Irene became interested in animation while teaching art history at Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College, which offers one of the oldest and most respected animation courses in the UK. With a Masters degree in Art History, Irene developed a specialized animation history program for Surrey Institute, teaching emerging animators about its origins and studying the work of pioneers in the field. Her passion and enthusiasm for the art form prompted the Royal College of Art and the National Film School to request Irene as a guest lecturer. She has also participated in film and lecture tours in Australia, Canada, Japan, and in many countries throughout Europe. Irene’s literary works have been featured in scholarly and trade journals including Screen, Undercut and Shots.
In the mid 1980’s, Irene became Director of the Cambridge Animation Festival in the UK. Founded in 1965, Cambridge was one of the first international animation festivals in the world. With Irene at the helm, the Festival rapidly expanded and outgrew the city of Cambridge, necessitating a move first to Bristol, and then to Cardiff, Wales, where it settled in the 1990’s. During Irene’s tenure, the Festival introduced many new talents and rising stars of animation, including Nick Park, whose Oscar-winning Creature Comforts and Wallace and Gromit feature film Grand Day Out both premiered in Bristol. Irene moved into full-time production in 1993, becoming Executive Producer at London`s Speedy Films. She divided her time between London and New York, producing short animated films, including the award-winning Abductees and commercials for Britain and the US. She has also produced and consulted for programs on animation for the BBC (including Animation Week, introduced by Paul McCartney), Channel 4, ITV and MTV’s Liquid Television.
Irene relocated to Los Angeles in 1997, and continues to be heavily involved in the animation industry. She served as a judge in the 2001 LA International Animation Celebration and has acted as curator on animation programs for Disney Concert Hall’s Redcat Theater. Irene’s television work has included acting as a consultant for the UK documentary series on animation, Dope Sheet, and interviewing The Simpsons creator Matt Groening for BBC. In 2004, Irene produced a segment of Drew Carey`s Green Screen Show, a Comedy Central series which combined animation with improvisation. In addition to conceiving, planning and coordinating the inaugural PLATFORM Festival, Irene has spent much of the last few years promoting and advancing animation by lecturing at universities like USC and Cal Arts, contributing to journals such as Animation World Network (AWN), and serving as curator for festivals including the LA International Animation Celebration and UK`s Animated Encounters.
Bijan Tehrani: Please tell us about the history of Platform International Animation Festival.
Irene Kotlarz: It`s a brand new event, the first one next month, June 25-30 in Portland, Oregon.
Bijan: How and when did you involve with the festival?
Irene: I’m the founding Director. The idea came up when I was having dinner with Michael Ouweleen, Senior VP of Programming and Development at Cartoon Network. I just happened to mention that it was a shame that there was no major animation festival in the US, since the last World Animation Celebration in Los Angeles in 2001. We agreed that there was a definite need for a festival and especially one that focuses on inspiration. So (to cut a long story short) he asked if I’d be interested in organizing it if Cartoon Network sponsored it.
Bijan: What are the different categories in Platform competition?
Irene: These are the actual awards:
• Student Grand Prix ($10,000)
• Best Film Made for Under $5,000 ($5,000)
• Best Film Made for Under $50,000 ($5,000)
• Best Film Made for $50,000 or over ($5,000)
• Best Film Made for the Internet ($5,000)
• Best Film Made for Mobile Devices ($2,500)
• Best Installation ($5,000)
• Best Television Series
• Best Television Series for Children
• Best Film for Children
• Best Commercial or Promotional Film
• Best Title Sequence
• Best Music Video
The judges at their discretion can also give awards for the following (although the films can`t be entered for these awards specifically)
• Most Innovative Film
• Best Art Direction
• Best Performance by an Animated Character
• Best Sound Design
There will also be Audience Choice Awards for Best Film, Best Installation, and Best Film for Mobile Device.
Bijan: Has international animation a strong presence at Platform International Animation Festival? What countries are expected to participate in 2007 festival?
Irene: We have 150 films, including installations and films for mobile devices, from 20 countries in competition. In addition, we have
An exhibition of portrait photographs of people and their avatars by the British photojournalist Robbie Cooper.
A rare screening of a Chinese feature film made in 1941, “Princess Iron Fan”, courtesy of Taiwan film archive.
A retrospective of almost a half century of Cuban animation from Cuba’s Institute of the Art and Industry of Cinema (ICAIC)
A preview of Japanese feature “Tekkon Kinkreet” from cutting edge Studio 4ï‚°C
An international program of animation for children including films from India, Russia and Japan
Two programs of selected films from the Berlin-based festival Pictoplasma
Bijan: Are there any international filmmakers guests attending the festival?
Irene: All film-makers in competition get their hotel and per diems paid to attend the festival. We are currently in correspondence with them to find out which of them will come, but it should be an international spread. In addition, there will be:
Presentations by British studio Aardman Animation`s two founders, Peter Lord and David Sproxton
An installation and presentation by Argentinean ‘street art’ collective, Doma.
A presentation on character design by British artist James Jarvis, who has designed the festival trophy
There will be a large contingent from the National Film Board of Canada, as well as from the Canadian animation industry generally.
There will be representatives from other festivals in China, Holland, and Britain
Bijan: What are the events of the festival?
Irene: We have four theaters of varying sizes (the largest seats 880) operating simultaneously with screenings, presentations and panels. Highlights include, in addition to some of the screenings mentioned above:
7 competition screenings Panels on tv in the age of new media, creating animation for mobile devices, character design for computer games, how to get a job and make deals, animation blogs, etc.
Two exhibitions, one featuring the illustrations of Basil Wolverton, whose work in the middle of the last century at Mad Magazine has been very influential on animators. The other is the portrait photographs of Robbie Cooper (see above), the subject of a new book published this month.
Many parties, including a picnic on Sauvie Island in the Willamette River, sponsored by Portland-based studio Laika
Other presentations include renowned feature director Henry Selick (“James and the Giant Peach”, animation director on “The Nifhtmare Before Christmas”)
Bijan: Please tell us about Platform jury members.
Irene: They include Oscar winner, writer and historian John Canemaker; internet star PES; rising French director Gaelle Denis (whose film ‘”City Paradise” won many awards a couple of years ago).
Bijan: When it comes to animation festivals, attention goes to Annecy; do you expect that Platform is a strong competitor for Annecy? Specially that both festivals are held in June.
Irene: Half of Annecy is a marketplace, which we are not, we are a festival for artists. I think also it’s very expensive for Americans to go to Europe, especially right now with the Euro so strong against the dollar, so it seems like a good time to start a festival here. And Europeans (as well as the rest of the world) are always interested in rubbing shoulders with the US animation industry, another good reason to come here.
It seemed that June was the only time for us partly because we wanted to attract students, who are the new talent, and the best time for that is summer vacation. Which means before July 4? Later in July is Comi-Con. August is never a good time, and September is Ottawa, the other North American festival. And the weather is great in Portland in summer!
Bijan: Is there any focus in the festival over the new media?
Irene: We have focused a great deal of attention in making sure new media is major part of the festival.
Bijan: Please tell us about your plans for the future of the Platform International Animation Festival.
Irene: We are counting on more. We still need to decide if the festival should be an annual or biennial event – there are arguments in favor of each.