning of the year, and the contract is also concluded through an evaluation. Regulations state that the film must be submitted for an evaluation of the finished product after a production period of approximately 15 months.
The same film may not receive support from both institutions. In addition, after receiving production support, one can reapply in the same field starting in January of the following year after 3 years have passed. This system allows many different directors to receive support equally rather than allowing the same person to continuously receive support. Though there is a system to distribute limited grants to several people, short animated films are commonly regarded as temporary or preliminary stages for producing feature-length animated films rather that being considered its own complete genre. Though it does not exist in Korea yet, in Europe and Canada there are artists whose life’s work is only to produce animated short films.
Swiss director Georges Schwizgebel has produced 23 animated short films over 45 years and continues making films to this day. French director Florence Miailhe has produced about 10 animated short films over 15 years. The characteristics of the films of these two directors is that their narratives are developed as a modification of the image. This is something that can be done only in short animation.
In addition, there is a support system for overseas expansion by the Korean Film Council. This policy provides airfare for filmmakers when their films are screened in competition at overseas film festivals. Production support from private corporations do not have long-term plans, so it often disappears
not long after a short-term investment. On the other hand in France, broadcasting companies have policies to invest in animation. Let me examine what kinds of production support exist in France, known as the “Paradise of Europe.”
Production Support in France
Production support in France is divided into three broad categories. The CNC National Film Center in France is the core of production support for most films and animation. With its considerable resources, it invests approximately 150 thousand euros per animated short film production. In France, about 40 animated films are produced a year with production support from the CNC.
The field is subdivided, so production support for a film’s musical score can be received at the same time while receiving production support for the film. The next important investment source is purchase by a television channel. Channels such as Arte and Canal+ have broadcast programs that introduce animated short films. They premptively support films by investing before the films are produced or they purchase finished films. The purchase price depends on the length of the animation. The preproduction price for short animated films with lengths of around 10 minutes is about 20 thousand euros, and when purchasing completed films, the price per minute is about 10 times the Korean price. These are maintained through a system of indirect and direct support from the broadcasting company, and kept as a national system that stands for the issue that the media should support culture.
Thirdly, there is a local support system. Among the different types of production support in France, I think it is the local support policy that best shows what art can actually do for people’s lives. Much like Korea is divided into eight Provinces, France is divided into a total of 16 regions, including
12 domestic regions and 4 overseas territories. Each region has an individual culture support system and budget, which is made up by adding up its own budget plus regional support from the CNC.
When I was involved in a co-production with France, I received support from Eurometropole de Strasbourg in the eastern region, and residency support from Abbaye de Fontevraud in the western region. While supporting production for animation, they invite the directors to their respective regions. During an interim of residence, the directors produce a new film, and at the same time they meet local citizens and introduce their previous work to them.
When I was invited to the Abbaye de Fontevraud Residency in 2013, I was working on Man on the Chair. This place supports a residency during the pre-production stage of an animated film. One can write and paint in a castle that was once a monastery. There are sunflower fields and forests, and grocery shopping within a drive of 30 minutes. According to promotional materials for the projects they support, they invite about 10 directors from all over the world every year. They provide transportation fees including airline tickets, a scholarship, meal stipend, and separate living and working spaces. The residence period is one month, and a conference is held for two days at the beginning of the stay. At this time, people concerned with the film from various countries are invited. Master classes and a debate forum are held, and many students participate. Exhibition and meeting tables are also arranged so that the resident directors may introduce their artwork.
During the director’s residency, film festivals and screening events are held in nearby cities. Depending on the characteristics of the director’s work, they come to meet with audience members in various forms. At the film festival I visited, a short animation piece was screened before the start of the feature-length film. It was in a small countryside region and I was able to meet elder audience members. Another director held an animation workshop together with small children from nearby towns. Another time
I visited a middle school, held a screening event, and talked with the students.
Abbaye de Fontevraud Residency is a good institute for directors, but more importantly a good institute for the citizens of the several small towns nearby.
A screening event and program was planned for various age groups, from children and students to adults and the elderly. Taking pleasure in and enjoying art is familiar from childhood to old age, too. The arts enrich their whole lives. In addition, while the directors introduce their art work, they are able to meet foreigners in close proximity and share ideas and get feedback from them.
This local support policy also prevents the arts from concentrating solely around metropolitan areas and develops culture evenly spread to all regions. It was a very informative and amazing experience.
In the Strasbourg region, they supported the production of The Empty, and I stayed there for about two months and produced it thanks to the grant they provided. I conducted the sound mastering work for The Empty personally at the sound company located there, and I produced the animation for two months while renting one room at the studio, too.
Abbaye de Fontevraud, with its regidency, or in Ciclic, located in the middle of France, directly provides space to live and work, and in other regions the production company provides a grant for accommodations and a studio space to work in.
Comparison between Korea and France
In Korea, because duplicate support is not possible, production support funds are limited. On the other hand, in France all forms of production support can be received at the same time. Commonly, support is given from the CNC, a TV channel, and one region, and additional post production support may be given, too. In France, they have a producer-oriented system which is fostered with abundant production funding. The producer manages the entire project and the director receives a salary. The copyright for the film is shared by both the producers and the directors. It is similar to the system in Korea for feature -length movies. It is possible to take on the challenge of producing a large scale animated short film since production funds are abundant. The director does not have to do everything, and can hire specialists in for specific aspects.
Meanwhile, there are very few producers of short animation in Korea. The director must also play the role of producer. With a business operator, he or she applies for support, manages the production, and even arranges distribution after production. The term and the production costs are limited and precludes the production of large-scale work. The director must be able to do most of the work by himself or herself. However, as the director manages everything, he or she can have the whole copyright of the film and can work independently. No one else is involved in the direction of the film. In any country where there are abundant subsidies, producers come to exist, otherwise directors have a tendency to be more independent. It would be very ideal if the environment were equipped with the support of two such kinds of characteristics according to the content and scale of the film.
In addition, I’d like to mention one of the welfare policies for artists in France, which does not exist in Korea. In France, by registering an animated short film to the Copyright Association, long-term profits may be earned through royalties. Also, if a director has not produced a new film after 10 months after completing his or her previous film, he or she can receive a creation support fund like a monthly salary.
In order for short animation to be produced continuously, a change in the recognition of artforms like this, and a solid national policy for production support is necessary.
However, above this, directors must make self-supporting efforts. They try to graft with various fields, and do various types of animation-related work.
Most directors of short animation find it very di cult to make a living with only their artwork. Depending on the nature of their films, they come to make feature-length animated films or come to have another occupation at the same time. Sometimes they teach, work as a freelancer, or operate a studio. Or they create advertisements or do illustrations. In addition, they often graft their artwork to other fields. They also produce their animated short films as picture books or comic books as a OSMU (one source multi use), or try the licensing business. Occasionally, they continue working by selecting a gallery or screening space at an exhibition hall. Of course, there are also various examples of social funding. Directors and writers are exploring their own ways with many different techniques and produce their films by any means possible.
I hope the examples of French policies mentioned above will inspire the animation environment in Korea. Among the things we are enjoying now, there exists something which did not exist before. As such, I hope there will be something to bring to the next generation through our current achievements. I want to convey infinite respect and encouragement to all of my seniors, colleagues, and juniors who find their own way and produce their own animated short films continuously in this diffcult environment.