Animation Interview 2019
"Directing, especially as an animator is a lonely process and you really have to keep producing work and trusting yourself in the decisions you are making."
My Dad's Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet.
An intimate and insightful documentary short unravelling the state of mind of the directors late alcoholic father through the poems he left behind. 15 years after his father died, Freddie was given a stack of poems that he had written. This poems are now the only tangible item he has of his, these poems he so clearly used as a release for his torment are now Freddie’s way to better understand the illness that consumed him.
Hey Freddie, it's great to talk with you, how have things going?
Hi, yeah you too. Things are going well thank you!
Congratulations on My Dad's Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet being shortlisted for the BAFTA British Animation 2020 award, what was it like to hear this news?
Pretty surreal if I’m honest. You hope that the film does well after all the efforts you’ve put into the project, but this is another level. I’m extremely grateful to even get this far.
My Dad's Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet is your graduate film, did you have any apprehensions about making such a personal film?
Yeah I did, but I guess I was apprehensive more of the idea of how I would deal with the making of the project rather than anyone else’s opinion of it. The film led to me finding out things about my dad I probably never would have so I was aware of constantly checking my own well being throughout the making of the film so I didn’t run myself into the ground. Having said that the project was driven by curiosity to uncover and learn about my dad who I knew very little about, so it was as much a film to tell his story as it were for me to understand him and find closure within that.
When did you first discover our late fathers poems?
When I was around 21/22, my mum told me he used to write a lot and that his uncle was given his poetry after he died, so I asked for them out of interest.
"Being in charge of not only the directing and animating of a project but also the voice, the sound and any other assistance you may need is a lot to juggle."
Have these poems helped you to getter understand your father?
In some ways yeah. I feel I’ve got a better understanding of his addiction and his personal struggle with that. The poems have given me a more sympathetic view of him as a father figure, one which allows me to understand there was more to it than my dad just being an alcoholic. I can now see the sadness he felt having to deal with this sickness that consumed him, he was a man who battled his demons on a daily basis, not just a man who made poor decisions.
As a graduate of The Royal College of Art, what would you say have been the most important lessons you've taken from your time there?
Organization! You're forced to quickly learn how to properly structure a project. Being in charge of not only the directing and animating of a project but also the voice, the sound and any other assistance you may need is a lot to juggle. I now know what is involved in producing an animated short film and the key to achieving what you’ve set out in the time constraints you have solely comes down to how you coordinate the production.
You won the Passion Animation Prize 2019, what did winning this award mean to you?
Yeah this was a huge turning point for me I think. My year group at RCA was full of super talented film makers and to get the prize itself was incredible competitive, so when I won it was a huge confidence boost for me going into the final production, I’m very grateful to Passion for awarding me that.
Are you been able to enjoy the attention/process of awards and nominations or have you tried to keep it out your mind?
I mean any selection to a festival is a big deal to me, this films really the first one I feel proud in putting out there so for it to be recognized anywhere is an achievement. Having said that being shortlisted for a BAFTA hits home, this is a massive accomplishment for me.
Can you tell me a little bit about My Dad's Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet, what was the inspiration behind your film?
The film was primarily driven by my want to uncover things about my dad which weren’t largely spoken about in my family, not so much because they were hidden but more to protect me from certain truths so as not to have any tarnished opinion of him.
After discovering these poems that he had written and seeing this troubled side to him with his addiction I knew I wanted to use his words try and convey what he went through. This being done to give a voice to a side of alcoholism which you don’t largely see in film and for me to comprehend what it was like in his shoes and get better understand and gain closure with what inevitably killed him.
Have you always had a passion for animation?
I started off with an interest in Illustration initially, whilst studying my BA at Manchester School of Art I made the transition into animation at the end of my second year and I haven’t looked back since. I feel telling stories and getting my point across comes a lot more naturally when things are moving rather than a stand alone illustration.
How has your style and approach to your films as a writer/director changed since your debut?
Well I’d consider this film my debut in a way really. It’s the first film where I feel my confidence in style and story telling is where I want it to be. This has come after years on figuring out my voice as a creative though, finding a style which I now feel comfortable with going forward and developing.
What have been the biggest challenges you faced with My Dad's Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet?
I’d say the biggest challenge was doing justice to my dads poetry. These poems seemed to be therapeutic to him, a way of getting out his inner thoughts so I worried about not representing them right or giving a false portrayal of an alcoholic. But how you interpret poetry is a very personal, this differs completely from person to person so I had to trust myself and the decisions I made. I’d like to think I’ve done a good job.
What has been the best advice you have been given?
Probably to try be as honest with the depiction of your subject as you can, especially with this film I knew I had to tell it with complete honesty as there was no other way to tell it. I feel films which have resonated with me have been films which tell it as it is, sometimes opening yourself up to the viewer allows more to be taken away from it.
As a filmmaker what advice would you offer fellow writer/director?
It feels strange to give advice when I feel as if I’m still trying to navigate animating/directing myself but the main thing I’d say is to stay persistent with it. Directing, especially as an animator is a lonely process and you really have to keep producing work and trusting yourself in the decisions you are making. Creating a film can be incredibly draining and at some points mentally exhausting, so you need to have confidence in yourself and what you are creating and its important to take a step back from it now and again to take a break to re-evaluate things. Having these moments allow you to tackle these kinks with a fresh perspective.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from My Dad's Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet?
I’d love for people to see this as presenting a bigger picture of what it's like to live as an alcoholic, and maybe challenge the pre conceived ideas we have of alcoholism. By giving an interesting voice to a struggling addict I’d like to think it shows the complexities of addiction can be a lot bigger than what it may seem.