Budapest-based artist Tamás Rebák brings themes of growing up and letting go to life in his beautifully animated Moebius-inspired graduation short, Escape Velocity.
Graduation is an exciting but nerve-wracking time. The comforting environment of university is about to end, and while the promise of the wider world is tempting, leaving that familiarity behind can be hard. And it's these contradictory feelings independent animation artist Tamás brings to life in Escape Velocity.
Made as his graduation short at the Metropolitan University of Budapest, Escape Velocity tells the story of an astronaut who must reach his space shuttle before a mysterious beast catches him. Although if you read between the lines, you can see that the short's subtext reflects a lot of end-of-university anxieties.
"I was at a stage in my life where I had to leave a lot behind," Tamás tells Creative Boom. "I'd been through a breakup, three universities, and I felt an era was ending. It was time to grow up.
"It's a difficult step to take, to leave behind something that was once important but now it's holding you back. That was the main feeling I wanted to show. And the sci-fi environment lays down the foundations for symbolism perfectly. I named the movie 'Escape Velocity', a technical term related to space travel, for good reason. It also symbolises a final determination, a hard step to take."
Having spent the last three years taking Escape Velocity to multiple film festivals - and scooping plenty of accolades along the way- Tamás recently decided it was time to put the short online. Despite describing himself as a "professional procrastinator", this slow and steady pace reflects the time and effort he put into the film itself.
"I spent a lot of time alone building the story and characters, which took me a year and a half," he reveals. "Then, seven talented classmates joined me, and together we finished the film in some very long months. I am very grateful because most of the graduation shorts here are made for free, with a lot of sweat and tears. But we were lucky enough to win a small grant: money to pay the crew and a very talented composer."
As for Escape Velocity's distinctive art style, this was inspired by the works of René Laloux, specifically Fantastic Planet and The Masters of Time. "My main inspiration for creating the film's atmosphere was old sci-fi book covers of the '80s and the comics of Moebius," says Tamás. "I wanted the film to look like someone found it on an old VHS tape in a galaxy far, far away."
University projects can be tough because, oftentimes, they are only made by one person. For Escape Velocity, though, Tamás understood that there were things that couldn't and shouldn't be done alone. "I was very afraid of the unknown stages of making an animation short; that's why I stuck with the tasks I was comfortable with, like small details of character design," he says.
"I wasted so much time on these that it was questionable whether we could finish the film. After my more experienced group mates came to my help, things suddenly picked up and thanks to them I managed to finish the film, for which I am very grateful. This film is also a bit about growing up, leaving bad things and habits behind, and I learned a lot about myself during the whole process."
With the film in the can, is that the end of the story for Escape Velocity's hero? Can we expect to see them developed into a longer feature? "No, I don't really believe in movie sequels. They hardly ever work, except for Godfather 2 and Shrek 2.
"I think this short story is complete and doesn't need any more explanation. It's a simple, universal story of letting go embedded in a sci-fi context, which, I hope, many people can relate to. Now I would much prefer to tell new tales. I hope I will have the chance someday."