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Réka Bucsi is the creator and director of ‘Symphony no. 42’, one ofPassion-symphony-42-bucsi2
10 animated short films shortlisted for an Oscar in 2014. Here, she
talks about her animation techniques, process and inspiration.


Réka Bucsi Animates Oscar-shortlisted Film ‘Symphony no. 42’

Réka Bucsiis the creator and director of‘Symphony no. 42’, one of 10 animated short filmsshortlistedfor an Oscar in 2014. Here, she talks about her animation techniques, process and inspiration.

Réka is a Hungarian independent animation filmmaker and illustrator. Following her studies in the animation department at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest from 2008 to 2013, her graduation film 'Symphony no. 42' premiered at the 64th Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin,Berlinale Shorts Competition, and has now been shortlisted for an Oscar. She is currently being represented byPassion Picturesin Paris and is working on a new short film.


Réka finds it hard to label herself specifically as an animator, an illustrator or a filmmaker. Instead, she considers herself as someone who likes to draw and think in film. “Currently, animated filmmaking is what I am most excited about, and because I spend most of my time thinking about film, making and watching it, I’d probably consider myself mainly as a filmmaker,” she said. “But I always like to be involved in other kinds of projects at the same time - thinking within a single image is relaxing and fun as well.

From Sketches into Motion

As a 2D animator, her ideas, concepts and designs all originate with sketching. “I basically start out with my sketchbook, writing or sketching a lot first. Sometimes I am afraid of forgetting ideas, so I constantly try to put them on paper and filter through them later. Once all of my designs are on paper, I go into Photoshop and start to build up a more precise universe for the film. I use a Wacom tablet and animate inTVPaint

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“I think of Photoshop as my primary tool. I’m completely at ease with it and can achieve a very hand-drawn look and add so many other interesting elements at the same time. It’s difficult to describe what gets me into a particular topic but most often I start out with the details, or an atmosphere, and go from there.”

“Though I’ve never thought of deliberately switching to 3D animation, I think of it as an exciting playground to experiment in. If I knew more about 3D I would probably start to ‘sketch’ in the software and see how I liked the aesthetics of it for a particular film. What I do find very interesting is combining certain 2D and 3D elements. In my current project, I’ll be including some 3D components because I think this will make the film’s 2D world very distinctive and exciting. Also, I always aim to introduce depth into flat 2D characters and give them more 3D qualities through sound.

Pictures, Sound and Rhythm

When Réka takes the role of animation director on a film, the design work is always very closely aligned with script writing and the concept of the film. “They are processes I do in parallel, on my own,” she said. “I write the scripts myself and try to make them into storyboards or images immediately - without showing them to anyone first. In fact, most of the time my stories don't make much sense in a written format. I really struggle when I have to put them into a proper script format as I am not very interested in dialogue. Instead, I just think in pictures, sound and rhythm.” 

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So far, she has never looked for stories to adapt because for her, the main concept and the way she wants to talk about a topic or a story is at the core of the creative process. “Right now, shaping that part with an existing story would take away a lot of joy for me. But I can easily imagine that some day I might find an adaptation very exciting as well,” Réka said.

“Though I am usually very certain of what I like or dislike and have an overwhelming need to be in control, I know that a film has to be made with a group of people. It’s important to recognise which skills you have mastered and where you need to collaborate with others. Also, it is fun to work in a group. The criticism and opinions of specific people inspire me, and because I am a slow animator who likes to sink into the details, it’s very helpful to have some skilled people around to help out.

“Usually, I prefer working with a smaller group of people, but on ‘Symphony no. 42’ I had quite a big team of animators. Many people were working on small sequences or parts, resulting in much more to control, and we had a lot of retakes to finish to make sure the film holds together. It was a constant shaping process, but also a very positive experience in terms of directing. I got to know some great animators who I would love to work with again in the future.”

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A Magic Trick

Generally, Réka finds that inspiration is a tricky question, very organic and unpredictable, and that’s what makes it work like a kind of a magic trick for her. “A lot of my inspiration comes from the people working around me, who constantly work toward their vision and don’t just talk about it. I see them struggle and succeed in their work the same way I do, and sharing those experiences is valuable. I learn a lot about myself through them - there is no recipe for inspiration!” she said.

“It is also important to me to work with people I know and like to spend time with generally. Communicating your vision to people is much easier if you know their creative process is similar to yours. I feel lucky to have people around that I know how to connect with. It is rare to find those people.”

Across Réka’s projects some persistent themes and elements stand out, and one of these is animals. Many of the characters are animals, although quite often they are acting like people with a funny but also touching result. This is because her choice of character design is always about the size, form, material or sound it is able to bring to a scene, never about the fact that it is an animal, plant or human being.

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Colour Connection

In terms of colour, Réka decided she needed to find a strong balance between a stylized world and realistic imagery. “I’ve realised that I can’t use an extreme colour palette very effectively. As soon as I tried to make my people turn blue or the fox became pink, the scenes lost much of their surrealism and abstraction. On the other hand, super realism was not what I wanted to achieve, either. I think keeping essentially realistic colours and using quite flat, plain forms made the scenarios work, and didn't disconnect the audience from what happens in the scenes.

“Any use of bright colours came about simply because I like them. There is no big conceptual meaning behind them, but sometimes they are used as transitions as well, and of course it is good to have a colour script that supports the script. I work quite instinctively when it comes to colour and texture. I like the feeling of the 'hand-made', so I prefer using digital brushes that are less clean, and make it look as if I were using paper.”

Réka’s films are enjoyable to watch – not always funny but they are entertaining and make the audience think about what is happening in terms of what they see happening in the real world. For example, anyone can recognise people they know in these animals and characters, or recognise particular situations, current news and issues.

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She feels that such influences on her work are largely unconscious. “I try to be a good observer of the world and of myself as well. This leads to some conscious and unconscious influences, which are built into my work. I try to show certain ideas without revealing too much of my own point of view or involving too many of my own experiences. I try to keep my opinion in the background, because I’m not trying to shape people’s minds. I’m happier to create something that people are able to connect with.”

The Sound Layer

Always more focused on sound design and building an atmosphere than music, Réka hasn’t really worked with actual scores yet. “I loved working with the sound designer Péter from the very beginning on ‘Symphony no. 42’, as I think sound can shape a movie enormously,” she said. “It is not something that should just illustrate the picture, but give it a new layer, make it actually work and live. In my current project I will have a soundtrack that will be very much connected to the picture.

“I expect to have some early tests soon for the animatic to see how sound shapes the rhythm of the film. I’ve never created ping-pong between score and picture before, so I am looking forward to working with a composer and finding out more about how to do this.

“On Symphony no. 42, the sound was a long, very nice process. A large part of the project was already completed in time for the animatic, when we recorded and did the foley on as many parts of the movie as possible. Péter and I made a trip to Sri Lanka where we collected a lot of nice bird and jungle sounds that we included in the movie. Consequently, the forest environment is mainly built up of actual recorded forest sounds.” www.passion-paris.com/crush