During the weekend, even Ars takes an occasional break from building the best bargain computer or trying to solve mindblowing puzzle games. Weekend Ar(t)s is a chance to share what we’re watching/listening/reading or otherwise consuming this week.
How do people become comic artists? I’m sure some have natural talent; others work at it and end up honing their craft at a newspaper. Maybe some started out by choosing between Tippy the Turtle or the pirate first (thanks, Art Instruction Schools).
A select and successful few took a very traditional route. Build your portfolio, apply yourself, then pursue a Masters degree at the only logical institution of higher learning: The Center for Cartoon Studies.
No joke, that path is about to be the focus of a film.
Cartoon College documents life at this unique school. CSS itself is a relatively young and exclusive place of higher learning. It was founded in remote Vermont (ever hear of White River Junction?) in 2004. In 2007, the state approved the institution to award Masters of Fine Arts degrees, then their first graduating class happened that May: 20 students. Each year roughly another 20 enroll in either the one- or two-year programs.
Inspiring comic artists hone their skills here in a more specialized manner than any art school ever could offer. Results speak for themselves. Alumni boast Eisner Awards, Ignatz Awards, numerous year-end book lists and even a Guggenheim Fellowship. The setting and concept feels perfect for filming. Seeing artists waiting for their breakthrough in a competitive, creative environment is the basic recipe for plenty of compelling entertainment—from Project Runway to Top Chef. Maybe Bravo should save time and just commission this film now.
A better comparison: Cartoon College feels reminiscent of Indie Game: The Movie. Both productions received funding through a well-received Kickstarter. Each film focuses on niche entertainment forms, and chooses to follow creators in their professional adolescence. It’s a glimpse at the hypothetical future wave of artists as they sculpt projects with the potential to be the next big thing, and veterans are sprinkled throughout to provide context, insight, and viewing incentive. Indie Game had Jonathan Blow as a headliner and followed the developments of Fez and Super Meat Boy. Cartoon College has Art Spiegelman of Maus fame or Lynda Barry from What It Is, and who knows what faces from the film will be more recognizable within a year.
Cartoon College debuted at the Palm Beach Film Festival last week and has a screening lined up at the Newport Beach one at the end of the month. That’s it for the moment, but Josh Melrod (producer, director, editor) says it’s being shopped around to distributors and festivals. He says VOD is in the film’s future too, thinking video could be where most people find the movie and give it an even longer shelf life.
If Cartoon College can have an Indie Game like ceiling, that’s not too bad. That film made it to Sundance 2012 after all. It also inspired HBO to purchase its rights for a series. Hopefully Cartoon College has a similar run in it. Comic creations deserves the same level of recognition and it’d be great to have a few young names in the public eye. And if the film was to ever become a TV series, their network of choice should be clear. At the very least, the adapted graphic novel options would be limitless.