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Athens Animation Forum

Athens Animation Agora symposium brought together an international network of creative professionals in the animation industry
Reportage: Nancy Denney-Phelps -
Animasyros is a major Greek animation festival held on the island of Syros at the end of September.  This year festival President Vassilis Karamitsanis and Director Maria Anestopoulou also decided to launch the Athens Animation Agora symposium.  Held in Athens three days prior to the festival, the symposium brought together an international network of creative professionals in the animation industry. Coordinated by Marineta Mak Kritikou, the three days were packed full of presentations and pitching sessions.  Numerous topics were covered including sales and distribution, content for children’s films to video games in roundtable discussions with experts who really knew their stuff.Seven works in progress were pre-selected to be pitched at Athens Animation Agora.  Prior to the directors presenting their pitches they attended two sessions of Scripting Your Perfect Pitch with Tunde Vollenbroek.  Tunde is a producer at Studio Pupil in Amsterdam so she has had a great deal of experience pitching projects.
I found several of the projects extremely interesting.  The Classmate by Anastasia Dimitra will be a six-minute 2D pixilation film.  The story revolves around a teenage girl who is dealing with life via her diary entries.  She observes and analyzes a classmate’s bad behavior because it symbolizes everything that she does not want to be.  As the girl grows up the memories of her classmate become the version of herself that she doesn’t want to face.Thomas Kunstler pitched his feature film Markos which is in early development.  It is a biographical stop motion project following the extraordinary life of Markos Vamvakaris from his youth in Syros, Greece to fame in Athens and his eventual decline.  Markos was the most renowned rebetiko musician in Greece.  Rebetiko is an integral part of Greek culture, often called the “Blues of Greece”.  Director Kunstler plans for his 105-minute film to have an international release.Polyphemus, pitched by twin brothers Yiannis and Konstantinos Andrias, was the project that I found most intriguing.  The giant Polyphemus was the son of Poseidon and Thoosa in Greek mythology and one of the Cyclopes described in Homer’s Odyssey.The brothers want to bring Greek legends to life with a new twist, telling Polyphemus’ story from his point of view.  The 26-minute animation begins 33 days after Polyphemus, was blinded by Odysseus.  If you’re not up on your Greek history and don’t remember why Odysseus blinded Polyphemus you need to read Homer’s Odyssey, it’s much too long and complicated for me to explain here.  After the blinding, the legendary supervillain Polyphemus has to face new challenges and prove that he is worthy of his name which means abounding in songs and legends.  The film will be a combination of 3D animation with motion capture.  After seeing a small clip from the film I look forward to watching the completed film in the future.
Three of the pitched projects were selected by Tunde and Agora organizer Mak Kritikou to be presented at the official Pitching Forum at Animasyros 11.  The three projects selected were Find Me, With Love directed by Effie Pappa, Markos by Thomas Kunstler, and XinXin Liu’s Toto’s House.Find Me, With Love is planned as a ten-minute stop-motion animation about Alzheimer’s and lost memories.  At the other end of the spectrum, Toto’s House is designed to be twelve episodes of five minutes each. XinXin explained the series as characters from famous paintings that visit Toto and his dog Huge at their home. It looked extremely colorful and absurd.Along with the pitching sessions, the three-day event was packed full of presentations and roundtable discussions.  I had an opportunity to spend time with Sophia Madouvalou and Aristarchos  Papadaniel and to learn about their project A Letter – A Story before they presented it as part of the Kids Content Roundtable.Sofia is a noted Greek children’s book author.  A Letter – A Story is an interactive web-based animated multimedia learning series based on her artwork and directed by Aristarchos.  Its aim is to support the teaching of the Greek alphabet to kindergartner and first graders.  Children are familiarized with the letters and sounds of the alphabet through games based on 24 five minute episodes which correspond to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.
