Prano Bailey-Bond

Prano Bailey-Bond grew up in rural Wales, obsessed with films and painting. She thought she wanted to be an actress for a little while, but when she studied Performing Arts she realised she was much more interested in shaping performances with an outside eye and in directing, editing and designing for the screen, rather than for theater. She moved to London to get industry experience and studied Film and Video at what was then the London College of Printing. Following this, she worked as a runner/assistant in post houses, on sets and on feature animations. Eventually, she ended up working for a friend’s company where she started editing professionally – basically because someone didn’t turn up to work one day. She was always making her own shorts and music videos alongside all these jobs. Then, the more work she produced off her own back, the more interest she got. People seemed to like what she was doing so she got to travel around to film festivals and show her work. She made films with whatever means she had available, and she thinks that, in some ways, these restrictions made her more creative and taught her a lot. 

Tara Karajica caught up with her at this year’s Berlinale.



You say you grew up “on a diet of Twin Peaks in the depths of a strange Welsh community”. Can you comment on that? How has Twin Peaks informed and influenced your taste and, subsequently, your filmmaking?

Prano Bailey-Bond: That’s an interesting question, and I’m not entirely sure what the answer is… Watching Twin Peaks when I was a kid was something that felt quite special. I was still in primary school when it was first aired in the UK, and none of my friends at school were watching it. I probably wouldn’t have been had I not always wanted to do whatever my older siblings were doing. It became kind of my treat to stay up late on a Saturday to watch it. There’s something about the bizarreness of Lynch’s work that really appealed to me as a kid, and still does now. I love how you don’t always understand everything, and how that’s OK and it’s still irresistibly captivating. I think watching Lynch’s work as a kid shaped a little part of my brain – sort of showed me that Cinema is an art form that can be used to explore strange ideas and weird worlds and dark human impulses – the kind of things that have always interested me. I grew up in the countryside, surrounded by forest, which means that I had a lot of time and space to be in my imagination and to create things – drawings, projects and things. As a teenager, I had so many ideas about people and the world and the way things are perceived, and art and performance were a way of exploring them. I would watch whatever films we had on video on repeat (my options were limited – it was the ‘80s/’90s (no Internet) and the closest cinema was a 30-minute drive), I sort of studied them, and would burrow into projects that I’d set up for myself. I think all this informs my style and process as a filmmaker now.

Your work invokes imaginative worlds fusing a dark vocabulary with eerie allure, revealing how beauty resides in strange places. What attracts you to that? Can you explain it?

P.B-B.: I’m drawn to mystery and using mystery to explore bigger ideas. Human brains are funny things; they want to make sense of everything, but not everything makes sense… I love creating dark mysterious worlds that represent the inner worlds of my characters. The worlds of my films are often the starting point for me, and are very, very important. The things that intrigue me can be dark and unsettling – I’m fascinated by fears and the things that we repress. But I also think there’s a lot of beauty and power in what we traditionally consider “bad” or negative. There’s certainly a power or catharsis in exploring them. But take sadness for example; sadness can only exist with hope and love coming before it, so there’s something really beautiful about sadness. I like things that can be emotionally divisive because I think that’s true to life; sometimes sad things can also be funny, and sometimes scary things can also be beautiful. Life is a bit complex like that.

You are interested in seeing female characters and relationships on screen that feel refreshingly real. Can you elaborate on that?

P.B-B.: I’m interested in seeing refreshingly real characters full stop, whether they’re male or female. I think that’s what we all want – to see characters on screen who are as complex and convoluted as people can be in real life. Many of my shorts have actually featured male protagonists, but at the moment I’m writing mostly about women. I want to tell stories about everyone though. What I see going on right now is a big, overdue kind of “re-brand” of women, and gender in general, really. I think this makes female characters especially interesting and important in the current climate.

Why do you focus on the horror/supernatural genre? 

P.B-B.: I don’t really set out to make horror, as strange as that might sound… It’s more that the ideas I have “fit” horror, and I hope that means that I approach the genre in a refreshing way. I usually have an idea or a theme that I want to explore, and the horror comes out of the idea, rather than seeing the genre “shape” and trying to find something that fits it. I think horror is a really imaginative genre to work in, and you’re not bound by the same rules of reality as other genres, so it’s an exciting place to create.

You were tipped as one-to-watch, your work has screened at multiple film festivals across the world and you were one of the seventeen emerging filmmakers selected for the BFI NETWORK@LFF programme 2017. How have these recognitions helped your career?

P.B-B.: Screening at festivals allows your films to find an audience, and I’m making films to share with other people and start conversations, so this is key for me. The support that festivals like Underwire and London Short Film Festival have shown me has helped my career immensely. These festivals create a kind of community around them, which expands your network, gives your work a platform and has even led to commissions for me. They’re such an important place to nurture and encourage talent, and having people who champion your work is invaluable.

Being part of NETWORK@LFF was one of the most brilliant experiences for so many reasons. Just to be selected and recognized was a huge boost, and amidst such a talented and lovely group of filmmakers too. There were seventeen of us on the program and we’ve all stayed in touch and are tracking and supporting one another’s work – it’s really exciting to see everyone shining. The supportive energy between us all was also thanks to the NETWORK team who created a really open, encouraging and fun atmosphere for the program. The speakers and events gave us the opportunity to pick the brains of so many amazing speakers and felt totally relevant to where I’m at in my career right now. It was such an enriching experience. So much of the time, taking the next stride in your career is about you and your work being in front of the right people, and that’s what festivals, and schemes like NETWORK@LFF help to make happen.

Can you talk about Censor, your first feature film, currently in development, and with which you were recently selected for the Frontières Forum?

