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Cat Watson: “Never let a “no” stop you from following your career”

What I feel people need now more than ever is understanding. Learning about what it’s like to be someone else can dramatically help with empathy. A movement I would love to see are films and shows going to countries around the world, using local talent, local crew, and local stories. There are so many people […]

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What I feel people need now more than ever is understanding. Learning about what it’s like to be someone else can dramatically help with empathy. A movement I would love to see are films and shows going to countries around the world, using local talent, local crew, and local stories. There are so many people in the world who never leave their hometown and are therefore scared of the world outside but seeing these stories and relating to them can make a big impact.


As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cat Watson.

Cat Watson has set her focus on building a career as a horror director starting with her short film Dance of the Porcelain Demons that has already won over 20 awards at festivals around the world. She has recently moved to North America from London, UK after completing her Masters Filmmaking degree at The London Film School. Originally from Washington D.C., Cat has made a name for herself working in every department in every part of the entertainment industry from advertising to music video to live event to short and feature film. She has worked with celebrities such as Orlando Bloom and Charlie Sheen, as well as at major events such as the American Music Awards.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you so much for the opportunity! I was born in Washington D.C. but spent most of my life traveling around the world due to my parents’ jobs. At this point I’ve been to thirty-eight countries and lived in four! On my own I moved abroad and lived in Prague for a while, moved back and got started in the industry in Los Angeles working with A-list actors and getting experience on projects of all sorts in every role possible, I then found a home in London for many years before Covid hit and sent me back to the States while en route to Canada. My world travels have massively influenced my work and my passion is to bring stories from cultures all over the world to light. I’ve always loved horror movies and feel that the genre can be used to bring new understanding to current social constructs.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

During my undergraduate I was incredibly lucky to have a number of wonderful Professors that encouraged me to become a filmmaker. In my first film production class the Professor assigned us a simple editing exercise to put photos to a song we liked. As it was the beginning of the year my classmates all did fun summer songs with pictures of their summer holidays. I chose a somber song about finding hope in times of darkness and used photos from disasters that showed people helping each other and animals, yes, I was the life of the party. The Professor really loved my project and was the first to tell me that I had a talent in this field.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Oh boy, well there’s one story everyone seems to love. I was working at the American Music Awards years ago and one of my jobs was to move celebrities into seats the camera would be on. I had been at the venue for hours and hours with nothing to eat all day and was absolutely exhausted and ravenous by the tail end of the show. All I had to do was get a contestant from America’s Next Top Model from the back of the Nokia Theatre to the front, put him and his friends in their seats, and get out of there before the camera saw me. I had a minute and thirty seconds to do it and my biggest issue was that constantly people would stop him and ask for pictures. I stared him in the eyes and asked him to promise me he would tell them he’d do pictures after show, he laughed but agreed. The time came and we all took off down the aisle. I got all the way to the correct row and turned to see him taking a photo with some woman. I stormed back up the aisle ready to eat her, tapped on her shoulder and as she turned to face me I realised I was in big trouble. She was not just some woman, she was a celebrity, an A-list celebrity. I shrank away hiding behind my badge as Mr. America’s Next Top Model tried desperately to hide his laughter, knowing full well what happened. She smiled politely and turned back, I turned around and ran smack into her bodyguard who thought I was some crazed fan. Mercifully didn’t lose my job or get eaten by the bodyguard.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I come from a family that has served the government for generations, so they behave and dress very formally when working. I assumed this was how everyone behaved and showed up every day to work at a Production Company in Los Angeles only to find that my colleagues and bosses would wear khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirts with flip flops while I wore dresses and blazers with high heels. It wasn’t a big issue, just something funny, that is, until I did my first day on set. I showed up to my first day as a Production Assistant on a network television show in heels and a dress! That was one of the longest days of my life! I learned quick, but one of the women on the crew gave me sneakers as a joke on my last day!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people who have helped me get to where I am, and I would never have gotten this far without them. For every person that said I could never get here, there were three more who kept me going. I could tell so many stories here, but I’ll stick to one for brevity. An alumnus from my undergrad came to visit the school and I got to pitch him a project idea I had. He was incredibly kind and not only got me an internship at a major production company in LA, but also got me my first on set job. He is one of the Executive Producers for the SAW movies and still keeps in touch with me today. I’ll always be grateful to him for everything he’s done for me. My parents are my biggest supporters though and their belief in me has made all of this possible.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Failure is inevitable, but it’ll only stop you if you don’t learn from it. Often you learn more from failure than you do from success. You have to start small, don’t try to leap to huge projects quickly, give yourself the chance to make mistakes and have that be okay.

