Director, Connor Williams talks about his new film, “The Spoilers”

Connor Williams is 17-years-old and is the producer/director/star of “The Spoilers”, which also stars Terry Kiser, the dead guy from Weekend at Bernie’s. Connor financed this film completely out of pocket, with money saved from acting jobs and working at Pizza Hut. Philosophia Verax was curious as to what makes this kid tick. Content produced by Film Syrup.

Connor Williams and Terry Kiser

FS: What made you get into film making?

CW: My family moved to Idaho from California when I was 7-years-old. Unpacking boxes, my parents came across a tape of a commercial I was in as a baby. They didn’t pursue acting for me. That commercial was a total fluke. When we watched the commercial together, I told them I wanted to be an actor.

FS: What was the commercial for?

CW: It was for a Soup restaurant in New York. I googled them a couple years back and they are no longer in business. I didn’t do much but lay there on a table.

FS: No soup for you?

CW: Nah.

FS: So, you were 7-years-old, an aspiring actor in Idaho, removed from California. Where did you go from there?

CW: My dad read about a 48-hour film contest, so he entered in hopes of networking with people that made films in Boise, ID. It was a disaster of a film. We had no idea what we were doing. It was finished on Wednesday, a full three days late. They still showed it in the theatre. The plan worked though, a director needed a kid my age and cast me in his feature film. I never have seen that film as it was rated R and my parents wouldn’t let me go to the premiere.

FS: What was the feature? Have you ever seen it or are you still not allowed?

CW: The feature was called  “Autumn Angel”. Yes, I’m finally officially allowed as I’m 17. That was a long wait. I never did see it, as there were some legal issues with the producers of the film so it stopped being shown.  But it was one of the few times I got my footage. What’s up with people promising footage and never delivering, by the way?

FS: Not everyone can deliver as efficiently as Pizza Hut, I suppose. How many movies have you been in?

CW: To date, I have been in 17 movies. Mostly shorts, but mostly as the lead. I have made many shorts and have won some festival awards. The truth is I only made “The Spoilers” film because I love acting. I’m now thinking differently about directing. I’m one of the leads of a movie “The UnMiracle”, which is going to Redbox in a few months. In fact, they’re  changing the ending so I’m flying back to Chicago to shoot a couple of scenes opposite Steven Baldwin and Kevin Sorbo. I also shot a couple of scenes in Jared Hess’s (Napoleon Dynamite) new comedy opposite Sam Rockwell.

Let me add that I love Pizza Hut! They have been very supportive of me with me traveling to auditions and everything that is involved in acting.

FS: How did you discover the script for “The Spoilers”?

CW: I had never met the writer, Bill Persons. Never even talked to him. I selected him from many writers off of elance. He and I were on the same page from the start. He was awesome to work with. I only had so much money to make this film, so I knew it had to have limited locations and people in the movie. I couldn’t have a scene at a concert with a thousand extras. I couldn’t blow things up, unfortunately. I had to make it all about the characters and the story.

FS: What’s it about?
CW: “The Spoilers” is a lot like The Breakfast Club, but with 2014 teen problems, not 1985. It’s a teen movie where kids are court ordered to school on the weekend for different offences and It’s their last chance to get it together. There’s social bullying, inappropriate teacher-student relations, issues pertaining to sexual consent, gang affiliation, religious beliefs etc.

FS: How did you find your Director of Photography and crew?

CW: I interviewed DP’s from a few different states. I really clicked with Andy and Korie Byrd. They made this movie. They busted their tails to get this done!

FS: How did casting work?

CW: For the actors, I put the break down on Actors Access. We had about 1,500 submissions. From that we (the crew was now involved) selected a ton to audition via tape. We selected the top ten for a callback via tape. We then invited the top 4 to Skype another callback and then top two for the last Skype callback. During that process, a couple of people googled me and discovered I was 17 and bowed out. I tried to hide my age until the end. I wanted everyone to take this seriously. Luckily, my top choices didn’t google me.

FS: It sounds like the internet provided a lot of things you needed to make this movie. Are there any other digital resources for filmmakers you utilized?

CW: Yes! I hired someone from fiverr.com to make the website . I hired someone off that site to write a press release and then when I’m ready to let the world know about the film I will hire someone to send it out to all the different news outlets.

FS: How long did it take to shoot?

CW: We started shooting on August 1st and wrapped on August 17th. We took the 2nd and 3rd off then worked straight through to complete it.
FS: What was it like, your first time directing?

CW: I had been on some pretty good sets, so I knew how it worked. The directors I have worked with put a lot of their faith into the DP. I did the same. I was totally prepared to let the DP know the shots I wanted and to hash things out with the actors, but I really didn’t need to. Andy made a shot list that we both agreed on and after the first day he totally took the pressure off of me. I stepped in a few times, but he knew what he was doing. He shot quickly and efficiently. I couldn’t imagine making this movie without him. He was awesome and he didn’t treat me like a kid. He treated me like a professional. When I wasn’t behind the camera, I would talk to the actors individually about the scene. They were so prepared that they took away a lot of stress. These guys will make it as actors. They are as hungry as I am. Keep your eyes on Brandon Butler, Kathryn Jurbala, Shruti Sadana and Hunter McCade. Props to them!

FS: How did you get Terry Kiser (Bernie, from Weekend at Bernie’s) in your movie?

