An Interview with Director of the Award Winning Short Film ‘Spear Hunter’

Our Interview with Director Russell Williams

Was there an inspirational moment or an idea behind SPEAR HUNTER?
RW: Yes. I teach in the areas of Digital Film and Video Production, so I’m regularly looking for scripts that my students may obtain permission to use in various projects. I found a script that had an interesting premise, but really needed some massaging. It was too short, too many plot holes, and I didn’t really like the ending. Alas, I liked the premise so much that I personally contacted the writer and bought production rights to her script. It was originally 5 pages long. We shot 18 pages. 🙂

Aside from normal production issues. Did you overcome any obstacles while completing the film?
RW:Many, but I’ll share one. After our first day of shooting, I realized we needed to recast, revise our production schedule, and re-shoot. It also meant that I had to do some extended location scouting, because our location for the gun range and cabin was not working. I was having no success, and really at a loss until I shared my frustration with the cast and crew. As it turns out, recasting solved that critical location challenge. Andy Cooper, who played Carson, had visited the ranch where we shot the gun-range scene and the cabin shots. We took a trip to see the property on a Monday. 10 days later we were shooting our gun range scene.

Which role(s) are you most comfortable with on set?
RW: I’m a director. I don’t take instructions well, so any other role is out of my comfort zone. I don’t say that to be arrogant. I simply know my skill set, and where I best fit. I’ve been tasked with every role that you might find on set, but ultimately, director fits best my skill set and temperament.

Would you advise filmmakers to to be a 'Jack of all trades', or focus on a particular skill set?
RW: I think if you’re going to make films you need to know how to do everything; Lighting, camera, assistant camera, etc. I like working with folks who have broad skill sets. They tend to be better team players, and can pitch in when the crew is short handed. I think, ultimately, people will gravitate toward one skill set naturally. But knowing how to do it all is invaluable.

Do you have a favorite film genre?
RW: I will have to say Thriller. I gravitate toward those films that have an element of tension in every scene… films that keep the audience guessing. Oh, I like action adventure films, and really enjoy documentaries, particularly military documentaries, but my first choice will most often be one of the sub-genres in the Thriller category.

What piece of advice would you give to film students making their first film? Or filmmakers in general.
RW: Preproduction, preproduction, preproduction. Don’t shoot until you have solved every problem on paper. Make multiple passes on the story board. Make an animatic. Ask your cast and crew for their ideas. Some of the best stuff in Spear Hunter came from ideas my cast and crew offered.

Can you tell us what project(s) you are currently working on?
RW: I just finished directing a stage play, so I’m kind of catching my breath before I shoot another short film, but I am looking for another script that I can adapt. With that said, I just started writing a feature. Log line: A desperate parolee forces an Uber driver to drive across three States so the parolee can see his dying son.

Director Russell Williams

russ_profile-spear-hunterFollowing an internship at KTSP-TV in Phoenix, AZ, in 1984, Russ began a career in visual story telling as a general assignments reporter for KDBC-TV in El Paso, TX. Russ was a long time editor for KTVK-TV, where he also dabbled in field production and video photography. In the summer of 2000, he accepted a full time instructor's position at the Art Institute of Phoenix, where he currently teaches in the Digital Film Program.

He earned a Master's Degree in Adult Education and Distance Learning in 2004 and holds the title of Assistant Professor.

Spear Hunter Trailer