Short Stuff: The Making Of Longbird (1)


Writer/director Will Anderson describes the building blocks of his BAFTA-nominated short, The Making of Longbird, where the mix of fantasy and reality and the idea of animation as 'giving life' are key. He is nominated alongside co-writer Ainslie Henderson.

The last 18 months have been pretty overwhelming for Longbird and I.

The Making of Longbird is my graduation film. I remember saying to my tutor at the Edinburgh College of Art after its completion: “I don’t think this is a festival-friendly film.” It’s since screened at over 40 film festivals around the world and picked up around 20 awards. Slightly more than I’d expected…

I didn’t make much animation before attending the ECA. I made bits and pieces on a DV camera when I was young, and a stop-motion animation on an 8mm camera, but apart from that everything was about drawing.

Attending college made everything much more about filmmaking, and really shaped what I want to do.

"I believe that animation should have a reason for being used. My films are not exclusively animated, as live-action helps ground a story in reality."


With The Making Of Longbird, I wanted to make a film that skewed the history of animation and blurred the line between reality and fantasy. Animation is the perfect medium for this. Animation means ‘to give life’, so I wanted to give life to an old forgotten auteur animator from the late 19th/early 20th Century, construct an accurate history of an abstract bird who was once famous, pull him out of the past and try to make him work today. That was the idea.

I believe that animation should have a reason for being used. My films are not exclusively animated, as live-action helps ground a story in reality. I’m also interested in mixing techniques in order to fulfil my stories. The Making Of Longbird has a documentary feel about it. I love documentaries; they’re about life, and balance fact and fiction carefully.

So, with some amazing people, I made a film about a long bird. It then started to screen internationally, premiering at Warsaw Film Festival in late 2011, winning the Short Grand Prix. This stunned me. Soon after it went on a roll, screening and winning at a range of film festivals, including: Annecy, Stuttgart, Zagreb and London International Animation Festival.

I’ve tried to attend as many festivals as possible, which has been particularly beneficial for me. Having a film at an event gives you an identity. People associate you with your film and it’s great to be able to discuss your work and strengthen your own ideas listening to others. However, there’s a reason I see myself as more of an Animator; I’m pretty shy at the best of times and prefer to remain behind the camera.

Being nominated for the BAFTA for Short Animation is mind-blowing, and everyone involved is delighted. It’s really made me think of future projects and how I can get better at what I do.

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