Kids' Content round-table - L-R: Irene Andriopoulis, Depi Vrettou, Erik Tijmen, Samira Haddi, Sophia Madouvalou and Aristarchos Papadani     A Letter – A Story is designed to be used in the classroom by teachers via an interactive whiteboard and/or by students in a computer lab or with a parent at home.  Although designed specifically for children, it could be used by anyone who wants to learn Greek.  Sophia told me that she hasa received letters from all over the world from people who have used A Letter – A Story to teach themselves Greek.  It has also been used by people of Greek origin who live in other parts of the world to teach their native language to their children.
Erik Tijman, head of film and television at Cinekid Festival was also a member of the Kid’s Content Round-table.  Cinekid Festival is the largest children’s media festival in the world.  Located in Amsterdam, Cinekid is designed for kids from 4 to 14 years old to watch film, television, and new video productions.  They can also explore the Media Lab which extends over a 1,200 square meter building and is filled with interactive art installations, workshops, games, and apps.  Erik also explained that Cinekid is not just a festival.  During the year Cinekid travels throughout the Netherlands to bring film and workshops to young people.  Cinekid For Professionals is an international multi-day event for the children’s media industry running concurrent to the festival.
Another interesting project aimed primarily at children and young people but relevant to all ages is Save Your Planet.  Tassos Kotsiras has created a humorous, easy to understand animated series about the environment.  The aim of the series is to raise awareness of ever-increasing environmental problems and show people how they can make small changes in their lives that will collectively make a difference in the environment for future generations in an entertaining, non-preachy manner.
 
Nancy and Marineta Mak Kritikou with Lefteris Krutsos, Deputy Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and MediaPitching MarkosYiannis and Konstantinos Andrias pitching PolyphemusKids' Content round-table - L-R: Irene Andriopoulis, Depi Vrettou, Erik Tijmen, Samira Haddi, Sophia Madouvalou and Aristarchos PapadanielMArk Mullery and Nora El Bekri
TV Paint, an all-inclusive, all-around tool for the creation of traditional 2D animation, was the topic of the Software Showcase.  Mark Mullery, Technical Director at Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon, gave an in-depth presentation on the uses of TV Paint in the 2D animated feature film The Breadwinner.  Mark told us that the film was the work of over 100 artists across three countries and the fruit of both 21st Century technology (TV Paint) and age-old hand-drawn techniques.  He is currently the assistant director on Tomm Moore’s upcoming feature film Wolfwalkers.
In honor of Mark Mullery and Cartoon Saloon’s participation in Athens Animation Agora Marianne Bolger, Deputy Head of Mission at the Irish Embassy in Greece, gave a short presentation about Ireland.  That was followed by Mark introducing a special screening of The Breadwinner. Nora El Bekri, French sales agent for TV Paint, also gave a brief overview of the uses for her product.I was extremely honored to be invited to moderate the Festival Round-table Discussion.  Joining me were Karin Vandenrydt, Sanja Cakarun, Fernando Galrito, and Charalambos Margaritis.Karin Vandenrydt is a programmer at ANIMA BRUSSELS in Belgium.  ANIMA BRUSSELS operates in both French and Flemish which, along with German, are the official Belgian languages. Along with programing for the festival, Karin takes care of the Flemish-speaking guests as well as the juries. Sanja Cakarun is head of Public Relations and Audience Development at ANIMATEKA in Ljubljana, Slovenia. 
