For every Academy Award winner developing the next Pixar hit, there is someone toiling away in a basement, working on something that will probably never play in theaters before a Finding Nemo sequel. But that’s exactly the kind of film Jeanette Bonds and Sean Buckelew want for the GLAS Animation Festival.
While there are plenty of established animation-specific festivals in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere, there are only a handful in the United States, and nothing quite like GLAS. So Bonds helped start the event in 2016, creating a space specifically for independent animators, with Buckelew as lead programmer. Now in its second year, the festival hosts screenings, panels, and more at venues across Berkeley from March 2–5, with a schedule that includes an international mix of films and directors.
Both Bonds and Buckelew are graduates of CalArts’ experimental animation program. Before GLAS, Bonds worked as a programmer and screener for events like Slamdance and the Los Angeles Film Festival, while Buckelew created the animated sequences in We are Your Friends and He Named Me Malala (and is featured in Season 4 of KQED’s Film School Shorts). They’re also members of Late Night Work Club, a cohort of indie animators. (The collective has two screenings at GLAS this year, which Bonds and Buckelew highly recommend.)
But GLAS isn’t a festival designed exclusively for a cliquish audience of indie animators. “I think there are curators who are more formal, but Jeanette and I are just into movies,” Buckelew says. “I would show my parents all this stuff and hope they get excited. It’s almost pitching to that level — I like audiences to really enjoy screenings.”
The festival has also managed to snag some of the most familiar names in mainstream animation. Last year’s guest of honor was Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, while this year features Brad Bird, who made The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and even Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, all of which screen at the fest.