P.B-B.: Yes. Censor is a psychological horror set in 1984 against the backdrop of social hysteria surrounding video nasties (VHS horror). It follows a film censor who becomes strangely entangled with the films she’s watching at work. We’ve been co-developing the film with Creative England and Ffilm Cymru Wales, and it’s produced by Helen Jones at Silver Salt Films. I’ve co-written it with my long-term co-writer Anthony Fletcher. We recently spent three days in Amsterdam presenting the project at the Frontières Forum, which is organised by the Cannes Film Festival and Fantasia Film Festival, which was amazing. Another brilliant experience to be selected for, and one that’s only spurred on my ridiculous enthusiasm about making this film very soon. 

Your short films have toured the world. Can you tell us something about them and your opinion of the short format?

P.B-B.: Short films are the best way to learn how to tell a story and to develop your voice as a filmmaker. I think they’re a good way to try out ideas too. For example, my short film Nasty has some ideas in common with Censor, my debut feature, and the short gave me an opportunity to try things out and explore on-screen worlds that could inform the feature. My last short, Shortcut, I made with Film4 and is a 5-minute comedy horror about a bad boyfriend who gets his comeuppance in a pretty nightmarish way. That’s available to view online at All4 in the UK, or on the C4 YouTube channel internationally. It’s been really fun to watch that one with a big audience due to where the film goes – people react quite vocally to it. I’ve also made experimental shorts and a short about human trafficking. Now, I’m really excited to have a bigger canvas to tell a story – a feature film sized one. I’m so ready and eager to take audiences on a longer journey, that can immerse them in another world through a 90-minute experience, rather than a 5, 10 or 15-minute one. But it’s through making short films that I feel ready for that.

Can you talk about your work as editor?

P.B-B.: Editing professionally was something that kind of just happened to me because I always did it… I first learned to edit on linear VHS decks at an evening class when I was a teenager. Then, when I was studying Performing Arts, I managed to use a piece of choreography homework to learn how to use Premiere Pro. I cut together movements from my favourite films at the time, and got the dancers to copy what the characters were doing in the edit. I used clips from Reservoir Dogs, American Beauty, Carlito’s Way and American Psycho. I’m pretty sure I got a fail for the actual choreography coursework, but I learned how to use the editing software so I was perfectly happy. I find editing really creative and satisfying, and I think it’s a brilliant way to learn how to direct, because it teaches you what you need to capture in order to tell your story in the edit, and it makes you think much more about rhythm and pace too. One of my favourite pieces of work as an editor is a short documentary called Unravel, directed by Meghna Gupta. Meghna shot for about four weeks in India and it ended up as a 13-minute film, so you can imagine the journey we went on in the edit. Editing documentary is quite similar to writing, because often you get to find the story in post. Unravel was really well received, winning awards all over the place – Meghna did such a brilliant job. I also cut most of my own films for a long time, up until a couple of years ago. Handing over the role was a difficult process for me, but I knew it would benefit me to collaborate. When you’re working on tight deadlines it’s really tough to come off a shoot and have to go straight into the edit. But more importantly, having someone to bounce off and work with in post is really nice, especially when you’ve known the project from its inception; having fresh eyes for the story you’ve shot is invaluable, and it’s fractionally less stressful when the work is shared and there are two brains rather than one tired one. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to edit one my own films again in the future, but for now I love collaborating.

What is your opinion of the situation of women in today’s film industry?

P.B-B.: Well, this is a big question and there’s a lot to say… My opinion is – there are not enough women in certain roles in the industry, and this is due to both conscious and unconscious gender bias against women, as well as an enormous power imbalance. It’s interesting that the film and art industries, where often the commissioning and appreciation of work is slightly subjective, and can orientate around money, ego, status and power, seem to be lagging behind so many other industries when it comes to gender equality. The statistics show that, of the top grossing films, female directors are averagely represented on around 8%, and female cinematographers on around 2% of these films. This is crazy. You don’t need to be a man to do either of these jobs! And it’s damaging to our culture because it means we’re only fed stories that are told from white, male perspectives. I really think that things are changing though, slowly, and that the industry is being put in a position where it simply cannot continue with this sexist, racist level of representation. Films such as Wonder Woman and Get Out breaking through in the mainstream are proving that there are huge audiences for films that come from “diverse” voices, so those fearful money people are starting to listen at last.

This year was the first year in history (IN HISTORY!!!) that a female cinematographer was nominated for an Oscar. That’s completely mental. There’s no lack of talented female cinematographers out there, so why are they not getting the same opportunities as male DP’s? I’ve had a couple of conversations recently about female DPs and how hard the terrain is for them in what is such a male dominated part of the industry. Something that really grates me is the different views towards men and women in this role. An example might be – if a male DP turns around to a producer and asks for certain equipment, or demands what he needs to do the job in the way the director has requested, then his requirements might be annoying, but are acceptable; he’s just doing his job. But if a female DP does the same thing, or speaks up, she can risk being considered “difficult”, and that label can stick throughout the industry for no decent reason…

Making films is difficult and you often have to fight for certain things in order for your department to do a job to the best standard, especially on lower budget films, and there are totally different views towards women and men who speak up about what they want or need for their work, or who refuse to compromise on certain things; if a man does it, it’s practical, not personal, whereas if a woman does it, she’s demanding and difficult. This is a wider issue, not only affecting the film industry, but one that I hope the industry can become more conscious of in order to recognize when women filmmakers are being seen or treated more harshly than men would be in the same situation. I could talk about this for hours – about how women and men, their processes, work and successes, are “seen” differently by commissioners, producers, critics and the public, but … On a more positive note, I think the landscape of the horror genre is becoming really enriched by women filmmakers at the moment – The Babadook, Raw, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, The Lure, The Invitation, and many more… are all outstanding films by women, proving that female filmmakers have so much to say and create within the realm of horror.


This interview was conducted at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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