In 2000 Fernando Galrito founded MONSTRA in Lisbon, Portugal.  He is the artistic director of the festival as well as its guiding light.  Last but not least Charalambos Margaritis founded the international animation festival THE ANIMATTIKON PROJECT in 2017 which takes place in Paphos, Cypress.We began our discussion with each participant giving a brief statement about the character of their festival and what makes it unique since every festival has its own character.  We went on to discuss specific programming styles and methods that the various festivals use to build and retain an audience as well as the type of year around outreach programs each festival engages in.  How to program for specific audiences such as teenagers generated a lively discussion. Because the teenage audience covers such a wide age difference, they are particularly difficult to program for. For anyone interested in how festivals work, from selection processes to the actual screenings, there was a lot to learn from this panel.  ANIMA BRUSSELS is in its 36th year while ANIMATTIKON PROJECT was founded in 2017, so the discussion represented a wide range of experience and knowledge.The first public screening of a Greek animated film was Duce Narrates, a short film by Stamatis Polenakis in 1945.  The anti-fascist satirical film was made during the German-Italian occupation of Greece and heralded the heroic resistance of the Greek Army against the Italian invasion via Albania in 1940 at the beginning of World War ll.2015 was the 70th Anniversary of Greek animation and in honor of the event, ASIFA (Association Internationale du Film D’Animation) HELLAS published 70 Years of Greek Animation, a 220-page book covering the history of Greek animation.  The book thoroughly traces the development of animation in the country from its inception to 2015 with detailed text and lavish illustrations.  There is also a timeline which records film release dates and distinctions along with texts of lectures and interviews.  70 Years of Greek Animation is an excellent addition to the library of any animation historian as well as a fascinating read for anyone interested in animation.  It is written in Greek on one side of the page with a well translated English version on the other side.  You can learn more about the book and order it at:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. A special website was created for the 70th Anniversary celebration.  It is an attempt to register all of the countries’ animations along with their creators.  There is also a section for production companies, festivals, and awards.  You can check out the site at:  greekanimation.com.
The Greek animation industry has come back strong despite the recent financial crisis.  One illustration of this success is the close relationship between Greece and France, a country that holds a prominent place in the field of animation.  The French Embassy and the French Institute of Greece have been staunch supporters of the ANIMASYROS Festival and have now offered their support to ATHENS ANIMATION AGORA.  At the opening session of the symposium, Christopher Chantepy, French Ambassador to Greece, gave a welcoming speech.  On another evening, Ambassador Chantepy and Monsieur Olivier Dovergne from Mazinnov hosted all of the Agora participants at a sumptuous reception at the elegant French Embassy.
Vassilis Karamitsanis, Olivier Dovergne from Mazzinnov, and Christophe Chantepy, French Ambassador to Greece
Vassilis Karamitsanis, Olivier Dovergne from Mazzinnov, and Christophe Chantepy, French Ambassador to Greece
Mazinnov is a French-Greek network designed to connect ideas, projects, and people in order to match creative people in many different fields with entrepreneurs in both countries.
All of the sessions of ATHENS ANIMATION AGORA were held in the lovely Onassis Cultural Center.  This first edition of AGORA was an initiative of the General Secretariat of Information and Communication of the Ministry of Digital Policy and ANIMASYROS INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION Festival in cooperation with the Onassis Cultural Center.  The symposium was made possible thanks to the support of the French Embassy in Athens, the French-Greek Innovation Network Mazinnov, the Delegation of the European Commission in Greece, and the National Center of Audiovisual Media and Communications. The day after the symposium most of the participants left by ferry for the isle of Syros and ANIMASYROS.  I was not able to attend this year because I flew straight to Bristol, England where I was on the animation jury of the ENCOUNTERS Festival, but more about that in my next article. I extend my great thanks to Marineta Mak Kritikou, ATHENS ANIMATION AGORA coordinator, and everyone connected with the symposium for inviting me to be part of the event. Their warm and generous hospitality was far beyond my expectations.  Even more important, the event has given me a greater understanding of Greek animation and of the opportunities open to Greek animators.  I feel like the symposium was such a success this year and hope that there will be a 2019 edition. You can see the full schedule of events at ATHENS ANIMATION AGORA and ANIMASYROS at:  www.animasyros.gr

Greek Robot maker

A young participant of the French Embassy Greek delegation at the BIG has achieved remarkable work in robotics
Reportage: Daphni Skalioni -
He's only 15 years old, but he's creating algorithms that most adults would not even understand. Last summer, with his team in Greece, he took first place at the world robotics competition. Let's give the floor to the young programmer Jason Stavros-Somoglou."I first discovered robotics at the age of 12-13. I started with some of my classmates at school, who introduced me to the world of robotics. We created a team and went to the national robotics competition WRO, where we arrived first. This first place gaves us right to a ticket for the 2016 Olympiad Robot World in India, where we came in 13th place [...] I met my teacher, Diana Voutirakou in a robotics class that was taking place in the afternoon at my school. Robotics includes both construction and programming, and I realized that I preferred the second. To go further, I did some private lessons with Diana, so I knew the basics of programming. I knew I wanted to go back to this contest, so my teacher and I combined with a good school friend, a year younger than me, John Papadopoulos, and we decided to create a group to participate in this competition. With this team, we called GRID, we won the National Robotics Competition, and represented Greece at the Robot World Olympiad  WRO 2017 in Costa Rica. There we came seventh - and the first 8 teams were rewarded as Olympic champions - and based on the idea we presented, and the Chinese Ministry of Education selected us to be one of the 40 teams participating in the Global Youth for Innovation and Technology Conference in China in July 2018 and a corresponding competition ".
