Marker, roll camera and action. To most people, a film is a story told through a sequence of moving images, but what does it mean to the person behind the scenes?
Rob Williams, a TCU alumnus and co-founder of Guest House Films LLC, didn’t discover the art of filmmaking until after graduation. This “big movie lover” had reached a point in his career where he needed to make a change and try something new such as taking a shot at making indie films.
Williams is an award-winning director, producer and screenwriter who recently completed production on his fourth film, a gay-themed Christmas comedy called “Make the Yuletide Gay”, which has a screening Aug. 26 at Q Cinema in Fort Worth.
Q: I understand you graduated from TCU with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance and received a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing from the University of Texas. Where did the idea of becoming a filmmaker come from?
A: Actually, after I got my MBA, I went into public relations … I specialized in writing and doing promotional videos for clients. I reached a point where I was watching bad indie films and I thought, ‘Well you know what, I’m going to give that a shot.’ I felt like it was time to make a change and do something new. I just decided to do it.
Q: How would you explain going from college graduate to Hollywood filmmaker?
A: (Williams chuckles) Well it’s a very long process and it’s not something I necessarily set out to do. It’s obviously not what I studied in college … I needed to do something more creative. Being I was already living out here in Los Angeles, it kind of felt very natural … I was able to make a film very easily because I knew enough people to ask for help. That was my first film and now I’ve completed my fourth and it has become my career.
Q: Can you elaborate on the creation of your corporation as far as how it begin and your reasoning behind its creation?
A: I was in public relations and was also going to a screen writing class. My partner, Rodney (Johnson), has had a couple of novels published; a young adult mystery series. So we’re both very creative people. When we decided to take a chance and make the first film, we knew we needed to establish a company and establish an identity, so we formed Guest House Films LLC. Our house here in Los Angeles has a guest house behind it … (our) intent was to have our offices out at the guest house. We founded the company just specifically to make that first film, but now it’s become our brand.
Q: Your company has successfully produced four films within the past three years. What was your inspiration for “Make the Yuletide Gay?”
A: Well ‘Make the Yuletide Gay’ is a family Christmas film. The reason I wanted to make it is because I am a sucker for Christmas films. You know, if in the middle of the summer a really good Christmas film comes on TV I can sit and watch it and I’ll love it. So kind of our motto is we want to make the kinds of films that we want to see … since I love Christmas films, I wanted to make one. I went from there and thinking back and talking to people, when you’re in college and you go home to visit your parents … there are always things that you keep from them. That’s kind of the nature of college. There’s a line in the film where one of the characters says, ‘We all want to be what our parents want us to be,’ which is kind of the message of the film … this kid is out and openly gay at college, but he hasn’t yet come out to his parents. I thought it was a very universal idea … you have this world at college and you have this world with your parents. So sometimes when those collide, it’s not always pretty, but it can be pretty funny.
Q: Are there any other messages in your other films that are similar?
A: Well, I always try to put out in the films a very positive portrayal of gay and lesbian characters, and I try to put out characters who are just true to themselves. I think people relate to that more than anything else. That is the common theme through the films; putting out people who are comfortable with who they are, but also putting out a very hopeful message. That’s another thing I try to do with all my films, is put a hopeful message in them … have the happy ending because life is very tough and you don’t always get the happy ending in life and you don’t always get them in the movies.
Q: With “Make the Yuletide Gay” has there been success as far as film festivals or awards?
A: Yes, actually, we’ve had tremendous success at film festivals. We won four audience awards so far, and we’ve had sold out screenings at many of the festivals – just a tremendous response. It’s coming out on DVD on Nov. 10 and we’re getting really good word of mouth.
Q: Of the four films you’ve produced, which one has been the most interesting or possibly a favorite?
A: Well, definitely ‘Make the Yuletide Gay’ is my favorite. It’s only because I think it’s the most universal film that we’ve made. Our first three were really made more for the gay market and this is really a film that anyone can watch. It’s a family film first, it’s a Christmas film second and a gay-themed film third. It was the most fun doing because I got to work with stars like Adamo Ruggiero from ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’. I got to work with Gates McFadden from the ‘Star Trek’ series and Ian Buchanan, who’s on soap operas. Alison Arngrim, who was on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ which I’m sure you are far too young to remember, but this was someone that I watched on TV growing up and I got to work with her professionally and it was really exciting.
Q: Was working with them nerve-wracking even though you’ve lived there and have made three films?
A: It was. The most nerve wracking day for me was working with Gates McFadden and Ian Buchanan. They work together and play the parents of one of the main characters. I’m a huge sci-fi geek, so working with the one who I had watched on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ for so many years was just amazing and Ian Buchanan was in the TV series ‘Twin Peaks’, which is one of my favorite all time shows. So I was just trying not to geek out all day long because these were two actors I respected tremendously and who were on two of my favorite TV shows.
Q: Are there any upcoming productions or projects you are working on we should be looking out for?
A: Yes, definitely. Most of this fall is working toward the DVD release this November. But we also have a couple of projects in the works. One is we’ve optioned a novel called ‘Van Allen’s Ecstasy’ and I’m adapting that novel for the screen and we’re hoping to get that produced for me to direct next year.
“Make the Yuletide Gay”
When: Aug. 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Four Day Weekend Theater