Are all the screenplays slavishly written according to a pre-conceived “beat sheet” really so different from what the storied Semaphore animation studio practices? It certainly has produced hits, but it might be a bit much for aspiring animator Sophia Baker to take in when she interviews with the accomplished chief animator in Cameo Wood’s short film Real Artists, which screens as part of the Shorts 1 program at the 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival.
Baker has always wanted to make movies—preferably for Semaphore. Anne Palladon appears to be willing to give her that chance, but she will have to do it the Semaphore way. What is the secret of their success? You will have to sign a NDA before she can tell you about it. Apparently, Semaphore is more “security-conscious” than Amazon, Google, and the now bankrupt Solyndra combined. It is safe to say their techniques are speculative, but not to a very great extent.
Real Artists is the second short adapted from a story by science fiction writer and translator Ken Liu, following last year’s Beautiful Dreamer. It is also one of several recent shorts using genre premises to explore big picture ideas, starring Tamlyn Tomita (from The Joy Luck Club amongst numerous other credits), like Seppuku. Frankly, she makes Palladon look like a tough boss, but perhaps a corporate leader you can believe in.
Neither the near-future technology nor the final twist are hugely shocking, but Real Artists comes in a super slick package and it really invites us to question the nature of the films we see. Arguably, in the focus-grouped world we live in, film production is already not so far removed from the techniques of Semaphore. It is also rather refreshing to watch Tomita and Tiffany Hines verbally circle each other as the co-leads.