Ari Williams first decided he wanted to become a screenwriter after watching “The Wind Rises,” written and directed by Hayou Miyazaki, in fifth grade. He said he “would do anything to go back to that moment.” Now, as a film student at the University of New Mexico, Williams has worked to recreate the thrill of cinema through his own works.
“I always wanted to be a storyteller or a writer,” Williams said. “The first thing I said I wanted to be was a poet … I didn’t really wanna learn how to read and write, but I remember asking my grandmother if she could write down the words I said aloud and then I would draw the pictures and add stickers, and I used to do a lot of books like that.”
Williams’ film “Glass Eye” was selected for UNM’s annual juried film festival Cherry Reel. Generally, William’s said he’s reluctant to turn in-class projects, such as this one, into film festivals, but he was proud of the work, particularly noting the stellar performances by Jayla Franklin-Sullivan and Lilinoe Fields Perkins.
He said the most fulfilling part of this piece was the people he met in the process — Williams is drawn to film as a social medium where he is able to collaborate and get inspired by other artists.
“I’ve made so many friends that have inspired me to do more projects on my own time and, I think one of the really awesome things about making art is when you’re just with some friends and you’re doing art together,” Williams said.
The potential for social expansion and collaboration is especially prevalent to Williams at UNM, where he finds the film community to be lively and supportive of young artists.
“I think it’s so cool that UNM has its own film community and events like this really highlight that community,” Williams said. “It highlights the fact that anyone can make something, anyone can gain a platform to share their art and share their talent.
Emma Harrison is the assistant director of the Southwest Film Center, which curates and hosts Cherry Reel. She said that she was particularly drawn to “Glass Eye” because of the production design, likening Williams’ continuity of style between films as reminiscent of filmmaker Wes Anderson.
“The stylized element that I recognize in (Williams’) films does remind me a bit of the connection between all of his films. There’s a certain look that I can tell (he) achieves in all of the films I’ve seen,” Harrison said.
Williams submitted two works to the festival. Alongside “Glass Eye” he submitted another short work, a horror film called “Meow Meow.” He said that he’s drawn to genres of a malleable and stylistic nature and he likes to play with these features in his own films.
“I feel like the horror short and the one that’s in the festival, “Glass Eye” — I feel like they kind of both show the two things I like to work on the most: horror and romance. Just because they’re both two genres that you can make incredibly stylized, but also you can exaggerate a lot,” Williams said.
Williams has a background in theater from his work in high school, but despite this he has always staunchly rejected the title of “theater kid” and has always considered himself a filmmaker first and foremost. Harrison recognizes these theatrical elements in his production design and acting direction.
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“In particular in “Glass Eye,” what was really striking to me about it was just the little acting elements,” Harrison said. “Like the little facial expressions, the little moments which I think is very theatrical, which I’m sure came from (Williams’) directing.”
Williams is drawn to film because of its potential for fostering creative expression in others through story and image.
“For a lot of people, they can find their own artistic expression, even if they aren’t ‘artists,’ whatever that means, they can find their own expression or even their own life experiences within movies … even if they don’t do art they’re gonna see themselves in characters, they’re gonna see themselves in the experiences of characters and so on and so forth,” Williams said.
Zara Roy is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zarazzledazzl