Caitlin Bailey has a Master of Fine Arts in Science and Natural History Filmmaking and a Bachelor of Science in Animal Biology. She has a passion for animal behavior and telling creative stories about the natural world. Caitlin is also interested in ocean and space exploration. As a scientist, she participated in research about sea otter mother and pup behavior, wild mice vocalizations, the affect of urbanization on bird populations, and student performance in biology classrooms. As a filmmaker, she has worked with NASA, Montana PBS, and the Ocean Exploration Trust and aims to continue to create fascinating films about science.
TERRA: What inspired you to make a film about unicorns?
CB: My inspiration came from a previous film I made called "The Mermaid in the Classroom", which was about Discovery Communications' "Mermaids: The Body Found" and the pros and cons of incorporating fantasy with science. I wanted to create a science-based film that had fantasy elements but also had a strong message about the natural world. I chose a conservation film because I am passionate about wildlife and poaching is a big issue that affects the animals I love. Unicorns were the perfect subject for my film because of their connection to human history and culture as well as their legend that already says that unicorn horns were believed to have magical healing properties.
TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of creating this film.
CB: The film was created with the help of many YouTube tutorials and enormous amounts of feedback. The script and story seen in the final product is the seventh draft of the script. I also had to teach myself Adobe Illustrator and After Effects in order to do the animations. I used a tablet to draw many of the images, including the unicorns, the scale, and the firefly. However, many of the images were vectors, particularly the black-silhouetted animals. Stephanie Campbell, a local actress in Bozeman, gave a terrific performance as the narrator and gave the film a magical feel.
TERRA: Why did you decide to incorporate features from other animals into the unicorn?
CB: All animals are connected through evolution and share similar traits. By giving the unicorn features and behaviors of other animals, this fantastical species could become something that could actually exist. Again, I do not want my audience to believe in unicorns, but I still want them to feel real. For example, beluga whale calves are born gray and become white when they're sexually mature. I gave my unicorns this characteristic, too, to add a bit of depth to the species. There are parts of the unicorn legend I did not address because I could not scientifically explain it, such as the story that the unicorn will calm and lay down in a maiden's lap. Legend says that this was the only way to capture a unicorn. Modern culture also suggests that unicorns poop rainbows. Maybe they like to eat colorful plants or fungi? We may never know.
TERRA: Did you have any particularly challenging moments telling a conservation story through the unicorn?
CB: One of the most challenging aspects of the film was to ensure that my audience is not misled into believing in unicorns while watching the film. I do not want to lose my audience's trust, especially since I am trying to convey an important conservation message. I did this by providing multiple hints throughout the film, particularly with the opening quote and ending credits.
TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
CB: My love for wildlife has been the root for all of my life-changing decisions. I was pursuing a career as a research scientist when I discovered that I enjoyed fieldwork much more than lab work. I also have a distinct lack of skills when it comes to mathematics, so analyzing data was particularly difficult and unpleasant. I was fortunate enough to discover Montana State University's Science and Natural History Filmmaking program while at a research conference in Austin, Texas. It was the perfect answer to my love of both science and art and I could not ask for a better career.
TERRA: What would be your dream project?
CB: My dream project would be anything that allows me to travel and share stories about animals. Particularly, I would like to make a film about leopard seals.
TERRA: What’s your favorite aspect of filmmaking?
CB: I enjoy the freedom that filmmaking gives me to explore all areas of the universe. When I was a research scientist, I was encouraged to pick one topic and stick with it for many years. The problem was that I enjoy many areas of science and I am curious about everything around me. I use filmmaking to explore and share. I also love seeing a film develop from pitch to distribution. A film sort of becomes its own entity and you have to be in tuned with it in order to understand what sort of film it needs to become.
TERRA: Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on and why?
CB: Definitely this one about unicorns and wildlife conservation. If I had to pick a film to represent me as a person and a filmmaker, it would be “Hunting the Horned Horse.”