Shot over the course of three weeks in Portugal, this week’s Staff Pick Premiere comes from the illustrious Paul Bush, in the form of what feels like a blithe retrospective on all things bikes: the motorized kind.
What started as an idea from co-producer Abi Feijo came to life years later through an expansive collection of motorcycles at Jose Pereira’s Museu da Mota. Despite there being more than 5,000 bikes to choose from, Bush went with a fraction of them — all lightweights ranging in European origin, but mostly from Portugal.
To watch this film is to witness mastery at play. With over 40 years of experience, Bush employs his stop motion brilliance with such precision, the idea of “effort” seems a bit foreign. The radiators, throttles, headlights and engines, fuel tanks, exhaust pipes, and every nut and bolt needing a screw — these parts and pieces are the lifeblood of bikes around the world. Bush seemingly appreciates each of those unmistakable machines with every passing frame.
One would be remiss to not note the irony that this project presents. A motorcyclist, not especially different from any other, produces his bike from a garage and sets off on a ride. Though, one could argue that the motorcyclist set off on hundreds of rides, maybe thousands, on more bikes than some might ever see in their own lifetime. And all in under the time it takes one to order a melange from the local cafe. It’s all so impossibly believable, that’s the magic of Paul Bush.
Ahead of this week’s release, we caught up with Paul Bush to talk inspirations, challenges, and potential advice to up-and-coming filmmakers.
“My co-producer, Abi Feijo, who is one of Portugal’s most famous independent animation directors, told me there was a collection of thousands of motorcycles near where he lived in North Portugal. He knew I loved bikes. I ride everywhere, and I have a few old motorcycles myself. It was a challenge made over a glass of wine, and at that point neither of us had even seen the collection. But a year later we had raised the money and the challenge had to be met.”
“I have animated many physical objects, but these were the biggest. We had six people working every day and a team leader to polish the motorcycles and move them in the right order to our little studio built into the museum. It was so well organized that we were never held up by anything going wrong. At some times we had thirty people working at once, and three shoots going on at the same time. The organisation was very complicated.
It’s a physical test of endurance for everyone, but most of all the actor who has to find and hold a position again and again for three weeks. My team from Portugal was amazing; hard-working, efficient, and always good humoured. In the end the greatest challenge as a director was to make a film that justified all the work they put into it.”
On advice to filmmakers
“Do what you love best. Embrace the term amateur which comes from the Latin ‘to love’ and means that you love your work so much that you would do it even without payment.”
On what’s next
“I’ve finished another short film animating junk plastic collected from streets, beaches, countryside, junk shops, etc.. The teaser can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/413063671. A few other unformed film ideas are growing slowly.”