By B. Simm
CALGARY — Quickdraw Animation Society, quietly training artists and producing films for 30 years, has been a soild cornerstone in Calgary’s cultural community. To celebrate their fertile history they’re throwing a party, a month-long exhibition that executive director Peter Hemminger elaborates on:
BeatRoute: How did Quickdraw come into existence?
Peter Hemminger: It started with three professionals who were either doctors or related to medicine. They got together in 1980 to screen NFB films in out-of-use medical rooms and a lot of other stuff that was more mainstream Disney animation where they just wanted a place to talk about cartoons and comics. In 1984 they formalized it as a society, and then in the late ‘80s it became more of a producing house — they started making films and got some proper equipment. Before that cameras were duct-taped to some plastic tubing hanging off the ceiling.
BR: How did it evolve from there?
PH: After getting funding they made films that were screened all over the world. It was also super important to make education something that was a part of what they were doing. They began classes for adults and kids, bringing in artist groups and visiting workshops so over the years it’s become a sprawling operating although there’s still only three full-time employees. But we have youth outreach programs, work with The Calgary Board of Education, do adult courses and hold a festival in the fall. Anything to do with animation we try get that out there as much as we can.
BR: The work, the labour to produce animated art with amount of illustration, painting, set building, sculpturing, etc. involved must be immense!?
PH: Absolutely. It’s one of the most intense art forms there is. I think you can make a solid argument that to get a finished piece it takes a long, long time. People talk about working for a month to get 30 seconds of animation. I think that’s one of the most valuable things about Quickdraw — people can have a place where there’s social and community support, otherwise you’re working forever to get anything done.
BR: What is the anniversary exhibit, the big event all about?
PH: For the kick-off party, we’re going to have a bunch of artifacts on Quickdraw’s history on display, along with some favourite films from our members that span almost 30 years of producing. Then we’re having this exquisite corpse-style, collaborative animation which is going to be quite large, big enough for a car to drive over. And we’ve been digging through the archives gathering old photos and newsletters that Heather Kai Smith will make a silkscreen zine from, and we’ll be giving those out. I’m really looking forward to that because she does beautiful work… Looking back at the old newsletters it was amazing to see what people were doing with so little back then.
BR: Who are some of the notable artists to emerge from Quickdraw?
PH: Chad VanGaalen used to do the kids program and on and off he’s been connected to Quickdraw. Malcolm Sutherland isn’t really a household name, but if you look at any major festival in the world, odds are over a two- or three-year span they will be showing one or two of his films. Richard Reeves, who does direct film animation, which is drawing and scratching directly on filmstrips, was a long-time member. When we talk to animators who teach or run festivals all over the world, they say his film Linear Dreams is one of the best pieces of direct film animation ever made.
Visit quickdrawanimation.ca for more information about their 30-year celebration that runs from May 8-30.AB, Alberta, Quickdraw Animation Society