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Q&A with the Founder of Animation Nights New York

by | Jun 23, 2022

Animation Mentor: Can you share the story of Animation Nights New York? Yvonne Grzenkowicz: I founded Animation Nights New York (ANNY) on September 9th, 2015. Little Water Radio invited me to use their old space at 207a Front St in the back of Fulton Stall Market for the premiere “NY Independents” screening. I curated the first program with Robert Lyons (ASIFA East). We had about 45 attendees. We soon outgrew the space! (Thank you, Little Water Radio and Fulton Stall Market!)

ANNY Screening at Fulton Stall Market in the Seaport District (2015)

Jan-April 2016 ANNY was in residency with the Third Annual Out to See Festival at 192 Front St (Jan-Apr) in the South Street Seaport. We were the premiere event for this winter festival hosted by Little Water Radio and sponsored by the Howard Hughes Corporation. Animation Nights New York continued to grow.

ANNY Screening at 192 Front St., Seaport District (2016)

In May 2016, Animation Nights New York relocated to the beautiful 180 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038 with support from Anderson Contemporary, MHP, Clarion Partners, and Maiden Lane Hospitality. We could finally accommodate our growing regular attendance! We have had over 18k films submitted from all around the world. The work is beautiful and inspiring and the events have fostered a sense of community and exchange. We have had support from ASIFA EAST, NYC ACM SIGGRAPH, NYWIFT, Women in Animation, and the animation community at large. Animation Nights New York programs have included work by award winning animators such as Bill Plympton, George Griffin, Joanna Quinn, John Dilworth, Signe Baumane, Michael Sullivan, Dustin Grella, Athanassios Vakalis and Tiny Inventions among many others.

ANNY Screening at 180 Maiden Lane, Seaport District (2019)

Since 2015, Animation Nights New York has held screening events around NYC. Besides 180 Maiden Lane, we’ve held screening events at the One World Trade Observatory, the Arts Brookfield Terrace at Brookfield Place, and The Gutter Spare Room in Williamsburg Brooklyn. We’ve held workshops and VR pop-up events at The Capitale, The Hideaway Seaport, Pier 17, WeWork, and the Arts Brookfield Terrace. When the pandemic struck we moved our events online. We built a Video on Demand solution and added a web-based virtual platform. Now, our ANNY Virtual Events (VOD and webXR) platform gives our international audience a way to participate ONLINE! We have presented online monthly screening programs of in-competition films since Dec 2020. Films are available for limited VOD access.

ANNY Virtual Events Space Online (2022)

Animation Nights New York had our First Annual ANNY Best of Fest on September 29-30, 2016. Our panel judges selected 20 films from the 200 screened Sept 2015-July 2016. The ANNY Best of Fest featured Animation Screenings, VR Animation Experiences, Art Installations, Industry Events, Artist Booths, and Professional Panels at 180 Maiden Lane and venues around the Seaport District of NYC.

Fine Art Exhibit, ANNY Best of Fest at 180 Maiden Lane, Seaport District (2019)

Nov 13-20, 2021 we held our 5th ANNY Best of Fest online, in collaboration with Alamo Drafthouse On Demand and VIVEPORT, in the ANNY Virtual Events Space.
Our goal is to strengthen the animation community and ensure filmmakers are rewarded for their efforts. We are looking to partner with companies who are naturally aligned with our mission to promote the arts. A huge thanks to everyone who helped us get this started. Keep supporting independent animation. We hope to see you at our next event! AM: What drove you to create this organization? YG: I never intended to become involved with events. I was working as a freelance animator in NYC and a friend of mine said he had a space they were trying to “activate” and asked if I had any interest in holding animation events. It was such an amazing opportunity I couldn’t say no. We had a packed house for the first event and it was clear we were doing something NYC wanted, so we kept going. As the audience grew for our screening events I realized we should probably cap off the season with a yearly festival. That’s how it started.

ANNY Screening at 180 Maiden Lane, Seaport District (2017)

Eventually, I felt a sense of responsibility to try and build something useful from a production perspective. It’s the reason we have rolling deadlines and no project submission fee. So many people have lent their expertise to build the organization. You start to feel as though you have inadvertently picked up a flag for your tribe and you need to keep it held high. At Animation Nights New York we are trying to create real opportunities for animators. I am trying to create the kind of opportunities for others I might want for myself, as an artist. AM: What’s the best way for AM students to participate in ANNY? YG: Join us for our online events! If you have a short film, xr project, or game project you would like to submit, you can find the link on our website. We are also on FilmFreeway. Sign up to our mailing list for up-to-date information on screenings and events or join our Discord!

