Five Questions With Filmmaker James Williams III

James Williams III’s film, Haebangchon, will be at the 2015 GI Film Festival.

Where are you from and what is your film background?

I am originally from Mt. Rainier, Maryland and have studied film at Howard and National Universities. I’ve also worked in Visual Information for the Army every since I enlisted back in 1999; my assignments include Television Production at Fort Bragg, American Forces Networks – Korea and Honduras, and an internship at the Army’s Los Angeles Entertainment Office, where I got to work on “Transformers 2”. Over the years I’ve produced or worked on dozens of independent projects. Haebangchon is my first feature film.

Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

My biggest influences in film are Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and Chris Nolan. I came to appreciate Ritchie’s talent to tell relatable stories structured in ensemble and nonlinear formats. The characters in his early films, “Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” feel like they can be anyone that I know in real life. Tarantino is a huge movie fan of many genres and it shows in his work. He is unafraid to explore and create worlds as profound as they come; his films are simply fun and enjoyable; “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” are my favorites. I admire Nolan because he refuses to dumb down his stories. This requires audiences to work to understand his plots and characters, and gratification is all the better when the viewer figures them out. “Memento” and “The Prestige” were revolutionary for me, “Inception” just blew my mind.

What was the hardest part about getting this film made?

The hardest part of getting Haebangchon made was deconflicting the schedules of over 40 people while shooting only on weekends over the period of seven months; a majority of whom were not paid.

What do you want viewers to take away with them after watching your film?

First I want viewers to simply enjoy the story and be entertained. Secondly, I want viewers to see what is possible with a shoestring budget when you take a group of dedicated filmmakers and actors, leverage available technology, and just go out and make the best film that you can.

What is a fun fact about you that would surprise people?

A fun fact about me that would surprise people? It’s funny to see the reactions when I tell fellow filmmakers and actors that I am an Officer in the United States Army, and the reactions of my Army family when I tell them that I’ve made a feature film. The two worlds rarely cross and the contrasting difference totally crushes their respective perceptions of who I am. I love it!

Haebangchon, directed by James Williams III, is playing at Angelika on May 23, 2015. Click here for tickets.