​Five minutes with: Abigail Addison

The BAFTA-nominated producer spoke to us about animation, making contacts and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

A colourful pencil drawing of Abigail Addison wearing a green jumper with black polka dots.

Abigail Addison

Drawn by Kate Anderson

What are you working on right now?

I am finishing up two films, Bloomers (2018) by animated documentary maker Samantha Moore, made with Swedish composer Malin Bång; and The Flounder (2018) by Elizabeth Hobbs, made with German composer Carola Bauckholt. The films were commissioned by Klangforum Wien, and will premiere at the ECLAT Festival in Stuttgart, plus we will be taking the films on a UK-wide tour later in the year. I’m about to go into production with artist Dominica Harrison on an exciting short called Dacha, which is being supported by BFI NETWORK.

What originally turned you onto film?

As an uncultured teenager seeing Czech artist Jan Svankmajer’s Alice (1988) late night on Channel 4 opened my eyes to the possibilities of film and animation as a way of bringing the dark recesses of your mind to life. Here Alice is played by a real child who is led on a journey around a warped version of her home after she decides to follow a taxidermied rabbit that comes to life. It’s so wonderfully disturbing. Everyone should watch it, though maybe not before bed.

What was your first job in the film industry?

As a youth I would never have dreamed that I could have worked on anything as cool as a film or animation, so wasn’t aiming in that direction. My careers adviser suggested becoming a librarian, but I thought I might try to work in theatre production or arts administration. My first job that paved the way was working as an assistant in the Visual Arts department at Arts Council England where I met my colleague and pal Gary Thomas and got involved in this weird and wonderful scheme called Animate. The rest, as they say, is history.

What has been your career high so far?

Being nominated for a BAFTA for I’m OK (2018). I only realised we’d been chosen when my chum and regular collaborator Chris Shepherd sent me a congratulatory text. Still pretty much on a high about that news!

What’s your connection to the British Council?

Most recently, I was fortunate to receive a travel grant to attend the Clermont-Ferrand Short International Film Festival this year with I’m OK (2018), a film my company Animate Projects co-produced with artist Elizabeth Hobbs and Jelena Popović from the National Film Board of Canada. And the British Council supported me to attend Annecy last year for the worldwide premiere of the film. Additionally, eight shorts I've produced were included in the British Council’s UK animation 2018 catalogue. So all in all lots of connections, and hopefully more to come.

What key piece of advice would you give to someone starting off in filmmaking?

Collaboration is key to filmmaking.

Get to know writers, composers, editors, cinematographers, sound designers, producers, animators, production designers etc., and ask their advice early on in the development of your project. Particularly people working with sound. It’s easy to get caught up in the creation of the visual aspects, but the sound needs to be as strong.

What is your favourite British film?

Carol Morley’s The Alcohol Years (2000), where Carol goes back to Manchester to interview people who knew her in the early 80s. At the time it was one of the few films that foregrounded a woman’s sexuality, and bisexuality, made by a woman filmmaker. At times it’s really funny, and at times really uncomfortable to watch, as people reveal things directly to the camera that most people would find difficult to hear about themselves. It’s smart filmmaking with heart.

If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). It is so well made and on such a tiny budget - that production design, that score - it’s a masterpiece in horror filmmaking. I’d like to travel back in time and be able to stop those fresh-faced filmmakers giving away their IP and working with a dishonest distributor.

What’s the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?

The Dark Crystal (1982) as I was terrified by the evil Skeksis characters. I know now they’re only puppets!

This article was first published in February 2019.

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