XR Showcase, ANNY Best of Fest at 180 Maiden Lane, Seaport District (2018)

AM: What is ANNY Exchange Talent Connect? YG: ANNY Exchange is a Talent Connect Initiative for Animation Nights New York. We hold both in person and online events and have a diverse Talent Database of Animation Talent from all around the world.

ANNY Exchange at the 5th ANNY Best of Fest Online (2021)

Interested in participating? Got to the Talent Portal to sign up! Looking to build your team? Send us an email or sign up through the Studio Portal. AM: How can animators better prepare for the animation industry and job market? YG: It depends on what route you want to take. If you are interested in working at a studio, try to familiarize yourself with the studio structure. Find out what hierarchy and roll structure exists. LinkedIn is a good tool for this.

ANNY Exchange, ANNY Best of Fest at 180 Maiden Lane, Seaport District (2019)

If you are looking to strike out on your own, be prepared to educate your client. One of our fundamental goals for the ANNY Exchange Talent Connect Initiative is to take care of some of the early project legwork. We have a project calculator on our ANNY Exchange site we are constantly trying to improve. We want to connect creators to opportunity in a seamless way. AM: What is the best advice you’ve ever received from a mentor? YG: I don’t think I could select one bit of advice. I received a river of advice and absorbed as much as I could. I love how AM is focused on the task at hand.

Animation Showcase, ANNY Best of Fest at 180 Maiden Lane, Seaport District (2018)

Sometimes your mentors are folks who have worked on animation all day and then take the time to rip apart your assignment. That kind of critique is invaluable. I think the online platform lends itself to this kind of efficiency of purpose. It’s all about the work. AM: What is your favorite memory from Animation Mentor? YG: Animation Mentor was a life changing experience for me. I remember first signing on noticing how excited everyone was. I felt like I had found my tribe.
Animation Mentor was a life changing experience for me.

AM BBQ ‘09! (That’s me in the white AM baseball cap.)

AM: Do you have any tips for someone who is hoping to create their first animated short film? YG: Keep going!

VR Presentation, ANNY Best of Fest at 180 Maiden Lane, Seaport District (2018)

AM: What opportunities would you like our students to know about? YG: If you would like to be a part of the ANNY Volunteer team, let us know! We’d love to have you on board!

About Animation Nights New York & Its Programs

Animation Nights New York is a curated monthly screening event and annual festival started in NYC. We show animated short films and virtual reality animation experiences from all around the world. Screening events are free. Project Submission is free. ANNY Exchange connects people to people. We connect animation talent to opportunity using our festival as a vehicle. Sign up to participate. The ANNY Cannes Program is an additional opportunity for our in-competition filmmakers. We bring together filmmakers from around the world to join us at the Cannes Film Festival. Participants in the ANNY Cannes Program benefit from our unique partnership with the festival, which allows us to hand select 20 animated short films for exhibition as part of the ANNY Cannes Program. Films are available for viewing on the ANNY channel in the Short Film Corner, and during a special screening in the Marché du Film. We host industry events in Cannes as part of ANNY Exchange. The ANNY Best of Fest is a conference and festival featuring Animation Screenings, Fine Art Installation, an XR Showcase, Professional Panels, and Industry Events. ANNY Virtual Events is our online VOD solution and webXR platform. We present our monthly screening event online! Join us in the ANNY Virtual Events space! Sign up to our mailing list for up-to-date information. Follow ANNY on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Discord to learn about our next event!

About Yvonne Grzenkowicz

Yvonne is an alumna of Animation Mentor. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Animation Nights New York and co-owner of the UK/US based animation news site & podcast, Animation for Adults. She has a background in narrative/figurative painting & drawing, character animation, and full stack development. She is a curator of Film, VR, and Games for Animation Nights New York and involved in development and build of the ANNY Virtual Events Space platform. Yvonne is a frequent panelist, guest lecturer, program curator, and event producer.
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