Welcome to DELVE Interviews, a look into the unique paths of artistic and creative individuals. These conversations are a branch of our DELVE Workshops and Networking Events, where we celebrate and discover everyone's unique paths as artistic and creative forces.
Today we're excited to be speaking with Ani Simon-Kennedy and Cailin Yatsko of Bicephaly Pictures, a production company based in New York City.
After meeting at Prague Film School in 2011, Ani and Cailin decided to join forces under the aptly named Bicephaly Pictures (the scientific term for two-headed) to produce work they were passionate about. 50+ videos and one feature film later, it's a decision they've never regretted. Ani writes and directs, Cailin shoots and they both produce and edit for smaller projects. As the budget expands, so does their crew, and they delegate the producing and editing roles. Even though Bicephaly Pictures is barely three years old, they've accomplished a lot: they've developed a web series for James Franco TV and Dailymotion, made music videos that have appeared on VH1.com and MTV Iggy and collaborated on videos for MoMA and Gagosian Gallery. Their short films have been selected for the Cannes Short Film Corner and their shoots have taken them to Paris, Prague, and Iceland. Days of Gray, their first feature film, continues to be screened at festivals worldwide, accompanied by a live performance of the original score in a unique and memorable experience for audiences.
Can you describe your path in the creative industry- from where and when you began, until now?
Ani: I was always very drawn to visuals as a kid, first pursuing photography then film. Being a cinematographer seemed like the perfect job to combine both fields. When I finished college (as an African studies major... oops!), I started working on feature film sets, first in the art department, then in the camera department. Eventually I decided to go back to school to start working on my own projects. I met Cailin at Prague Film School where we both enrolled in the year-long program. I realized I was equally excited by the actors, the camera, the sets, the costumes, the dialog–and started on my path as a director!
Cailin: I became laser-focused on the idea of being a cinematographer as a kid after several years of tinkering with photography and the discovery that I could do something similar, but more collaborative, with filmmaking. From that point on, I didn't really have a backup plan and just barreled forward with cinematography. I studied media production in college and then found myself wanting more hands-on experience. Prague Film School was my next stop, where I spent a year shooting as many varied projects as I could. That crash course led me to working with Ani, who was the only other female cinematography student in Prague, and our decision to continue that tradition with a move to NYC.
Can you describe a day, or week, in your professional life?
No two weeks or even days are the same–and we like it that way. Our work comes in waves with some weeks tending toward wall-to-wall meetings or others with daily shoots or editing marathons. It keeps us on our toes and keeps things interesting. Depending on the week's schedule, we always leave time to work on our passion projects, which, right now, is a narrative feature film. Sometimes that means a full day of writing or just a long lunch to talk through narrative road-blocks. On weekends we try to take a break from work in a formal sense, although it's impossible to predict what will spark new film ideas.
What is your favorite project that you've worked on?
So far our favorite project has been our first feature film, Days of Gray, a coming-of-age story about a young boy set in a dystopian future. We were able to make a film that we were both incredibly passionate about (Ani as director, and Cailin as cinematographer), with an incredible crew who followed us all the way to Iceland and put their hearts and souls into the little movie that could. It's now being screened in festivals around the world.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from managing all of your projects?
Starting our own company really let us make a living doing what we love and helps us continuously hone our craft. Instead of waiting to be hired on other projects, we preferred to go out and create those opportunities for ourselves. The biggest lesson we've learned is that in all creative endeavors, you have to get the ball rolling yourself first. It may look daunting but the sooner you pull the trigger, the faster you can start carving out your creative career. No one will be a bigger advocate for your work than you.
And finally, where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?
Both of us are inspired by travel, which is part of what brought us together in the first place when we met in Prague at film school. The city itself and people we met along the way were a huge inspiration for many of the projects we worked on in school and afterwards when we started Bicephaly Pictures in New York City. Traveling opens you up to new experiences, sights, sounds, and people. Whenever we need a good dose of inspiration, getting out of our daily grind is the best way we've found to do that.