Making The Watchers... There and back again by David F. Jacobson

The Watchers has been a long-time coming.

A very long time coming.

I wrote the first draft on June 8th 2015, it was then titled ‘The Watchers of Worlds’ - a nod to the astronauts being the only witnesses to a world both pre- and post-impact.

Since then I’ve gotten a degree in history, encountered Christ, finished three drafts of a fantasy feature - The Aeneid, one Egyptian TV pilot - Heiretic, started countless other projects, and shot goodness knows how many short films.

 

Watch the teaser below...

What they’ve all had in common though is that I’ve learnt I’m not good enough to do anything simply off of my own efforts.

Writing, as solitary as it can be, needs others. You need feedback, you need encouragement, and you need a community of those around you who get the insanity of spending hours looking at a blank screen agonising over whether or not it’s moral to kill off an entirely fictional character you’ve created.

Filmmaking is a team effort too and it is because of the time, skills, and money given by many, many incredible people that I was able to transition from solitary writer to the writer/producer of a short sci-fi film that quite frankly shouldn’t exist.

Yet it does and that’s in huge part because of Create50. There is a never-say-die and never-settle attitude amongst the team and it was through this competition and the community that the seed of ‘The Watchers’ took root.

After all, who in their right mind would say to a group of university students that they should be trying to shoot Hollywood-level stories?

Advice that I’ve consistently heard throughout my encounters with the screenwriting world has been ‘think small, write contained stories that producers can shoot on low-budgets’ or ‘write what you love’. Fantastic pieces of practical advice for those looking to get produced. The problem for me? I love BIG, EPIC cinema like The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Interstellar - none of which are small, contained, or low-budget.

And so I refused to comply - well, sort of - I did concede to writing a contained story. I figured that if we were going to attempt zero-gravity then it wouldn’t be wise to have them floating through the entire space station so they stay in the cupola-area. But otherwise, The Watchers was huge - the set was jaw-dropping, our end-credits list is silly for a short film, and the budget is the biggest on any film I’ve shot to date.

How was this possible?
Team-work, sacrifice, and a refusal to compromise on my vision. A refusal that was shared by Andrew McGee, the film’s director - the script was a claustrophobic, sci-fi drama that had stunning visuals - and that’s the film he wanted to make!

As writers, we should expect to make compromises on our script - a line-change here, or character swap there - but we must fight to ensure our vision makes it onto the screen.
As producers, we try to make financial compromises - a location-change here or schedule-swap there - but we mustn’t do these at the cost of the story.

So to synthesise these sometimes conflicting viewpoints, it’s important to build a team of people who are all on the same page - the story comes first - and that’s who the crew of The Watchers are; amazingly dedicated individuals who all came together making sacrifices of time, energy, and petrol for the good of the story. Will there be differences in opinion? Of course, but it is in this conflict, when everyone has the same aim, that creativity thrives.

 

I am so proud of the team that pulled this film together and so grateful to everyone who contributed to it whether financially, foodily, or just with words of encouragement but I am most proud of the fact that when we wrapped, the seasoned professionals (our cast-members and production designer, Jason Kelvin) said this was one of the most friendly and professional sets they’d ever worked on we’d given them the space to perform and create to the best of their abilities.

And the results?

Well, you’ll have to wait and see, but we think they’re spectacular thanks in no small part to Adam Wilkes, a veritable VFX wizard.

David F. Jacobson
Writer/Producer of ‘The Watchers’

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