Play time: Erik Goulet on the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival

A Concordia prof and stop motion enthusiast brings big names, and big passion, to his fourth annual festival celebrating the form.

ParaNorman © 2012 LAIKA, Inc.

Concordia animation prof Erik Goulet loves stop motion. The word “enthusiast” doesn’t do justice to his passion. For the fourth year in a row, he’s sharing this passion with the city by mounting the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival.

Goulet attributes the idea of starting the festival to his wife. Some years back, they were driving home after an animation festival, and Goulet wondered aloud about the lack of stop motion on display. “So she said ‘I think if you want a stop motion fix, you should just put on your own festival,’” he recalls. “That was in 2007. It took me two years before I could put all this together — not because it was difficult, it was just the time you have to invest.”

Now his investment has paid off, with top animators from the field visiting the festival. This year’s edition welcomes Merlin Crossingham (creative director of Aardman Studios, who’ll be bringing along their famous creations Wallace and Gromit), Mark Shapiro (an animator with LAIKA Studios, who brought us Coraline and this year’s ParaNorman) and independent animator and teacher Chris Walsh. In addition to each presenting their work with a talk, the three will compose the jury for the fest’s 73 international films.

“In the animation world, people are very down to earth,” says Goulet when asked how he landed such heavy hitters. “There isn’t the kind of star system you find in film production. They’re very accessible, and they’re very passionate.”

In addition to the screenings and talks, the festival also features workshops where interested fans of all ages can learn firsthand how to make their own films. “The educational component comes from me being a teacher,” says Goulet. “I could have organized a festival where we just watched films all weekend, but I love stop motion so much, I wanted people to see the techniques behind it.”

The festival will include free morning screenings of family-friendly films, followed by more adult fare in the evenings. “Some people think the films are just for kids, but some of the ones in official competition are pretty dark stories,” Goulet says. He also promises quality programming: “People always say ‘I never thought there would be such high quality in a stop motion program.’ I tell them ‘Do you think we would charge you money if the films weren’t good?’ I just want everyone to see them, because they bring you different feelings that are hard to describe.”

Goulet’s passion for his chosen form is inspiring, and I conclude our talk by asking him just what he loves so much about it. “What’s special about stop motion is that everything is real,” he explains. “Computer animators will never be able to touch their creations. It brings you back to something that’s real, but it also brings you back to childhood — having miniature toys or dolls and thinking about the adventures they could have. So it takes you back to a time before you had the worries of adult life, and the only thing to think about was playing with your toys.” ■


The Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival runs Oct.19-21


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