What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

The world is such a mess right now that entertainment is important. When times are at their darkest what people need is an escape and a chance to better understand not just what they are going through, but what others around them are going through as well. Empathy is a skill not easily learned but putting yourself in a character’s perspective can help ease that understanding. The change I want to see in the industry is not just stronger, more complex female and diverse characters on screen, but also behind the camera as well. Until diversity is reflected both in front and behind the camera it will not be what we need it to be. No more “girl power” films with wonder women who have no flaws, no more “white savior” films that refuse to acknowledge the truth of the characters they portray. To that end, I am being the change I want to see.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Thank you! I’m incredibly proud of my award-winning short film and beyond proud of my cast and crew. I’m looking to work with many of them again soon on my first feature film that deals with understanding that just because someone is your enemy doesn’t mean they are a monster; they are human which is a lot scarier and more difficult to deal with. It’s easy to see someone as purely good or purely evil, it’s hard to understand shades of grey.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

As I mentioned before, diversity is incredibly important not just in the entertainment industry, but in everything. One of the major reasons diversity is so important is that all people should have the chance to see themselves in characters. How do you get an audience to connect with a character? You make them relatable, but how can you relate to people who are nothing like you or anything you want to be. It is incredibly difficult to go through life never feeling like you relate to any character on screen, to never have a role model of what you want to be. For me personally, it was hard seeing so many unintelligent, sexualised, cold, or flawless female characters that I never wanted to be like. I was never a damsel in distress and I never wanted to be.

Another reason diversity is crucial to film/television and especially for the youth of today, is that often you wish you could be something else because you never see yourself portrayed. How many beautiful young women and men have wished they had a different skin colour or were thinner or had different hair because they’ve never seen themselves portrayed as beautiful? How many have hurt or starved themselves trying to become something they don’t need to be? Everyone should be able to find themselves worthy.

Finally, if you limit your perspective to only one source you will never be able to understand other cultures and will struggle to believe that we are all the same. Diversity is an amazing thing that brings out so many wonderful stories! Learning about others is the best way to move past racism and sexism, seeing through another person’s eyes can make all the difference in the world when it comes to how you deal with major decisions like voting. The entertainment industry needs to be the change we want to see, specifically for children growing up in today’s divisive world.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You do not have to take advice or suggestions you are given, listen to yourself. When I did my first short film at my Masters I took every bit of advice and every suggestion my Professor gave me. I changed things I didn’t want to change and ended up absolutely hating the film. The next film I made I changed the way I listened. When he made suggestions instead of taking them, I took his advice that there was an issue, but I changed things the way I wanted to. I ended up deeply proud of the film and it helped me to get funding for my award-winning short that it was a proof of concept for.
  2. Relationships are everything in this industry, watch every word you say and listen to everything. The way you act on set, in meetings, pitches, and internships can make or break you. Do not get involved in the drama, focus on you. What you say to one person goes all over a set when everyone is packed together. Listening is more important than talking and will get you a lot farther.
  3. Take every chance you get. All of them. Never let any opportunity pass you by. When I went to my first festival, Oaxaca FilmFest in Mexico, they offered an opportunity to pitch to the Head of Original Content for HBO Latin America. The email came out of the blue and we all only had four days to put the pitch together. I was so excited and worked hard to put everything together and was selected for the opportunity. Talking with others at the festival we all mentioned who we were pitching to and many were stunned I got selected for HBO. I came to find that for so many filmmakers there that since they hadn’t had anything ready, they just hadn’t submitted anything! Don’t take yourself out of the running for anything, there are plenty of other people who will do that
  4. Work in every role. If you want to be great at Directing, you need to understand every part of what makes a film. I have consistently found that Directing a film is a million times easier and better when you have worked in every department. I have watched other Directors get exactly what they want because they knew how to do it themselves. Department Heads can communicate with you so much better if you speak their language. For instance, I was Production Designer on a film and the Director told me, “I want cold colours, like reds and deep purples.” Those are not cold colours. Respect your crew and don’t ask them to do things you yourself aren’t prepared to do!
  5. Never let a “no” stop you from following your career. You are going to hear the word “no” a lot. I mean a lot. Often for absolutely unbelievable reasons. The first time I told someone on set that I wanted to be a horror Director, he looked at me and said “A horror Director? You can’t do that, you’re a woman, you’ll faint at the sight of blood.” No, he was not joking. He also told me I could never be a Set Dresser like him because I was too small to move a couch by myself. Now I’m an award-winning horror Director who can, in fact, move a couch.

Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I run on an elliptical whenever I have the time. It helps me to clear my mind and deal with stress. I tend to watch political satire shows while I exercise so I can stay up to date on the current political climate and also deal with how chaotic it currently is by working out hard. Whenever I get stuck on a script I love to go for a walk and be surrounded by nature. After a long day on set though, my favourite thing to destress is to get a pint with my cast and crew. Just sitting in a pub sharing stories of the day and finding humour in stressful situations not only helps me but helps maintain a positive happy set.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Here is my favourite quote that really speaks to me about what I want to do with my career in both English and the original Czech.

“Why do I make movies? I’m looking for terra incognita, a land on which no filmmaker has yet set foot, a planet where no director has planted his flag of conquest, a world that exists only in fairy tales.” — Karel Zeman

“Proč vůbec točím filmy? Hledám Zemi nikoho, ostrov, na který ještě nevstoupila noha filmařova, planetu, na které ještě žádný režisér nevztyčil vlajku objevitele, svět, který existuje jen v pohádkách.” — Karel Zeman

Karl Zeman was an amazing filmmaker and the museum in Prague dedicated to him and the advancements he made in practical Special Effects is one of my favourite places. I’ve always loved the magic of movies, the childlike wonder they can leave you with. I feel that with films today relying mostly on CGI, it takes so much of that magic out and doesn’t leave you gasping and asking how they did that. For my career I want to bring magic back to the movies.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

What I feel people need now more than ever is understanding. Learning about what it’s like to be someone else can dramatically help with empathy. A movement I would love to see are films and shows going to countries around the world, using local talent, local crew, and local stories. There are so many people in the world who never leave their hometown and are therefore scared of the world outside but seeing these stories and relating to them can make a big impact.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

There are two people I would absolutely love to have lunch with or even a phone call! Guillermo del Toro and Jordan Peele. The film that made me want to be a Director was Pan’s Labyrinth and I have loved so many of Guillermo del Toro’s films. His combination of horror with fantasy and use of prosthetics massively inspires me. He has also spoke out about diversity and has been a strong proponent of Directors like me. Jordan Peele is my hero, his films using horror to bring attention to social issues in a way that isn’t forceful is absolutely inspiring. The way Lupita N’yongo (also an amazing person I’d love to meet and work with) speaks about his Directing style in interviews really speaks to me. He opened doors in this industry that I and many like me didn’t even know existed.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

My Website: https://catwatsonfilmandtv.wixsite.com/catwatson

My Award-Winning Short Film: https://www.dotpdfilm.com

Instagram: @dance_of_the_porcelain_demons

Facebook: @DOTPDFilm

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8005877/?ref_=nv_sr_2?ref_=nv_sr_2

More to come!

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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