Sky to Debut Otto Baxter Doc & Horror Short


Sky Documentaries has commissioned documentary and horror short film companion pieces from Otto Baxter and Story Films.

A feature-length documentary, Otto Baxter: Not A F***ing Horror Story will follow 35-year-old Baxter through a year of change as he makes his film, driven by a moment of realization of his own mortality and that of those closest to him. Through the writing and directing process, Baxter finds the vocabulary to process his past and imagine his uncertain future.

Archive of Baxter’s upbringing will be blended with drama and present-day footage in the documentary to tell the story of him and his family, placing it in the context of the U.K.’s evolving attitudes toward disability over his lifetime.

The second project, The Puppet Asylum, is a 30-minute short film set in Victorian London. It is an allegorical horror biopic written and directed by Baxter as a reimagining of his own life, from birth to becoming his own master. The film’s stars include Paul Kaye, Rebecca Callard and Myanna Buring, with Dexter Fletcher and Adeel Akhtar and a score by Ed Harcourt.

The projects are the first original commissions of this scale, written and directed by a person with Down Syndrome, to be ordered by a major British broadcaster.

Produced by All3Media-backed Story Films, in association with Archface Films and developed with the support of the BFI awarding National Lottery funding, The Puppet Asylum and Otto Baxter: Not A F***ing Horror Story will air on Sky Documentaries and streaming service NOW in 2023, following a theatrical window.

Baxter said: “I am the first writer and director with Down Syndrome commissioned by a British broadcaster to make a film like this, but hopefully not the last. Making my vision come to life has been totally mind-blowing. Without exception, the whole team has made me feel welcomed, listened to, included and respected as a fellow artist. Having Down Syndrome has meant I have often been excluded from teams so it has been wonderful to have the experience of being at the center of such an inclusive and professional project. I hope this will become standard working practice and help with the fight for inclusion and equality in the industry and beyond. I would like to thank all the people at Sky for believing in me and enabling me to share my story.”

Poppy Dixon, director of factual and documentaries at Sky, said: “We are incredibly excited to welcome such a powerful and innovative dual project to Sky Documentaries. It is a privilege to share Otto’s deeply personal narrative of growing up with Down Syndrome in the U.K., and his journey toward reclaiming and redefining his life, on his own brilliant terms. Both are utterly unique projects, told with an unflinching creative voice; The Puppet Asylum and Otto Baxter: A Horror Story will sit at home amongst a wealth of compelling, bold factual content on the channel.”

Documentary directors Peter Beard and Bruce Fletcher at Story Films said: “We’ve been mates with Otto for 15 years and thought we knew him really well, but joining him on his filmmaking journey has offered incredible insights into how he sees the world. Otto is a true creative and a director with a singular vision. Sometimes, during the writing process, he’d suggest ideas we thought would never work. They generally turned out to be the stand-out moments of the film. This is a story and a world that could only have come from the mind of Otto Baxter, and through this process, Otto has found the vocabulary to unpack how he really feels about his past and his future.”