One of the UK's most exciting new animators, BAFTA award-winning Ainslie Henderson (dir. I am Tom Moody, co-writer The Making of Longbird) tells us what turned him onto film in advance of a trip to the Brazilian Amazon.
What’s your connection to the British Council?
I'm currently preparing to go out to the Amazonas Film Festival in Manaus, Brazil as part of an exhange programme with the Glasgow Youth Film Festival. I'm going to be facilitating some animation workshops out there, showing some films, doing some talking, engaging with the young people taking part in the festival, and no doubt having a very exciting time.
What current projects are you working on?
I'm just finishing a short film called 'Monkey Love Experiments'. It's a stop motion/live action Hybrid short about a laboratory monkey in the 1960's who convinces himself he's headed for the moon. It's been quite a long process and I'm very excited to share it with people.
What/who originally turned you onto film?
I came to it through an odd route; I always loved film, but i didn't dream i could really make my living that way. I was a musician, i enjoyed making pottery in my spare time, then the pots became sculptures, then creatures, then puppets, then they wanted to move, then, hey presto! I'm a stop motion animator and filmmaker.
What has been your career high so far?
I'm kind of sceptical about career highs. I was given a BAFTA at the start of the year for co-writing The Making Of Longbird with Will Anderson, so in terms of exposure, or 'highs', it would have to be that. But really, more hype, or accolades feel like more pressure. I'm very grateful, and it is a huge honour to be given awards, but the real highs are in the moments where you do something that satisfies or surprises you.
What was your first job in the film industry?
I'm very new to this, so it wasn't long ago, perhaps only 18 months ago, that myself and Will made the animation for The Great Hip Hop Hoax. We had to (or at least felt we had to) blag our way into that, pretending we'd done much more than we had. As it turns out the director, Jeanie Finlay, knew very well how inexperienced we were, but just liked what we do. She was great to work with, she made sure she got what she wanted, which was challenging at times, but ultimately it was a really positive learning experience.
If I knew then what I know now…
I'm not sure I've enough perspective yet for there to be a then and now, it's still now.
What is your favourite British film?
It's probably Withnail and I. It has everything I love in a film: sadness, tragedy, humour, lovable characters. I saw it first when i was about 19 and it's always with me. Maybe one day i'll outgrow feeling a lilttle like Withnail, and a little like Marwood. I kind of hope so but for me now, there's truth in them both.
If you could have been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
I'd like to have been involved with the film Being There. I'd like to have spent some time with Peter Sellars, he seems like an interesting man. He brings something magical to that film by doing so little. My dad and I have watched that film lots of times, I always feel like watching it is like a kind of meditation. I'm curious to know what making it was like.
What’s the first film you remember seeing? What was memorable about it?
My aunt Barbara took me to see Return of the Jedi when I was four for being brave when I had one of my teeth taken out at the dentist. I have a vague memory of being very shocked buy the hugeness of the experience.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
The one that comes to mind right now is the end of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where Clementine says 'I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me'. Then they both say 'OK', and agree to go back into it even though they know it'll be difficult. I can feel myself wanting to well up just thinking about that, it's so beautiful.
Favourite screen kiss?
When Harry Met Sally...? it's probably an obvious one, but it builds up perfectly, its New Year's Eve and everyone is counting down, and he's said "when you've met the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, then you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible" and Meg Ryan, who is just adorable, is crying and saying 'i hate you Harry, I hate you', and then they kiss, all teary and lovely, ahhhhhh. It doesn't get better than that.
Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
Is Tyler Durden from Fight Club a hero? He kind of is to me. He's free, he's unburdened by self doubt and inhibition, he's brilliant and fearless and sexy. There's a big part of me wants to be him.