Following the resounding success of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2013, the call for entries for this year’s festival is now open, offering established and emerging filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work to a wider, international audience and take part in the UK’s most exciting short film festival. One of the highlights of last year’s festival was the Meet the Filmmakers event, a chance for filmmakers, industry experts and attendees to come together and share experiences, techniques and tips. Among those who took part was Prano Bailey-Bond, whose hard-hitting film Man vs Sand picked up the award for Best Experimental Film. We chat to Bailey-Bond about her festival experience, the advice she would give to budding filmmakers and why she would encourage others to enter ASFF 2014.
ASFF: Man Vs Sand is a powerful satire of the live-to-work ethic. Where did the inspiration for the film initially come from?
PBB: I was invited to make a film for the Letters Festival in Milan. That years’ theme was the economic crisis and I was asked to base my film on a letter that was provided by the festival. When I read the letter, the feelings and the story it expressed kept bringing me back to the image of a man who was trapped in sand – helpless in a situation where everything around him was dissolving, and swamped by the endless infinity of nothing. It was written by a man called Paolo who continued to work in a job that could no longer pay him due to the financial crash. Through his laborious work Paolo maintained some kind of purpose but was unable to feed his family, and appeared to be overwhelmed and frustrated by his powerlessness. This image I kept visualising (of sand) reminded me of Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days, and Paolo’s impotent quest linked in my mind to the notion that drove the Theatre of the Absurd; that human existence has no meaning or purpose, so all logic is lost. To me, the Absurdism felt a fitting way to explore the economic crisis; I wanted to create a kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare that used a more poetic than logical language. For me, this film better expresses my understanding of the economic crisis and the live-to-work ethic than I could ever put into words.
ASFF: What did your award for Best Experimental film at ASFF 2013 mean to you?
PBB: Especially when making experimental film, it’s hard to say how people will respond; balancing metaphors and meaning is no science – like most filmmaking it comes down to instinct, so it’s always as much of an education taking a film to an audience as it is making it. Being selected for the award was pretty much the best response to the film I could have hoped for. The other films I saw in this category were stunning too, so to have been chosen amongst them is a total honor. It’s so fuelling for me as an artist and filmmaker; it means that the film is effective, which is the most important thing to me as a director.
ASFF: Tell us about your experience on the ASFF Meet the Filmmakers panel.
PBB: The panel was great fun and there was a fantastic turnout so I met lots of interesting people during the course of the night. It was great to be able to screen our films to a keen audience of filmmakers and film enthusiasts. Discussing your work like this really allows for self-reflection as well as being able to share knowledge and experience, so I really valued that opportunity.
ASFF: How does ASFF compare to other film festivals you’ve been a part of?
PBB: It’s definitely up there with my favourites on the short film circuit. What makes ASFF really special is its location; I’d never been to York before – it’s so beautiful and everyone is really friendly. The layout of the festival meant we were discovering the city and its venues whilst seeing the films, all within close walking distance. Man vs Sand screened in a beautiful 14th Century building with gorgeous wooden interiors which really set an elegant tone for the experimental films I saw there. The programming also meant it was possible to catch films at different times on different days, which meant you didn’t have to compromise on which films you chose to see, as there were repeated screenings. The ASFF team was super welcoming (and knowledgeable on which bars were still open after hours), and this really set off a great atmosphere where filmmakers could network and feel comfortable. It ticked all the boxes.
ASFF: What projects are you working on at the moment, and will you be entering ASFF next year?
PBB: My next short film is a fantasy horror set in the early 80’s against the backdrop of the video nasty social hysteria. It reflects on society’s relationship with horror and is connected to a feature I’m developing. We’re shooting that in a few months and I’m very excited about this film. I’ve also recently completed my latest short which I will definitely be submitting to ASFF 2014 as I would love to return. This short is called The Trip and is about a young man trafficked from Vietnam and forced to work in a cannabis factory. It’s just hit the short film circuit and picked up Best Director at Underwire Film Festival and has screened this week at London Short Film Festival too. Fingers crossed that The Trip, and my next short will allow me to return to ASFF and to York for the next couple of years – I hope so.
ASFF: What advice would you give to a filmmaker starting out on their career?
PBB: Be brave. Trust your instincts. Experiment (consciously) to find your creative voice. Seek out good collaborators. Make mistakes and learn from them. Work with actors. Ensure clarity of vision. Learn to edit. Most importantly – make films: it’s the only real way to learn how.