Ten Ques­tions For Eric Beck­man Co-Founder and Pres­i­dent, GKIDS

Animation Magazine - - Front Page -

It has been a whirl­wind year for Eric Beck­man and his team at in­die dis­tri­bu­tion co. GKIDS. Not only does he have nu­mer­ous hot ti­tles on his plate for this year’s com­pet­i­tive award sea­son, he has also launched a high-pro­file fes­ti­val in Los An­ge­les ti­tled An­i­ma­tion Is Film, where ac­claimed in­ter­na­tional ti­tles such as The Bread­win­ner, Bird­boy: The For­got­ten Chil­dren, Zom­bil­le­nium, Mary and the Witch’s Flower and The Big, Bad Fox and Other Tales will make their U.S. de­but (Oct. 2022). Di­rec­tors in­clud­ing Nora Twomey, Ben­jamin Ren­ner, Arthur de Pins, Al­berto Vázquez, Pe­dro Rivero and Hiro­masa Yonebayashi will also be on hand for postscreen­ing Q&As. We caught up with the New York-based mover and shaker to get the scoop on his up­com­ing movies and Hol­ly­wood event: Can you tell us why you de­cided to launch this new an­i­ma­tion fes­ti­val? We launched An­i­ma­tion Is Film be­cause we felt some­thing like this fes­ti­val needs to ex­ist. An­i­ma­tion Is Film is a place where you can see the best new an­i­mated film­mak­ing from around the world in one lo­ca­tion. It is not meant to be a big sprawl­ing event like An­necy, or a place like Ot­tawa or CTNx where peo­ple look­ing for a ca­reer in an­i­ma­tion can learn about the lat­est soft­ware, meet re­cruiters, etc. It’s a place where peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in film with a cap­i­tal F can come dis­cover the year’s best an­i­mated film­mak­ing, meet the film­mak­ers, and hope­fully come away with an ex­panded no­tion of what the medium has to of­fer. In terms of tim­ing, we wanted to come after the sum­mer and Toronto Film Fes­ti­val, but be­fore the hol­i­days and awards sea­son got go­ing in earnest. Can you ex­plain how you came up with the name of the fes­ti­val? It’s pretty thought-pro­vok­ing and un­usual! The goal of the Fes­ti­val is to cham­pion an­i­ma­tion as a cin­e­matic art form on par with or ex­ceed­ing live-ac­tion film­mak­ing. In an­i­ma­tion, there are ab­so­lutely no re­straints on what you can do, and we want to en­cour­age film­mak­ers to be un­con­strained in their think­ing about an­i­ma­tion and what it can be used for, what it can con­vey. We want peo­ple to view an­i­ma­tion as film­mak­ing, just like live ac­tion is film­mak­ing. Do you think this ex­po­sure will help th­ese films get more no­tice and recog­ni­tion dur­ing a highly com­pet­i­tive award sea­son? We have been work­ing hard to as­sem­ble a great lineup of me­dia part­ners, build in­dus­try pres­ence and par­tic­i­pa­tion in L.A., get top crit­ics, ex­ecs and other ma­jor in­flu­encers on the jury. The goal is to cre­ate a very vis­i­ble and vo­cal plat­form for an­i­mated film in the heart of Hol­ly­wood, the world cap­i­tal of film­mak­ing. What is the big­gest chal­lenge for you as you seek th­ese great ti­tles from film­mak­ers around the world and give them ex­po­sure for U.S. au­di­ences? The most dif­fi­cult as­pect is the ge­o­graphic sprawl of L.A., travel time, park­ing, and build- ing must-see ex­cite­ment in a city that is fa­mously ho hum and jaded when it comes to fes­ti­vals, and when there is a film event ev­ery day of the year. Fes­ti­vals are 15 per­cent pro­gram­ming and 85 per­cent mar­ket­ing. You travel the world to seek high-qual­ity an­i­mated films to re­lease.. What makes a great film fes­ti­val in your opin­ion? A great film fes­ti­val is great films com­bined with an as­pi­ra­tional fo­cus, so that the pro­gram­ming points to some­thing greater than any one film. That is the corner­stone, the vi­sion, the rea­son the fes­ti­val needs to ex­ist. Then you need to take care of your au­di­ence and all the things that hap­pen around the film. You also need to be ab­so­lutely re­lent­less in your mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion, which means you need to care deeply and pas­sion­ately about what you are do­ing and con­vey that pas­sion to oth­ers. What is your take on the an­i­ma­tion climate in 2017 and 2018? I like where an­i­ma­tion is at, both as an art form and an in­dus­try. I feel the best an­i­mated films have not yet been made. That there is po­ten­tially a huge ex­plo­sion of cre­ativ­ity around the cor­ner. And that chang­ing tech­nolo­gies and par­a­digms in pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion, view­ing, mar­ket­ing will make it eas­ier and eas­ier for dif­fer­ent vi­sions to get ac­tu­al­ized. My hope and be­lief is that many, many peo­ple, both film­mak­ers and au­di­ences, are just awak­en­ing to new pos­si­bil­i­ties for the medium. Many big stu­dios are en­vi­ous of the way you have been able to raise aware­ness of your movies and land them Os­car nom­i­na­tions year after year. Why do you think you have been so suc­cess­ful? We care about what we do and we only han- dle films we like. I like to think we con­vey pas­sion in every­thing we do. Maybe it also helps that we came to this as out­siders, with no pre­con­ceived no­tions about the “right” way to do things. The short­age of funds was prob­a­bly a help at the be­gin­ning, too, be­cause it forced us to think cre­atively rather than throw money at prob­lems (the G in GKIDS stands for guer­rilla). But re­ally, it is about the films. No one is sur­prised when a small film like Moon­light wins Best Pic­ture. It is no dif­fer­ent with an­i­ma­tion: Peo­ple like good movies. What do you love about your job? I love the peo­ple I work with and the com­mu­nity they have cre­ated around GKIDS, that they have fun work­ing to­gether and work on each other’s projects on week­ends. I love hav­ing worked on a film for 18 months, and then it fi­nally opens and I get to read the re­views and the critic de­scribes every­thing I love about the movie, but in lan­guage more pow­er­ful and elo­quent than I could ever come up with. And the ride in the limo on Os­car night with the film­maker in L.A., with their friends, fam­ily from Brazil or Kilkenny or wher­ever, ev­ery­one who worked on the movie, ev­ery­one so ex­cited, hug­ging, tak­ing pic­tures, their life is for­ever changed, it will al­ways be a high point for them. That’s a lot of fun! What is the toon that changed your life? The Se­cret of Kells was the first film GKIDS li­censed and our first Os­car nom­i­na­tion, and set a cer­tain tra­jec­tory for the com­pany. I will al­ways have a spe­cial place in my heart for that film and the ex­cite­ment around the re­lease. You can find out more about the fes­ti­val lineup at www.an­i­ma­tion­is­film.com and the movies re­leased by GKIDS at www.gkids.com.

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