The growing Malt Adult brand is built on Sarah Schmidt's passion for animation

The title film at last weekend's Animation Block Party in New York City was made by local animator Sarah Schmidt, along with some former co-workers at Super77 studio. They landed the gig on the strength of a short piece that won the “Minute Movie Award” at last year's festival.

The day before heading to Block Party, Schmidt confessed to being nervous about the repeated showing of the piece, which is based on a concept she developed.

“[The festival] told us the theme was ‘Battle of the Bands,'” said Schmidt, now a freelance animator who has, over the past couple of years, become one of the go-to artists for promoting Ohio rock shows in GIF-poster form. “The rest of the team was like, ‘This is so you!'”

Schmidt's passion for animation would draw her to such festivals in any case, but she's also attending as a professional animator and, over the past year, as the curator of Malt Adult Animation, which held its fourth local animation night in July.

“It's cool to be able to tell someone, ‘Your work was sick. You should make more. And if you do, I'll give it another platform in Columbus,'” Schmidt said.

Malt Adult brings work by international and local animation artists in what Schmidt called, prior to the premiere event last fall, “our weird little animation party.” Schmidt said she works hard to curate each event, pushing to include varied types of animation, as well as assuring for greater representation in a field that's male-dominated.

“We're showing animation in a space that's not a huge festival. [It's] more something [at which people] can hang out with their friends,” she said. “It's so much more accessible. I didn't realize it would be as popular as it is.”

Schmidt said that at July's Malt Adult Nite at Skylab Gallery, the non-climate-controlled space was packed full of people fanning themselves with the printed programs. “It's interesting to see the dynamic,” she said. “You have people who are familiar with animation and some people from around town who maybe aren't as familiar coming and being super surprised at the work moving them, exciting them. And, at a screening, you can have so much more of a conversation, when you're not just [typing] in a comment box on the internet.”

All of this has Schmidt considering what future Malt Adult events will look like. She was able to screen in CCAD's Canzani Center Screening Room for Malt Adult Nite No. 3, and starting as soon as September Schmidt hopes to have dual-approach events, in which the films are screened at CCAD — in a space designed for the purpose — plus a second, more intimate event held at Skylab, “to keep that underground feel,” she said.

A CCAD graduate with a degree in animation, Schmidt hopes to draw more students to Malt Adult events held on campus. “It's easy to get stuck in your bubble” as a student, Schmidt said, adding that she believes more people would make animation if they saw the kind of work being made and knew there were opportunities (like Malt Adult) to have their work screened somewhere other than internet video hosting sites.

The recurring event's success has led to invitations to bring Malt Adult to Colorado and other out-of-state locales in the future, which has caught Schmidt a little by surprise.

“I have an animator friend in [Los Angeles] who opened a gallery,” Schmidt said. “The idea would be to have Malt Adult there the same week as an animation festival called Creative Talent Network Expo. Malt Adult is kind of the antithesis to that corporate-type event, so it could be fun to let people take a break from that and see some of the more gritty stuff.”

Schmidt's success doesn't surprise CCAD animation professor Charlotte Belland, who credited Schmidt's talent, hard work and humility.

“She's earned her success by being kind and by being supportive of other artists,” Belland said. “What she's doing is innovative and amazing.”

Even while getting ready for her Animation Block Party weekend, Schmidt has her eyes set on the next Malt Adult event. “There's so much stuff, and it's only getting better,” she said.