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Interview with Filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond

Prano Bailey-Bond is an award-winning British filmmaker and writer who according to her online biography, ‘grew up on a diet of Twin Peaks in the depths of a strange Welsh community’. She cut her filmmaking teeth directing music videos for artists that include: Imelda May, Morcheeba and Dog is Dead developing her trademark use of alluring dark imagery often fused with sardonic humour. She has also directed a number of short films, including the horror-thriller Nasty, which has so far been screened at over 100 festivals and collected many awards worldwide. Shortcut was made for Film4’s Fright Bites short film series and has been screened at festivals around Europe, the USA and Canada, as well as touring with The Final Girls’ We Are The Weirdos programme. Her post-apocalyptic short Man Vs Sand won Best Experimental Short at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

Stepping out of genre pieces her film The Trip won Best Director at the Underwire Festival and is based on a real-life case study by Every Child Protected Against Ttraffiking UK and has been used by UNCHOSEN in screenings and events in the UK to educate Police officers and other professionals on how to recognise victims of human trafficking. Prano is currently working with Silver Salt Films with two films in development.

So who is Prano Bailey-Bond? I took the opportunity at a recent retrospective hosted by Mr Billy Chainsaw at London’s Horse Hospital to find out: Hmmm…. This is the sort of question that can send someone into an existential crisis!’ I am Prano Bailey-Bond. I’m a filmmaker working predominantly in dark genre. I’ve got a body of shorts and music videos under my belt and now I’m on the wonderful, winding road to debut feature-land, which is fun! I like to tell stories set in off-kilter worlds, where the world of the film is an extension of the character, or has an active relationship/dynamism with the character. I’ve been a horror fan since I was a kid – growing up feasting on whatever VHS tapes we had in the house, which I would watch on repeat, studying and devouring. There’s a lot more to me than that, I hope!, but that’s a start!’

Prano’s childhood was perhaps to many of us unusual: ‘To me my childhood was not that unconventional, but I guess normality is relative in some ways! I was born and grew up in Wales within a very close community of interesting and wonderful people; many are still my friends today – like an extended family. Lots of people moved to Wales in the 70’s and 80’s to live slightly more ‘off the grid’, and my parents were some of those people. My family are/were Sannyasin, following an Indian master named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later named Osho. My name ‘Prem Prano’ is an Indian name given to me by Bhagwan when I was born, meaning ‘Lover of Life’. Bhagwan developed and taught forms of meditation that appealed to Westerners – he taught and advised people on spirituality, but Sannyas is in no way a religion. It was never imposed upon me and I never felt there was anything I had to ‘do’ as a Sannyasin – reading Osho’s books and teachings felt centring though; they gave me a positive outlook on life. Some Sannyasins lived in communes but my family never moved into the commune. My Mum and I went to India – to the Ashram in Poona a few times when I was little. It was an amazing experience – I went to school there for a bit and was in a class with other children from all over the world. I think travelling as a child, or at any age, widens your understanding and appreciation of your own and other people’s lives. It’s worth mentioning that there was a recent Netflix documentary – Wild Wild Country – looking at the Sannyas commune that was set up in Oregon, and which didn’t go particularly well to say the least. It’s a shame that the documentary didn’t cover some of Osho’s discourses, and more about his meditations. I’m sure it’s fuelled some people’s belief that Sannyas is a cult! The documentary didn’t reflect my own experience of being a Sannyasin at all, but I found it really interesting, both personally and as a filmmaker. Despite losing my Dad when I was young, my childhood was happy and positive. Growing up in Wales, in the countryside, was wonderful – I think that the landscape and space that Wales provided me as a child was really inspiring – there was lots of room to grow my imagination there.”

So how did Prano get to become a filmmaker and who has inspired her? ‘I started making films in my mid to late teens and then moved to London when I was 18, got a job as a runner and studied film and video at London College of Printing. When I left I worked in various jobs at post-production companies and in animation, always making my own films on the side. I didn’t have support from any funding bodies or anything when I started out – it’s really hard to get funding when you don’t have a solid body of work behind you, or at least it was then, so I just made films with whatever resources I could cobble together. I think this taught me a lot and in some ways it allowed me to be quite bold in my ideas, because I didn’t have anyone to answer to. I was lucky to meet some great collaborators during my studies, such as Director of Photography Annika Summerson, who I still work with today. I collected up talented people to work with and would produce, direct and edit myself on whatever means I could get hold of.

For example – my music video House, for Cool Fun, was made on £160 in an abandoned house that I managed to get the keys to. This video went on to win a UK Music Video Award and got me representation as a music video director. You have to be really self-motivated and tenacious as a filmmaker – for me there’s always been a need to create stuff, so it’s in-built in a way; there are a lot of knock backs, but if it’s really what you want to do, you just keep going. In terms of inspirations, it says in my bio that I grew up ‘on a diet of Twin Peaks’, so of course Lynch is a big inspiration for me – he fills conventional structures with such unique and unconventional ideas. It never feels like he’s watered his ideas down – he just dives in, and that’s really inspiring – it makes me want to create films that don’t hold back on their ideas. Another slightly unusual inspiration for me, considering the kind of films I make, has always been Douglas Sirk. I learned so much about the craft of filmmaking from studying his films. Sirk came from a German Expressionist theatre background, so used the mise-en-scene of his films to explore or express his character’s internal workings. This really spoke to me and definitely inspires my approach to cinematography, lighting, production design, etc. I think I can be inspired by lots of things though – once I got inspired by a wall!’

