Daniel E. Williams received his MFA in Film from Howard University in 1998 and in 2000 he won Best of Show at the Rosebud Film and Video Festival for his thesis film A Thousand Days a Year. He currently teaches film production at Bowling Green State University, while continuing to independently write, produce, and direct award-winning films. I even had the pleasure of working on his latest project, Autumn Blue, as the 1st AC.
“Cinema is not just a product, it’s a form of cultural expression.”
In this conversation, we dig into Daniel’s upbringing in St. Louis, his path through film school, and his process as an independent filmmaker. We get into Daniel’s thoughts on teaching filmmaking and what mistakes he sees beginning filmmakers make again and again. We talk about filmmaking as a craft, getting to know your equipment before you get on set, methods for improving your creativity and so much more. This episode is definitely worth the listen if you’re considering going to film school or becoming a filmmaker.
“Go to film school if you want to immerse yourself in the study of cinema.”
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6 Key Takeaways
1. Know what you are saying with your film. You don’t want to be the filmmaker that lacks an understanding of the ideology that is being expressed in your film.
2. Bond with the equipment before you go on a shoot. The more you know how to use the equipment the more proficient you will be on set. Read the manual.
3. Be knowledgeable of the history of cinema. Keep your textbooks and use the library. Watch films from the Criterion Collection.
4. On set, as in life, listen to your conscience. If your inner voice is speaking to you, pay attention.
5. As the director, even if you don’t make the right choice you have to be confident in that choice. You are the leader and your emotions and moods trickle down to the rest of the cast and crew.
6. Get away from film for periods of time. Expose yourself to other things, read widely, and experiment with other art forms. These become fuel for your work.
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Show Notes (Ep 20)
Intro and where Daniel grew up [01:32]
Growing up in Ferguson [06:20]
Origins of creativity [12:52]
Biggest obstacles to play [18:47]
Interest in filmmaking [20:41]
Going to film school [27:40]
Biggest takeaways from Howard [35:30]
Electronic news-gathering (ENG)
Studying English [39:44]
What stuck with you from grad school [44:01]
Thinking through the theory before making [50:19]
Why an MFA and how did that lead to teaching [54:03]
Teaching philosophy [59:50]
Film as art vs. product [01:07:10]
Strategy for catching up and keeping up with cinema [01:11:02]
What do you do to improve your craft that others do not [01:19:10]
Films and process [01:28:32]
Why still shooting with film [01:34:22]
What beginner filmmakers do that drive you crazy [01:46:47]
Current projects [01:57:26]
Favorite recent films [02:03:56]
More favorites [02:06:26]
Final advice for attending film school [02:16:05]