CW: To be honest I wasn’t familiar with “Weekend at Bernies”. Another feature was being filmed in Boise, ID at the same time we were filming “The Spoilers”. There was an article in the paper about that other movie and he (Terry Kiser) was in it. My parents then told me that they had parked cars for him at his Hollywood Hills home thirty years ago, when they were in college. That same day someone heard that I was making a movie, heard about my age and wanted to represent it to sell. He asked if we had a “name” in the movie. Armed only with the valet story, I found Terry Kiser’s agent through IMDB and called her. I told her the story, we negotiated that I would pay for his flight change and two more nights at a hotel and his rate. I was shocked over how easy it was.

FS: What was it like to work with him?

CW: On set he’s all business. When he’s filming a scene, he doesn’t want chit chat. He termed it “WalMart-ing”. Like when you run into someone at the store and have to make mindless chatter. He holds a script in his hands while the camera is being repositioned. He told me later, sometimes he does that to go over lines, but mostly he doesn’t want people “WalMart-ing” him. He’s there to work. He stays focused until the scene is done, after that, he’ll talk about anything. He’s really funny, a cool dude, but very professional with everyone. We wrote four additional scenes for him. We gave him a ton of dialogue at about 4:00pm on Sunday and he knew it all by the time he was due on set at 9am Monday! He was a pro’s pro. I learned just from watching him.

FS: What’s he like as a person?

CW: He couldn’t have been more gracious with us. On the day he was shooting with us, I was throwing a “Thank You!” party for the moms and kids that came out from all across the US, later that night. I asked him if he wanted to come and I couldn’t believe it when he said “Yes!”. We got to know him on a friend level. He invited me and my parents to stay with him at his Austin, TX home if we get selected for their film festival. A couple nights before we wrapped we had a “Weekend at Bernies” viewing at my parents house. It was hilarious.

FS: So… he’s alive?

CW: Most definitely.

FS: Are you sure? No voodoo curses?

CW: … Pretty sure. I did the Bernie Dance with him so I’m 99% sure.
FS: What was the most difficult challenge in making this film?

CW: Scheduling. I was horrible at it. If schedules were changed somehow, I was the one who had to let everyone know. A couple of days, we were off by an hour. Next summer I’m hiring an “A” student from my high school just for scheduling and making sure all actors and production are on the same page. The other challenges were that it really did all rest on me. Needed lunch picked up? I went to get it. Needed a prop? I went to get it. I was the intern. I will have an intern next year. I didn’t get any down time. I worked three nights a week at Pizza Hut the entire time. I was pretty exhausted when it was over. If the cast and crew hadn’t been as prepared as they were, it could have been a disaster.

FS: How did you finance it?

CW: From my own money. 100%. I like to save money. So when I told my parents I was doing this my dad said he wasn’t putting any money in. He made that clear. So because I have been thrifty in the past I had a pretty good amount (or at least for me) saved up. I earned the money from acting and working at Pizza Hut.

FS: That’s impressive for a 17-year-old. Did you have to make a lot of sacrifices to get the movie made?

CW: Besides my wallet ? Well ,sleeping in. While my friends were waking up at noon, I had already been up and worked six hours. Recast a friend of mine, which was a long story, so maybe a friendship.

FS: What are your plans for “The Spoilers”?

CW: I want to sell it. I will submit to film festivals. The first filmfest I’m submitting is Slamdance, a film fest in Utah. I think that will tell me a lot about the movie. Slamdance is fully aware they will be the first festival that I will submit it to. I also am going to the American Film Market in Santa Monica to get in front of decision makers and try to sell my film. I think my age can help me stand out from the rest.

FS: What are your influences, film-wise?

CW: I liked Superbad and 21 Jump Street a ton. I like to be entertained. I know those aren’t the deepest of movies, but they made me laugh and they looked like fun to make.

FS: What are the qualities you look for in movies?

CW: If you’re not going to make me laugh, it better have a great story line. Entertain me. Movies are so subjective. Every element is so important from story line to production to acting. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.

FS: Where are you going from here?

CW: I want to push “The Spoilers” as much as I can. I know I can make a full length feature. I know how much it will cost and I know the mistakes I made that I won’t make again. I’m totally prepared for my next movie. Foster adoption is big in our family. My little brother and sister are foster adopted. I know all the statistics and I have heard some very sad stories. I would like to find a compelling story where I can bring awareness to the 500,000 kids in foster care. I have ideas based on facts but I’m not sure moms and dads are ready to see the truth and what’s happening to kids. It’s a sad situation.

FS: What advice do you have for people who are interested in filmmaking?

CW: If you want to direct and you haven’t yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Just do your own thing. Of course you’ll make mistakes like I did, but you won’t do that the second time around. I have never taken an acting class. Ever. I directed my own shorts (starring me) but I think if you’re honest with the people you’re working with, they will forgive you for your shortcomings. Most importantly: hire a DP that you trust. He/she is the backbone of the production.

FS: What do you have to say to people who think 17-years-old is too young to be making a movie?

CW: I guess I can say I proved myself right and them wrong. Overall, everyone has been very supportive.

FS: One last thing, can you tell me why it’s called “The Spoilers” or would that be a spoiler?

CW: Can you keep a secret? So can I!

For further updates, visit “The Spoilers” on its Facebook page: Spoilers The Movie.

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