Private Project

The Watcher Self

THE WATCHER SELF is a deeply unsettling psychosexual chiller written and directed by Matt Cruse about one woman’s descent into hell.

Cora (Karen French) begins her day facing the consequences of a nightmare. Struggling to maintain a normal routine, she engages in a series of emotionally detached encounters and experiences a confusing psychological connection with the strange and elusive Van (Julian Shaw).

Then echoes from the past threaten to derail her tenuous state of mind, and Cora becomes increasingly dislocated from her surroundings. Is she going insane, or is it something else?

THE WATCHER SELF is about what remains when the layers of sanity are gradually stripped away... and what may or may not be real.

  • Matt Cruse
  • Matt Cruse
  • Matt Cruse
  • Phil Macdonald
  • Karen French (Cora)
    Key Cast
    'Lady of Sorrows' (Short, 2009), 'Invaded' (Short, 2009)
  • Julian Shaw (Van)
    Key Cast
    'Kid Gloves' (2013), 'Last Night at Emilio's' (2011)
  • Sylvia Seymour (Wanda)
    Key Cast
    'The Milky Way' (2015), 'The Maid' (2014)
  • Lucy Charles (Kelly)
    Key Cast
  • Tony Stansfield (Pitman)
    Key Cast
  • Helen Barford (Rose)
    Key Cast
    'Jam Today' (Short, 2011), 'Always Crashing in the Same Car' (Short, 2007)
  • Michelle Tofi
    Director of Photography
  • Alex Weeks
  • Paul Sumpter
  • Lewis Clark
    Sound Design
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Psychological Thriller
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 34 minutes 29 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 5, 2015
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    DSLR (25fps)
  • Aspect Ratio:
    1.78 (16:9)
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • London Film Awards 2015

    Official Finalist
Director Biography - Matt Cruse

Matt Cruse is a writer, filmmaker and former BBC Script Associate who lives in London. He began his career at the BBC in 1989 and spent many years working across television, radio and film before joining the entertainment script unit to nurture new writing talent and develop ideas for drama and comedy. He is the original creator of the BBC’s Writers Room website – one of the first internet platforms dedicated to aspiring writers wishing to break into the industry – and has spearheaded many writing workshops, including the world’s first team-written sitcom to be run entirely online. Matt has also written and directed a number of non-broadcast television pilots, and has experience in radio drama, interactive entertainment, and is an avid reader of graphic novels. He left the BBC in 2004 to focus on writing and filmmaking. THE WATCHER SELF is his first feature film.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

THE WATCHER SELF is a film I originally set out to make in 2005 just after a long and varied 15-year stint at the BBC, but due to an unexpected set of tragic circumstances I had to take a break from the industry before finally returning to the script six years later.

Almost immediately, it struck me that if the film had been made back then, it would not be the film it is now. The more I developed the script, the more I developed a much closer personal connection to Cora, the main character, than I ever would have done when I first created her. And this is a film about connections; how we connect with life and the events it throws at us. It is also about grief and loss, and how different people (including myself) react in different ways towards life-changing traumas, experiencing a concoction of emotions, sometimes over many years.

I have always been fascinated by psychotherapy and mindfulness as a way of dealing with these issues and, having been through it myself, I wanted to pose questions about the kind of long-term damage it could cause if such treatment failed, without providing any definitive answers or solutions.

On the surface, Cora is an average middle-class working wife with a relatively mundane daily routine. But she is an emotional volcano waiting to erupt. She has been demolished by the knock-on effect of a life-changing trauma, and the bubble can only expand so far before it bursts. The people she encounters in this film all have an innocent, yet critical, part to play towards her degrading state of mind, each one a psychological tectonic plate, continuously grinding against her paranoia before finally cracking it completely. And most disturbing of all is that she doesn’t realise it – yet.

The film is my take on the build-up to that realisation. A culmination of everything that has happened previously, fusing together and concentrating into an awful situation that no sane person could ever handle. A drip-feed of events over several years that have now filled a bucket which is about to spill over.

The narrative is sparse. It is not about what is happening at the present moment, but more about what has happened in the past and how Cora deals with it. We are watching the tail end of a tragic backstory, the circumstances of which I have deliberately chosen to remain ambiguous. It is her behaviour, mental condition and connection with the world which is the issue, providing clues, and only ever suggesting potential answers.

THE WATCHER SELF isn’t autobiographical, but it certainly draws upon some of my own feelings and emotions, which I imagine Cora would also be going through. I wouldn’t say my personal story had a happy ending – and, indeed, it took another unfortunate turn during pre-production – but I survived and came out the other side. Cora is a survivor too, but in a very different way. Whether or not her story has a happy ending is a question I will be raising in the film, and one to which I hope you will bring your own conclusions.

Matt Cruse.