For VIEW Conference director Dr. Maria Elena Gutierrez, the reality of migrating VIEW 2020 online was especially difficult, given that for her, the gathering itself, bringing together industry greats not just to present, but to spend quality face time chatting with attendees and fellow speakers – many of whom travel great distances just for those interactions – is a unique and integral part of what makes the event so special. It’s baked into the very brand. But, when facing COVID-19 pandemic realities this past spring, her consternation, and pause, were short lived, as she quickly and decisively pushed ahead without trepidation, harnessing her boundless energy into building her most expansive and inclusive program ever. Then put it online.
The digital media and entertainment industries have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, with some segments, like the theatrical film business, and the down-ticket feature film VFX business, especially hard hit. But Dr. Gutierrez embraced the challenge of building a virtual VIEW conference with her usual boundless determination, dare I say, optimism. In conversations with her earlier this year, she humbly shared her amazement at the overwhelming support she’d been receiving from people she was asking to participate. Didn’t surprise me in the least.
Each year, the VIEW Conference celebrates the remarkable achievements of a dizzying array of extraordinary people. In this most turbulent year, that array is especially dizzying… and inspiring. Dr. Gutierrez tells AWN, “Early in the year, once the reality of the pandemic became clear, I wondered how we could possibly put together a 2020 conference that brought the same value and sense of excitement as in previous years. But as we reached out to our extensive VIEW family, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I’m immensely proud that we’ve put together a program beyond anything I could have imagined.”
“This has been a year with so much bad news,” she continues, “so it was thrilling to share a bit of great news for a change when we just made the unprecedented decision to make this year’s conference completely free! This is a fantastic opportunity for us to grow the VIEW community, and to welcome people who can’t travel to Torino or buy a pass. VIEW 2020 will be innovative, insightful, inspiring… and free for everyone to enjoy. I couldn’t be more excited!”
By making the conference free with registration, VIEW 2020 gives online attendees access to every session; anyone, anywhere, can attend. This unprecedented access to the conference program’s extraordinary depth of talent is a huge deal.
In addition, this year’s program was built with an even greater eye towards artistic and cultural diversity. According to Dr. Gutierrez, “I’m especially proud of the diversity of topics and speakers we’ve assembled this year. 43 of our speakers are women, including studio heads, animation directors, producers, VFX artists and game developers. I’m also extremely pleased by the number of pertinent talks and panels planned that focus on production challenges and strategies during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
VIEW talks tend to be great not just because of a speaker’s particular brand of expertise; it’s because of the visible joy that permeates their presentations, the ease with which they share cool insider tidbits or funky things that happened on big productions. For an hour or two, they’re opening a window into what they love about what they do and inviting us to relax and enjoy the view. It’s a chance to geek out, or to wax poetic, about what they’ve dedicated their lives to, for a rapt audience that is every bit as passionate.
The VIEW Conference, most importantly and most impactfully, helps humanize what to many artists is a level of creative excellence they aspire to achieve, at companies and on projects that fuel their career aspirations. This is the stuff of their dreams, the reason why they work so hard, day in and day out, knowing in all likelihood they may never achieve that level of creative success. But when they hear an Oscar-winning director or VFX supervisor tell them it’s doable, that they too started at the very bottom of the food chain, it has tremendous meaning. They were once just like me.
It’s easy to overlook, but perfectly proper to over-emphasize, that animation and VFX are inherently mentor-based industries where regardless of educational or vocational background, talent begets talent, and anyone… literally anyone who works to develop and improve that talent, and can ably demonstrate it, has an opportunity to succeed. VIEW is more than just a repository for a sprawling set of presentations on many of the major media projects audiences have been consuming the past year. It’s a conference founded in the sharing of ideas, perspectives, knowledge, and most of all, energy. Animation is hard, often tedious, and exacting in all its forms. Sharing the joy of slogging through projects brings a great sense of community, so critically important today when practically everyone is working and living in bunkers.
This year’s VIEW 2020 lineup is far too extensive to properly cover here. But we’ll provide a few highlights. Pixar co-founder, former president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, and computer graphics visionary Ed Catmull is delivering a Keynote, as are nine-time Academy Award winner Dennis Muren, creative director at Industrial Light & Magic; and Phil Tippett, director, producer, visual effects supervisor, founder of Tippett Studio and winner of two Oscars. To anyone who witnessed Tippett’s brilliantly off the cuff 2014 Winsor McCay Award acceptance speech at the ASIFA-Hollywood Annies knows that his talk alone is worth the price of admission. Which is now free.
Another Pixar co-founder, fellow computer graphics visionary Alvy Ray Smith is speaking, as are PDI co-founders Carl Rosendahl, Richard Chuang, and Glenn Entis. Sharon Calahan, the amazing Pixar DP on Onward, as well as Kendal Cronkhite, the equally amazing production designer on DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls and Trolls World Tour, are presenting. Hal Hickel will talk all things animation on The Mandalorian. And VFX supervisor Andrew Jackson will close out the conference with a presentation on the visual effects of Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bending pic, Tenet.
More than 30 studio heads and chief creative officers are participating. Mireille Soria, president of Paramount Animation, joins Disney’s Osnat Shurer, producer of Raya and the Last Dragon and Moana, and Maureen Fan, co-founder and CEO of Baobab Studios, for a panel Women in the Animation Industry. A panel on diversity and inclusion in animation features Ramsey Naito, president of Nickelodeon Animation, who will also host a special Nickelodeon session showcasing the work of Miguel Puga (The Casagrandes) and Niki Lopez (Santiago of the Seas.)
Meanwhile Rob Bredow, head of ILM, contemplates nothing less than the future of entertainment itself. And if you haven’t heard Mr. Bredow speak lovingly and tenderly about the latest bleeding edge onset virtual production technology, you’re in for a treat.
VIEW 2020 also brings together 30 directors of animated feature films, short films, and animated television series including Kris Pearn (The Willoughbys), Sergio Pablos (Klaus), Kyle Balda (Minions), Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Walt Dohrn (Trolls World Tour), Joel Crawford (The Croods), Conrad Vernon (The Addams Family), Eric Darnell (Madagascar) and Jeff Rowe (Nickelodeon’s upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). In a special panel, directors Jorge R. Gutierrez (The Book of Life), Tony Bancroft (Animal Crackers) and Cartoon Saloon co-founder Tomm Moore (co-director of Wolfwalkers with Ross Stewart) will debate the future of cinema.
Carve some time out of your schedule, get registered, and join the family.
The international VIEW Conference, Italy’s premiere event for Computer Graphics, Interactive & Immersive Media, Animation, Visual Effects, Games, Real-time Rendering, Virtual Production, AI, VR, AR, and Mixed Reality, brings top professionals from those fields to the beautiful baroque city of Torino, Italy for a week of talks, presentations, and workshops.
The 2020 VIEW Conference will take place from October 18 to 23 in Torino’s state-of-the-art OGR venue and virtually. VIEW Conference 2020 is made possible thanks to the support of Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo, Fondazione CRT, Regione Piemonte, Città di Torino and the OGR.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.