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A Jewel of a Programme


Christian Watt on location in (from left to right) Brazil, Peru and China. Click on the photos to enlarge them

"A jewel of a short film" is how David Chater of The Times newspaper described the latest work of up and coming director Christian Watt who comes from Hethersett.

Christian is fast establishing a reputation as one of the brightest new directors in the country. The latest piece to enhance his reputation came in the form of a 25 minutes film entitled "Superheroes of Suburbia" which was shown as part of the Channel Four First Cut Films project in August 2011.

Channel Four described the series of films by different directors as "an eclectic documentary strand to showcase distinctive new film by up and coming directors."

"Superheroes of Suburbia" centred round a small and secretive band of people who don comic book style costumes and take to the streets of Britain to fight crime. The main problem is many of them seem to have an inability to find any.

Superheroes tracked a number of characters, dressed in a variety of costumes, all trying to emulate comic book heroes. The programme was funny but also sad and poignant as in most cases the costumes and alter egos hid the highly insecure person underneath the superhero guise.

It was difficult at times to know whether to laugh at or feel sorry for the characters and that was the success of the programme. Whilst Christian Watt may have at times poked gentle fun at those featured, he also brought out the serious side of the personal problems, complexities and hang-ups of those featured. What came out of the film above everything else was that these crime-fighting bravados were just simple mortals, more likely to get in the way than achieve anything.

The piece was written, filmed and directed by Christian who now lives in London but was born and brought up in Hethersett and whose parents Chris and Marion Watt are both well known in the village. Christian has also worked as an assistant director in the Ricky Gervais/Karl Pilkington programme "An Idiot Abroad."

Interview with Christian:

Hethersett on the web spoke to Cristian about his work to date and the filming of Superheroes.

Christian always dreamed of becoming involved in visual or creative work and his career in that sphere really began nine years ago when he undertook work experience on documentaries, including research for a series on the Brighton music scene which saw him interview various artists including Fat Boy Slim.

He also tried his hand at working for a number of advertising agencies but realised his future lay in television and that led to him working for a number of different independent production companies.

Soon he was working on a number of offbeat productions including "Make Me a Muslim" which took a group of people who knew nothing about Islam and asked them to live a Muslim life for three weeks. Make Me A Christian had a similar theme.

Then came a programme entitled Bleach, Nip, Tuck: The White Beuty Myth where Black and Asian people had surgery in an attempt to make them look Caucasian.

Christian subsequently worked on the very popular Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant series  "An Idiot Abroad" which saw reluctant traveller Karl Pilkington travel to some of the most famous sites in the world.. Those programmes saw Christian travelling to the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru, the pyramids in Egypt and Brazil.

"It was my job to go out to the places for about two weeks to arrange everything for the programme," he said.

Other projects worked on included the Charlie Brooker documentary "How TV Ruined Your Life."

With plenty of experience of working as part of a team, Christian yearned to branch out on his own and approached Channel Four with the idea of a documentary on real life superheroes. This ended with him receiving a commission but also with a few headaches.

"It was quite difficult to track down the real life superheroes. Some of them were very reluctant to be featured on television as in true superhero mode they didn't want to reveal their true identities."

Being a one man band helped, however, to gain the trust of the superheroes.

"When they know it is just one guy and a camcorder they tended to open up much more than if they had been faced with a full camera crew."

To track down the superheroes Christian had to join internet forums and use social media such as Twitter and Facebook and even look into the superhero set up in America.

"I slowly tracked them down and a number admitted that they had been inspired by the film Kick Ass."

Christian managed to produce a very well balanced documentary.

"I liked the people I filmed, although at times it was all rather comical and even surreal. I wanted to try to understand why they were being superheroes and not just dismiss them. They were all genuinely trying to do something good with their lives.

"After the programme I received texts from many of those featured in the programme saying they were happy with the way they had been portrayed."

The programme received no fewer than 73 reviews in newspapers and on the internet and was pick of the week in the Sunday Times and pick of the day in most of the national dailies.

Now Christian is working on his next project which is all very hush hush and will eventually be aired on the Discovery Channel. One thing that is certain is it will be typically off the wall.

"I like making offbeat films about an extreme world and films that are perhaps a little controversial but are also quirky."

Christian admits that over the next few years he would love to continue to develop his role as a director of quirky documentaries.

"I love undertaking my own projects and seeing them through. I am really enjoying what I am doing," he said.