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Creating in India: AniMela’s Mission to Elevate Indian AVGC On The World Stage!

India’s burgeoning AVGC (Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, and Comics) sector is on the cusp of a transformative moment with the advent of AniMela, the country’s first-ever AVGC festival. In an exclusive interview with the visionaries behind this groundbreaking initiative, we delve into the inspiration behind AniMela’s creation and unravel the festival’s long-term vision. Beyond the glitz of animation and visual effects, AniMela aspires to redefine India’s role on the global stage and provide a platform for homegrown talents to shine.

As we navigate the intricate threads of this conversation with key spokespersons from Animela, we discover the uncharted territories of the AVGC sector in India, exploring the narrative shift from being a service provider to emerging as a creator-industry. Focusing on mentorship, storytelling, and international exposure, AniMela seeks to address the gaps hindering the industry’s growth, presenting a beacon of hope for artists and creators nationwide.

Conversation with AniMela’s Leadership on the Dynamics of India’s AVGC Sector

Kireet Khurana – Festival Director, AniMela

1. What inspired the creation of India’s first AVGC festival, AniMela? Could you share insights into the long-term vision for this festival and its potential impact on the AVGC sector in India?

Did you know that best VFX Oscars for past few films like ‘The Dune’, Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pinnochio’, ‘Life of PI’, ‘Golden Compass’, ‘Narnia’, ‘Avenger’ series and many others have been done largely Indian artists working out of our country? Yes, that’s right. Some of the biggest companies are based out of India – Dneg, Technicolour, Framestore, Company 3 and many more. Yet we don’t get the glory for this as they are essentially American films and the spotlight is taken away from our artists. One of our goals of AniMela is to enable our artists and creators to get their due encouragement and credit and are able to tell their own stories. While we are big in servicing, it’s time we diversify to ‘Create in India’ as well. AniMela is a platform we have created with a view to promote our own emerging talent, while inviting the best talent, producers, directors, developers and artists to come to India and share their works and mentor our fledgling talent.

2. How have indigenous studios contributed to the growth and innovation of the AVGC sector in India? Can you discuss their impact on global AVGC trends and the industry’s shift from being a service provider to a creator-industry?

Indian studios have been the foundation for top-grossing Hollywood films in VFX and animation. Although we have some superlatively gifted emerging talented artists, we have not succeeded in internationally taking Indian stories, narratives and styles forward to the world, nor do we have a single AAA game or Comic that is world-renowned. This is due to a gap of mentorship, weak storytelling, lack of understanding of the business of animation and gaming and overall access to world markets and networking. With AniMela we intend to be the catalyst which can be a game-changer for our country.

Our burgeoning IT industry which essentially started modestly as the backend office to the world, has grown to a $230bn+ ITES industry and has the largest number of startups in the world! Akin to that, Animation and gaming are at an inflection point where we have 2.5 lacs people employed, we have critical mass, we just need the right launch pad to take off in the IP creation space.

3. In what ways does AniMela provide opportunities for Indian animators to gain international exposure and recognition? Could you elaborate on the specific platforms and opportunities the festival offers to nurture and showcase new talent?

We have global experts, filmmakers, creators, artists and curators coming to AniMela. They will be doing masterclasses, panel discussions and interacting with our artists giving many of them a taste of international expectations and paradigms. This is a huge opportunity for our fledgling talented artists and technologists to soak in a wealth of knowledge.

The world-renowned MIFA Campus is one such opportunity where we invited artists from across the country to pitch their animated concepts which can be potentially developed into a series or a feature film. We received 60 great concepts out of which the international Jurors have chosen 5 as finalists. These 5 artists and their projects will be mentored by the international experts at AniMela and the best among them will have an opportunity to pitch to the world’s top producers, distributors, platforms and collaborators at Annecy, France in June! This opportunity is coming to India for the first time and we hope to launch more and more Indian artists and IPs internationally to ensure the Indian narrative and stories are depicted and imprinted across the globe with world-class execution.

 Neha Jain- Executive Director, AniMela

1. How does Indian animation draw inspiration from diverse mythological stories and folklore to create compelling content? What contributions has AniMela made in this realm?

From the beginning Indian animation has mostly been inspired by Indian mythology and folklore. Animation is just the right medium to depict stories based on fantasy, stories based in other worlds. It gives flight to the imagination and just anything is possible when you set out to create something through animation. Hence we’ve grown up watching animated forms and depictions of Hanuman and Ganesha and Arjuna and many others. However, we also feel that there is a lot of untapped potential to tell other kinds of stories through animation. The success of Bombay Rose is just one example of that. Indian animators and artists are a talented lot and we at AniMela strongly feel that a lot many diverse stories are still waiting to be told out there. Through our work, we hope to support such emerging talent.

2. How does AniMela incorporate emerging technologies like AI, VR, or procedural animation into its projects? Could you discuss their impact on the creative process and the storytelling aspect?

This is going to be AniMela’s first edition so we haven’t really incorporated or worked with new technologies yet. But like everyone else, we are curious about them. We have been meeting many developers and creators who are working in this space over the last few months. In fact AniMela 2024 will feature a panel discussion by Anand Gurnani which will explore AI and its role in creation.  We also have a section where visitors can watch VR films created by students. Overall, we understand that while there is a greater presence of AI and other new technologies in the creative space, we also believe that this will only raise the bar for better storytelling and ensure higher quality eventually.

3. How does AniMela facilitate networking and collaboration among professionals in the AVGC industry? What initiatives or platforms does the festival offer to encourage industry collaboration?

