In 2006, on the islands of Gran Canaria, a film-festival was born, which opened the doors of animation, visual effects and gaming, for artists all around the world. Damian Perea, the producer and director of the festival Animayo, whose first film as a child was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, was fascinated with cinema at a young age. After watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, when he enquired about who the filmmaker was to his father, the first thing he said was, “I want to be Steven Spielberg.” At the mere age of five he decided that he wanted to be a director.
Young Perea started making short-films with his friends. However, his enthusiasm and fascination exceeded that of his friends and he soon found himself the only one excited to make films. One day he saw a ball of clay, and tired of convincing his friends to make films, he thought, “If I cannot have actors, I am going to build my own actors.” That’s how his journey in stop-motion animation began.
In his teenage years, as it was difficult for him to create films, he decided to form Animayo – a festival for the animation, visual effects and video gaming industry – when he establishes himself in the industry. So how did Perea manage to create a name for himself?
12 years ago, it was very difficult to create films in Spain. Perea, who is the current ambassador of Spain for the European Animation Émile Awards, did his first animated film It Could Be Worse in Canary Islands (Gran Canaria). The island has a sheer population of two million and is popular as a tourist destination where animation industry is quite unpopular. However, the film was nominated for Goya Awards – Spain’s National Annual Film Awards. “Making films is difficult, but making films on an island in the middle of nowhere is an arduous task.” He had to record the film digitally on the Island, send it to Madrid for development and then get it back to the Island for some tests. That is why he tells his students, “If I did it, you CAN do it too!” He believes that when there are obstacles, “you can find a way to be original and creative”. And that’s how Perea rose to fame, carving a niche for himself in the industry.
The summit, conference and international film festival – Animayo – includes an Official Awards event, resulting from an annual competition of 2D animation, 3D animation, visual effects, experimental, publicity pieces, animation spots, video clips, video game kinematics, visual effects series and animation series. During the festival, the winning films – Palmarés – are also projected. There are master classes conducted by international artists, workshops, training spaces, outdoor activities; and a European forum for co-production, financing and tax incentives for professionals.
“It is created to give all the opportunities that I never had in my life,” said Perea, who formed Animayo about 12 years ago as he desired to teach animation. His idea was to bring the biggest stars of animation industry under one roof to impart knowledge to the aspiring artists. Some well-known artists seen at Animayo as speakers are: co-founder of Blue Sky Studios and director of Ice Age, Carlos Saldanha; character technical director at Walt Disney Animation Studios who has worked in Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Frozen, Luis San Juan Pallares; concept artist and winner of two Emmys for Game of Thrones, Tobias Mannewitz; visual effects artist for The Chronicles of Narnia, War Horse and The Dark Knight, Jan Adamczyk; visual effects supervisor for Hobbit, The Rings and Captain America, Alex Lemke; VFX supervisor in Mission Impossible III, Kevin Blank; storyboard artist of Spiderman and Iron Man, Ryan Woodward; animator and character designer for Hercules, The Jungle Book and Zootopia, Borja Montoro.
The festival receives 1500 works from across the globe for its competition each year out of which about 80 works are preselected for the categories like Best short film 2D, 3D Best Short Film, Best Independent Short Film, Audience Award, Best visual effects work, and many more which are screened during the Festival. It presents the Winning Works Awards called “The Best of Animated” in studios like DreamWorks Animation, The Walt Disney Animation, Disneytoon Studios and Sony Pictures Animation.
When asked how he feels when he sees people all over the world exploring animation and making animated films, he said, “I feel happy because all these students come to me for inspiration. It is like the more you give, the more you achieve. When I help them create their own films, I feel better.” He is also recreating the education system in Spain – teaching animation to kids, getting them to make their own films and later screening them.
According to him, animation is a combination of all arts. “It is not just drawing. It is art, expression, music, composition, movement. It is a very powerful tool of communication.”
Talking about which course to take as one faces the dilemma of choosing between their passion for animation and earning for a living, he laughingly said, “The conflict is always there. Working for commercials gives you money and industry experience, which makes it possible to fund your own projects. There has to be a balance between your education, doing your own projects and commercials. This way you can be independent. This is the way I did.”
Perea is currently working on a short film, and developing and writing two feature films. So for now, though he loves India and has plans to make a Bollywood film in Mumbai, he doesn’t have any plans to collaborate with the Indian studios. He also revealed his plan of bringing his education system to India – of developing multiple intelligence as a part of his project.
Quoting Khalil Gibran from one of his favourite books ‘The Prophet’, he said, “Work is love made visible”. Dedicated, passionate and always optimistic, Perea concluded, “Don’t do things for others. Do them for yourself.”