Jason Somoglou's 23-year-old coach, Diana Voutirakou - who won the Υoung Star Greek International Women Award as "Greek Woman of the Year" - a child prodigy who has become recognized in the two youngsters of the team."At the age of 15 he received a scholarship from Google scholarship with his skills, and already has in his resume two national first in robotics and three participations in international competitions, he worked as assistant to summer school coding at Boeing School and Thinkyoung in Brussels and is now a judge of the FLL (First Lego League) National Robotics Competition."I have trained Jason over the last three years and have always found it difficult to teach a child with his abilities. For me, Jason is no longer just a student but someone with whom we can collaborate on several robotic programming projects, and I think everyone who saw him present or met him will easily understand why".
The idea that won first place
The Hellenic Robotics Competition 2017 was on the theme of "Robots and Sustainable Development". "At the beginning, 2-3 weeks of thinking about the problem was necessary to find the problem we wanted to address ... So we decided to study daily life, cases of energy wasting or not and the use of alternative energy sources, "says Jason.John proposed to put sensors in the houses, I had the idea to create an IoT system (Internet of Things). So we ended up in a system that "saves" energy, produces, transforms and shares it.
 "Specifically, an energy-based real estate company in Texas gave us access to its data for research purposes. We analyzed four years' production and consumption - per second - of four different houses for the month of November and came to conclusions about why a house is surplus or overconsumed. At the same time, we have equipped every room with sensors to create "smart homes" that can save more energy. For example, when the occupant leaves the locker room to turn off the lights in the room on the left compared to the others. In addition, we installed photovoltaic sensors to track the sun, while we created pedestrian traffic lights that only work when it detects pedestrians on hold and not 24 hours a day. makes an application via Bluetooth, where the user can manage all devices and heating the house. In addition, both in gyms and children's parks kinetic energy by the generator is converted into electricity, for example, from the children's park to light in the street ".
"Finally, the actual data we have analyzed has led to the development of an algorithm to evaluate what needs energy in a home and which house can provide energy at any time, taking into account account of the distance that separates them.
