Freelance Director and lecturer Rodney Victor Williams considers himself an artist who uses the mediums of film and music to tell stories. Having studied filmmaking at Middlesex/SAE, Rodney wrote and directed his new independent web series ‘R E S O L V E’.
What made you get into film making and why did you make the decision to be independent
As a boy my dad kept me in doors when I wanted to go out and play. He was scared because we lived in a rough community. My sister was five years older than me so I had to play by myself which ended up with me really using my imagination. Drawing what I saw on our black and white TV box became a main staple which grew into me sketching my own comic ideas from and early age. To my mind I think film is the pinnacle so I wanted to move beyond the still panels of the comic book world and tell stories with moving images.
I pursued filmmaking/storytelling because I guess fundamentally I feel most alive when I am being creative in this way. I just wanted to interpret the stories I had. The things I saw and heard using this method of expression. That’s what’s at the core. Nowadays it’s more political. I see my role as a filmmaker, to contribute to the narrative being given by media. An artist has a responsibility to my mind (Nina Simone) to speak to the times. I want to leave my mark in the stories I create and challenge some of the views out there. So my reasons for making films now have grown beyond natural instinct to a more mature point of view of someone who has a responsibility to use his art to speak to his generation like Goya.
I chose the independent approach initially out of necessity. I tried to get a budget for things but it ended up with me banging my head against a wall over and over. You have to move on and chose to take the step to make it within the limitations of having no budget. The thing is, an aesthetically pleasing beauty can be achieve working without massive budgets.
There is a movement called Dogma 95 adopted by Danish filmmakers as an anti Hollywood system of working. This involves using all natural light and celluloid cameras at the time with various limitations on the actors approach etc. To my mind Dogma 95 was guerrilla filmmaking. Films like ‘Festen’ and ‘The Idiots’ had a soul to them that echoed European art house. I learned from that. These guys also had money for the big production but chose rather to limit themselves. Limitations can be used to create significant art. One of my favourite quotes is from the Dogma cinematographer Anthony Dodd Mantle:
“The soul, not the style, is what matters. Technique that does not become art is of no interest. People fear the new and unpredictable. It’s difficult to understand why, because the language of cinema needs to be renewed”
Here we see him explaining first that cinema is about soul. Soul speaks to our emotions. It bypasses our intellect and we understand it because we first feel it. I think this to me is the raw power of visual images. This is the opportunity being independent creates – because we are force to find ways to communicate effectively and I think more about our story world.
A poet ought to imagine the world in its entirety! …Aristotle (Poetics)
This is the single strength of any artist. Knowing the subject they are painting, writing or filming about. It’s this intimacy with the subject that creates good art of articulated well in the writing and the performance and the shots. This attention to detail creates soul which is something that big budget Hollywood films often lack!
It’s still important to have a budget but I think every filmmaker should start off with limitations because it brings out the best in your creative process. These limitations force you to work out a cognitive method between yourself and the team to deliver the story poignantly. This sharpens your thought process visually and film is a visual art so in the end limitations in the beginning of your career can forge a stronger mind towards the art. I can’t say I am a dogma filmmaker but probably my system is a digital offspring. A digital dogma that is very much influenced by that system.
What’s Resolve about and how did you come up with the idea?
R E S O L V E is a story about a father who is searching for his son’s killer while navigating the dubious job of being a hitman.
There is a third dimension to the father. He is an ex soldier. This brings in a set of issues like PTSD and guilt (surrounding his actions in the war) that impacts on his conscience and character. In the first episode we see his mother suggests that probably because of his role in the war, karma has brought – Elisha’s lost. He refuses to accept that but it’s there in the back of his head. He is trying to work out his own sense of redemption hence with his broken conscience he starts helping folks who suffered from the menaces of society (via his hitman job) as a means to give back. He becomes a sociopath/urban-vigilante operating outside of the law but ultimately Resolve is a story about the consequences that journey will bring to himself and his loved ones.
R E S O L V E was born out of a tapestry of ideas.
THE CHARACTER: I have a friend who is a 54 year old ex-soldier. He speaks four different languages fluently. He experienced lost in the army with soldiers in his team when you hear about his story you don’t believe it because of his complexion… Media has a way of painting a certain shade with soldiers it’s not just an Oscars issue I guess. I’ve seen my mate reacted to situations in ways that intrigue me. I wanted to use him as a reference for the character. This is the type of character that society doesn’t interact with in the media. He’s not a super hero just a broken man trying to pick up the pieces left in his life but his past in the army informs his behaviour. I believe that the things we see the character do in Resolve – he has to take a certain path to get there. He’s not an angry person walking around but he has a certain Resolve that he intends to act out and he’s taking his time to get there piecing together information step by step.
LOST OF SON: I hate when I open the news papers and see children who are killed as innocent bystanders to gang wars and violence. I genuinely hate violence in general but lost such as this can be unconsolable.
GET CARTER: a simple revenge driven film that I love. I always wanted to take a stab at a revenge narrative.
PROCESS: I infused these ideas together. A type of alchemy and a believable world was given birth and I thought that the name RESOLVE was fitting. That’s what my protagonist is after. He’s after a sense of closure. We may argue about its moral ends but at the end it’s what it is!
AUDIENCE: I think it’s the type of story that folks will find interesting and would engage with. People may not agree with the character but there is a part of them that understands and emphasises.
How important is it to be independent?
Independence is a starting point for some, for others it becomes a way of doing it.
Independence if taken seriously can be a tool to make really special boutique pieces and speak to your audience like the Dogma 95 filmmakers.
In the digital age where everyone has a camera and they is so much noise you can use being independent as a churning ground to create your own method because your imagination has to come up with a way to make the work appeal – and I say appeal because the end product has to be for an audience that you want to engage with. We can’t get away from the audience (hence we are ultimately selling a commodity) that may sound commercial but I think it’s realistic.
The film is for an audience that starts with you as the artist and extends to people in the global community that share the views (or least find them interesting). So we have to understand that audience and know what makes them tick. So being independent makes you push creatively to be more engaging with your shots and stories.
This should remain special about independent films. There should always have this soul. So one of the most important things is to keep that soul. There is an audience out there that don’t want to see ‘Transformers’ or ‘Batman Vs Superman’. They just want to see a well told story. I’m not saying those stories are horrible but you don’t leave the cinema with the same feeling as watch ‘Amelie’ or of recent ‘Victoria’.
Should more creatives seek to be independent?
It’s a risk but an artist has to take risks. I would say that every budding filmmaker should try to be independent. Some folks wouldn’t do a film until they get a budget that’s fitting – they would rather just be an editor and let the stories sit.
Independent filmmaking is a means to getting those stories off the shelves and sharpening you filmmaking technique in the process. There are tons of folks out there who are up for collaborating. To me it’s the natural way to take responsibility for your career.
I can’t sit around wining about not getting a budget because of my skin or this or that. It’s an immature perspective that fuels procrastination and kills your dreams. So I’ll say that more artist should use the independent method to get on with it – get your stories out there. Not every story is for the independent system of working but you can chose the right story that fits the method. I’m not saying it’s easy but make the right measurements and take the risk. You have to if you want to tell your stories.
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