2nd G.I. Joe Stop Motion Film Festival: An Interview With Gio Toninelo (Film Fest President)

TOYSREVIL'S I Like Toys is proud to be a (Media) Sponsor for the 2nd G.I.Joe Stop Motion Film Festival = the first festival dedicated to screening works by stop-motion artists who utilizes predominately G.I. Joes as main characters or "actors" in their short-films! (films and toys = uber-cool and perfect combo LOL)

currently accepting film submissions (deadline July 20th 2008) and with the 1st Film Fest touring the States (scheduled for a March 29th-screening at Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles) - i had a (long-overdue) chat with Gio Toninelo (creator and President of the GI Joe Fest), about the genesis and operations of the festival, as well as a selection of submitted filmlets from 2007 ...


TOYSREVIL: what is the G.I.Joe Stop-Motion Film Fest? what is it about and what's it's genesis / history?

GIO TONINELO: The GI JOE STOP MOTION FILM FESTIVAL is the nation's (USA) first festival dedicated to screening works by stop-motion artists who use GI Joe or similar figures (12", 8" -sigma 6- and 3 ¾ sizes) as main characters or actors. This is a non-profit event, working to promote the dying art of stop-motion along with a iconic action-figure.

Because I had never animated any of the PondPatrol episodes (which was the original idea), I decided to honor those who actually made GI Joe Films when to commemorate the end of PondPatrol's story. That's how the Festival became to be. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to get any submissions, but my persistence paid off when we screened 25 films from around the world in 2007.

TOYSREVIL: (we'll get to what "PondPatrol" is at the end of this Q&A) how does the film-fest submission process work? can anyone join? and when's the submission deadline?

GIO TONINELO: Pretty simple stuff. First off we do not charge you a penny. Anyone can submit their films as long at least ONE of the film's characters is a GI Joe action-figure. Just fill out the submission form at our site www.GIJOEFEST.com and we will take it from there. We usually try to pay for the shipping. And we usually hold a pre-selection screening in July (when submissions are finally closed). Judging of the films happens in October, prior to the official screening.

[Covert Operatives by Anthony Carbone and Jeff Gurwood]

GIO TONINELO: Last year we had an awesome panel of judges, including Gary Isaacs (who was the main photographer for Jimmy Carter to Jimmy Stewart) and Pamela Chavez (who worked with numerous directors including Monty Miranda for the 2007 film "Skills Like This").  Submission deadline is on July 20th 2008.

[Cong of the Dead by Paul Hanley and Kieran Healy]

TOYSREVIL: has the response been thus far? what are the pros and cons when it comes to organizing a festival of this genre? i remember blogging about it last year, but was "guilty" of not following-up tho :p

GIO TONINELO: So far so good. For the 1st GI JOE Fest (2007), it took a lot of finesse to convince people to send in their films. We were a brand new event and people didn't know exactly what we were about. This year (2008) we already have over 12 films on file and more to come (and it's only March). The biggest problem so far is that GI JOEs are not so easy to come by these days, hence a lot of people are not making the films we want. I believe it's all about to change pretty soon with the GI JOE live action Film happening next year. I can't wait for the new licensed figures.

[Editor's note: G.I.Joe Live-action movie tagged on TRE / my embarassingly-outdated fan-blog]

TOYSREVIL: with the rampant proliferation of other 1/6th-figures and brands other than Hasbro's Joes, i can imagine how niche the focus can be and get, IMHO (altho i wonder if one grafted a Joe-head over say, a Hot Toys' body, would that allow for greater flexibility?) am too waiting for the live-action film, and have no doubt will increase awareness around and after the movie screens ... what's happening right now with the fest? what's its current status and plans?

GIO TONINELO: We are currently touring the United States West Coast with the winning films from last years' Festival. Three stops: Los Angeles - CA, Portland - OR and Seattle - WA. (check our site for dates and theaters). Subsequently the winning films from this year's Festival will travel in 2009. We are looking into partnerships in other cities as well. Perhaps even in your Country ....wink...wink....

TOYSREVIL: trust me Gio, that thought had never left my mind when we first had our online discussions, dude! (lemme work it ~ *wink-wink-back*) ... what do you do for the fest, Gio? what's your "day-job"?

GIO TONINELO: I'm the GI JOE FEST's President. There's a lot of bureaucracy involved in putting this together and that's mostly what I deal with day-by-day. Venue booking, film selection, and even making sure that "that special film" finds its way to Denver, CO USA are a few of my tasks. Besides putting the Festival together, I work as a video assistant for Incite Films (a local production company) and I also work as a freelance web designer. I occasionally sling coffee drinks (I'm a professional barista) at a popular Denver coffee house and I play bass for a local singer songwriter.  In addition to all that, I manage to create my own 1:6 head sculpts and juggle my biddings on E-bay for vintage toys.

TOYSREVIL: living large and proud! *nice* ... let's not forget Pond Patrol - what is Pond Patrol? (for the benefit of my readers who may not have know about it)

GIO TONINELO: Well, PondPatrol.com is one of my most praised children as an artist.

It all started back in September 2005, as a serialized Internet drama, narrating the weekly adventures of Corporal John U. Harris as he uncovered the secrets of Mulberry Ridge Pond.

You see...I have a pond at my house where I keep several turtles. After the disappearance of one of my female (turtles) I decided to place a GI JOE 12" figure to "patrol" the shores of the pond. It was a joke that gave me a few ideas. Originally I planned to take one picture per month, and post it as a photolog (or photo blog). But the idea grew bigger: Who is this guy (GI JOE) what is he doing there (at the pond)?, does he have any friends? What is his story?

GIO TONINELO: For two straight years (with an episode written and photographed every week) the series earned more than 62,000 visitors per month and spawned a streak of articles and features in several internet websites across the world. I "still" get several e-mails per week about this project and I "still" get requests for prints of some of the photos.

TOYSREVIL: sweetness. cheers for the time and trouble (and patience), Gio! let's chat again soon :) - meanwhile all you folks have a hankering to do some stop-mo, don't hesitate and do forth! LOL - and i leave you with "Bloody Revenge" made by Tom Walker, circa mind-90's!

(*Warning: "Disturbing" blood and gore on action figures):

[Bloody Revenge by Tom Walker / Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3]