Exclusive interview: Producer Berenika Bailey on film school and her career in Hollywood

Polish born filmmaker Berenika Bailey has produced over ten films since 2009, including Jaguar, R.A.D.I.C.A.L.S., and The Down Home Alien Blues which is currently in post-production. Her insights on filmmaking and the lessons she’s learned over the years are a valuable resource for anyone considering a career in Hollywood’s competitive film industry.

Candy Washington: When did you decide to pursue a career in filmmaking?
Berenika Bailey: I was pursuing a masters in philosophy at the University of Warsaw and realized that I was craving more “life” in my life. My parents came up with the idea of filmmaking. So I enrolled in film school, fell in love with it and have been at it ever since.

CW: At what point in your career did filmmaking cross from being a hobby to something more serious?
BB: When it started involving other people's money. During film school we were making films for fun, to improve our craft, to experiment. There was that need to express ourselves. People would critique your work and have opinions about it and it didn't matter as long as you knew that you did your best.

It became serious when people started investing in my films. When people expect a return, I had to start thinking in terms of what genres sell, about targeting and demographics, about distribution and marketing. It was no longer just about art.

CW: What film school did you attend?
BB: I went to two film schools in Warsaw, Poland: WSR and AFIT (Academy of Film and Television). I stayed in school for 6 years together with philosophy studies and would advice filmmakers: skip it. Put the money into your few film budgets instead. Learn practically. The only big advantage of attending film schools is that you get to know other filmmakers to create with you. Yet there are many websites these days that connect crews with projects so your team could be way more knowledgeable than your classmates. Filmmaking schools are like soft pillows, they give you few safe years to think over what you are really looking for. If you don't need these few years of protection from life jump into the real deal and start making films, even if its just assisting others at first but on real sets.

CW: How would you define the actual role of a producer?

BB: The producer makes sure that the movie has a touching and sellable story. She watches for any “virus” in the team that might pose a problem to overall production.

A good producer ensures that a movie is completed on time and within budget and that a successful marketing and distribution strategy is in place.

CW: In your view, what are some of the qualities that make someone a good film producer?

BB: Persistence—sticking with your plan no matter what. Because you can count on things happening that will keep your project from becoming a reality. Film production is the art of compromise, between your vision for the film and the real life circumstances that you encounter along the way.

You have to think like a business person. A producer knows how to strategize, plan and prioritize. You have to know which tasks to assign to yourself and which ones to give to others. And who do you assign those other jobs to? That is key.

CW: What advice would you give someone new to filmmaking?

BB: Keep making films. Stay in the game. And don't repeat your mistakes.

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