Kathryn Prescott

Kathryn Prescott started her career as an actor in the UK TV show “Skins.” Since then, she has acted in various TV and film projects in the US. In 2017, she wrote and directed a PSA in association with Homeless Health Care Los Angeles to raise awareness about the effect of the opioid epidemic on America’s youth. Last year, she completed her first narrative short film, “Jane.” The film stars Gayle Rankin (“Glow,” “Perry Mason”) and premiered at the Austin Film Festival. It has since screened at several other festivals, including the Palm Springs ShortFest and Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia. She is currently developing a feature film and is in post-production on a short documentary about an animal rights activist living on Skid Row. Kathryn lives in Downtown Los Angeles with her English Bulldog, Marge.

Tara Karajica talks to Kathryn Prescott about short films, women in film and, more importantly, her first narrative short, “Jane,” that recently screened at this year’s Oldenburg Film Festival.




How did you get into filmmaking and what inspires you to make films?

Kathryn Prescott: I got into filmmaking through acting. My dad is obsessed with films, so I grew up watching a lot of them. When I was younger, I didn’t know that film school was a thing people did, and I had no idea about all the aspects of filmmaking that go on behind the camera. I think I assumed the actors were the ones telling the stories, since they were the only people I could see. I didn’t go to college or film school but got a lucky break into acting on a British TV show. It was only once I got on set as an actor, and watched the writers and directors I was working with, that I realized they were the ones doing most of the storytelling, and that I wanted to do that.

I think TV and film have this very specific power, over other forms of media, to inspire empathy and understanding. When you watch the news or a documentary, you’re already deciding to educate yourself on a topic. When you watch a film or a TV show, you’re generally doing so to be entertained. Through the telling of human stories under the guise of entertainment, rather than education, narrative TV and film have this great power to inspire empathy or understanding about situations, people, or groups of people that the viewer might otherwise never have come into contact with or sought to understand.

Can you talk about your short film Jane?

K.P.: Jane is the story of a young woman suffering from heroin addiction and living in one of downtown Los Angeles’ many Single Room Occupancy hotels, on the day she receives an unexpected invite to her estranged four-year-old- daughter’s birthday party. Addiction has touched the lives of some of the people closest to me. There’s a lot of shame and judgment around it. It’s often seen as the root cause of everything that is wrong in a person’s life, when, at least in my experience, there’s always something that came before the addiction that caused it. Often, the kind of traumatic life events or emotional neglect that most of us can only imagine. In film and the media, those suffering from addiction are often painted as villains. It’s implied that they are selfish, immoral and/or solely to blame for their own situation. With this film, we hope to show the cyclical nature of pain, shame and isolation when it comes to addiction, and to highlight the deep humanity that exists in those suffering from it.

How do you see the short form today?

K.P.: I think short form stories – particularly short films – are a great way to tell quick stories without needing a whole three-act structure or an hour and half of someone’s time. Saying that, as a filmmaker I think telling them well is extremely hard. You have to tell only what is absolutely necessary, but still somehow get the viewer to empathize with the protagonist. People who can tell satisfying stories in under five minutes still amaze me.

What is your opinion on the situation of women in film today?

K.P.: I think we have a long way to go, but I’m happy things are starting to change. Honestly, I think we have to stop objectifying and sexualizing women so much in the stories we tell. As an actor, I’d say that still, in more than half of the scripts I read, there is gratuitous female nudity and/or a gratuitous sex scene. Though I think the shame around female nudity and sexuality in our culture is toxic, and that showing it on camera can be deeply empowering, too often it’s written by and for men, and is done in a way that feels anything but empowering, especially for the actors filming it. I’m happy to see the rise of intimacy coordinators on set, as well as the rise of female filmmakers, especially when it comes to telling stories where female sexuality is explored.

So often, when a female character is introduced in a script, either the first or second word of her description is about whether or not she is attractive, what kind of attractive she is and/or her body type. Though sometimes these attributes are important to the plot, more often they’re not. This is so baked into scriptwriting that I even find myself doing it, and then having to go back and think of a better, less demeaning, way to describe a character. The stories we tell reflect our culture’s values. If women are still consistently being reduced to their level of sexual attractiveness and physical appearance in film and TV, what message does that send?

Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?

K.P.: Monster by Patty Jenkins and Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold are two of my favorites. I’d say Andrea Arnold is probably my favorite female filmmaker, but it’s hard to pick. I really admire the documentary filmmaker Erin Lee Carr too. She has a way of finding the humanity in people who have done things the majority of us might otherwise have found unforgivable.

What are your next projects?

K.P.: Right now, I’m working on a short documentary project about an animal rights activist living on Skid Row with her rescue pit bull. I’m also writing two features.





This interview was conducted at the 2020 (virtual) Oldenburg 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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