Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/05/2019 – Renee Williams in an Independent Filmmaker from Alabama. Her break as a Filmmaker came when she received Nationwide Distribution for her first feature film Traces of Indignity. The film was distributed to Amazon, FandangoNow, Walmart and Family Video in 2019. She is the owner of the film company, ClassA Entertainment.
Share your background.
Renee Williams: I was born and raised in a small town in Alabama called Perdido and the youngest of 8 siblings. My mother, who is probably THE strongest person I know, was an amazing provider and although I lost my father at a young age, we never wanted for anything. I had an amazing childhood, growing up in the country with a lot of friends and cousins. I attended Alabama State University after High School and began work in the banking industry during my Freshman year in college. What started as a 2- year job turned into a 23 year, Professional career in IT. I married my husband, Darius Williams, retired Fire Captain, in 2004 and we do not have any children but plenty of nieces and nephews.
When did you discover your love for cinema?
Renee Williams: I was first introduced to the theatre in my first year in college. I was a member of the on-campus modeling troupe and we were allowed to host many of the plays. Although I had a love for Acting, I had a fear of being on stage. As I got older and matured, I still had a fear of being on stage but wanted to pursue the craft so I decided to take on-camera acting classes. Working on my first film set for the film Six Blocks Wide, gave me the reassurance that I was on the right track. The creativity that goes into making a movie excited me more than anything I’d ever experienced and there was no turning back.
Did your upbringing influence your decision to act?
Renee Williams: I’ve always had a love for acting but growing up in small-town, Perdido, Alabama, I wasn’t exposed to the arts until college. As a child from the country, I had a sense of freedom. Freedom to explore and run around without boundaries. From creating my very own backyard, dirt floor playhouse to spending countless hours playing with a collection of Barbie Dolls, dressing them up and talking through them, allowing them to be whomever I wanted. I used to sit hours in front of the TV with my mother watching shows such as Dallas and Falcon Crest and falling in love with the characters, their attitudes, and mannerisms. Acting was something that I wanted to do, something I had a passion for long before stepping in front of the camera.
When was your first break?
Renee Williams: My first break as an Actor was landing a role in a short film called Six Blocks Wide, director Yuri Shapochka. I played the role of Dorothy, a neighbor living in a gang ravished neighborhood, part of a community of citizens looking for peace. I was honored to play this character, as this film also starred my Mentor, Tonea Stewart. My break as a Filmmaker was receiving Nationwide Distribution for my first feature film Traces of Indignity. The film was distributed to Amazon, FandangoNow, Walmart and Family Video in 2019. I had high hopes for my first feature but securing a Distribution Deal was a step in the right direction for me and my film company, ClassA Entertainment.
What moves you about acting?
Renee Williams: Acting is not easy and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. The ability to transform and become someone or something else and have others believe in you is phenomenal!
Tell us about your film, Carolyn Somebody.
Renee Williams: Carolyn Somebody was my first independent short film project that I wrote and directed. The film was shot over two days in Montgomery, Alabama during the Summer of 2012. Because of my “soft spot” for children, I felt compelled to tell a story of sharing the wealth among those less fortunate, especially children in need. This story is filled with emotion… there’s laughter, sadness, anger, and happiness bridging the gap between two very different worlds.
SYNOPSIS: Carolyn Somebody is the story of how money and power sometimes causes us to lose the sense of how the less fortunate live. Stephanie is a high power attorney who has acquired great wealth by making wise investments and working hard. Stephanie feels as if she doesn’t owe anyone anything and giving back is not an option for her. Her life is changed and humbled after meeting Carolyn. Carolyn is a little girl growing up in a children’s home after her guardian grandmother, Grandma Coreen, becomes ill and is moved to a nursing home. Stephanie has two best friends, Erica and Nikki. Erica is a conservative housewife who volunteers at the children’s home and believes in helping those in need. Nikki is carefree but also does her share in giving.
When did you decide to open your casting Agency? Why would Actors want to work with you?
Renee Williams: After trying to gain ground as an Actor for 2 years in a rapidly growing Southeast market, I saw the need to do more. I had acquired several acting friends in the Industry and we were all looking for work, any work! I began to do my share of extra work and decided to start my own company so I began Alabama Casting Services, an extras casting service, later named ClassA Casting, in 2012. There are only a few local casting services within Alabama and we’ve built a steady Client base. We have worked with much of the Alabama Talent and allowing them the opportunity to work at home keeps them coming back. We make it our priority to work on a professional level. Great communication and follow-ups on any job are key and something that we take pride in doing. We also ask for Talent feedback to make the next job a little easier.
When did you launch your company, ClassA Entertainment?
Renee Williams: ClassA Entertainment was launched in April of 2013. We are Female owned and Family operated. My husband, Darius Williams and I, as Independent Filmmakers, know the meaning of hard work. Since its inception, we’ve both worked and continue to work tirelessly to create an Entertainment Company in the state of Alabama that provides jobs and opportunities for local creatives that travel outside of the state for work. One of my main goals, when starting, was to create jobs at home. I knew that it was and still is a challenge, but it’s one that we both realize and accept.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Renee Williams: I am a miniaturist! I construct miniature homes or as some would call them “dollhouses”. My latest project is 17 years in the making. It’s a 50×50 replica of Florida Architect, John Henry’s Venetian Palazzo Mansion. As stated, as a child, I had a very creative and vivid imagination and loved dolls. I never owned a dollhouse as a child so decided to build my own as an adult, although this unit is not for play. I fell in love with the Palazzo after scrolling on the internet one day and came across it. This home is a “mini-mansion” which will have working lights, 5 bedrooms, a game room, 3 car garage and of course, a home theatre with a working wall mounted big screen, probably continuously showing all ClassA Entertainment movies. LOL! It is a labor of love and allows me to go into a place of calm as I work on it.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman filmmaker?
Renee Williams: I’ve come to understand that the film industry is a very complex business. From Casting to post-production, it requires a lot of time, dedication and experience, even in short films. I believe that as a female filmmaker, I’ve not been given many of the same opportunities as my male counterparts, even down to publicity, advertisement, and recognition for my work. I also see a difference on set as a Female Director with other male crew members such as a difference in attitude and responsiveness. In the beginning, this was disheartening for me but as I continued to work and come into my own, I realized my worth and understood my vision and stopped worrying about the rest.
What film are you most proud of?
Renee Williams: I am very proud of all of the work that I’ve done as a Filmmaker, but if I have to choose, I would say Carolyn Somebody. This was my first short film and the experience was like no other. Having worked with an amazing DP, David Brower and my mentor Dr. Tonea Stewart was a dream come true.
Cast: Tonea Stewart, Cherie Fields, Olivia Mitchell, Elle Jae Stewart, and Kristi Taylor
What is next for you?
Renee Williams: I have my second feature film called Alabama Blue, currently in the works. This is a COP Drama based on the lives of 3 female police officers and how they balance home life and a demanding police force. I am also working on a documentary based on the journey of female truckers in Alabama called Alabama TruckHERS.
Do you have any other thoughts?
Renee Williams: I am forever grateful for the opportunity to create and share my ideas with the world. I’ve prayed and manifested this vision that has grown and continues to grow here in Alabama. I’m thankful for those that recognize independent filmmakers, especially women.
ClassA Entertainment Website: www.classastudios.com
ClassA Entertainment Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/classastudios
Renee Williams Demo Reel: https://youtu.be/wTiUFkPNNik
Traces of Indignity Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHi8NVCRPZs
Carolyn Somebody Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGAhwycQ7Rg