Berlinale Shorts 2023. Short Talk with Anthony Ing

Anthony Ing is a British and Canadian filmmaker and composer whose work explores existing cultural artefacts with a particular focus on the relationship between identity and performance. Co-founder of production outfit, Loop, they have produced a range of artist-led film and television projects since 2014, receiving awards at the Griersons, BFI London Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards.

At this year’s Berlinale Shorts, Tara Karajica talks to Anthony Ing about his short film “Jill, Uncredited,” the short form and what he is up to next.

What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Anthony Ing: I didn’t really feel an ambition to become a filmmaker specifically, but I’ve always had creative ambitions in film and music. In both cases, I think there’s an impulse to express ideas that play on my mind and bring about work that I myself would like to see. My hope is that then others might connect with it, and find some emotional or philosophical value for themselves.

How did Jill, Uncredited come about?

A.I.: I had the idea to do something about a background actor for a long time, but didn’t know a way in. Then one day, I stumbled across an online forum of film fans who enjoyed identifying the extras in the background of old films. Jill had been mentioned, but few of her appearances had been found. Someone on the forum got me in touch with Jill, who gave me a list of almost 2,000 jobs she’d worked over her career. Then, I started the enormous task of sourcing material, and finding Jill as much as possible.

You allow the audience to find Jill’s face in the crowd, you bring our attention to her – we are being reconditioned to notice her; you are thus reframing our perspective with this kind of evocation. Can you elaborate on that?

A.I.: I wanted people to consider the background in a broader sense. But I figured it would be a more effective sentiment if people found themselves automatically doing that when watching scenes Jill appears in, rather than constantly being prompted to. I think the realization that anyone can reframe their own perspective to consider things we are often expected to ignore is a valuable one.

In that sense, you manage not only to make Jill the primary subject of your film, but you also reset the footage in a way that she ephemerally becomes the protagonist of the film she is in. Can you delve deeper into that?

A.I.: Jill’s performances, whilst fleeting, are so distinctive and full of warmth. It felt right and in keeping with the concept that Jill should not just be a subject, but the lead role of the film. On the one hand, it’s a showcase of her beautiful performances, on the other, it’s a reminder that in a sense there are no such thing as background actors at all: everyone is a protagonist… or maybe no one is?

Can you talk about making the film i.e., the editing process and finding all the footage and sequences Jill appears in?

A.I.: I spent years collecting footage and laboriously trying to find Jill in the background of scenes. All I had for reference was a year and a title. Sometimes this could be – for instance – an unknown episode of a TV series, and I would spend several days going through all the episodes of that year to see if I could find Jill. Frequently, I failed to! But when I found her, it was always such a great feeling. Eventually, once I had a couple of hundred finds, I really had to stop looking for her, and started to build the film in the edit. The structure of the edit was at first guided by interviews with Jill herself as she spoke about experiences that were most significant to her, then I let her performances guide the rest of the way.

What do you think of the short form today? How is it in the UK?

A.I.: I’ve seen some great shorts, and my favorites are those that really creatively consider the form itself. Maybe the grass is always greener, but the state of shorts in the UK is not great, in particular I feel like our narrative fiction shorts are some of the worst. There are always people bucking that trend though, and I always feel very excited when someone manages to get something interesting and thought provoking off the ground.

What are your next projects?

A.I.: I’m working on a book adaptation, and might do some smaller projects in between. I’m also producing a couple of features out of my company Loop. Sorry to be so vague, but everything is in early stages!

Photo credits: Laura Lebeau.

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