The Animation Showcase is the new streaming service made exclusively for the animation industry. This dedicated platform shows work from studios big and small, from industry giants to up-and-coming independents. Participating film-makers can expect an engaged audience of animators, artists and studios, as well as directors and producers from the motion picture and creative industries. The Animation Showcase is the brainchild of Benoit Berthe Siward, who hopes that his platform will shine the spotlight on great work that deserves your attention.
Benoit, an alumni of the prestigious RUBIKA in France, works closely with animation studios to promote their projects and assist in the submission process for award shows. He hopes to build on an impressive track record after helping 2018’s Garden Party and 2020’s Sister earn a nomination in the Best Animated Short category at the Academy Awards. With the Animation Showcase, Benoit intends to replicate this role in the digital space.
We spoke to Benoit about the launch of his platform, and what he hopes it will bring to the industry. For those with work to exhibit, he provides some insights into what he looks for when selecting films to showcase. Read our interview below!
Hi Benoit, what is the Animation Showcase streaming platform?
The Animation Showcase is the combined output of my passion to share films. For the teams behind the films, this platform provides an opportunity to be seen by some of the most famous animation studios and motion picture studios in the world.
Anyone from the animation industry can access the platform, and it’s also available to people in the motion picture industry or creative or artistic industries who have an interest in seeing short films.
How did the need for the Animation Showcase streaming platform arrive?
In the past, when I worked with film-makers, I would often travel around, showing films to studios and creative companies. I would always take extra care to screen work in very good conditions. Screenings should be comfortable, and with good quality, so in big studios, they always have perfect quality screening rooms. To replicate this, I would always take extra care to show the work in the best conditions possible. But because of the pandemic, I can no longer do this.
With the streaming platform, I can provide this online, in a free environment without compromise on quality. I wanted to create a platform where people can easily navigate and discover new things. That’s basically how the Animation Showcase streaming platform came about.
What is the purpose for setting up the platform?
At the Annecy Film Festival, I noticed that the head of the studios and the big producers were often busy with meetings, so they weren’t seeing some of the good films at the festival. I started to take these good films and do showcase events at the company I worked at, creating a programme of sorts. Bit by bit it started to become a thing.
I grouped all this knowledge I knew from these events, and from my efforts getting exposure for film projects, into this thing called the Animation Showcase. With the primary goal of getting visibility and sharing love within the animation industry, and wider out, to creative and motion picture people too.
Over the years, we have evolved into a kind of strategy agency where I advise companies, studios and schools on how to amplify their work.
What are the criteria you’re looking for when selecting work to showcase?
I am very careful to add indie films next to the bigger studios. This is important for the quality of the selection. Usually I have big studio films, indie films and student films. It’s been like that since the beginning, and it really helps with diversity.
In terms of technical, I include 2D films, stop-motion, CG, other hybrid techniques, always. Because it’s really important to show the diversity within the industry. We have a selection that is being honest with what’s the best and what’s being done out there. What’s being done happens to be very diverse, so the selection ended up being very diverse.
I’m also trying to be careful not to have one style. I don’t want people to think that animation is only cartoons and fun and things to laugh at. That’s not true, and these short-films show that by showing very different things.
What has the response been from the industry?
I’ve had lots of people from the industry follow me from this. Directors contact me and say that they’ve heard of my platform from their friends. So, despite things being very organic, I have had over two thousand people sign up for the platform in a few weeks. There are people from Pixar, Sony Animation, Blue Sky, Aardman on the platform, to name a few!
The service is free to those working in animation. What advantages are there to a free model?
Despite being free, every year the big studios submit films to me. They know that with the Animation Showcase, they can target a different type of user. This offers other things; the environment is smaller, and more organic. You are not lost in the long features like you would be on a bigger platform, so they can reach a different audience.
The platform also has excellent tools to protect the films, To ensure they are not downloaded or stolen.
What are some of the unique features of the platform?
A special feature I integrated into the platform is a way to host Q&As. If a studio wants to have a Q&A, we can set up a meeting time together, the studio receives a connection link to the platform and the platform shows a link to give access to a Zoom call within the platform where they can speak to all the directors.
We did this last week with Aardman and it went really well. We even had Peter Lord and Nick Park as part of the Q&A, which was really cool. This feature can hopefully put makers in touch with CEOs, talent recruiters, employees at studios and help to foster connections.
Something I’ve also pushed a lot this year is our ‘making-of’ content. The platform shows a thumbnail with a play button where people can access making-of content straightaway. This includes all the features and bonus content, so if people are interested, they can see more. Most of this type of content is currently exclusive to the platform.
Content run-time generally lasts under half an hour. Is this focus on short-form a deliberate choice?
For me, short film is a format of generosity. Most of the time you don’t pay to get to see a short film. It’s like a generous little candy. I wanted the streaming platform to reflect that.
I wanted to create a solution to give short-form a worthwhile new platform. Short-film fits my generation, Generation Y and Z. We are the generation that sometimes don’t always have the time or attention span to spend hours watching things.
A nice feature of the platform is that I can see a user’s attention span: people’s focus, and if they watch until the end or not. The attention span we’ve been seeing is amazing. On the platform, I can see that the large majority of people watch without any stops, and they watch until the end credits start. For me, this is a success.
This means that the format is working and people are engaging – and that’s what I wanted to do. I want people to discover new short films with quality content, a beautiful message, stories that are strong and original. It seems to have worked. That’s what makes me want to continue.
What is the selection process?
I am very transparent. I look at the films, on my own, many, many times.
The first thing I’m looking at is the narrative, it has to be original, authentic and very well-constructed. Secondly, that it involves emotions, it could be making you laugh, or it could touch your heart, or make you think about a subject that is strong. Third, the visuals need to have beautiful art direction, and clever decision making. If I’m talking live-action, the cinematography needs to be clean, smart, intentional. Lastly, and an important one, is the technique. We are looking for excellence here and we don’t have enough room to show everything.
I’m trying to have an equilibrium. A diverse selection that I know people will like. It’s not about me, but about what the audience might like and what might inspire. I don’t want to show them obvious ones, but hidden gems that will really inspire them.
What’s in the future for the platform?
It depends how many people are connecting on the platform. I will look at how I can maintain it for as long as possible.
It is important to be able to finance it without the user having the pay for it. I don’t want users to pay, I just want the maximum number of people to be able to see the gems we’re showing. I want the people behind those gems to reach where they want in their career. Perhaps they want to do a long feature, or a series, or another short film, I want them to have an audience. An audience throughout the creative and motion pictures industry.
How can studios get their work onto your platform?
There is no other massive protocol to follow, it’s all pretty organic and straight forward! They just have to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and send me their film.
Do you work in animation? Be sure to visit Animation Showcase to enjoy their hand-chosen selection of short films.