Catherine Bonny is a filmmaker based in Melbourne, Australia. In 2017 she graduated from Australia’s oldest film school, the prestigious Victorian College of the Arts, with a Masters of Film and Television Directing. Catherine’s passion is creating high-concept and genre work that excites, challenges and inspires audiences. She is drawn to female-centric stories and dreams of creating a story world/universe bigger than Star Wars.
Catherine is currently working on a number of writing projects including a short horror film, a science-fiction feature film, and a long-form fantasy series. She works at Method Studios as a VFX Production Coordinator.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
Nope… I would not want to live there. But in a way, I feel like I already do. Australia has a brutal colonial history and people have come from all over the world to seek a better life here. Like many other Australians, my very existence is the consequence of my ancestors’ poverty and desperation to survive. And for people from far away, this must have felt like another planet. Today I am lucky to live here, but knowing about the past – all the grief, pain, suffering, bloodshed and inequality - makes it hard to feel truly at home.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
There are three that I relate to for different reasons. Firstly, the aliens from Arrival with their concept of time and that the past, present and future are linked. Qi’ra from Solo: A Star Wars Story, because she is a survivor and realist. Lastly, the Prawns from District 9… because as I said before, my ancestors also found themselves stuck somewhere far from home where they didn’t really want to be.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
I find AI concerning, although I don’t feel like I know enough about it. I believe that everyone deserves to live with dignity, safety and joy. If AI could help achieve that, then that would be great. An article I read recently suggested that certain developments in AI would only deepen and strengthen social inequality. I also feel like there are more pressing matters that science needs to address, such as environmental issues, and maybe AI will provide some solutions but it seems like a round-about way of doing things. Also, there is 8 billion people on the planet, many who live in fear, poverty and degradation. Shouldn’t we be helping our fellow humans rather than figuring out how to make ‘fake’ humans? Once again, maybe AI will end up being beneficial overall. If humanoid robots started making their own films… sure, why not support them. It would be interesting to see what they make of the world through film.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
Stanley Kubrick, Mary Shelley, Margaret Atwood, Ridley Scott, Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I don’t know if ideas are bad, so much as execution – and that can really only get better with time and practice. With every script I write, film I make etc., I go through phases of hating what I’ve done and then after a bit of work on it, I start to think its maybe not utter trash. Usually the worst emotional rollercoaster comes during the edit. Firstly, you’ve shot it, so you’re happy but exhausted. Then you start looking at the rushes and are like, oh cool this looks sweet. Then you do a rough cut and watch it back and think… oh f*** what was I thinking this is terrible, how will I face everyone and tell them I’ve wasted their time by getting them to work on this piece of garbage. Then you let go of those feelings, keep editing, and it starts to get better again, and hopefully once its finished you are like, okay I don’t need to throw myself off a cliff in shame. And hopefully once you move on and make your next project, you can look back on all your previous work and see how you’ve grown and learnt more. I think with any kind of creative endeavor, so often it is about if you can keep going, keep making stuff, keep learning and hang in there. There is luck involved but opportunities don’t really come unless you’re showing up already. Sometimes it feels like you are just a beacon shining your little bit of light out into a void, blindly hoping that someone or something is out there and might see you. Your light has to come from a sustainable source, or you will burn out.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I feel like the present, past and future are all very closely linked. For example, I loved that when they translated ancient Roman graffiti and they found out that they were making d*** jokes and mum jokes back in Roman times. I don’t really think people change that much, even though technology does. It’s a cliché for a reason, that history repeats itself. I think it's frustrating and isolating more when you feel yourself notice that society is repeating itself, but it feels like a lot of other people around you aren’t seeing that. I guess it’s more to do with swings in politics and that kind of thing, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way generally so it's not completely isolating, more like disappointing sometimes.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
Maybe a hybrid – I’m an analogue person in some ways and a digital person in others. I like to physically write and plan with pen and paper, but when I start properly scripting I go to my computer. I tend to go back and forth between the two. I’m grateful for the digital world as it allows me to stay connected with friends and loved ones overseas, but I’m not a fan of social media in general outside of that. At university, I preferred to attend lectures than watch them online. I think streaming platforms are fantastic though, and the development of different and innovative content that they have made possible has been wonderful and very needed. I don’t feel the disconnect between the technology I make films about and the technology I make films with because I guess for me the focus of my films is more to do with human behavior and humans are behind the technology.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I look to nature and history. Nature is full of all kinds of strange and wonderful designs for different conditions – just look at all the bizarre creatures that live in the ocean; the deeper you go the weirder they get. I found that this was a great way to see how things have evolved to live in conditions we aren’t used to. Also, as for props and sets, as I said before about history repeating itself… if you think about fashion, trends from the past come back and are ‘in’ for a while. It may never be quite the same but there are distinctly familiar elements. So when making a new world in a sci-fi film, I found myself thinking about times and places in which similar events to what I was writing about had already happened. The main influences were spread out throughout human history and geographical location, so when combining them and then altering them to specifically fit the rules of this new world, I believe the finished effect was something familiar yet foreign.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Wars, Philip K. Dick but probably more Margaret Atwood if I could say anyone, Practical, Dystopia, Post Apocalypse.