Through beautiful hand drawn animation, Linnéa Haviland expresses how love and community can soothe hate and offer support in her experimental short film, Turning. She speaks to us about the joys of working with others and looking after yourself whilst working.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO DIRECTING?
LINNÉA: I studied animation at university and worked a lot collaboratively and experimentally during that time. After university I got a job as animation assistant for Hey Duggee and outside of that worked as a youth mentor and kept applying for exhibitions and visual arts opportunities. The first one I got was to make an art piece for an exhibition called 'youth uncovered' curated by a group of young people in secondary school. I decided to make a collaborative experimental animation together with the three girls in my group, and that kind of started off my career as an experimental filmmaker. I'm really interested in the collaborative process, and what comes out of that. I think a lot about who gets to call themselves an artist, why that is, and ways to break down that barrier into the arts and film. So I'd say I got into directing via visual arts. I now work part-time as an illustrator for a sexual health service, and make films outside of that.
WHERE DID THE CONCEPT OF THE STORY COME FROM?
LINNÉA: I wanted to tackle homophobia and transphobia in a way that wouldn't be triggering or trivializing in a short time frame. So from the start I knew I wanted to make something quite abstract and poetic, that dealt with the emotional aspects of hate crime but also the positive aspects of community and belonging that can counter those feelings. I had two development workshops with young people at Gendered Intelligence where we discussed and brainstormed ideas of how to abstractly represent feelings that arose around homo/bi/transphobia both in sound and image. One of the themes that came up was the the objective and the subjective experience, and how those feed into each other, so I decided to mix archive footage and animation to illustrate that. After our workshops I took what we'd talked about away with me and coupled with my own experiences, used them as a basis for the poem. After I'd written the poem I drew whatever came into my mind based on our discussions and the poem. Those drawings then became the basis for the animation.
DID YOU COME ACROSS ANY OBSTACLES DURING THE MAKING OF THE FILM? IF YES, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
LINNÉA: Yeah I did have a few – having to manage and organize the project myself was probably the biggest obstacle for me. I found it very stressful being the producer as well as director/creator, and the stress really impacted my health. It got me thinking a lot about how I make films in the future and ways of making the process more healthy for me. I had to do a lot of improvising along the way, like re-editing certain parts of the film if all the animation wasn't finished on time, but in the end it came together. It's always hard to tell before a project how much management and organization will have to go into it on your part, but I have learned more what to expect and also to be less of a perfectionist about it. Sometimes these things just are out of your control and you have to work with what you've got. Another obstacle was finding positive representation of LGBTQ+ in copyright-free archive footage...I spent days searching the internet in vain! In the end I got in touch with Liverpool Library and the amazing Sandi Hughes who's video archive they host and have put up on youtube. Her archive spans decades of events and moments of Black and LGBTQ+ local community history in Liverpool, and she kindly let me use some footage in the film with the permission of the people featured.
WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE EXPERIENCE OF MAKING THIS FILM?
LINNÉA: The making! I loved having the workshops at Gendered Intelligence, brainstorming and coming up with ideas together with the young people. Also animating together with Simji in my living room, with stacks of paper everywhere! I really like working with other people, it really motivates and inspires me, so those days where I got to work with other people were really amazing.
WHAT WAS IT THAT LED YOU TO TACKLE ISSUES IN YOUR FILM SUCH AS HOMOPHOBIA, BIPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA WITH HAND DRAWN ANIMATION?
LINNÉA: I think the tactile nature of hand-drawn animation communicates a closeness that feels very personal and emotional. I like the looseness of it, how it can shift and morph and boil with each frame, and for me that really captures emotionality. Because of how short the film was I wanted to cut straight to the feelings of experiencing homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, and I think that hand-drawn animation captures that raw emotionality in the medium itself.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE AUDIENCE TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR FILM?
LINNÉA: I think the beauty of experimental film is that everyone will interpret it differently! I'm really looking forward to hearing what people take away from it, I don't have a specific message in mind that I want the audience to get. If anything I want them to feel something. My thoughts when I was making the ending was around how, despite the anti-LGBTQ+ hate we experience, there is something really beautiful and precious about being able to express who you are and to share that with someone. So maybe the audience will feel that, or maybe they will feel something completely different! I'm looking forward to finding out.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
LINNÉA: I just finished a short animated film called Hands that I made together with poet Yomi Sode and local kids and young people during an artist residency at Peckham Library. I'm currently doing the festival run with both Turning and and my other film A Different Category and I'm going to Short Film Festival Oberhausen with ADC in May! After that I want to see if I can get some funding or work with a producer to another short animation. I have a few ideas I want to develop, but probably one where I work collaboratively with a group of people during workshops for a longer period of time. Both Hands and A Different Category were made this way, and I'm really interested in developing this way or working more.
ONLY 4% OF THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILMS IN THE PAST DECADE WERE DIRECTED BY WOMEN, BEING A FEMALE DIRECTOR CAN BE DISHEARTENING IN THIS ENVIRONMENT. WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE FOR ASPIRING FEMALE DIRECTORS OUT THERE?
LINNÉA: Don't undersell yourself, and fake it till you make it. Even if you feel you don't “deserve” to be paid a certain amount, ask for it anyways. Just acting assertive and confident about being worth whatever amount of money I'm asking for has worked for me, and I've gotten what I've asked for so far (even though I often don't feel that confident inside!). I've never accepted unpaid work on principle, and I think that has actually been really helpful. I have taken on badly paid jobs, but only if I feel that I get something out of it personally (like to make a film for my portfolio/that I can send to festivals, or a good development opportunity for me). Sadly I find people often try to take advantage of you, so you need to have boundaries and assertive. Which if you are socialized as female you are conditioned not to be. I have found that that can be really hard and stressful. Which leads to my second bit of advice...find a healthy way of working! Creative work isn't worth it if it's detrimental to your physical and mental health in my opinion. Finding community and support from other creatives who respect and value you really helps when facing the disheartening environment! My goals for the next year is to find more of that!
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
Turning is showing in the IN THE PLACE OF THE REAL shorts collection on Wed 27 March. For tickets and information please visit here. You can view the trailer below along with links to the film makers social media platforms.