The film screened on the afternoon of the first day - which is not a very prestigious slot, since people are usually still arriving - but to our surprise, there was a packed house of cheering fans. Sandrine (my wife/colorist/translator) and my producer, Desirée Stavracos, joined me on stage to bask in the pre-screening applause.
After the screening, we were joined in the press room by Peter Debruge (of Variety fame) to do a Q&A session. I felt the timing was terrible, since it's my custom to sign autographs and draw sketches on cards for the fans, and hopefully sell some art immediately after a show. And since this was the big screening in the Haras (the large screening area) I missed out on a lot of revenue to help finance my next film.
However, at the next 3 screenings I was able to meet my fans and sell some items - the biggest seller was the original art from "Hot Dog".
Originally, I felt "CHEATIN'" had a good shot at some kind of prize at Annecy - since it had already won 9 international festival prizes and garnered a lot of praise from fans and critics. That was, until I saw my competition.
The first animated feature in competition that I saw was "The Fake" from South Korea. This is the film that beat us for a prize in the Sitges Festival - so I was very curious to see this film. It's a wonderful story about these crooked evangelists who are exposed by the town drunk. And what's great about the story is that the whistle-blower is one of the most vile humans possible - he's a cheat, a thief, a child abuser, you name it - yet somehow you root for the bum. The style is rotoscope (but good rotoscope), and my only problem was that the artist's couldn't nail the mouths - they looked so lame.
Another feature in competition was "Giovanni's Island", a heart-wrenching Japanese story about a family trying to survive the Russian occupation of a northern Japanese island. It's a story full of beauty, romance, drama, and great characters - unfortunately, it's perhaps a little too melodramatic and the noses were terribly drawn. Still, a sure-fire prize winner.
The last feature I saw was "A Boy and the World" ("O Menino e o Mundo"), from Brazil. In a sense, it's a very experimental film, done in beautiful pastels and colored pencil, using lots of synthetic shapes and movement, yet it had a very powerful story.
So I figured, "I'm already screwed, three films are better than mine, and I still have three more to watch. I give up!"
At the awards ceremony, there was a sense of relief, because I knew I wouldn't win, so there was no anxiety, I could relax. That was, until the announcement of the Prix du Jury award, and I heard the word "lusty" - wait, that word didn't connect with any of the films I saw. I thought maybe I should listen to this judge's speech, and then he said something about "drawn by one person". Hmmm, how many animated features are drawn by one person?
I looked at Sandrine and Desirée - could this be true? Did we actually win a prize? Then the judge said, "And the winner is...CHEATIN'!!"
YEEEOUUU! We won! We rushed up to the stage, I tried to talk French, which was a total disaster. The only statement I remember making was "J'adore Annecy!" We walked backstage to get our photos taken, and I congratulated the winners from "A Boy and His World" and "Giovanni's Island".
This is so cool, because now we'll get a lot more festival invitations and also, hopefully, major distribution all over the world. I talked to my my French distributors, E.D. Distribution, and they said the film is playing in over 90 cinemas in France now - it's a big success in France. Why not the U.S.? Who knows?
To be continued in Part 2...