 It’s been 18 months since the Anniverse and Visual Arts Foundation was created and right from the beginning, we have been working towards our objective of promoting and supporting emerging talent to promote Indian stories to come out. While the first AniMela festival is happening only in Jan, 2024, ever since we launched in February, 2023, we have been very clearly working towards it.

In the last few months, we’ve organized knowledge series sessions on different aspects of AVGC-XR. We had a session on women in animation at Soho House in one month. We had a whole panel discussion on the visual effects of, Amazon Show Jubilee, with the director Vikramaditya Motwani, the VFX team, of film CGI, which was moderated by Maria Goretti.

We also had a little workshop on creating your own comic strip by Vivek Nag. To promote young talent in the women in animation, for instance, we had some lovely films from Annecy Festival, created by women, but we also showcased Indian women animators who came and showed their short films and there were some veterans from the industry who were there to watch their films at Soho house in that event. So, it’s been our constant objective. It’s been a constant effort to make sure that different people get to meet and collaborate.

In fact, one of the things at AniMela this year is the International MIFA Campus pitch. This is in collaboration with the Annecy Festival. They have the International MIFA Campus, a program that happens in countries outside France. in which, mentors from Annecy Festival come and they, mentor shortlisted projects and so this time we have five beautiful animation projects, shortlisted  and those five project holders are going to actually attend a four day exclusive workshop with the, Annecy mentors, from 16th to 19th of January overlapping with AniMela dates.

On the 19th, all those five project holders will present their pitches to a wider audience of studios, distributors, festival agents, all of them, that’s been one of our efforts. We also have a few international delegates coming. We have Luce Grosjean the CEO of Miyu Distribution in France, who’s conducting a few sessions, and will also be meeting a lot of Indian artists and creators and studios and production houses in India. 

We have the team from Annecy Festival, including the festival director, Mickaël Marin, coming and, it’ll be a great opportunity for Indian artists and creators to meet him, and also the head of MIFA, Veronique Encrenaz. So we have many different artists and creators and animators from a creative space and also from the business side, coming and sort of holding sessions and workshops and also will be there at the festival for individuals to come and have one on one meetings with them.

Anne Doshi- Artistic Director:

1. In what ways does AniMela serve as a hub for creators to exhibit innovative storytelling, animation styles, and cultural representations? Could you highlight some instances or examples?

2. How have recent technological advancements in animation impacted the landscape of film and animation, both in India and globally? What role has AniMela played in this scenario?

Ans for Q1 & 2

Throughout the year we have been promoting young artists such as Rhea Gupte, an Indie game developer who created the modern and inclusive “Fishbowl” with her studio“Imissmyfriend”. Rhea is gaining lots of interest in Japan. This is so exciting. We also follow the work and festival travels of filmmaker Suchana Saha who works as well in 2D Animation, painted glass or live-action. We love how bold and innovative they are in their approach to art, technology and still have a very strong Indian identity. We have been following the work of Krishna Chandran, who studied and worked in 2D animation in India and Europe and is now in charge of the VFX for South Indian blockbusters. Today’s artists in the AVGC sector are very fluid. Technology and art walk hand in hand. What matters is the sensibility and we clearly see a strong Indian identity emerging. Leaders like Avichal Singh (Raji), Upamanyu Bhattacharyya (Wade), Gitanjali Rao (Bombay Rose), Abhijit Kini (Angry Maushi) or Orijit Sen (River of Stories) are beautiful storytellers who make our culture shine around the world. But as individuals, countries and/or industry, we could still give them some extra support by watching their films, paying to play their games or supporting innovation.

3. Could you shed light on AniMela’s initiatives such as artist residencies or mentorship programs? How do these programs encourage collaboration and skill-sharing among industry veterans and emerging talents?

A festival is not something that happens in just over three days. I mean, that’s the culmination and  the excitement and the moment that everybody is together. The role of a festival, animation, comics, gaming, whatever it is, is to support the talent in the country and to create links between, like you said, veterans and young artists, between, the big studios and the young artists.  

It can be overwhelming when you come out of a school or institute and you don’t know how to approach you. You’re not being taught all of those things. The role of a festival is to do all these things. And, this year we have our first mentorship. thanks to the MIFA campus, which is the market space of the Annecy Animation Festival.

But yes, we are very keen to have residencies. Annecy has a residency, which is pretty recent. They had an Indian talent, Upamanyu Bhattacharya, because he had got his short film selected two years before. He won a prize there, and then he was shortlisted for this residency. 

That is obviously, like, supporting him a lot. It has increased his network, he gained confidence, his project is titled. His project is more international also, though it’s a very Indian project. Something that can appeal to producers and distributors all around the world.

That’s what a festival is. It’s an international festival. You’re always gaining information, knowledge from all around the world. and that’s why those mentorship and residencies are very important because they don’t come just from the country where the residency and mentorship happen, but from around the world. That’s, that’s what we try to do and aim to do.

In conclusion, the dialogue with the minds behind AniMela offers a glimpse into the festival’s potential to reshape the narrative of the Indian AVGC sector. The vision to ‘Create in India‘ is not just a slogan but a clarion call for the industry to diversify and tell its own stories. As AniMela takes its first steps, it promises to be a game-changer, propelling Indian narratives onto the global stage and providing a launch pad for emerging talents. The stage is set, and the spotlight is ready – AniMela beckons, inviting India to step into the limelight of the global AVGC arena.

Join AniMela – India’s first international festival that is happening from the 19th to the 21st of January 2024.