Independent filmmaker finds his footing in Columbia
Thursday, April 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:32 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
Brock Williams captures the look and feel of Florence, Italy, from the balcony of the Palazzo Vecchio in December 2006. An employee at the Palazzo let him gather footage from the balcony, which is normally closed.

The mail is still on the bottom step at 3 p.m. and recently emptied Tupperware containers occupy one of the chairs. The second-floor office looks more like a place where college students live than the headquarters of a video and film production company.

Brock Williams and his colleagues produce a variety of video projects, from music videos to documentaries to corporate promotional material. Williams’ resume includes promotional spots for Columbia’s True/False Film Festival and work on the locally made film “American Shopper” as well as projects for companies across the country.

“I think that Brock is one of Columbia’s best-kept secrets,” said Mark Swanson, associate creative director for one of Williams’ clients, Woodruff Sweitzer, an advertising agency with offices in Columbia, Kansas City and Calgary, Alberta.

So, how does a 25-year-old filmmaker just out of 6,100-student Harding University in Arkansas wind up with his own production company in Columbia?

“I worked for a couple of years as a freelancer, then worked on TV shows and films and all kinds of stuff and decided to just start my own company.” Williams said.

Williams knew what he wanted to do at an early age. “I’m one of those people that you hear about frequently, it seems,” Williams said. “My parents bought me a video camera in the fifth grade. All throughout my childhood I made movies with my friends.”

Williams has said that he wants to tell stories with a significant impact. He doesn’t cite any specific role models, but he says currently he has been watching a lot of Spanish films and documentaries.

Despite respecting the work of such well-known directors as Alfonso Cuarón and Wes Anderson, Williams tries not to imitate any single director’s approach.

Williams is fresh off a month-long trip to Italy where he discovered the subject of his latest documentary short, an Iraqi artist living in Florence named Fuad Aziz.

“(Fuad) moved there to study his art years ago, and then Saddam (Hussein) took over and he couldn’t go back to Iraq. He lived in Italy for years and years and finally could go visit his home after Saddam was taken out of power and everything was kind of just demolished,” Williams said.

Williams submitted “Fuad” to Silverdocs, a documentary film festival in Silver Spring, Md., sponsored by the American Film Institute and the Discovery Channel. He is waiting to hear back.

The youth-oriented cable television channel CurrentTV has broadcast several of Williams’ short documentaries, including “Bio-Town”, about an Indiana town that has been re-engineered to sustain itself only using renewable resources.

Boxcar Films has two goals for the next six months. The first is to finish editing on a comedy short in which the company employed members of the Screen Actors Guild and submit it to film festivals. The second is a reality TV show pilot Williams hopes to have ready to pitch to networks soon. The show follows the daily happenings at Bridge Studio, a Jamestown recording studio.

Swanson said Williams is a unique filmmaker. “His demeanor is very laid back, so when he’s filming different people they are not threatened,” Swanson said. “Brock is able to be in any environment and see what’s aesthetically interesting about that environment.”

Recent projects include promotional videos for Columbia’s Christian Fellowship and for Innoventor, an engineering company in St. Louis.

Williams says that Boxcar Films is unique in its personalized approach to videos produced for clients.

“If a project needs to be told in a documentary style, we’ll do that, or if we think we should write a script and use actors, we’ll do it that way,” Williams said. “All of those things are tailor-made to each individual project.”

Williams also stays in tune with the indie music scene. He has produced music videos for groups such as the Gena Rowlands Band and Amsterband. Boxcar’s next musical project is a video for KBBM/100.1 FM Bandemonium winner, Ghost and the Machine.

Luke Long, bassist for the Springfield band Amsterband, said Williams was flexible and creative. “It was a totally organic atmosphere. “Brock definitely had an idea of the way thing should go down,” said Long. “If we ended up improving something, it was very fluid as far (as) ‘Don’t do that or don’t do this because we already have this conceptual idea.’”

Williams has also produced music videos and films with David Wilson, the True/False Film Festival co-director.

“He’s really motivated and passionate about filmmaking,” Wilson said. “When you find someone that’s really committed and really passionate and is going to work hard at it in a really professional way, that’s great.”

Williams lives in Columbia now while his wife, Bethany, finishes her doctoral degree in conservation biology at MU.

Filmmakers in New York or Hollywood might have a strategic advantage, but Williams’ goal is to make his location irrelevant. He already has clients in California, Kansas and Missouri, among other places.

“I’d like to get to the point where the company could make decent money and support myself and a lot of employees and could be located anywhere we wanted to live,” Williams said. “I think we’re not too far away from that.”

He also hopes to move on to producing and writing longer films.

“I would like to do feature films and I like documentaries and narratives films both,” Williams said. “But for now I think we’re just starting ­— me personally as a filmmaker and the company, I think, is just starting to get to the point where we would be able to do a low-budget feature.”

Williams says there is a difference between his corporate work and personal filmmaking.

“The corporate video side of things is something we do because we can make money doing that. If we got to a point where we made a living doing films and TV shows, then that’s all we would do,” Williams said.

Despite his volume of work, Williams is relatively unknown and still looking for his big break.

“If people start getting wind of him he’s going to have more work than he can handle,” Swanson said.

Wilson hopes that Williams continues collaborate with locals.

“Certainly he has a skill and a competence that if he wants to be doing commercial work in larger cities, that’s certainly out there as an option for him,” Wilson said. “Brock has been really generous. I think he fits into what I see as the spirit of Columbia filmmaking.”

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