In Focus: Ben Ridgeway on Cosmic Flower Unfolding



Ben Ridgeway is currently an Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California, USA. He has 15 years of professional experience as both a 3D artist in the video game industry and as a professor. While in the games industry he helped to create games for Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft console systems. Ben has been making experimental animations since 1992. His films have been showcased in film festivals worldwide and have received numerous awards.

Cosmic Flower Unfolding will be shown as part of the Shorts 3 program at SFIFF57. It is a Cinema by the Bay film.


What was the inspiration for this story?

One day while meditating I tried to visualize in my mind’s eye how I might be able to animate a flower unfolding made up of glowing, pulsating shapes. When I did this I spontaneously saw a face made up of intricate glowing shapes that glowed like neon. The face was inhaling and exhaling at the same time and seemed to represent the exchange of energy and life that we experience through human existence. Every time I thought about making a film, this experience would come back to me, beckoning me to translate it into a moving image.

At the time I had been studying the illustrations of Ernest Haeckel and was planning on doing a homage to his work at some point. The marriage of oceanic motifs inspired by Haeckel mixed with the flower idea excited me and became the driving inspiration for the film. Ernest Haeckel is famous for his incredibly intricate renditions of animals and sea creatures. Many of his images exhibit noticeable symmetry both through individual forms and overall composition. To me, he uncovered the divine in his work through masterfully  transforming mundane life forms into idealized artistic interpretations of those forms.


What do you see as the greatest challenges for filmmakers today?  

Finding money for independent productions is very difficult these days. Crowd funding is a good way to make a film but that's just the first challenge. Getting paid for your work after it's been made is another hurdle that few are able to get over. So much content is online for free. Getting someone to pay money to watch a short is next to impossible.


What new opportunities are making the biggest difference to your filmmaking process?

New technologies are making the filmmaking process more fluid than ever. Using these technologies often in unconventional ways has been a great way for me as an independent artist to create highly sophisticated films without having to buy expensive specialized equipment. I can now create a film from start to finish on my laptop if needed.


Describe what impact San Francisco Film Society or Bay Area filmmaking community support has had on your film.

SFFS has been a great way to meet people involved in filmmaking in the Bay Area. I'm still relatively new to San Francisco so it's been an excellent way for me to network, and share my work.


Check out the trailer for Cosmic Flower Unfolding below!