Last weekend I exhibited at CTN ANIMATION EXPO in Burbank, and although I may not exhibit there again in the short term, I had a very good time meeting old friends and new.
I am genuinely happy that the US animation industry now has a show of its own; I don’t think there has been anything like this since the ANIMATION CELEBRATION of the late 1980s and 1990s. Judging from the booming attendance at CTN last weekend, many others want this community get-together too. But this show has yet to find its own identity. CTN is part student job-fair, part pro-seminar and part fan-convention and while the blend of the 3 is part of the appeal, at the moment, they blur together in a confusing and sometimes counter-productive way (at least from an EXHIBITOR point of view).
Some exhibitors were comped their tables in exchange for appearing at a panel or doing an art-demo but, not being a part of the show myself, I paid full-price for my space. My goal was to promote and sell my own books and artwork, but most people who came to my table were not in a buying frame of mind; they wanted information on the animation industry, so I spent most of the weekend reviewing students’ portfolios and answering their questions. I really enjoyed meeting these new people and talking about the industry that we all love, but unfortunately the expense of exhibiting, combined with the lack of sales meant that I was out of pocket to give out job advice. Besides, I’m not really sure if I was able to give these job-seekers any useful insights into the industry anyway, simply because it is very different and much more competitive now than when I started in the early 1980s.
It makes sense to me that STUDIOS would want to pay to meet new talent and maybe even that the talent would pay to meet the studios but I don’t think that exhibitors should be splitting the bill in that dating game. And speaking of THE BILL, they could afford to bring down the prices a little. The exhibitor-table at CTN cost me about twice what a table the exact same size would cost at APE, so with the air fare and hotel it turns out to be a much more expensive proposition, especially when the SALES are so bad.
Being an exhibitor, I missed out on the seminars and panels, which were my favourite aspect of being an attendee the first time. But I wasn’t the ONLY one who missed out; CTN has grown so dramatically in just one year that many who had paid a lot of money to attend were unable to get into the seminars. I heard about the overcrowding from students all weekend long. Some new system needs to be figured out so that nothing is oversold… perhaps a lower overall admission price with each seminar pre-sold with an additional ticket; no more tickets sold than there are seats. Otherwise, it will only escalate to that COMIC CON madness…
Likewise, there should be a CLEAR way of separating the different aspects of the show, so that there IS a job-fair for people wanting to get into the biz, but that it is separate from the sales area (maybe requiring a different pass?) Alternatively, the exhibit spaces should be free (or substantially cheaper) if portfolio reviews are a part of being an exhibitor, because if that’s the case “exhibitors” are actually a part of what attendees are paying to see.
I definitely want to go again, because the socializing each time I have gone has been a great deal of fun. I met friends from every phase of my career at the show; people I worked with in Sydney, in Asia, in Europe and the USA… but I may wait until the year after next because CTN has already outgrown the space that they still have a 3-year contract with. It was something of a madhouse this time around and I think the only way to improve that is extra SPACE. So I eagerly await finding out what that bigger, better space may be (maybe even the same space in Pasadena that the Animation Celebration used to occupy?)
This show has a great deal of potential so hopefully, after some growing pains and identity issues have been sorted out, the animation biz will have a truly wonderful show of its own. Though I wont be exhibiting, I am looking forward to attending again at some stage.