Pedro Rivero talks about his career until Psiconautas
Pedro Rivero spoke about his film trajectory, which earned him the Goya for best animation feature for Goomer in 1999 and best animated short film after Birdboy in 2010. He has worked in every section of the audiovisual industry and taught Screenwriting. He fears becoming his own character even if he doesn’t take drugs every day. Instead of writing his own scripts, started working for people who draw better than him in Basque films since 1989.
After approving Selectivity, he didn’t know if studying Philosophy or making comic-books for a living. He doesn’t reject his decision seeing how Donald Trump became president. His last work was some comic strips for the Basque Diary and then changed to make animation. His favorite animated film was Dumbo until discovered gay connotations and decanted for Akira.
Twenty years was the time Rivero took to make his own content inspired by Chapin, Lynch, Kurosawa and Tarkovsky. The highlights of his assignments was a “Let’s go to bed” with Gregorio Muro characters, the script for a San Ignacio de Loyola film for children and Elliot Mouse’s Untouchables. The 90’s are the “mercenary” era because he wrote for other companies.
“Why shouldn’t I become the producer of my own ideas?” asked himself before a “laborious and almost shameful” seven or eight years of working in “The Carnivorous Crisis”. Rivero’s health decreased after becoming his own writer, producer and director. He participates in an association to improve the rights of screenwriters and not being discredited, since it’s the link of production.
The project that ruined him
Pedro Rivero started suffering with making others cartoons and couldn’t stare at his son with dignity “if I made assigned jobs”, he confesses. “The Carnivorous Crisis” was going to require high graphic demands, which didn’t work in its time because the only cartoon movies for adults were anime or South Park.
“I like living”, exclaims Rivero, “not working too much, drinking and developing my projects”. The movie was made in Flash as a last resource after spending his last subsidy, “unlike Barcenas”. He had to sell his house and a friend had to give him the other thousands of dollars to sell the idea and make it with Enrique San Francisco as main lead and Nikodemo Animation. The script was reworked to be lout and unapologetic, so they say “son of a bitch” 70 times in 50 minutes.
“The Carnivorous Crisis” was a complete failure and hard to sell, a mistake was doubt about what they were doing. It had a disastrous premiere on Sitges in 2007, followed by an Internet Backlash. Rivero states there are some “hard to understand” actual fans who make it a cult film, a political fable that ended as nonsense. After all the effort, the next project needed less responsibility and more screenwriters not to overwork.
Eight years “fucking-up” depressed Rivero, who found Alberto Vazquez’s works in the Joker comic store by personal suggestion. “Psiconautas felt over me in my worst moment”, a depressing graphic novel with the potential of being a full-length animated picture even before knowing the author in person.
A media for the bravest
Pedro Rivero states that the flashback is a resource for cowards if it isn’t going to have an emotional progression. “Fiction is also for cowards”, criticizes the screenwriter, “you record four days and already call yourself a director”. Filming is way more valuable and meaningful in animation, so they couldn’t repeat the same mistakes from “The Carnivorous Crisis”.
Psiconautas has “a gluttonous structure” for Birdboy, the druggie bird who hadn’t learnt to fly yet, and his girlfriend Dinky. “Psiconaut” means “traveler of the mind”, exploring though drugs “like every day in the bars”, exemplifies Rivero. A short film would be an independent narration and complete work that could be produced with the recovered money from the previous feature.
Alberto Vazquez also wanted a short film instead of a pilot, trailer or teaser to show their graphic capacities. They didn’t want a test of something which didn’t exist, like “The Carnivorous Crisis”. “Birdboy” is almost a prequel to both the graphic novel and the movie to tell the trivia of how the characters met.
“Birdboy” was sent to six hundred contests, was accepted in two hundred of them and won more than forty prizes. Rivero and Vazquez obtained enough notoriety, subsidies and awards to produce the full length adaptation and recover the money inverted on mailing film packages.
It has been a process of almost nine years. He has an idea for another movie “even if it would be better about postmen fucking”. Adding to his next projects, there is a live-action film and a videogame “for the freedom”, tells the writer, “because money is everything”.
“Accepting a world of lies”
Birdboy has a visual script based on pictures that “are living thing ourselves could live”, explains Pedro Rivero. The short film plays with the color palette before and after the explosion, evolving the children into teenagers and using masks to accept a fake reality.
The short film presents its characters in their routine, “things that I don’t do in my home”, mocks Rivero, “that’s why I’m divorced”. The explosion introduces the story with a healthy Birdboy, “like me before The Carnivorous Crisis”. It uses images to describe everything instead of using words, “actions don’t use the entire visual spectrum”. The shot of burying the bird expanded to show it wasn’t the first and color rises-up until Dinky takes off her mask.
That’s the reason of using visual metaphors like leafs that become birds and fish to tell that everything has died. But too obvious symbolism can be counterproductive like “putting elephants in the forest”. The composer only needed some notes to make the soundtrack and do it emotionally involving.
Contrasts involve subtitling the birds instead of making them talk. “Academicals liked the druggy bird”, jokes Rivero, “we kept Birdboy’s world in silence”. A first shot of a mask can tell an emotion, “communication without dialogue”. They wanted to reveal Birdboy’s emotions in the last moment to highlight them. An unusual red pallet avoids the “paradigmatic storytelling” of regular short films.
“The black legend of Birdboy”
There has to be a theme under a story, “it can’t be built over nothing”. Birdboy was going to end with his scene alongside Dinky “illuminating something between them” to then reject her with impotence and “birds start singing” over the ending credits. Then, an animator suggested them to hug and leave the viewer without answers outside the message. An idea that was conceived drinking beer discovered the entire plot over the course. Psiconautas uses some dark topics of comedy like drug trips and dumb cops “whom seen like that”, jokes Pedro Rivero, “are sons of a bitch”.
Psiconautas was thought as a full length film in 2010 for Birdboy, but started being made on mid 2013. “Cinema is a continuous experience”, explains the screenwriter, “doesn’t give time to assimilate emotions”. Alberto Vazquez wanted a different adaptation because he already wrote the story once. So they took inspiration from Francis Ford Coppola’s “Rumble Fish” for the concept of cultural transmission, the fact that a character can die but make a difference.
Birdboy’s background was only implied in the novel, “he only tripped”, so the short film deals with that and only the introduction of Psiconautas retells it. The main plot is about Dinky’s group escaping and Birdboy maybe joining them, a more coral play that expanded the idea from a direct adaptation of fifty minutes.
Not shooting to the air
The biggest difference between the Psiconautas novel and movie is the journey, which evolved from a road “where they smoke some junks” to a dangerous zone with obstacles. They had the advantage of being able to write the script while animating during the production, which uses to be untouchable.
“Paradigmatic”, they construct more active characters and experiment with the psiconautic experience of Birdboy “not to shoot the air”. Every anticipation needs conclusion or knowing why they haven’t, like going to a “legendary place” if it’s mentioned. They include scenes like Birdboy’s loving father at the expense of flashbacks that “didn’t support enough”, words of Pedro Rivero.
Alberto Vazquez worked in the storyboard while Rivero the animatic or first view of the final product. They amplify with Reloggio’s emotional relief they manage to draw and even dub rejected sequences, specially flashbacks and exposition by other characters. Birdboy himself is introduced trough a nightmare that foreshadows a scene that happens fifty minutes later.
The first twenty minutes introduce plenty of characters without overshadowing Dinky and Birdboy’s relationship. The backstory is moved to the beginning so he story can be told in a single day. There even is an art-book comparing the designs of the novel, short and film.