#BonfireStories — Introducing Filmmaker and writer Haley Anderson

Haley Anderson | Photo Credit: Jomo Fray

Q:When it comes to storytelling, where do you get your inspiration from?

Right now, I’m inspired by true stories, real events: my childhood, the people I grew up around, the people I love, the people I meet when I travel, the places I have gotten stranded in; overheard conversations. I try to read a lot of nonfiction and news stories from different parts of the world. I especially try to understand certain experiences or issues through the lens of my own life. I find that lately if it’s not true to my own emotional experience, I can’t tell that story. But that’s how I feel in this exact moment. I think my approach will change and I look forward to changing and discovering. Also, music, poetry and photography drives a lot of what I do.

Q: In your movie pillars, Why did you choose to tell a story that navigates intimacy and the church?

Having spent part of my early childhood in a few churches, I was interested in capturing what it feels like to be a small, unseen, yet curious person in a space that’s so influential and important to the older people around you. I started with images from my past and the spaces where I would go to escape authority, like the bathroom stall. I wanted to explore the tension between the emotions of self- revelation and a certain brand of religion: the feelings are indefinable when everything else is being defined for you. I ultimately wanted to reconcile these things to the other experience of encountering an entity that’s also indefinable — the discovery of something ever-present and not hostile. I didn’t want to do that in a big way. I wanted to explore it in one image.

Q:Pillars just debuted at the Sundance film festival. How important is this to you personally, and to your career?

I think Sundance was a great experience in gaining more visibility. I was very happy with how our short was received and was extremely grateful to have been selected. It was pretty amazing. Meeting other filmmakers, though, was the highlight. It’s always wonderful to meet people who love to do the exact same thing from the other side of the world, country, or even in the same neighborhood — it makes you feel connected in a way that’s incredibly motivating and comforting, especially when the people you’ve been in different programs with are presenting work as well.

Q:What hidden part of the film are you most privately proud of and why?

I’m not sure about privately proud, but I found unexpected and private solace in the film and that was unexpected. The project came together quite quickly and we finished it in what felt like no time at all. Last year was one the of most difficult times of my life so I didn’t think about or watch the film that much; when it was selected for Sundance it was a complete surprise. Sometimes, you discover meaning in things years after, but it happened for me in the first screening we had at Sundance, with in the final image of the film. It’s somehow very consoling to me now. Seeing it on a big screen for the first time felt like someone from the future telling me, “I think it’s gonna be okay.” That’s what it ultimately means in the film anyway. I’m glad to have it.

Q:Tell us about being vulnerable in your work? Do you think there’s a line?

I want my work to be raw. My work oftentimes helps me process life. I do think a line should be drawn when vulnerability makes it impossible to do the work, the process. Otherwise, I think there’s a certain quality of work that emerges when vulnerable. You always have to keep the craft in mind. Vulnerability should be in the work, but you also have to make sure the work is good. I pour my heart out in my work, but I want my craft to be excellent. They go hand in hand at times, but it’s an art form, a practice rather than a constant purge. If the work is good when I’m vulnerable, then great. If it’s not, then I have to take a step back. I’ve been feeling quite raw as of late and have been the most vulnerable writing my latest project and I think much of that feeling is valuable to the story I’m trying to tell. The characters are extremely vulnerable, so it’s fitting that I happen to be as well.

Q:When did you realize you wanted to be a filmmaker? Was there an exact moment, or was it more gradual?

I always wanted to be a storyteller. I was always writing something or recording something on old cassette recorders or taking pictures on disposable cameras. I think it was when I was sixteen or so when I decided that I couldn’t do anything else. There was no back-up plan.

Q:What would you say is your unique responsibility as a filmmaker?

These things are difficult for me to define, but right now, I think I only have the responsibility to tell a good story, to be as authentic as I possibly can. To be truthful to the human experience: the experiences and the relationships we have to each other and the environments in which we exist.

Q:What’s next for you?

I’m writing and developing my first feature. I’m in the middle of Wyoming right now, staring out at a snowy field, finishing the final draft.

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