Hometown: Maleny, Australia
As soon as Adric Watson began to dabble in making ’shitty gangster films’ with his high school mates, his dreams of being a painter went straight out the window. His newfound love for creating stories through film saw him swapping regular school for film school, and eventually moving from Australia to London to crack the commercial film world. Jumping between music videos, big name commercials, short films and documentary features, Adric does it all, and he does it well. We jumped on a call with the talented young DP to hear some of his more insane stories from life behind the lens, and where he’s headed… as soon as the British government lets him out of confinement.
Growing up, were there some interesting creative characters around you that helped pave the path for you?
I grew up in this little town north of Brisbane called Maleny. It’s like this old provincial logging and farming town, which then became a bit of a hippie town. My parents were artists, landscape painters, so I definitely got a lot of inspiration from them, just learning to do art when I was young. And then a lot of my friends from that school in Maleny were kids of other artists and hippies and stuff, so a lot of my friends ended up being really cool, interesting, creative people. Me and two other friends from high school started making films randomly, there was no cause for it or anything. We just wanted to make shitty gangster films when we were 15. We got hooked on it and immediately left high school, went to film school and have kept going since then. I would say a lot of my close friends from an early age were pretty influential.
Did you experimenting with shooting stills or photography, or was it always film?
No, not really. I wasn’t even interested in film to begin with. Like I said, my mum and dad were painters so I did a lot of that. I thought I was going to be artist up until the end of high school. And then on a whim, my friends asked me to make a film with them. I did the filming and the editing for them ’cause I was the most technical one. It was really funny and pretty good and I just loved it. So, instantly, art disappeared and I was into film.
Have you picked up the brushes lately?
I’ve attempted to. At the beginning of lockdown I ordered so much oil paint, and I haven’t even touched it yet. I will, though. It’s an investment.
Do you own any particular cameras that are special to you?
I own an Aaton XTR 16 mmm camera that’s pretty special me because I bought that like maybe about five years ago or something. It was when film was really dead and everybody was bailing out and I was like, but all I’ve ever wanted to do is shoot with film and now I’ve got the opportunity but everybody’s bailing out—what the fuck do I do? I’d made some money off the first commercial in my life and I was like, fuck it, I’m just going to buy one. I don’t care if it’s a complete financial loss and I never shoot on it in my life. At least I bought it. But now everybody wants to shoot on film, so it was perfect. All of my important shorts or important films were all shot with that camera.
And how are you finding the film industry in London?
Well, I left Australia because it was tough to get work commercially. I was doing a lot of work with Australian filmmakers, young people who weren’t necessarily doing commercial paid film work; they were all doing their own projects, short films or documentaries. I was doing a lot of that stuff, but wanting to make it into more of a business for myself so I could afford to work. So, I came to London and on the commercial side of things, you can’t even compare it. There’s so much work here and there’s so much space for younger people to come up into those higher levels. In Australia, I feel like there’s a list of like five people that they’ll always choose to shoot, but here you can just slot in because no one really… It’s not that big a deal. The takeaway from that is that you can come here and you can do a lot of commercial work, but suddenly because everybody’s working and busy, nobody’s producing any kind of original personal stuff. So, I actually kind of miss that stuff in Australia a bit because that’s the stuff that actually means something to me.
Tell me more about the trip you did from Berlin to India with your friend Braden a couple years back.
Well, in 2016 we decided randomly to fly to Berlin and buy some bikes cycle to India with our camera gear. So, we embarked on this crazy adventure that lasted about… I think we were on the road for four months, sleeping on the street the whole way. When we were preparing for it we realised, ‘fuck, we can’t just take six months out of our lives for a bike ride, so let’s do something with it; let’s bring some cameras.’ We brought a little A7S to do some doco work, just to look for any kind of subject along the way, because surely we’d meet some interesting people. But it was 2016, so it was, like, the peak of the migrant crisis for Europe and Syria and we were heading in the exact opposite route to that. We ended up bumping into a lot of refugees and camps and people on the road, going the opposite way to us.
In Serbia we found this beautiful lake that happened to be right next to a big refugee camp. On the other side was this little Serbian village, so everybody would culminate on this lake in this really interesting kind of way where you had the locals and the refugees and us hanging out and interacting. We lived on this lake for 10 days or something, just hanging out. We met all these like Serbian fishermen and became quite good friends with this man called Stanko, who was an ex-soldier from the Croatian war. I could go on for ages about this guy. He’s insane. He befriended us and would fish and cook it for us and brought us to his home. We just hung out there for ages and became friends with these Syrian kids who were just hanging out in the camp.
What was the town called?
The town was called Šid, this real dustbowl border town. It’s quite interesting. After that, we continued on and were trying to film stuff, but we found it actually a bit difficult because, like, the last thing these people need is some fucking kids from Australia pointing cameras in their faces while they’re in this horrible situation. Later on, by chance, we ended up on Lesbos, the island in Greece. When we got there, we realised that we just had to start filming because it was the worst kind of camp in that whole crisis: 10,000 people stuck on this island prison.
We became friends with this Somalian guy who was in the camp because he used to be a journalist and was fleeing some terrorist organisation. We started filming other people in the camp and he was a translator, and it sort of became a bit of a thing that we just had to do because they were desperate to get their story out. But because me and Braden are so fucking lazy, we never did anything with the footage. We just came back and tried to put it together and then realised that we had to get it all translated. Then we just ended up forgetting about it. So, pretty fucking stupid actually. It was pretty amazing footage as well, it was a wild place.
There’s probably some sort of AI translator service that can just spit that out in five minutes now. Continuing on with passion projects and adventures, tell us a bit about this doco that you’ve filmed from Australia to Italy.
I mean, that’s one of those films I’ll never forget. It’s actually not a doco, it’s hard to describe what it is. I’ve never really shot anything like it. I had worked with the director before who I wouldn’t say as a director, he’s just more of a… he likes to do social experiments with people.
What’s his name?
Adam Briggs. Essentially, me, Adam, the director, the producer, and the sound recorders embarked on this mostly improvised feature film with this Italian man named Rosario. He’s a homeless guy—he lives in Brisbane or Melbourne or something—that Adam befriended because he works at a community cafe. And he’s a fucking character, he’s just so charming and chauvinistic at the same time… He’s got gravity to him.
Anyway, Adam somehow convinced him to make a semi-fiction feature film with them. Rosario, he wanted to go back to Italy to find his mother’s grave, who he never saw before. She died in Italy and he didn’t know where she was buried. He wanted to lay flowers on her grave, basically. That was the kind of plot, and the rest was improvised with other kinds of strange characters that Adam had met, either through the cafe or just in the street. We started shooting in Melbourne, then we went to Brisbane and shot for like a month; hectic shooting as well, seven days a week non-stop. I didn’t have an assistant or anything.
Then we flew to Italy. Somehow Rosario got lost and no one could find him because he flew by himself and ended up somewhere, like, a week too early. And he doesn’t have a phone or anything. Anyway, we started on this road trip film from Southern France, through Italy and up into the Alps where we finally finished the film on Christmas day in this fucking abandoned, ghost town Alpine village we’d found on Google Earth. We heard stories from people in other villages that years earlier, avalanches would rip through half the town, destroy it and everybody had to leave. So, we were up there shooting this final scene in this hotel where like, one family has stayed in the town, filming in this fucking avalanche. It was crazy… All on acid as well. I mean, that was a crazy shoot man.
What’s the film called?
Paris Funeral 1972. He hasn’t finished it yet; he’s still editing it. That’s the sort of shit that I love to do, I just do commercial work to like do stuff like that, where you can go and do something for nothing for like, six months and it’s just the craziest fucking time.
What are your favourite documentaries?
I really love the documentaries of Michael Glawogger. Workingman’s Death was pretty influential on me. I can’t remember the director’s name, but the film Fire at Sea—which was quite similar to what me and Brandon were trying to shoot in Greece during the refugee crisis. You know what doc I fucking love? I really love Matt Thorne and Andy Gough’s doco they shot in Java, Gaib. Do you know the Sensory Ethnographic laboratory?
No, what is it?
It’s, like, an anthropology course at Harvard University and they produce all these filmmakers who make these really specific, art house anthropology films, like Sweet Grass and Leviathan. All those films have been really influential.
What are you planning on exploring next with your work?
I mean, me and Braden are trying to plan a new bike trip. At the moment we’re thinking the Ural mountain range in Siberia, so maybe that’ll be the next doco. I don’t know. I don’t really plan these things, they just sort of happen. But in terms of, like, what I want to do more of in the future, it’s docos and drama. I really love shooting drama, and when those two are kind of combined, it’s really great as well.