Martin Kotík • Presidente, Associazione del cinema d'animazione ceco
"Abbiamo una serie di nuove produzioni e studi di animazione nati da nient'altro che dal loro desiderio di esistere e creare"
- L'attuale presidente dell'Associazione del cinema d'animazione ceco analizza lo stato dell'industria dell'animazione ceca oggi
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Martin Kotík is a Czech producer from outfit Rolling Pictures (Harvie and the Magic Museum [+leggi anche:
scheda film], Harvie and the Snowman, the upcoming animated film Pearl) as well as a director (Same to You, Boss!), and he is currently serving as the president of the Association of Czech Animation Film. Cineuropa sat down with him to discuss the current state of Czech animation in light of recent international successes and the aftermath of the pandemic.
Cineuropa: Despite the significant toll that the pandemic has taken on the film industry, the Czech animation sector appears to be thriving. Can we generalise and say that the situation of the video-game industry applies to the entirety of domestic animation?
Martin Kotík: We can see really positive numbers and trends globally, but unfortunately, this doesn't mean that every Czech animated production or animation studio benefits from the positive impact of the pandemic. We can see that the most heavily affected parties were studios exclusively focused on service work. Small, local studios focused only on their own development and production were not affected at all. We have noticed some difficulties with mid-sized studios involved in international co-productions. The travel ban has dramatically affected opportunities for teamwork.
Czech animation received huge worldwide exposure thanks to Daria Kashcheeva’s award-winning streak, taking Daughter all the way to the 92nd edition of the Oscars. Also, for the first time in the history of the Czech Lions, animation got its very own category. How does your association perceive the current state of domestic animation?
Every animator in our country is certainly happy with the success of the student film Daughter as well as with the establishment of an award for animation at the Czech Lions. Both are a symbol and clear proof of the growth in the quantity and quality of Czech animation over the last ten to 15 years. In addition, although the success of Daughter is extraordinary, the quality of our film education has always been high and has never been questioned. There is a historical context for such success in our country. Today, we have a number of new animation productions and studios, which arose out of nothing – from nothing but their own desire for existence and creativity – and that's amazing.
Between 2010 and 2020, 26 Czech animated films premiered in domestic theatres. What does this number say about domestic animation, in your opinion?
At first glance, they may seem like modest results. But they clearly show that the domestic animation sector has a burning desire and an iron will to produce films, despite all the obstacles it has to face. And the surveys conducted by our association on the Czech distribution market clearly reveal that the demand of viewers for domestic animated films is extremely high, and the potential for the growth of Czech animated production is right there, waiting to be fulfilled. We see a large niche still ahead of us.
Not long ago, the short animated film SH_T HAPPENS (see the news) qualified for the Oscars and the Césars. It is not the only Czech animated film to be recognised internationally, yet there are some people saying that Czech animation is not fulfilling its international potential. How come?
This is precisely the problem I raised in response to one of the previous questions. We have good schools, and we can make short films. But we completely lack the know-how when it comes to the production of professional feature films. So we are at the beginning of a long journey in the field of features. Czech producers can benefit the most from co-productions, where producers and studios can learn to work in line with global standards. This was, for example, the journey of the first co-produced animated family film, Harvie and the Magic Museum. This movie has been sold to 180 countries, so we can see that it works. But without more financial support from the state institutions, this will never become the norm.
The coming months and years do not look too bad for animation, since many interesting projects will soon be ready for premiere, including Even Mice Belong in Heaven, My Sunny Maad (see the news), the feature film Websters, and Pearl, slated for 2022. This looks like a solid line-up for the Czech Republic.
But this is the maximum that Czech production can stretch to in terms of animation under current conditions. And if you take a closer look, you can see that these are films whose premieres span a period of four years. Some of them were postponed because of COVID-19, and others are going to be completed later. It means that we're still talking about the potential capacity to produce 1.5 films a year, and that's really a very low number. The distribution share of all animated films in the Czech Republic is about 25%. It is the fastest-growing audiovisual industry in the world. Surveys show us that the Czech market requires many more domestic animated productions than just 1.5 films per year. The real potential of animation is much higher. So in the end, we can see that there is a huge amount of untapped potential in the field of Czech animated production.
What initiatives is the Association of Czech Animation Film running or preparing to run in order to support domestic professionals in the animation industry?
We have initiated and run a basic pool of activities that support the producers of animated projects, and help them develop their creativity, production know-how and international networking. These include co-production seminars, distribution seminars, the CEE Animation Workshop, the CEE Animation Forum, ASAF Open Test and the newly launched CREATOOLA talent-recruitment website. In addition, we are negotiating with the Czech Film Fund on the position of animation within the new Czech Audiovisual Fund, and with the Ministry of Industry and Trade on potential ways to support animation as a creative industry.
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