Filmmaker Friday 1/3: Baylor alum, producer Orian Williams shares his journey into the film industry

FILM FANATIC Producer Orian Williams graduated from Baylor in 1990. Since moving to Los Angeles, Williams has produced movies like, “Shadow of a Vampire,” “Control,” and his most recent movie, “England is Mine.” Williams shared his journey in the film industry and offers advice. Courtesy Photo

By Kristina Valdez | A&L Editor

Only four days after he graduated from Baylor in 1990, Orian Williams packed his bags and headed to Los Angeles. Williams now lives and produces movies in LA. Williams spoke about his newest film, “England is Mine,” and how the little details in his life brought him to where he is today.

“I loved stories about people — real people,” Williams said. “And that is what led me. I would have never at that time thought in any way that I would be producing movies.”

Williams grew up in Houston, loving the entertainment industry and music. He worked for a short time at a record store and a music-focused magazine that was published out of Houston.

“I worked in the ’80s and that was a time of new-age music,” Williams said. “These new types of bands were coming from the U.K. that had this alternative sound.”

Growing up listening to these bands would continue to resonate with Williams. He produced the movie “Control” about the band Joy Division, now New Order. His most recent film, “England is Mine,” is a biopic following the early life of lead singer Morrissey in The Smiths.

But when Williams went to Baylor, he wasn’t considered a film and digital media major because it hadn’t existed at the time. Williams said that at the time he was called a telecommunications major.

“I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do,” Williams said. “I had no idea. I was just thinking, ‘Get the degree, move to LA and figure it out.’”

But luckily the program was run by film and digital media by professor Dr. Michael Korpi, professor Dr. Corey Carbonara and senior lecturer J. Brian Elliott who are all currently teaching at Baylor.

Elliott said that many alumni, like Williams, realize the importance of starting early and understanding the business in its entirety.

“I think many graduates look back on their college years and recognize that there were things they maybe could have done earlier in order to be better prepared,” Elliott said.”And that’s one of the reasons why we believe it’s so valuable to bring back our alumni because students get to hear first-hand about the successes and failures of those who have gone before them.”

When Williams first moved to Los Angeles, he got a variety of jobs. Some were failures, but all taught important lessons.

He worked as an assistant to an agent, an extra on a movie set and as a production assistant. He also spent time working at a clothing store.

But, it was when Williams was listening to famous director Robert Evans’ book, “The Kid Stays in the Picture”, on tape that he realized that he wanted to be a producer.

“I went, “Ah!” Producing — that’s it,” Williams said. “By chance, I met Robert Evans in LA. He told me if you ever wanted to produce you had to own the material, you’ve got to be in charge and you’ve got to be passionate. You have to love what you do and, at the same time, love the movies you are making.”

From that point on, Williams pursued producing.

“You can put your mind to anything and it can veer off and go in another direction,” Williams said. “I was putting my heart in the right place; I was putting my passions in the right place.”

Williams sought to be constantly inspired by anything from the details in a painting to a band’s unique aesthetic. It was the recreation of those inspiring moments that Williams found to be his passion.

“When you’re in the midst of your journey, you don’t always realize what is happening,” Williams said. “It takes reflection, to see where you have been and how you got to where you are now.”

One of the first movies Williams produced along with Nicholas Cage was “Shadow of the Vampire,” starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe. Longtime friend and director E. Elias Merhige said Williams has the special ability of uniting creative energies.

“While we were working together, we were also enjoying life together,” Merhige said. “Orian has always had that sensibility to preserve special moments as a wonderful archivist.”

After the success of his movie “Control,” a director contacted Williams to look over the brief synopsis, known as the treatment, that documented the young life of Steven Patrick Morrissey before he became known as just Morrissey.

“I read the treatment and I loved it. I loved it,” Williams said. “It was a story about the beginning of a kid who was trying to escape his doldrum existence in Manchester, England. What I loved about it was this innocence.”

The movie was originally titled “Morrissey,” but as the film came together Williams said it felt wrong. The title, “England is Mine,” came from Morrissey’s song, “Still Ill”. There is a lyric in the song that goes, ‘England is mine and it owes me a living.”

Williams gave advice for film and digital media majors or anyone who has a passion for the entertainment business.

“You have to be passionate,” Williams said. “It’s not about moving to New York or LA. It’s about just doing it. Make your first movie to make your first movie.”