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Local filmmaker has dreams come true at National Black Theatre Festival

Rodney Williams is a long-time fan of the NBTF and will have his short film debut at this year’s event.

Local filmmaker has dreams come true at National Black Theatre Festival
August 04
07:01 2022

When you see people sporting purple and black attire on the streets of Winston-Salem, you know it’s time for the National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF). The festival will hold their 17th biennial event from Aug. 1-6. Rodney Williams is a long-time fan of the NBTF and will have his short film debut at this year’s event.

Williams’ film, “The Writers Grief,” is the first project he has produced into an actual film. He wrote, produced and directed the short. As a frequent visitor to the festival, he is excited to have his work be a part of the weeklong event.

“The film follows a writer who is dealing with the loss of his wife,” Williams said about the movie’s plot. “She has passed away and it’s really a film that has him wrestle with the idea of what grief is and how to move forward with it.

“So, this entity comes to visit him and it walks him through what life is all about and kind of gets him on the right track of turning his life around so he can be more productive.”

Williams has been an actor since 2017 and has worked on several projects including “Sincerely, Camille,” which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). He says he was tired of auditioning for things and hoping for opportunities, so he decided to take the leap and make his own film

“My friend Patrick told me ‘you can’t write what you don’t care about’ and for this film in particular, I remember Jordan Peele once said, ‘write the film that no one else is writing.’ 

“I was a bit of a novice, but I already know how art feels as an actor when you look at a script and say ‘ooooh, that’s good.’  So, I started writing that script.

“I knew a few guys with cameras and I know a few guys that edit, so let’s get this thing going. From there it became a turning of a new leaf for me, not just being an actor but having a passion to tell stories that I genuinely felt mattered, behind the actual camera.”

Williams started writing the short film around Christmas time of 2021. He went through six drafts of the script before he was happy with the finished product. Shooting for the film started in March 2022. After two weeks of work, they were able to complete the nine-minute short, which excited Williams.

“I am not a parent yet, but I imagine it’s how a parent feels when they hold their newborn,” Williams said about finishing his first short film. “It showed me ‘hey, you can do this, and it is attainable. It’s going to take an insane amount of work, but you can do it.’”

Williams feels he can succeed in all areas of film; from acting, producing, directing and writing. He says it’s hard to choose just one aspect of film, but if he had to, he would choose acting and directing.

Growing up, Williams was a fan of the arts but didn’t feel that it was something he would have access to. He went all the way through high school and college before finally taking the leap to becoming an actor.

After putting in the work to write, produce and direct his own film, Williams was eager to have his film shown. Once he was given a slot at this year’s festival, it made all the hard work worthwhile.  

“I felt relieved because everything that could go wrong with the film did,” he said about his film being shown at the festival. “From having to get other set locations, to people having to drop out unexpectedly, to the audio at one point in time being atrocious. So when I actually found out I got in, I was absolutely relieved, and I knew it was time to celebrate.”

Williams’ film will be shown at 11:15 and 11:45 a.m. on Aug. 2 and Aug 4 in studio 2 at the a/perture cinema in downtown. It will also be shown on Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. at the Sylvia Sprinkle Hamlin building.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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