Increase competitiveness of animation sector to developed markets standard
Increase efficiency of production processes through innovation in technical and technological infrastructure
Increase economic performance of animation sector players in order to boost sales of animated projects
Increase employment of animation graduates and professionals
The Czech Republic frequently attributes its achievements in the field of animation to its rich history. However, in the context of the above-mentioned global trends, Czech animation is if anything in deep stagnation – in terms of the competitiveness of projects, delivering them through coproduction and outsourcing, as well as the monetisation of intellectual property via licensing.
In terms of employment and economic performance, animation is stagnating in the Czech Republic. This cannot be avoided in the long term unless we open up to the outside world and cooperate with it. Given the current situation, investments must be made in boosting the quality of human resources, infrastructure and cooperation between individual players with a view to systematically building up a professional and competitive animation industry. Concurrent with this, clear and long-term sustainable mechanisms of public support must be established.
The domestic market is home to tiny companies or self-employed individuals whose limited specialist capacities mean they would be very hard pressed to find success on international markets. It is essential, therefore, to ensure the expertise of individual activities within the entire animation production process and to then secure support for the presentation of their services on international markets – for instance, by implementing industrial cluster principles.
Due to the fragmented nature of human resources capacity and the varied standard of technical background (technical equipment and production methodology) it is at present virtually impossible to offer prospective foreign partners adequate services for work on large-scale animation projects – either in coproduction or outsourcing. Outsourcing is a broad trend in world cinematography that is catching on in both animation and VFX.
Though the education system boasts several schools at all levels in the field they fail to meet the requirements of modern animation. Alongside animators, a great many graduates with craft, artistic and technological skills and future animation sector professionals are lacking in the CR.
The number of graduates of animation programmes in the last 12 years represents a sufficient quantity of professionally competent artists comprising the foundations of the animation industry. In view of the fact that the overwhelming majority of schools are focused on classic 2D drawing and 2D digital animation, only the basics of 3D technique are taught. Graduates’ expertise does not correspond to international trends and the complex requirements of animation production.
The demand for animators is low due to the low demand in general for animation products domestically. Graduates and animators frequently turn their back on animation as the Czech Republic lacks an established audio-visual industry that would provide sufficient work for graduates and professionals – filmmakers, animators, artists and craftsmen. Where there is no demand for animation products, animators won’t be offering to fulfil it.
That said, it should be stated that low demand for animators is also due to a lack of experienced artists in positions throughout the production process. For instance, current personnel have a deep lack of knowledge and experience of modern animation techniques, such as 3D animation, or experience of professional management and organisation of medium-sized and large-scale animation projects. This is another example of the gap between domestic and foreign production.
In recent decades, modern animation has been closely linked to the development of new technologies and their utilisation, including the combination of audio-visual techniques. It must be pointed out that the development of cinematography in general has from the very beginning been linked to the use of modern technology in a given era. These developments have then been much reinforced by the requirements of filmmakers and artists. Technology has always been and always will be an instrument of its own artistic output.
Our regional and historical primacy may be a skill for creative originality and variety, imagination and technological adaptability, but also an ability to produce thought-provoking, audience friendly and aesthetically noteworthy animation. In other words, a long-term strategy of employing different technologies simultaneously is needed, as is the establishment of methods that emphasise efficiency and aesthetic appeal.
The path to participation in international productions is long. It involves ongoing meetings with players on selected world markets where we will be capable of presenting Czech business and production opportunities in a regular and targeted manner. However, this initiative has to be linked to other activities and projects that boost the readiness of the CR to become a prospective coproduction partner for foreign firms in the medium and long term.
Alongside the initiatives of private subjects and animators themselves, a systematic and long-term strategy of support for the animation industry cannot do without the support of public institutions such as the State Cinematography Fund and Czech Television. Their support must be compatible with analogous institutions abroad, laying the groundwork for synergetic effects and support for international co-productions with the active participation of players in the Czech animation industry. The aim is to stabilise the employment of Czech animators and to develop Czech animation proposals and projects with the involvement of foreign resources (financial and non-financial).
If the domestic market is overly restrictive, or even non-existent, and the foreign market is open to cooperation, then that leaves us with few options as regards deciding on a future direction.
The Czech Republic is famous for its children’s TV serials. However, we have rather missed the boat in this regard. Serials produced in co-production with Czech Television have in many cases ceased to be competitive. Too few episodes are made (seasons abroad have at least 26 episodes; in the case of Czech Television’s Večerníček animation slot it is 3–7) and episode length does not correspond to international norms (standard episode lengths are 11 or 21 min.; Večerníčeks are 7 min. long) and, in view of limited international sales, overpriced.
Long-term, animation has been one of Czech Television’s few marketable products aboard and its sales life is much longer than in the case of other formats. Foreign stations are highly aware of this and are trying not only to preserve this segment but to develop it further. Despite the fact that Czech Television has had a dedicated children’s channel since 2013, it has not increased its animated projects production capacity. In order for Czech producers and studios to attract the interest of foreign investors, co-producers, stations and distributors, the involvement of the national TV channel – which gives such projects the required credibility and financial security – is required in most cases. Czech Television is at present incapable of accommodating such requirements on the part of domestic producers; it does not possess a developed system of coproduction of serials so it is not active in the role of co-producer of children’s animation.
A fund to support animated projects – for TV broadcast and other forms of web-based distribution – is lacking. Ideally, such assistance would be coordinated with support from Czech Television with a view to fostering a community of animators.
The world market in animation products for audio-vision is today influenced by subsidies. The Czech Republic must adapt to this trend by establishing the best possible state support; such support does not at present correspond to international standards when it comes to animation.