Last year filmmaker Ray McCarthy Bergeron teased us with a glimpse of a short animation made solely with spinning 3D-printed zoetropes. The individual flourishes of looping color and movement are entrancing on their own, but now he and production company Spunky DDog are releasing the full version of re÷belief, the culmination of over six months and 2,600 hours.
Like any coming-of-age story, re÷belief grows from innocence to passion through darkness and conflict. Bergeron's film centers on a boy who looks like a descendant of the Easter Island obelisks, and reads like an acid dream trapped on the flat surface of a spinning top. Sometimes it's a bad trip, dominated by screams, arguments, and distorted vocal tracks. Other times it's wonderous, zoning in on beating mechanical hearts, and schools of rainbow fish.
"These are memories that have repeatedly haunted me throughout my youth and adulthood," Bergeron tells The Creators Project. "The memories regularly reflected times of bliss mixed with sullen, miserable moments."
Bergeron began making re÷belief while earning his MFA in film and animation at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2014. He's been taking the film on the festival circuit for the past year and paying his rent working at VIVA Creative and animating for NASA. re÷belief has earned awards from The International Festival of Animated Arts Multivision to The Pixie Awards, and more.
We asked Bergeron about the ins and outs of making such a time-intensive and captivating film:
The Creators Project: Can you briefly outline the plot in your own words?
Ray McCarthy Bergeron: Through the perspective of a boy, you witness a personal story that recalls 9 very specific instances of my life. These are memories that have repeatedly haunted me throughout my youth and adulthood. The memories regularly reflected times of bliss mixed with sullen, miserable moments. Ultimately the film is about cycles; a story about growing up, religion and relationships.
When you first decided to work on the project, were you prepared for how much work it would be?
I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but when I dove into it, my brain melted. It wasn’t so much about the hours as it was the frustration of how to make it all work. I had print designs fail, get rejected by the printer, and I continually hit walls of physical limitations of what could be printed. At one point, I almost gave up and said to myself that I should just render it all, something that my peers suggested. Honestly, that low point and moment in time vitally helped me reshape why I was doing this. It helped me to emphasize that this process was more about sculpting the zoetropes and that the film itself, in some ways, was secondary. Eventually I crafted, and programmed, a pipeline that allowed me to create and destroy animations and virtual sculptures which was vital to pre-production of the actual prints.
Was it worth it?
In the end, when it first played in front of a public audience and my wife watched it for her first time as well, the moment a tear fell down her face made it completely worth it.
Do you have any advice for filmmakers who might follow in your footsteps?
When you are stuck in a nightmare of trying to solve a creative problem, step away from it and go outside. Go to a coffee shop. Walk into a bookstore and read something. Watch people interact. Do anything but think about the problem. I discovered that my brain worked things out while I observed the world and relaxed.
What's next for you? More experimental animation?
Definitely more experimental and technical animations. I’ve been working on ultra-wide screen experiences in my current job for crazy live events and conferences. I just came back from doing motion graphics work for the Climate Summit in Paris which was awesome. I like to think I’m a creative guy who loves solving complex problems. On the experimental art side of things, I’ve recently helped a phenomenal artist and animator, Eric Dyer, create an MRI-like device experience using 3D printing of animations I created.
See more of Ray McCarthy Bergeron's work on his website.