Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
Michelle Bailey: I really struggle with my mental health and my own perspective of myself. After I made my first film “Dad” which was so honest and emotionally draining for me, I promised I wouldn’t do that to myself again. But when I made Dad I made it for myself and no- one else and after going through so many script ideas i had written I kept asking myself who am i making this film for? Am i connected to this story? When I decided that I needed to make a film for myself again it gave me that freedom just to do it. I had been through a bad relationship where these horrible things were said to me and they were forming my idea of myself and I wanted to manifest it from my head into film so I could hopefully break the cycle. My films are my therapy and I say I make them for myself but I also make them so if anyone else has been through what I’ve been through they can relate and not feel as alone and for me that is important.
From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
When I finally made a decision to go with this idea it took a couple of months pre-production. I did a lot of work with Ellie and Karl Herbert before the shoot. Karl is the wonderful choreographer and used to be my dancing teacher when I was Ellie’s age and the two together made such a beautiful passionate dance. The shoot took two days but the post production was where the struggle began. Mostly in sound design as it was really hard to have re live the things being said to me. I actually couldn’t be in the room when it was recorded by Mason Le Long who did the sound design and whose band Batsch was the soundtrack. I gave him a script and left him to it and then would give him notes after listening to it. This emotional struggle i was facing meant that it wasn’t ready for about 8 months after the last shoot day.
How would you describe your short film in two words!?
This has strangely been the hardest question. The two words that come to mind is building resilience. For me them two words are about the film itself, the film making process and my own personal journey as well.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Myself, definitely myself . I struggle with my self worth and confidence a lot not just in day to day life but mostly in my film making. It took me 5 years to make a second film and it was because I kept talking myself out of it or that I didn’t think I was good enough. I had to fight myself and if i’m honest I’m still in that battle especially trying to make my third film. There would be days when I couldn’t face editing it because I couldn’t listen to the abuse and relive it so i would avoid it but thankfully I had Mason and the camera crew Brian Harley and Ben Cook to tell me to get on with it. This is why I made the film, to remind myself that i can do it and not that let the bastards grind me down. That and the annoyingly unhelpful security guard of the high rise car park that said we couldn’t film there and refused to give me and the producer, Rachel Carter, contact details to ask someone more higher up. We thankfully got to film there because of Rachel not giving up. We didn’t let that bastard grind us down either.
What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It was surreal. I actually had a bit of a cry because to hear people understanding the film and to truly see what I’m doing means the world to me. I loved that the woman in the audience got the Handmaid’s Tale reference too. I read that book in school and ever since “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” became my manta of life and as a feminist film maker too.
How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
I actually used to do what Ellie, the amazing dancer does in the film. When I was in a bad time in my life and would find myself sobbing uncontrollably and i thought about giving up on life, I would pick myself up and dance. It wouldn’t be on top of a car park but in my living room and it would usually be to The Black Keys Lonely Boy video. That dancing dude in the video got me through a lot. Thanks dancing dude!
What film have you seen the most in your life?
I’m probably supposed to say some fancy Italian film here but actually its probably “Mean Girls”. It came out during that flood of terrible American teen films where the “nerdy” girl was actually beautiful and popular if you take her glasses off and can get the jock. Mean girls took that formula and put a good strong feminist message in there which was so needed at its time or what I needed at the time at least. I also loved “Return to Oz” since I was a little girl, its dystopian 80’s take on Oz was fascinating to me and I could listen to the sound of Tick Tock walking for hours.
You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
I think its great and give filmmakers easy access to the film festivals. I wouldn’t have found out about this festival if it wasn’t for it and I’m very grateful for that.
What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
Tough one. Like everyone different songs get me through different times in my life. I love Billie Holiday. She puts everything into her songs, you can hear her pain and her joy. “Lady sings the blues” and “Summertime” are two of my favorites. And if i’m honest probably anything by Spice Girls (I listened to them on repeat when I was 10 – 12 to the annoyance of my neighbours)
What is next for you? A new film?
I’m currently writing a feature script which looks at similar themes of “Don’t Let The Bastards Grind you Down” and I’m in the middle of shooting a horror short film about depression which I’m having a love/hate relationship with. Hopefully I won’t talk myself out finishing it!
DON’T LET THE BASTARDS GRIND YOU DOWN, 4min, UK, Experimental
Directed by Michelle Bailey
A young girl girl searches for a safe haven in an urban landscape and finds solace in her own creative expression.
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