Laurie Hill’s new film 'Photograph of Jesus' recently won the 2009 McLaren Award for New British Animation at EIFF.
Laurie gained a BA in English at Royal Holloway, an MA in English at Kings College London and a BA in Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design as well as working for nine years as an information designer for a mainframe computer firm before embarking on an MA in Animation from the Royal College of Art in London from which he graduated in 2006. He is now a multi-award winning short film director whose work has been screened at international festivals all over the world, ranging across four continents – from USA and Canada to Spain, France, Finland and Germany to Singapore and Taipei to Australia.
Laurie was also a finalist in the Jerwood Moving Image Awards 2008, won the Getty Images / Short & Sweet short film Challenge 2008 as well as being selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2007. In addition to directing his own shorts, Laurie has worked with some of the most talented people in the commercial and music industry. He answers some questions for us, below.
Your connection to the British Council?
The British Council have supported me on their Festival Submission Scheme with my last three films. They've also helped me with travel expenses when I've attended the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto and, more recently, Tampere Film Festival in Finland.
Your current project?
I'm mostly doing the promotional rounds with my film Photograph Of Jesus at the moment. I have a couple of ideas for new shorts I'd love to get made so I've got my eyes peeled for any giant suitcases of cash that are lying around.
What/who originally turned you onto film?
I've been hooked on film since I was a child really - it probably started with an ancient black and white tv set in my bedroom. But as for making it myself, that was quite a gradual process. I'd been fiddling around with video cameras a bit when I could get hold of them at art college - they were in short supply - but things took a leap forward when I borrowed a friend's old super-8 camera just to play around with and discovered the single frame setting. I bought a few rolls of Tri-X and away I went!
Career high so far?
Probably winning Best Animation at Tampere Film Festival earlier this year. That felt like a special occasion as it was the first festival screening of Photograph Of Jesus and a big surprise for me - it's also the first time I've actually accepted an award in person and had the chance to do the whole acceptance speech routine!
Your first job in the film industry?
While I was still a student at the RCA, I was asked to pitch some ideas for U2 concert visuals - they weren't used in the end, which was a shame - but it felt like I was getting somewhere and a big change from the office job I'd been in just a few months before, working on PowerPoint presentations. A bigger scale at least!
'If I knew then what I know now…'
I hardly feel qualified to dish out advice as my career path has been pretty convoluted so far! Maybe something pragmatic like 'get yourself a backup hard drive, buddy!' or 'try not to knock the dang tripod'.
Favourite British film?
Does Mary Poppins count as a British Film? Probably not as Disney made it, but it maybe ticks a few British boxes somewhere ...? Too many reasons - great tunes, kindness to hungry animals, dancing fantasist chimney sweeps ... do I need to go on? It even squeezes in a satire of the banking system too! If I can't have Mary Poppins I'd probably have to go with something like Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes.
If you could have been involved in (directed, produced, acted in etc…) any film ever made, which one would it be?
I admire and enjoy other people's films but don't really have many envious thoughts about them - I'm always thinking about the hard work involved. Possibly the last film I saw that I thought looked like immense fun was Peter Jackson's King Kong remake - I remember seeing Skull Island and thinking 'yeah this guy's loving the opportunity to go wild with this crazy place and fill it with weird monsters'. I've done an 'island filled with creatures' film myself with My First Taste Of Death - on a slightly different scale perhaps, but I could appreciate where he was coming from!
What’s the first film you ever saw?
I've consulted my Mum on this and she says it was probably Robin Hood at the Odeon in Norwich.
Your favourite line or scene from a film?
Hmmm ... I don't have anything that I have to watch over and over obsessively but I confess I'm a bit of a sentimental fool when it comes to 'emotional moments of realisation and change'. It's all there in that Mary Poppins scene where the chimney sweep is singing to the banker father and you see his attitude beginning to change - it's in his face and voice - the perfect setup for a climactic blub-fest with Let's Go Fly A Kite. Likewise at the end of Buffalo 66 when Vincent Gallo changes his revenge-fuelled direction and sees other possibilities. He's straight off to the shop to buy his girl some treats! And Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind when Carey's memory is being erased but he wants to escape - typically mind-blowing magic from Gondry. Alternatively, there's Mulholland Drive for disconcerting moments of anxiety and terror. Maybe Zoolander when I want some laugh-my-socks-off silliness. It's a walk-off!
Favourite screen kiss?
What comes to mind is the end of Cinema Paradiso and the entire reel of kisses as the grown up hero Salvatore sits watching. Good value for screen smooching I reckon. Affirmatory but tear-jerking and poignant all at the same time, as you feel he might have missed out on true love in adult life.
Your favourite screen hero/villain?
As a child I went completely Star Wars-crazy - I saw it for the first time at what was the Dominion on Tottenham Court Road - smooth-talking cool guy Han Solo flying around in his Millenium Falcon made a huge impression on me at that age, not like wimpy little Luke Skywalker! A few years later, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley made a big impression too.
I find screen villainy more tricky: I'd probably go for some misunderstood creature on-the-loose like the queen in Aliens, a problematic character like Michael Douglas's screwed-up lead in Falling Down or horrible-but-funny Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner is great too.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
I'd probably do an animated version myself - alot of my work is autobiographical and totally self-obsessed anyway! I might use some Brad Pitt, Clint Eastwood, Cary Grant and Han Solo photos as reference though.