Ainslie Henderson and Will Anderson are no strangers to the BAFTA Awards having won in 2011 for their Short Animation The Making of Longbird and being shortlisted in 2012 for I Am Tom Moody. This year they’re back again with Monkey Love Experiments a short animation about a monkey, the moon landings …and love.
Will: Pretty exciting – buys weekend ahead of us. We’re surprised and delighted to be nominated. This is the penultimate point with our film – it’s screened reasonably well with film festivals but the BAFTA awards are definitely the highlight of the film’s journey.
Ainslie: The film is set in the late 60’s at a time when psychologists were doing experiments on monkeys enquiring into the nature of love while at the same time, NASA was sending monkeys into space as a way of beginning to explore getting to the moon.
Will: We met at college – we studied together at the Edinburgh College of Art. The first time we worked together I was making my graduation film The Making of Longbird and Ainslie helped on the writing side of things – and that film went on to do pretty well (Ed: It won the BAFTA for Short Animation in 2011) After that Ainslie directed I am Tom Moody, so I worked on that on the visual effect side of things.When it came to making another short film we wanted to tell a story that mixed the things we’re both good at and to make an unusual piece that plays to both of our strengths.
Ainslie: Up until Monkey Love Experiments we’d always collaborated really equally on writing, that was something we were at ease with. This is the first film that we’ve really brought our strengths as animators and mixed the two medium. Right from the start we were clear on how we wanted to do that on this film.
Ainslie: I think because so much of the film is based on real events, you know, there was this psychologist… NASA were experimenting, it’s rooted in reality so it made sense to try and make it look like a real film to a certain extent. Although the animated monkey IS an animated monkey and we didn’t want to pretend that it wasn’t. We wanted to lay the whole drama in a film that looks kind of real. Event down to the way that Will processed the aesthetic – it looks very much of its time. We studied a lot of the Harlow monkey videos on YouTube to really replicate that.
Will: I think we really thought why we wanted to use animation in this film and as we were telling the story from the point of vi of the monkey animation was the perfect medium to do that.
Looking back now, is there anything that you would’ve done differently? Did anything cost more than expected? Was there anything you hadn’t bargained for?
Will: It was pretty efficient actually. It was part of a scheme called Scottish Shorts funded by Creative Scotland up here, and we had a producer who was really organised and we took a long time over the script so we knew what we wanted to do. In terms of the schedule it was all done in 7 weeks.
Ainslie: It’s the first time we’ve had a producer and I think that really streamlined the process. It surprised me how quickly it all came together.
Well Scotland is a pretty small place! And the stop motion animation industry is even smaller so you meet the people pretty quickly and we met Cam Fraser because he’s been running a stop motion company for some years in Edinburgh so we knew of him. We’d been developing a TV show with him so he was the obvious choice.
Ainslie: We’d already had two films that screened at film festivals so we were quite prepared for which festivals we should target. The film isn’t online, because we have a production company and people who take ownership of the film it’s probably going to take us a lot longer to get it online that it did with our graduation films. But I think the way that online works now is really exciting, as independent filmmakers it’s a really exciting platform.
Will: I think if people recognise our work now – individually and together – that’s really been down to us just making things and putting them online free for everybody to see. If anyone were to ask ‘how do I get noticed?’ I would say just make things and make them public. It’s probably the most valuable thing that you can do at the start of your career.
Ainslie: With longer projects, some things we’re working on we can’t put online now, you can’t make all of it public but particularly at the beginning I think you should.
Ainslie: It cost us about £20,000.
Will: It was through a scheme, Scottish Shorts.
Ainslie: They funded the whole thing. And that’s the first time we’ve had funding for anything. I suppose the only difference is that in the past we’ve had to ask people for favours and it’s really nice now to be able to approach people you’ve worked with in the past and say I can actually pay you.
Ainslie: I think a lot of people applied and then there were 12 teams shortlisted and you go through several meetings about story and different roles and getting a producer, and then they shortlist 5.
Will: There was also a series of workshops that were quite helpful. Which I think was partly for them to see which projects were most ready to be developed and worth developing. And also to give you some experience of developing a film.
Ainslie: Just don our kilts. When we came for Longbird we wore kilts and it was a great conversation piece, we spoke to George Clooney about our kilts. It’s a good icebreaker.
Will: We’ll have a lot of fun I think. We have a longer film we’re playing about with at the moment so maybe if we can speak to some people about that we will.
Ainslie: Try and make a film that reflects who you are. Try and make the film that only you can make.
Will: I would probably say: your ideas are valuable, so believe in them because they’re important. Don’t be afraid.
Ainslie: Try and remain open minded to possibilities that may present themselves. The more blinkered you are, the less you see things.