Having access to top contacts in the advertising production world can go a long way in getting your directing career off the ground. But Craig Ainsley, who works part-time as a creative at Anomaly London, hadn’t even considered the path until showing a script to Blink EP, James Bland, which resulted in him stepping behind the lens to shoot his short, Lesley.

The film, shot in Epping Forest, Essex, is a monologue-style piece about a work-obsessed actor, Arj, who wants to forget the world for five minutes and gather his thoughts in the wild. But once in the leafy location, he finds that he just can’t let go of the possibility of bagging that next role. “He’s trying to take a break from the pressures of work and the city; get back to nature for a moment to feel connected. But then, when he’s there he’s completely distracted by his desires for success, status and fame,” explains the director.

Throughout the piece we are acquainted with the actor’s agent, Lesley, who calls on the phone with endless opportunities that could lead to Arj’s big break. However, what ensues is a string of one-sided conversations that result in him winning a part in a toothpaste commercial as a tooth, highlighting his somewhat deluded desperation. “Arj will always take Lesley’s call. He could be at a funeral and he’d find a way to take it. Or he’d secretly text her whilst trying to listen to the eulogy,” muses Ainsley.

Having been in the industry for around a decade with spells at agencies such as St. Luke’s, TBWA and Mother, the creative-turned-director knows the feeling of being sucked into the industry. “I learned a hell of a lot but it takes up a great deal of your mental energy and I was trying to do other things. One day I found myself quitting,” he says. “I took some time out and went to film school, did some occasional comedy writing jobs, including BBC comedy shows.”

Along with James Bland, another big industry name Ainsley managed to get advice from was Rattling Stick director, Ringan Ledwidge. “Luckily, at the same time I was prepping, I was working with Ringan – he was directing an ad I’d written so I pestered him during the shoot and picked his brain. I probably really annoyed him, but he was pretty damn helpful.”

Towards the end of the film it emerges that despite thinking he was lost, Arj is actually only metres from his car all along, further highlighting the idea of being immersed in work and not having time for loved ones.

As for Lesley, Ainsley says her voice on the other end of the line can be seen as symbolic for ambition and what we want to achieve in life: “I like that we never meet her,” he states. “She represents opportunity. Maybe we’re all waiting for our own version of Lesley to call.”

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