From making home videos with his friends in middle school, to falling into producing and landing global distribution, Eric Williford is a force to be reckoned with in the film industry. We chatted about the passion to work with other artists and his new digital series, DisGraced.
Tell me about yourself and how you got started filmmaking? What drew you in first, was it writing or directing?
It was a combination of the two! It’s been engrained in me for a long time, all the way from making silly movies with my friends in middle school to creating my own game.
Did you go to college to study filmmaking or writing?
I actually went to college as a Communications major. I also did track at UNC Wilmington. At the end of my second year of college, I quit track and spent all my free time watching films and studying film in classes. All my electives were film related. I started to realize I had to play the game so I could get a degree and a job, but also be educated enough to make films
Can you describe your experience making your first feature film, The 8th Plague? Looking back,what are some of the biggest lessons you learned that you’ve implemented on other projects after that film?
It was a lot of fun to make and it more or less launched my career. It put me on IMDB and we were able to land global distribution on that film. You were actually able to walk into Blockbuster and pick up the DVD or order it on Netflix back when you had to order the DVDs.
Back then, It was really validating— not only within the industry, but it validates you in the eyes of friends and family too. All of the sudden, what you’re doing isn’t just running around in the backyard with a camera. People can see it’s not just a pipe dream, it became a real thing. I learned so much on that film, from how to work with a shoestring budget, writing for a specific location to cut the cost, managing a large crew, etc.
One of the biggest things that helped me as a writer was producing this movie. Seeing how long it takes to film one page or watching actors say your lines and realizing how clunky they sound,
so you have to go back and re-write. After that experience, my first drafts of scripts were way more polished.
In what ways did you feel more prepared and knowledgeable producing other projects in the years that followed?
After we made The 8th Plague, we rolled right into Carver. On that film, it was cool for me to just produce and focus on that. We got distribution for that too, which is awesome. My goal had always been to direct and write, but I fell into producing on 8 th plague. However, I went into Carver knowing that would be my role.
Did you think you might only want to be a producer after producing Carver?
During filming, it didn’t cross my mind, I just knew I wanted to get the film made. After Carver, during post-production, it hit me that I wanted to start directing my own stuff again. We made Carver in 2006 and it came out in 2008. In 2007 I moved from Virginia to San Diego. It was around 2007-2008 that I realized I wanted to get back in writing and directing my own stuff.
Tell us about DisGraced. What inspired the idea?
DisGraced came around because I had been working with Victoria Vertuga, the series star, for a couple years and cast her in a previous short film. About four years ago, I had been collaborating with a bunch of other writer/directors and I wanted to try something different
which was to collaborate with someone who doesn’t do what I do, i.e. an actor. So, I called up Victoria.
She would always tell me stories of what it’s like to be a woman in Hollywood, dealing with casting directors, producers, etc. She had all these crazy stories and we kicked the idea around of a digital series.
Were you involved in all aspects, from writing to funding to casting?
Victoria and I both wrote every episode and casting and producing it was also a collaborative effort. I directed and edited four of the episodes and Victoria directed two of the episodes.
What’s your advice to other people who are hesitant to start creating their own content or series?
You have to love how the sausage is made because the actual film festival or the glamorous parts make up maybe 10% of it. It’s the other 90% that you have to love. You have to have that
mentality where you don’t care that you have a 4am call time and you have to actually have a burning desire to tell that particular story,
You also have to love working with other artists. It’s not like painting where you sit in a room and whatever your brain comes up with, you paint it. It’s a collaborative effort with so many other people. Your screenplay is not some magnificent piece of art that can’t be changed. Your script is a blueprint for how to build a house.
My biggest advice for any aspiring screenwriter is to get on set. Don’t spend all your time watching movies and writing. You’ll learn how things actually work. It’s not a stage play where everything revolves around respecting the word on the page and the word is everything.
Also, learn another aspect of the process. One of the biggest things that helped me as a writer aside from being on set, was being an editor. You realize how unnecessary a lot of dialogue is.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, we are doing whatever we can to get DisGraced out to the world. It’s 8 episodes long and we’re excited for everyone to see it. Women in and outside of the film industry have been responding really well to it. It was important to us for this story to be universal for women trying to pursue their dream and trying to maintain their dignity in a world that seems to want to tear them down and pit women against each other.
Victoria and I are also working on a horror film, "A Certain Method," which is written by both of us. It’s starring her and I will be directing. We’re working on hopefully our last draft currently.
Where can people watch DisGraced?
You can watch it on YouTube or on Vimeo as DiGgraced The Series. You can also find it on Instagram or through my website.
For more information on Eric, visit his website: https://www.ewilliford.com