Lights, camera, action—the Wellington Animation Film Festival and Victoria University of Wellington

Creative Aotearoa French Exchange recently partnered with Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington to deliver the inaugural Wellington Animation Film Festival.

Panelists, Chris Payne and Amie Mills. Image supplied

Held at Roxy Cinema in Miramar, the festival played host to the latest animated films from New Zealand and around the world. Fellow delivery partner, Annecy International Film Festival, is an esteemed animation festival held annually in France.

The creatives behind the event, many of whom have showcased their work at or attended the Annecy Film Festival, brought its unique spirit to the Wellington Animation Film Festival. Through collaboration with different industry stakeholders, the event encouraged connections among emerging talent, independent creatives, studios, and animation education—a key element in sustaining a vibrant film industry.

Raqi Syed, senior lecturer at Victoria University’s School of Design Innovation, says that being involved in these partnerships helps to enhance the University’s reputation in the film and animation industry.

“Currently, the Master of Design Technology programme is the only taught postgraduate program in Aotearoa in visual effects and animation. Our engagement with the industry helps us to align our curriculum with the industry’s needs and adapt to the dynamic nature of creative work. It’s important that we actively participate in the ecosystem of the Wellington screen industry.”

Ms Syed emphasises academics’ responsibility at the University to plan for the future of their disciplines, to ensure positive outcomes for students, especially amid rapid changes in the screen industry due to artificial intelligence. Events such as the Wellington Animation Film Festival enable industry collaboration to imagine these futures together.

Highlights of the festival included the New Zealand premier of award-winning films Chicken for Linda! and Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds. Additionally, the festival hosted industry panels featuring animators from Wētā FX, Rascal Kids, and the animated show Kiri and Lou.

Students also actively participated, gaining practical industry experience and networking opportunities. The Annecy Festival has a rich history of student engagement and participation, something that Ms Syed says is a great model for nurturing talent in Wellington and instilling students with an international outlook.

“Creative Aotearoa French Exchange ran a student volunteer programme. Students received mentoring, a festival pass, and opportunities to engage with festival events,” she says. “Our goal for the future of the festival is to create opportunities for students to exhibit their work in student shorts programmes.”

Victoria University of Wellington design and animation student, Liam Irvine, was the lead coordinator, overseeing the nine other student volunteers,

“The panels at the event brought in speakers from around the world,” said Liam. “It was a great place to network and hear about what’s happening locally and overseas. Sponsors included local and international production and special effects companies, with members and employees present to converse on many topics of interest.”

Liam says that these extracurricular events are vital for developing skills that can’t be taught in the classroom,

“The industry is run on teamwork, and it’s great if you’re a legend on the computer, but you won’t get far if you can’t work with others. Getting involved with your classmates and extracurricular activities is a massive part of life at university.”

* Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington was one of three partners in the festival’s delivery. Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Screen Wellington, and the Embassy of France also partnered with Creative Aotearoa French Exchange Incorporated.