“Babywatch” is inspired by a true story of a little known religious scandal from the mid-90s. After a young woman suffered a mental breakdown, members of her own church effectively locked her in a hotel room in hopes that peace and quiet would cure what ailed her. All of her caretakers were forbidden to communicate with her. Seventeen days later she was dead. The project is an exploration of the shadow of guilt and the nature of complicity.

Directors Vision

I read online that the tourism department for a certain vacation town was putting on a contest to see who could write the best script using the town as its setting. They were offering to provide the necessary funds to fly the crew out to shoot the winning script on location. I did some research on the town and discovered a religious scandal from the early 1990s. A woman suffering from a severe mental breakdown had been locked inside a hotel room by members of her church who hoped peace and quiet would cure what ailed her. They were all forbidden to speak to her. Seventeen days later she was dead. I chose to write my script about arguably the single worst event in that town’s history and sent it in. Obviously, I didn’t win. Why would they want to reveal the hidden stain? I never expected to win, I just wanted to let them know that some people don’t forget the past, no matter how much time obscures it.

Two and a half years go by. I’m upstate on my friend’s farm trying to write the “Holy Moses” feature and bouncing off the walls with writer’s block. I walk around some. Look at the horses. They look back at me. No ideas. At some point I end up rereading the old script and I get severely sidetracked. I go down a dark rabbit hole of research. I discover that at some point during the ensuing criminal trials all of the witness depositions were made public and uploaded online. So instead of writing “Holy Moses” I spend five days straight reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of witness depositions. It got to the point while reading where I could sense when a person was lying, and I saw all of these contradictory stories, overlapping, circling around the truth which was somewhere buried within. I was obsessed all over again. I rewrote the script using these court documents as a new foundation.

For legal reasons I couldn’t explicitly name the church, and because of that I’m afraid that this short film comes up lacking. It’s not my intention to go to war with that specific church. I have no axe to grind against any one religious institution, it’s their belief systems I’m interested in exploring. In the depositions there’s lots of talk about whether or not the hotel room was locked or not, many witnesses claiming that the young woman could leave at any time she wanted. Whether or not that’s true, I think the image of the unlocked door is a powerful one that begs the question: how much do our own beliefs keep us from opening the door?

“Babywatch” doesn’t spell everything out word-for-word. I know it can be a little disorienting, like parachuting down right into the middle of something. I did my very best to leave a trail of breadcrumbs throughout. Every interview scene has a new piece of information that when combined together paints the larger picture. I tend to ask a lot of the viewer here, and I really hope that they’re willing to lean in, become the detective, and bear witness to these moments as they unfold.