UA5: Much of your work is done in a very dark style. How did this style develop?
ATH: Lotta my stuff ends up darker than I intend to, it’s kind of automatic I guess. Growing up I was really into art by people like Ralph Steadman, Eiko Ishioka, Sir Arthur Rackham, Frida Khalo, Dave Mckean and Joel Peter Witkin, and I was also really into Jim Henson, everything from the Muppets to Labyrinth and his Storyteller series, so I guess I kind of started there.
UA5: You’ve said that Doll Face was your first video to be discovered by a large audience. Why do you think this video was so successful? What about it do you imagine resonated with the audience?
ATH: I think it’s safe to say everyone goes through image/identity issues at some point or another, and I was particularly in it from high school to college which is when I made the film. It has a classic 3 part story structure, so I think the film is just really relatable for a lot of people. It also happened to be at the right place/right time, back when Youtube was only 2 years old and only featured 5 videos a week. So I just got lucky with the exposure too.
UA5: Who do you currently look to for inspiration and ideas?
ATH: I’m constantly researching nature or science related articles. Direct observation and hikes are always great. I find that the more I draw consistently everyday the more lucid I am in general. I also read a lot – lately I’ve been reading about filmmaker Maya Deren’s journey into Haitian Voudoun and also philosophy reads by Timothy Morton, an ecological minded academic who has a lot to say about O-O-O (object oriented ontology), which has sort of been a hot topic among the “post-internet” art community for the past few years.
UA5: How do you pick up new filming and special effects techniques? What was taught and what is discovered through experimentation?
ATH: Youtube tutorials and just tinkering for hours and hours of my life. I taught myself 2D and 3D software when I was in middle school, starting with stuff like Corel Draw and shitty CG programs that don’t exist anymore, and eventually graduated to Maya and After Effects when I was transitioning into high school so I started early. Every time I set out to complete a project from beginning to end, I inevitably encounter problems and learn a lot that way, so I’m constantly learning on every job.
UA5: When did music become important to your life? What did you listen to in your formative years?
ATH: My parents made me take piano lessons when I was 4 years old and it was honestly the best gift. I also grew up on a diet of their music, ranging from Motown to Vivaldi to Paul Simon, so I had a good mix.
UA5: Can you tell us about your latest work with Bjork, “Black Lake”? Where do you start when you need to take an auditory experience and make it visual?
ATH: Black Lake was a 2 year endeavor so there’s so much to say. But in short, as a director I always have to respect context context context. This song is one of Bjork’s most vulnerable in her 30 year career, so the project had to be handled with incredible care, ambition yet also restraint. The film is ultimately about Bjork and the authenticity of her performance so I had the task of creating the backdrop for her and chose Iceland at night to be the setting for what was ultimately a nocturnal heart break opera. I also have the task of capturing the complexity of Bjork’s identity – not simply creating a piece that feels baroque-nostalgic but also one that embraces the future-facing technology-embracing qualities of Bjork, which is why we chose to expand our format to an installation and utilizing motifs like the blue-lava and heavy Houdini simulations and landscape photogrammetry captures by Xrez & Autodesk. Many moving parts, but ultimately again I have to consider the core of the piece, which is so personal and that needs to be respected first and foremost when I make a film with any artist.
UA5: What’s your next ideal project, and what would you create if anything was possible?
ATH: I want to make a movie about climate change, but done in a sort of fairy-tale dream logic. The gravity of the situation is so hard for us to comprehend: that a styrofoam cup could outlive the existence of our species, and so I think a film about this needs to be handled in an intelligent, metaphoric way that I hope reaches people. Still early days but hoping to make it real some day.