So we propose a logic to share energy. In addition, sustainability is based on learning people to share!With this project, we took first place at the  in China. With this project, we took first place at the World Youth Conference for Innovation and Technology. I'm really proud to have helped our country win such a great distinction," said team coach Diana. "At the same time, I am particularly pleased to know that our work for about a year and a half has been rewarded - our project has already won the Pan-Hellenic Robotics Competition and the Olympic distinction at the Costa Rica World Olympiad, but in China we have managed to win the first prizes in the three categories (Jury Prize Public Award and Engineering Award) .But from these three awards, I'm more proud of the engineering award.The children were asked to build a bridge with specific specifications in which a weight of up to 6 kilos has been placed. "
"We had to build a bridge with polystyrene foam, ropes and straws and push a miniature stroller, with a load ..." Jason explains. "We exceeded the maximum, which was 6 pounds. We were told it was the first time this country won the competition in China! "Throughout the preparation, I could not do anything. So the team needed to have as much knowledge as possible and the materials to build the best possible project, "says Diana." So when I saw that not only did they succeed, but they also won first. price, I felt a great pride. By helping our fellow men in this endeavor, we were able to compete and win on teams from around the world, supported by government agencies and receiving many supplies from schools, universities in their countries, etc., in order to their preparation for such a global event "/The award-winning project is now under the auspices of SDSN Greece, the United Nations Solutions for Sustainable Development Network, the PESD (Political Economy Laboratory for Sustainable Development of the National Kapodistrian University of Athens) and ICRE8 ( International Center for Research on the Environment and the Economy), while supported by the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens. The team's expenses for participation in the World Robotics Olympics WRO 2017 in Costa Rica were covered by the National Bank of Greece, while for the participation in Shanghai in July 2018, the airline tickets were covered by EVIOL and the residence of the Chinese Ministry of Education.
From Shanghai to Paris
Jason Somoglou participated in October 2018 as a Junior Software Developer at the BIGinnovation and entrepreneurship fair in Paris (BPIFrance Inno Generation 2018), invited by the Franco-Hellenic innovation network Mazinnov, under the auspices of the French Embassy in Greece.
"It was my first time in a professional level competition, since what I've done so far has been youth contests," said Jason ."I was able to understand the whole industry, the functioning of the network, I met many people who could help me in the future, teach me something ... For example, incubators that fund start-up groups like us to achieve a professional level. I would like to thank my main sponsors, Mazinnov, and advertising, Lectus adv, who took all my promotional material to participate in this event. Σειρά holds a scientific publication for the algorithms I wrote, so that they can be patented. And if an incubator is interested in the project, we can move on to a more professional prototype design.
In the video accessible within the article, Jason is interviewed on the TV Tray at the BIG exhibition in Paris. "Despite being the youngest participant in the show in Paris, Jason was very professional and consistent, making me once again proud to be a teacher and coach," said Diana. Olivier Dovergne, Attaché at the Economic Service of the French Embassy in Greece, representing the Mazinnov network, also fervently talks about Jason: "He is particularly mature, despite his young age, easily adapting to each context and is very He is also a child and his mother wants to enjoy his time as someone of his age, and he does well.
 Tips for little developers
" But what does Jason himself recommend to children who want to follow in his footsteps? "If a child wants to participate in programming, he can search only on the Internet, a first programming language like scratch, to understand if there is something that really interests him." From there, you always need the support of a teacher and, of course, your participation in competitions. Of course, it also helps you speak good English, because all programming languages are in English and presentations to world events take place in that language. "/  "The competitions are very important, the experience counts alone, whether the person holds a position or not," says Marina Koufidiaki, Jason's mother. "From there, the doors open slowly. Just love what you do and spend time there. He really wants challenge, of course, and support. Travel, lessons, equipment needed ... He needs a manager! There is a lot of work for parents, but when you see that it's fun and progress, it's not tiring. It takes time but it is not tiring. "/ " Although he loves what he does, he will do it, even if he needs to put an end to some of his outings, his sleep or his free time, "said coach Diana Voutirakou. "And he must not be afraid of failure ... I have encountered a lot of obstacles and I think I will continue to meet them all the time because I try to burn my way on unknown roads. obstacles give lessons on how to continue and improve. "
Olivier Dovergne of Mazinnov's Franco-Hellenic innovation network, gives three successive advices: "First of all, stay true to your dream, have ambitions for your idea - all over the world and not as a solution to a local problem - and prepare the next step to develop your project Secondly, share your idea and try it out, that's why networking is the key to modern innovation, and third, do not be afraid to fail. Learn from your failures and go further next time. "