Amidst the whirlwind of life it's taken me awhile to blog about Spark FX, which happened Jan 21 to 26 here in Vancouver, hosted by our local Siggraph chapter that I am so proud to be a part of. These guys are all so dedicated to making cool stuff happen in our rainy little city.
I don't have a huge number of pictures unfortunately, but here are some of the highlights I was able to experience...
Earlier in the festival planning, I had written a letter to Ray Harryhausen to see if he would be able to be part of the event (cuz it never hurts to try!) His colleague and co-author Tony Dalton kindly wrote me back to say that he was no longer traveling large distances from the UK. So by proxy, Wednesday night I was honored to kick off the festival by introducing a 35mm screening of 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Really nice looking print, and so much fun to see on the big screen. Then ironically, after getting home late that night, I logged on to the SMA.com message board and discovered that legendary Harryhausen-film producer Charles Schneer had passed away that same day. If I had read that news earlier, I would have mentioned it to the audience and dedicated the screening to his memory. Oh well, I did send an e-mail of condolences to Tony Dalton asking him to tell Ray that we screened the movie that day.
Since I'm more of an animator than a visual effects artist, some of the talks I sat in on were a little bit technical for my liking, but I've always had a keen interest in seeing how all of this stuff is done. Through Thursday & Friday there were some really cool retrospectives and presentations showing everything from old-school 80s splatter effects & animatronics to the modern-day wizardry of Pan's Labyrinth. Wicked stuff.
Saturday was a long killer of a day, starting with an incredible presentation by the great Dennis Muren. Unfortunately for me, I never got a chance to really chat with Dennis while he was here, outside of briefly shaking his hand. I thought he would be attending the dinner we had for the chapter that night, but it was not the case. Royal bummer, but perhaps we'll have him back another year when his book comes out. Just hearing him speak that morning was inspiring enough as it was.
I did, however, get to chat with another legendary film artist Harrison Ellenshaw, who supervised the effects for TRON and created the original matte paintings for Star Wars: A New Hope and Empire. The presentation he gave, about the film work of David Lean and general aesthetics for inspiring movies, was also extremely riveting and entertaining. Chatting with him about classic movies was a sheer delight...very nice guy who painted many lasting images from my film-going childhood.
Another person I got to connect with a bit more was local animation historian Keith Blackmore, who taught at VanArts back before my time there. He gave a great presentation on Sunday covering the history of visual effects, including a 16mm screening of The Old Mill.
Overall the event was a success and I believe it helped to re-ignite some inspiration into the shaky industry here. Already we are percolating plans now for Spark Animation '09, happening September 16-20, so stay tuned...
In the meantime, there are plenty more adventures in babysitting, writing and animating to be had, between naps, hugs and coffees.