INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR HENRY SMITH

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I began my filmmaking career as a high-school student making a film about what I knew. Having endured years of bullying throughout school for being a creative child and doing things differently, I created ‘Larry’, a 9 minute stop-motion animation that would change the course of my life. ‘Larry’ depicted my experiences of being bullied, and toured the world’s film festivals, picking up festival awards and recognition globally. I quickly discovered the cultural changing power that storytelling has!

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

It all depends on the individual, and the school. My wife thrived in film school and went on to do her Masters in Directing. On the other hand, I left my undergraduate in film half way through the course and instead volunteered on feature films. I wanted to get hands on experience and learn how the industry really worked.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Once you have a story that you really believe in, you’re off and running. But you really need to believe in it, enough so that if (when!) things go wrong, your passion to tell the story overpowers any hurdle that comes you way! Our film ‘I Didn’t Like Hubert’ took four years to make so it was key that our team felt passionately about the story.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Collaboration! My first film I made completely on my own. You read the credits and it’s “Henry this” and “Henry that”. The problem with this, is the film will only be as good as you are. But working together with great people creates so many opportunities for amazing ideas that we wouldn’t have had on our own. To collaborate well, we need to let go of control, and fight relentlessly for the outcome of what you can create together as a team.

And even better than creating a great film, when you collaborate well, you get to share the journey.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Our film began as a simple script that my wife wrote with intentions of creating a children’s picture book. But when I read her first draft, I fell in love with bringing this important story to life on screen. As filmmakers we are passionate about representing all voices in society in the stories that we tell, so we asked the very talented actor, Gerard O’Dwyer to voice Hubert. Gerard is a marvelous Australian actor who happens to also have Down Syndrome and he brought so much to the story. We were also fortunate enough to secure Angela Kinsey (The Office US) as our Narrator, so we flew from Australia to LA to record her VO in person with Gerard as we felt this important to bring our cast together.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

I find the biggest hurdle to overcome is confidence in your own voice. Early on particularly, we often look to how other filmmakers work or the stories that they tell. But it’s so important that we stick to our lane and tell the stories that we believe in in the best way that we can, and be confident with our own creative voice.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I am fortunate to work with a team of very talented creatives at our production company, Taste Creative. We have assembled a team of not just clever artists, but people that we love working with. Integral to developing a strong team is you have to like each other! I am very blessed to work with people that I love doing life with.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Audiences want and need to see themselves reflected in the stories that we tell, otherwise we feel that we don’t matter. I love the surge of diversity in films at the moment, and we are working hard towards inclusivity throughout the entire filmmaking process.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Without great film festivals, many of our greatest films, particularly shorts, would not reach audiences. It is these platforms that gives people an opportunity to enjoy the stories that we tell. Film festivals are a brilliant springboard for filmmakers to make the leap from short films into longer format production.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Filmmakers should fundamentally tell stories that they feel passionately for. From there, how they bring that story to life, whether employing traditional techniques or completely innovative ideas, must serve the story. I switch off when I see really ‘glossy’ films but have missed the story. Story is the most important thing to get right!