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Director Profile: Bayley Silleck

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Occupation: Writer/Director/Producer
Active Years: 28

Academy Award nominee Bayley Silleck has written, directed and produced over 30 films in his career. Silleck had an accidental but logical path into the film industry. Poet laureate of his class at Princeton, Bayley published poems and articles in the Nassau Literary Magazine and, upon graduation, decided to be a writer. He was working as a journalist in Rome, covering a range of issues from international politics to film when a movie review he'd written caught the attention of a film company.

The company invited Bayley to be the publicist on an Italian film, Shoot Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand, starring Marcello Mastroianni and Raquel Welch. Coming out of the blue, this offer of a career change gave Bayley cause for some deliberation, but he decided to take the job.

Other publicity jobs followed soon after, among them Watch Bayley talk about the film (8.1mb) Woman Times Seven, a Vittorio de Sica film featuring Shirley MacLaine, and Ryan's Daughter, directed by David Lean, and filmed in Ireland. Bayley spent 18 months on the set and when he wasn't arranging interviews for the film's stars, he studied the filmmaking process and everyone involved very closely, particularly director Lean. He produced an hour-long television promotional piece for the film that was essentially a documentary about David Lean. He decided to become a documentary filmmaker.

Now living in London, Bayley had the opportunity to work on Aquarius, a popular documentary series on British television. He wrote and directed several programs on subjects as diverse as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the English poet, and South African artists struggling under the apartheid system. Bayley enjoyed working on real-world issues, and he thrived on the challenges posed by the documentary form.

Bayley's father was an amateur filmmaker with a personal collection numbering over 2,000 films. These included old World War II newsreels and hundreds of travel films. The family had a 16mm projector and when his father added a new film to his collection, they would all gather round and watch it. He grew up immersed in, and passionate about, film. As a young teenager, he remembers the power of watching Around the World in 80 Days on a huge screen-the experience made him feel that film was not just enlightening and entertaining, but that it had an amazing power to transport the viewer to another place.

Bayley points out that when people think of the film industry, they tend to focus on camerawork, directing, acting, or editing. But he contends that writing is the single most important skill-and a much underappreciated one-in the film industry. He urges all would-be filmmakers to hone their writing skills. A voracious reader from a very early age, he encourages reading as the best way to improve writing skills. There's no substitute, Bayley stresses, for a coherent, well-structured script. The ability to produce a script that is not only able to visualize what the final product will look like, but is also viable as a film, is invaluable. Writing for film, as opposed to writing for the printed page, involves the ability to think in images and to describe with accuracy, and in order. As a director, Bayley has either written or co-written nearly every film he has ever worked on and believes that, as a writer, he has more of a creative stake in his filmmaking.

Documentaries, Bayley suggests, call for a unique style of writing. The spoken words need to be crafted and chosen with care. Most of the story is driven by images, especially in the IMAX format, but the viewer needs sufficient information to understand the meaning of the whole piece. While the writer must be fastidious about researching the subject of the film, creating the script takes a great deal of imagination. The challenge is to construct a coherent visual storyline before any images have been shot.

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Director Credits

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