When looking at horror short films on YouTube, not many of them have over 30 million views. So when you come across a trilogy that has these numbers, you know it must be special.

This is the case with Colin Krawchuk’s The Jester series, which follows a malevolent being known as The Jester, who terrorizes townspeople on Halloween night.

After the success of the shorts, Colin was often asked, “What would a Jester feature look like?” His answer was always the same: “It would never work. This character was made for small, isolated scenes in a short film format, and films like Michael Dougherty’s Trick or Treat already exist.”

More and more people asked, so many that they could no longer be ignored. Colin got an official offer to create a feature, he finally caved to the idea. Cut to this Halloween season, Epic Pictures’ horror label, DREAD just released the film, with Eduardo Sánchez, co-creator of the original horror blockbuster, The Blair Witch Project, Patrick Ewald and Mary Beth McAndrews serving as the film’s executive producers. Krawchuk wrote and directed the feature from a story by him and Michael Sheffield.

So what is key when adapting a short film into a feature? We spoke with Krawchuk about this and much more.

THE JESTER Official Trailer (2023) Horror Movie HDwww.youtube.com

No Film School: You both wrote and directed The Jester. How long did it take you to write the script?

Colin Krawchuk: We had a two-week deadline to come up with the outline for the story. We actually spent the first week developing an idea before realizing that it just wasn’t working. The characters were two-dimensional, the story was uninteresting, and there was way too much focus on trying to explain the Jester himself. Every explanation felt like something we’d seen before. So, after the first week, we essentially started over, with much more focus on the characters. The script deadline was about four weeks.

NFS: What was your writing process like?

'The Jester'Credit: Epic Pictures

NFS: What did preproduction look like for you on The Jester?

Krawchuk: I live in Florida, and the production was based in Maryland. So a lot of the pre-production was done remotely. I talked to as many department heads as I could, and I loved being able to discuss the script with everyone down to the smallest minutia. It forces you to crystallize your story into something more tangible, which is an exciting part of the process. It also meant writing for locations I could not physically be in, so a lot of the stage direction needed to be manipulated once I was able to be there.

NFS: The Jester is based on 3 short films by the same name that you also directed. What was the catalyst to making this story into a feature?

Krawchuk: The right person saw the film. We’d talked for years about how to possibly make The Jester into a feature and just didn’t think the character had enough substance to carry a story that long. When we got the offer to make a feature based on the character, we took it immediately! But wanted to make it our own, to carry over the essence of the shorts but make something with more depth.

'The Jester'Credit: Epic Pictures

NFS: What was the hardest part about turning this story into a feature?

Krawchuk: Having never written a feature before, learning structure in such an expedited timeline was a challenge. A big concern of mine was writing something that didn’t feel like a long short film. Then the first draft of the script was 61 pages. Definitely a little light! So, still, a lot to learn, but definitely learned a lot.

NFS: What advice would you have for writers and directors trying to turn their shorts into a feature?

Krawchuk: I would say first, don’t go into making a short film only with the intention of turning that idea into a feature. It would be great if you could, but the motivation behind making anything should be the idea itself. Love the idea, even if it stays a short film. Make it the best short film you can.

If you do get the chance to make it a feature, try to figure out what the essence of the short film is. It’s okay if the feature is going to be a bit different since they are two different forms of storytelling. A feature has room to explore more, and this can be a chance to add a lot of depth to a short film that otherwise may not have had the room for it. Your story can be flexible, but make sure that you love the initial idea enough to turn it into something that is still intact.

'The Jester'Credit: Epic Pictures

NFS: You mentioned learning structure in such a short time was challenging. How did you end up learning it for this script?

Krawchuk: It involved researching a lot of timeline maps for stories in general. Luckily, I have been listening to great resources for years, such as Sage Hyden’s YouTube channel Just Write, the Beyond the Screenplay podcast, or interviews with screenwriters in the industry. Every now and then, you’ll hear something that will click into place. Having that knowledge, rather than helping us figure out the right thing to do, would really help us recognize when something wasn’t working.

If you have any interest in writing, it’s never too early to start finding the resources that work for you and just start ingesting information.

NFS: Can you talk about the special effects in the film? Which scene was the most complicated?

Krawchuk: Luckily, we didn’t have too many effects in the film, and the ones we did have were simple, out of necessity. I think one of the more complicated effects scenes in the movie involved a blood gag and the Jester getting up from the ground in an unnatural way. We wanted to shoot him rising up with reverse photography, trying to keep it as simple as possible. We shot that on the day, as well as the blood gag, which had not turned out as effective as we’d hoped. Luckily, we got the opportunity to reshoot that section. We added a harness rig to the “Jester rising” shot to make it a little more unnatural, and we completely reworked the blood gag to make it more impactful.

'The Jester'Credit: Epic Pictures

NFS: The Jester mask in the feature is different than the shorts. Why did you modify this aspect?

Krawchuk: This is a very simple answer: the original Jester mask was bought at Walgreens for six dollars! We loved the way it looked and just wanted to make a short film. We had no idea what it was going to turn into!

Later, when it came time to make the feature, licensing, and copyright came into play. It gives an excuse to make the mask our own while still pulling as much from the original as possible.

NFS: Can you talk about what cameras and equipment you predominantly used for The Jester?

Krawchuk: We used the Red Epic-W Helium 8K.

NFS: The Halloween festival and haunted house sets look pretty large and intricate. Were these built specifically for the film?

Krawchuk: This sequence was shot at Markoff’s Haunted Forest. It is large and intricate, but it’s a local haunt that is open seasonally to the public. The festival was incorporated into the script to allow us to shoot at Markoff’s. It actually became the most difficult part of our shoot. I think we all severely underestimated the size of Markoff’s, and the difficulty of shooting and lighting the woods at night with limited power and visibility. There was actually more to the sequence where JC entered the haunted maze, but we just did not have time to shoot it, and that will haunt me forever. And this was our first week!

The key always with lighting any scene is to try to add depth to the background, something I’m still learning, and something I got to watch our excellent DP Joe Davidson and Gaffer Jaime Nudd excel at. It can give something shot on location a bit more of a cinematic, polished look. Otherwise, there’s a lot of darkness in the background.

NFS: What advice would you give to other directors looking to get a feature made?

Krawchuk: Stay motivated. Stay excited. Keep making things. Try to make sure each thing you make is better than the last in some way, even if it feels small.

NFS: Is there anything else you would like to add about The Jester?

Krawchuk: I’m so grateful to everyone who worked so hard on this feature to bring this script to life. It’s something you always dream of, but then when it finally happens you might feel like you don’t deserve it. I’m humbled by the talent and passion the crew brought to the table, and honored by the trust the cast put in me. Everyone should be proud of the work they put into this. I’m proud of what we made.

The Jester is getting a limited theatrical run from September 29, 2023, followed by a VOD release on October 3, 2023.