On February 16, 2017 two time Academy Award winner Russel Williams presented the CLP event “Follow the Money.” The event examined race and the economics of storytelling in hollywood. Since 1976, Williams has worked on over 50 films and now works as a full-time professor and Distinguished Artist in Residence at the American University School of Communication in Washington, DC.
Following a brief introduction by Furman’s Communication Studies department chair, Cynthia King, Mr. Williams began his lecture. The major theme he point to in Hollywood is risk. If a studio is going to make a lot of money risks are inevitable. But, studios hate taking risks. When you are trying to sell your talents in Hollywood, you have to prove yourself somehow before you can expect to land larger roles. This applies to what happens in front of and behind the camera.
After discussing the challenges faced by all those seeking Hollywood careers, Williams refocuses the conversation on minorities roles. Minorities did not begin to see a major role in film until the early 1960’s. Since then, Williams claims that progress has been slow but still present. For the often unseen talent behind the camera, that progress has been somewhat faster than that of the acting community. And, fortunately for minority peoples who will or are currently pursuing a career in Hollywood, Williams says that “the business is run by people that are easily shamed.” Meaning directors and producers, while maybe not for the best reasons, are casting minorities in greater numbers. While stating that this is not ideal, he did say that it is good news for further diversification within the industry.
For more information about Russel Williams II, look at his IMDB page by selecting the following link: