GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The next time you sit down to binge a full season of TV, you just might find yourself enjoying a series shot right here in West Michigan. Staff and students at Compass College of Cinematic Arts recently completed production on an 8 episode first series run of a show called The Watchers.
The series was written and directed by Compass in-house director and alumni Aaron Greer.
Greer had initially written and shot a pilot episode of the series in 2019, using some of the same actors they would later bring back for the full season run.
“You don't have to be in New York, you don’t have to be in LA, you can be in West Michigan," said Jay Greer, president of Compass College.
"You can be shooting a TV series in West Michigan.”
And that is exactly what they did— finishing up scripts for the series and coming to an agreement with Vision Video, a Christian content distribution company, for them to help fund and distribute the episodes.
"We've been funded, both partially by Vision Video, and also from donors that gave to campus to support the shoot," Jay Greer told FOX 17.
Compass prides itself on providing real-world industry experience for its students, showing them opportunities to work in film, even if they are set on staying in West Michigan to pursue a career.
"There's so many opportunities that the students can actually be on this shoot and it will be shown forever," Jay Greer said.
The production was even able to fly in several actors from the Los Angeles area to film.
“I think the people here are more gracious than in Los Angeles,” said actor Kevin Porter.
“Things are a little more passionate, and a little more appreciative of the opportunities that are here, and I love that.”
Actress Ciera Foster, also from the Los Angeles area, said she was pleasantly surprised about the atmosphere on the set.
“Not to sneeze at any other sets I've worked on, but by far, this has been the set that I felt the most comfortable," Foster said.
Actor David Gries calls Michigan his home year-round.
“I live in this area in Zealand actually... So there's not, I don't want to say not a whole lot of opportunity to do stuff like this, but it feels really good when you get to do it,” Gries told FOX 17.
There was a time over a decade ago that major productions were consistently coming to Michigan. Starting back in 2008, the state began using tax credits to lure companies here. The incentives changed in the years that followed, eventually being eliminated completely in 2015.
Production on the episodes wrapped towards the end of May. Now comes the post-production process, with an expected release date some time early 2021.
“I hope this is the first of many, many projects that we do here in West Michigan, and we do it in partnership with the college because I think the college is a natural place to draw talent from,” director Aaron Greer told FOX 17.
“We approached this season like we already knew a 2nd season was going to happen. We wrote the story that way, we shot it that way.”
You can find more info on The Watchers on their Facebook page.