New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Paris Mavroidis and George Smaragdis from Athens, Greece, students at Pratt Institute in New York City, were two of the three national finalists for Oscars in the Animation Category of the 2009 Student Academy Awards. Mavroidis and Smaragdis both created their films, Scrimshander and Divers, respectively, while pursuing their MFAdegrees in Digital Animation.
The Student Academy Awards, a program of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Foundation, are designed to support and encourage filmmakers who have had no previous professional experience and who are enrolled in accredited colleges and universities.
Smaragdisʼs Scrimshander is a story about an inquisitive boy and his brief friendship with a solitary bone carver (the art of scrimshaw) and Mavroidisʼs Divers depicts a large-scale choreographed dive. Both were experimental animated films.
The young Athenians stood up to stiff competition; each year more than 500 college and university film students from all over the country compete for the Student Academy Awards (now in the 36th year) and the accompanying cash grants. Mavroidis and Smaragdisʼs films were chosen from a group of semi-finalists from Region Three, which includes New York State and Puerto Rico.
To select the Region Three semifinalists, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gathered together a group of over 40 film experts, including Academy members from various branches, former finalists and winners, as well as representatives of the New York film community, including programmers, studio executives and festival administrators. The group chose three films each of three categories — Animation, Documentary, Narrative and Alternative — a total of nine films to advance to the National Finals at the Academyʼs Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles, where on June 13, 2009 they were all screened on Digibeta.
George Smaragdis talked with The GreekNews about Scrimshander, which as well as being one of the nine nominees for the Student Academy Awards, has won Best Animation at Foursite Film Festival, Best Short Animation at Reynolda Film Festival, The Gold Coast Award at Hollywood East Film Festival, an Honorable Mention at the South Beach Animation Festival, and has been officially selected for 14 festivals, most of which will occur later this summer all throughout the US and Europe (one is the Fantasia Film Festival).
His interest in filmmaking began early in life, and his parents played a seminal role in that developing inspiration, says Smaragdis, who dedicated the film to his grandparents, “During my childhood, my parents were unnaturally skilled at finding obscure, magical films that (unjustly) no one had heard of. They constantly sparked my imagination with little known Italian/French animations, Pasolini films, little gems from around the world, and pushed me to pursue my lifelong dream of joining the filmmaking ranks. At an early age I experimented with amateur home made camera rigs, special effects prosthetics and computer graphics, feeling my way through the techniques I read about in magazine clippings.”
Asked about what heʼs going to do next, Smaragdis answered, “Too many things! I’m putting together a script for a feature-length animated film, working on my next short film, Timepiece and recording a music album when I’m not working as Art Director at Kickstand Labs, in Brooklyn, New York.”
Smaragdis composed the music for Scrimshander which, slightly ominous at the beginning. beomes revelatory then lyrically reminiscent of Greek music. Sound effects by Paris Smaragdis, were, without revealing anything more than that there is a sea monster in the film, suitably scary for sounds emanating from the jaws of a sea monster.
The GreekNews asked Smaragdis what movie he would choose to see if he were allowed to see only one in his lifetime, “Hmmm, I always take these questions way too seriously, like this is an actual scenario that will happen to me one day! After a close battle with The Godfather and The Devil’s Backbone, I would have to say Labyrinth by Jim Henson. If there ever was a reason for the word ʽmagicalʼ to be used, this is it. There is an amazing amount of intricacy, detail and love poured into every fiber of every frame and the sheer humanity that emanates from every puppet’s performance is crushingly humbling to this day.”
Paris Marvroidis describes Divers, an air ballet reminiscent of Busby Berkeleyʼs water extravaganzas, as being more about a mood and an aesthetic than having a clear-cut message, but, as always, he says, “each person who watches will have his/her own interpretation and reaction.”
Mavroidis describes his inspiration for Divers, as being Busby Berkeley, mass gymnastics, and experimental cinema from the 20s and 30s. “It stemmed from an interest in large-scale choreography and the way its participants become part of something larger that takes on a life of its own. I saw this as an opportunity to take that idea into the realm of animation and create a choreography that wouldn’t be possible to execute in real life. I also liked the idea of using programming and the procedural power of computer animation to experiment a bit, and I also developed a choreography-based animation toolset which I subsequently used during the animation process.”
In addition to being one of the nine nominees for the Student Academy Awards, and an official selection in a total of eleven film festivals, Diver, has won Best of Show (Student) at WorldFest Houston, 3rd Place (Student) at the Asia-East Animation Festival, was a “Best of Fest” nominee at the Red Stick International Animation Festival.
Mavroidis, who is entering the holy state of matrimony around the time you are reading this article, said about his creative plans, “at the moment I am working as a coder and don’t have any immediate plans for a new creative project, but I know that it will happen sooner or later!”
Go to these websites to read more about Scrimshander and Divers:
http://www.smaranimation.com for Scrimshander
http://www.parismav.com/divers.php for Divers