Austin Charlesworth has been working with moving images for many years. He was involved as an animator on award-winning series for the BBC, S4C and CHANEL 5, working under tight budgets and deadlines. Austin created infographic-style corporate staff training videos for RBS and REED LEARNING, illustrations for FUTURELABS and storyboards for the ENVIRONMENT AGENCY, CALON and EALING ANIMATION. He has also written and script edited video projects for DIMRESFILMS, SIRIOL and PPP.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
Yes, certainly. Trucking around the universe seeing amazing sights and light years away from the boss checking up on you. A clean utopia like the Star Trek universe would probably be the most comfortable to live in.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
Since a very early age, I related to the non-human characters who always had the attitude of “why do humans do such stupid stuff?” The first one for me was Mr Spock. My sci-fi spirit beings would have to be the robots from Interstellar. Like me, they are often being asked to reduce the humor by 23%.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
I think for the next 100 years robots will always be seen as the incompetent workers. Crashing cars, programs corrupting, batteries failing…etc. We put our faith in them, especially at work, but then they break down and the company is on hold until it is fixed. It’s taken 40 years for us to finally have reliable office printers. If any robot out there wants to give me a job, they have my full backing.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
Toon Squad? I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong with Zapp Brannigan, Johnny Bravo and Killface on my team. But if I was flying a spaceship and I needed to get things done I don’t think I could have a handier crew than Wash, R2-D2 and Poe (Altered Carbon, not Star Wars).
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I’m not sure there are any bad ideas. Most of the problems come from the executions of the ideas. Is it too complicated? Does it only make sense in my mind? Have I made the audience care about a character? Have I wasted everyone’s time with clumsy exposition? I try to get friends to reads drafts of the scripts to make sure what’s in my mind has made it to paper, and then to watch early cuts of the films to make sure what was on the page made it to the shoot and then the edit. When you have a project in your head it’s difficult to be objective about it. You need your beta readers and test audience when starting out.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
My sci-fi community live very far apart and we need all the technologies available to communicate. Having a filmmaking brain but an unrelated 9-5 job is quite restrictive.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
When I was an art student I wished there was a way I could just delete rogue pen lines or layers of paint. Now that technology is available, I feel like I need to learn traditional skills before digital ones. I’m always caught between new technologies and still wanting to master the now obsolete ones.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Our set designer used the inside of a washing machine as the base for his matte painting of an alien atrium. Industrial design is a popular inspiration among us. Also the designs of Syd Mead. For physical props I’d go down charity shops and discount stores and look to see what I could repurpose.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Wars, Phillip K. Dick, Practical (when we can afford it), Dystopia for stories, Utopia for personal comfort, Post-Apocalypse.