Bristol-produced BAIT secures N. American Premiere following critical success at Berlinale

Mark Jenkin’s Bait, the debut feature from Bristol production company Early Day Films, is set to have its North American Premiere in New York next week, following critical success at Berlin International Film Festival.

Bait was the only UK film selected for the 2019 Berlinale Forum, the section of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival devoted to experimental and documentary filmmakers. Following its World Premiere at the festival on 9 February, the film has attracted widespread praise, described by The Guardian as “intriguing for its distinct visual style”, by Screen Daily as “ravishing cinema” and by The Hollywood Reporter as “one of the most original and stylistically bold films to world premiere in Berlin”.

Director Mark Jenkin at Bait’s World Premiere and Q&A, 2019 Berlinale Forum
Photo credit: Dario Lehner & Marian Stefanowski



The arresting tale of change in a picturesque fishing village, which was shot using a 1976 Bolex camera and 16mm Kodak monochrome film stock, has since caught the eye of a number of leading film festival programmers. It has been selected for New York’s 48th annual New Directors/New Films (ND/NF) season presented by The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Bait will screen on 29th & 30th March with director Mark Jenkin taking part in Q&As on both dates. The film is one of just 24 features selected by ND/NF, which celebrates filmmakers who “represent the present and anticipate the future of cinema, daring artists whose work pushes the envelope in unexpected ways”.

Producers Kate Byers and Linn Waite, founders of Early Day Films (who picked up a BAFTA in 2009 for Esther May Campbell’s short film September) are delighted to see the response to the film. “The reaction to Bait has been fantastic,” says Linn. “We’re so pleased to see Mark’s work recognised. Since Berlin we’ve been contacted by festivals around the world who are interested in screening it and we’ve also had strong interest from different distributors which is very exciting. We couldn’t have hoped for more from our first feature; the attention the film is getting is firmly establishing Early Day Films as a company with both creative and commercial credibility in feature film. Our priority now is to build the film’s profile on the international festival circuit and secure a theatrical release.”

Mark Cosgrove, Cinema Curator at Watershed, said: “It is an exciting phenomenon when festival buzz develops around a particular film and I was thrilled to be at the Berlin Film Festival to see international attention in Mark Jenkins’ distinctive feature film Bait explode following its first successful screening. It is brilliant for Bristol based production company Early Day Films to have this deserved success and interest in their film and a great reminder to the global film community of the filmmaking strengths in the South West of England.”

Natalie Moore, Senior Film Officer, Bristol UNESCO City of Film said: “It’s fantastic to see Bait receiving the critical praise it deserves. Its success is all the more important as it helps raise the international profile of feature films coming out of Bristol. We’re now using the new connections we’ve built with other members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network since becoming a City of Film, to spread word about the film and further bolster its profile around the world.”

(l-r) Cast members Edward Rowe & Mary Woodvine,
Director Mark Jenkin & Producers Kate Byers & Linn Waite

Bait is a hand-crafted monochrome expression of a life under threat. It follows Martin Ward, a Cornish cove fisherman, without a boat. His brother Steven has re-purposed their father’s vessel as a tourist tripper, driving a wedge between the brothers. With their childhood home now a get-away for London money, Martin is relegated to the estate above the picturesque harbour. As his struggle to restore the family to their traditional place creates increasing friction with tourists and locals alike, a tragedy at the heart of the family changes his world.

The film’s topicality at a time when the UK faces Brexit has not gone unnoticed by critics. “There’s no doubt it’s a film of its time,” says Linn, “although the issues facing this particular Cornish community are not new ones. But it’s interesting that we raised the budget in the year of the referendum and now Bait is set to have its Northern American premiere on the day the UK is set to leave the EU. Brexit has been rumbling on throughout the lifetime of the film. Although it was never intended to be a direct political comment on it, Brexit was in the back of everyone’s mind during the filmmaking process and, consciously or not, that’s always going to have some influence on the creative process.”

Reflecting on the future, Kate says: “We’ve always seen ourselves as a small outfit with big ambition, but the next year is likely to be the most important we’ve faced yet as a company. We’ll be announcing more festival selections in the coming months and we also hope to settle a distribution deal so there’s Bait’s theatrical release to look forward to before the end the year. We have a slate of half a dozen projects, involving Mark and other writers and directors, including our next project, Hard Cracked the Wind, written by Bristol writer Adrian Bailey. We’ve had some great business mentoring support from Creative England that has helped us scale up and get market ready as a company. We’re excited to see what the next 12 months will bring.”

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