“Mayday” means many different things to the students, alumni and professors participating in the Sixth Annual Mayday Animation Marathon.
At its very base, the event was named Mayday due to the fact that it concluded on May 1 its first year and, coincidentally, this year. However, Mayday reminds DePaul alumnus Jaclyn Hosier of the constant pressure put on animators to finish their projects on time.
To five-year Mayday veteran and alumnus Ben Canfield, Mayday “is a constant reminder that (my) dad paid $120,000 for school, and (I) have to make up for it by showing ‘hey dad, I can still animate.’”
At 6 p.m. the event began, and it was time to decide the theme that one hundred people would be animating for the next 44 hours until 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. People shouted out “Purple rain,” “Pepe, the Frog,” “Donald Trump” and many more suggestions that portrayed the recent top search on the internet. After five rounds of voting, students selected “5,030,251,147 Deadly Sins” as the theme, referencing a joke by Roberts while compiling the votes.
“It’s all about a sense of community,” said assistant professor Meghann Artes, the pioneer of the event. “This is our Super Bowl. They understand what we go through when we are working on a project. We laugh, joke and it reminds us of why we are in it.”
Artes created Mayday back in 2011 after being inspired by the Falling Lizard, an annual animation workshop held by her alma mater UCLA. She wanted to create a similar event that brings the animation community together. Mayday at DePaul has grown, yet preserved characteristics from its formation in 2011.
Mayday allows student and alumni animators to work under unconventional conditions they normally do not encounter. Many students form groups with friends, and compartmentalize the project so each one can work on his or her specialty. Normally, DePaul animators work alone, and this allows for team building among the students.
“I think we had about 20 people in the first Mayday,” said Ian Beckman, a six-year Mayday veteran. “The event changed none but the numbers of participants grew a lot.”
Besides an outlet for reminiscing about his college years, Beckman, an animator for video games, comes back to Mayday because it allows him to just create, have fun and not to worry about taking the project seriously.
Many of the first timers feel the same. At first, Joe Weiss, a freshman digital cinema student, was worried about being an outcast because he is not an animation major, yet he found the reception very welcoming.
“Everyone was very inclusive and helpful when I needed help,” Weiss said. “People kept telling me that ‘you don’t have to be at good animation to be here’, and I didn’t really understand that at first. There are so many things that go into animation that don’t have you touching or drawing anything.”
The 531 Critique Exhibition Lab on the fifth floor of the CDM building looked like a middle school sleepover; chips, candies and fast food leaned against the air mattresses and sleeping bags. The two main computer labs were littered with pillows and blankets for essential power naps when caffeine lost its effect.
Like many other troopers who stayed overnight for Mayday, Hosier only slept about four hours. She brought an air mattress with her after roughing it on the stiff and unforgiving floor during her first Mayday.
“It just feels like a really long day, especially when you don’t go outside,” said Hosier. “Even you do go outside, you still have no sense of time (in the CDM building). It’s bizarre.”
Day two is the only day where participants have 24-hour access to the lab. Many students take advantage of this opportunity, and sleep is the last thing on their mind. They have more than just caffeine and sugar to fight off sleepiness. They have the pressure of deadline. Besides the occasional bathroom and water breaks, day two is much more focused, and most people work quietly at their stations.
However, Saturday night and Sunday morning are a different beast. The sleep deprivation begins to wear on the Mayday participants and they start to let loose. The animators keep themselves awake by playing games, talking and making jokes.
At midnight (Sunday morning), people started a dance party on the fifth floor,” said Thomas Mulka, a second year Mayday participant. “I think the first one was last year (and) . . . they’re trying to make it a yearly tradition.”
Soon, as it usually does, the reality of a deadline comes to a head, and the real “creative decisions” get made around 4 a.m. Sunday morning according to Beckman.
As the final day began, the CDM building was mostly empty, save for a few red-eyed animators trying to submit their projects under the wire.
After more than 30 hours of back-and-forth storyboarding, drawing, animating and editing, Mayday animators had reached the final stage — post-production. Post-production began with crossing your fingers and hoping that everything goes as planned.
“And of course, that did not happen,” Mulka said .
Animators resisted quitting every 15 minutes when problems came unexpectedly one after another. Yet, many persevered. At 2 p.m., an exclusive pre-screening was held in room 527. Mayday survivors that still had the energy watched the submissions of Mayday 2016 before the final screening on May 13.
“The entire point of Mayday for me is just talking to people and just hanging out,” said Adam Glowacki, a senior animation major. “The work (animating) is just a motivation to get people here, but then is the social part and team building experience that matters.”