Prano made her genre directing debut in 2006 with a short called The House of Virgins, followed by Short Lease in conjunction with writer Jennifer Eiss. This was followed by the surreal post apocalyptic piece Man Vs Sand (2012) and The Trip (2013). Her next horror piece as writer and director was Nasty in 2015 which tuned back into her childhood obsession with VHS horror. She said, Nasty is set in the early 80’s against the backdrop of social hysteria surrounding ‘video nasties’. At this time in the UK, an array of horror films, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead, were being banned. So Nasty is inspired by tabloid headlines of the time such as ‘Taken Over By Something Evil From The TV Set’ and ‘Rape of our Children’s Minds’. These headlines prophesied that video nasties were going to turn us all into monsters and I wanted to explore that a little bit – to subtly satirize it. I wanted to boil down some of the issues surrounding video nasties and place them within the context of the family home and the breakdown of a family unit. I’m a big fan of early 80’s horror too, so it was also a bit of a ‘love letter’ to the era.’

Nasty was followed by Shortcut, a film positively guaranteed to make any man squirm in his seat. It required an unusual prosthetic. She said, ‘Yes – Shortcut is a short I made with Film4 that involved a prosthetic penis. We were lucky enough to work with special effects extraordinaire Dan Martin (Ben Wheatley’s go-to guy). Dan had done prosthetic penises for a few other films, and as our budget was quite tight we couldn’t create a brand new prosthetic, so Dan used a mould/cast from a previous job he’d done. So a mould for the penis was selected and agreed on – it was just of the penis itself, which was going to be pulled from the main character’s flies in the film so he could take a wee near a bush. But in the run up to the shoot, when I was Very busy and slightly stressed with a lot to plan, someone mentioned to me that when men are in ‘the wild’ taking a leak, they tend to take the “whole lot” over the top of their trousers, so the prosthetic should really include balls too. This was told to me by a man who obviously had far more knowledge of these things than I did. I started googling like a maniac ‘men weeing – balls in / balls out’ – I found forums where men discussed their weeing habits and learned from there that a lot more men than I expected Did wee like this. I went back to Dan, hilariously panicked about how men urinate in forests. Dan obviously found it highly amusing and reassured me that a penis alone would suffice, and not all men got everything out. It was all very funny in the end. The night shoot had equally bizarre and amusing moments that involved this prosthetic – it was a lot of fun, as is watching that film with an audience. The film is available to view on All4 in the UK, and on Channel4’s YouTube channel internationally.’

Prano is currently working upon her first full-length feature: ‘Yes – it’s very exciting! It’s a psychological horror called Censor, which we’ve been co-developing with Film Cymru Wales and Creative England, and more recently the BFI. Similarly to Nasty, it’s set in the early 80s, against the backdrop of social hysteria surrounding video nasties. It follows Enid, a film censor, who after watching a strangely familiar video nasty at work, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance. The film explores the blurred lines between fiction and reality in a really fun way. I’ve been co-writing the script with my writing partner Anthony Fletcher, and our producer is Helen Jones at Silver Salt Films. We have some excellent executive producers on board too, including Andy Starke (Rook Films), Ant Timpson (Timpson Films) and Kim Newman. Earlier this year we were selected for the Frontieres Forum and took the project to Amsterdam and then to Cannes Film Festival where we pitched and had a great reaction. We’re currently in late-stage development, so fingers crossed the shoot won’t be too far off.’

Exciting stuff, but what else can we look forward to from, Prano Bailey-Bond? ‘Obviously the next thing in the pipeline is Censor, but I’m developing other projects too. I have another feature called Womb, a psychological body horror, which I developed on the Ffilm Cymru Wales ‘Cinematic’ scheme, in association with the BFI, and I’m continuing to explore that. I also have some projects in earlier stages, which I’m excited to see take shape. I plan to continue to create dark genre work, both in film and TV, including thriller and dark drama… Ultimately I just want to continue to create rich, bold, exciting work, and I hope I get more opportunities to do that.’

We hope so too. Prano Bailey-Bond is part of a mutually supporting group of young female filmmakers in the UK that include Kate Shenton, Katie Bonham and Emma Dark. On the basis of the body of work produced so far I think we are at the dawn of a very exciting time for British genre filmmaking.

About Simon Ball

Simon is a child of the 1960s, his marmie liked Affred Hitchcock and he grew up on a diet of classic Dr Who, Hammer Horror, Heavy Metal, Goth and Spaghetti Westerns. He cut his journalistic teeth in 1976 interviewing the bass player from an unknown band called Motorhead, now what was his name? Since then he wasted several years in corporate PR, edited heritage products and got an MA in the History of Science before he fell off the truck and returned to the world he loves best. Simon is Editor in Chief of the Horror Hothouse website and a regular contributor to the Spooky Isles.

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