Canadian Film Centre alumni John Ainslie is best known for writing the throwback horror comedy JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER. His screenplay was nominated for a Fangoria Chainsaw Award and the film won Best Midnight Film at the prestigious Sitges International Film Festival 2009.
Prior to writing, John worked as a Director of Photography and won the Borsos prize of Best Cinematographer at the Whistler Film Festival for his work on the feature SK8 LIFE.
After honing his directing craft on short films, John wrote and directed his first feature film – the award winning THE SUBLET - “One of the most effective psychological horror films of the decade.” (horrorgeeklife.com). It premiered at Whistler Film Festival and won the awards for Best Actress and Best Cinematography at Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival.
John has followed that up with the intense thriller SHE CAME KNOCKING. Called “one of the best short dramatic films I’ve seen in years” by Greg Klymkiw of The Film Corner, it was awarded Best Short Film at Canadian Film Festival in Toronto where it premiere and won a Remi Award at WorldFest-Houston.
Photo: Jovan Matic
Who, or what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
When I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist like Indiana Jones. Then I saw a behind the scenes about making the tunnel he runs down to escape the big rolling rock and I thought that looked like more fun so I saved up my money and bought myself a camcorder when I was 14 or so. From that moment on I had a lot of people in my life that supported me and kept me going.
What film can you not live without and why?
2001: A Space Odyssey. It is hands down the best film ever made. I watch it at least once a year and marvel at what Stanley Kubrick accomplished in 1968 - a year before we even went to the moon - conspiracy theories aside... Every time I watch it I’m amazed at how, for a film that on the surface seems void of much emotion, Kubrick can make turning a computer off a teary scene. And the work they did in outer space is still better than most of the space scenes I see on TV. It’s one thing to take techniques and adapt them, but what Kubrick and Doug Trumbull did with that film is entirely mind boggling and the closest thing to “genius” ever accomplished with film.
What film do you currently find yourself watching ad nauseam? And what about it keeps bringing you back?
I go through phases with films. 2001, I watch every year. There are a some films like Thin Red Line, Hud or Taxi Driver that I rewatch. On the more current side I could watch Zero Dark Thirty over and over again. I enjoy films where you can feel the film’s world outside of the main story.
Has a modern film impacted you lately? If so, what film, and how?
Blue Ruin really had a big impact on me. It sort of hits on everything I like about movies. This great mix of drama and action with a gritty stylish edge, but reality based tone.
How do you continue to educate yourself as a filmmaker?
I reach out to other filmmakers and try to talk experiences as much as possible. Learn from other people’s mistakes as much as my own. I read as much info as I can. I watch a lot of interviews, love the Hollywood Round tables.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as a filmmaker?
What’s great about making films in Canada?
Well I’ve only made one feature film in Canada and I’ve never made a feature outside of Canada so I’m not sure I’m qualified to really answer this question.
What Canadian film inspires you?
I really like Fubar. It just has such a Can-Do attitude about it, No money? No resources? No worries! You just go out and you give’r. You keep on working hard. Yeah, that’s a plan right there.
What do you love about the art of filmmaking and why?
I really shy away from tossing that “art” word around for what I do. Filmmaking is far more of a craft than an art. But, that aside, what I love is to do is create atmosphere. I love movies that have tone. I’m far more interested in tone and atmosphere as a viewer and a filmmaker than I am story.