Oregon Film, Catching Up with Tim Williams

Tim Williams, Executive Director of Film Oregon is kicking off BendFilm’s #ChangeHappensHere series that focuses on the many ways film impacts our lives.

DP Michael McDonough and Director Debra Granik on the set of ‘Leave No Trace’ which was filmed in Oregon. Photo Credit: Scott Green

Filmmaking is such an unpredictable yet rewarding craft, and it clearly changes our lives in so many ways. For me, this change came quite literally. That is, change in the form of a 27 year marriage that came off the back of a shoot for a mediocre movie (and that’s being generous), and the countless friends, colleagues and stories we both have been luckily enough to gather together along the way.

One of the great things about my job is that I get to see films and meet filmmakers, pretty much all of the time. It’s a good thing I like both so much. By far the best place to get both of these fixes is at this state’s film festivals. I travel a lot around this state, thousands of miles, but it’s worth it. Especially when October rolls around and I get to head out to BendFilm.

Anniversaries are wonderful times to reflect. We’re in the middle of celebrating our 50th anniversary as an office – and I mentioned that not to attempt to over shadow BendFilm’s 15th anniversary, but to highlight the value of consistency, longevity and creative innovation. I wish I could’ve been in attendance for the festival for all 15 of those years – I would’ve really enjoyed seeing the films, meeting the people and witnessing the changes and growth during that time, but, alas, I was in other places doing other things.

One of my favorite stories from BendFilm actually comes from the first time I attended the festival in 2014. I had only just started this job the month before and BendFilm was the first festival I was attending in that capacity. I had been to many, many festivals before that but always as a producer – something I did for nearly 15 years prior to becoming the Executive Director of Oregon Film. On my first night in Bend, I was sitting on a bench on Wall Street just across from Festival HQ responding to emails and checking my schedule for the next screening or event I was supposed to attend when I heard my name being called from a few yards away. This, on its own, was surprising as I had never been to Bend before and it was tough to imagine that anyone in that town or even in this state had any idea who I was, let alone from a distance…at night.

That said, I was even more surprised when I looked up and saw a face from a distant past in the form of Kerem Sanga who worked as a production assistant on a film I produced in 2005 (in Austin, TX, of all places). He also appeared in the film as well (so did I, but that’s a story for another time). He had a small role as a member of a bumbling high school tennis team being coached by a way-beyond-clueless-but-with-a-perverse-heart-of-gold Seann William Scott in a little known and badly titled feature called “Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach.” In fact, I had a clear recollection of him 30’ in the air atop a flagpole in the heat of a Texas summer for a scene. Something he reminded of immediately there on that street in Bend.

Well, it turns out Kerem had written and directed a movie that was in BendFilm that year. In fact, “The Young Kieslowski” won the Audience Favorite Award in 2014 – and as well it should have. It was a great film, and his follow-up film, “The First Girl I Loved” played BendFilm in 2016 and won another Jury Prize there as well as a Best of Next! prize at Sundance that same year. Both are great, funny, wonderful films that you should check out.

So that’s just one example of this small filmmaking world we live in that seems to be centered in Bend. But there are so many others. From a special off-festival screening of “Wild” to the newly launched “Women Filmmaker Production Fund;” from many a filmmakers brunch at Deschutes Brewery to being a member of the audience to hear John Sayles talk about his life as an incomparable filmmaker. I am not only a supporter of BendFilm, but a fan.

This industry has grown from a $5M annual spend and 500 annual jobs in 2005 to a $175M and 4000 jobs annual impact this past fiscal year. And, with the introduction of a new “regional” incentive fund last year, we have seen more production moving into different parts of the state. In fact, as I write this, 2 series and one feature film have just completed shooting in and around Bend. It’s a good time to make films, see films and just be a part of a creative community here in Oregon, and BendFilm can help with all three of those worthy pursuits.

But if you’re still looking for a reason to go to the 15th BendFilm this year I have only two words of advice: “Just go.”

You won’t be disappointed.

About Tim Williams:

Tim Williams has been both an executive and independent producer for more than 25 years and has partnered on projects with many companies in various capacities and locations with credits on many award winning titles. From 1998 to 2011 Williams was a partner, Co-President and Head of Production for GreeneStreet Films, a leading New York based independent film company. While there, he was involved in the production of nearly 30 features, producing or executive producing most of their projects. Latterly, he managed the company’s opening and running of their Los Angeles office followed by work with companies like Fox Searchlight and Film Finances. Williams started his career as a set production assistant and assistant director in New York on features, commercials and TV shows, and then worked for several years producing and directing new plays on the London Fringe in the UK.