November 26, 2013

Trojan Collaborators Tackle “Kilimanjaro”

Indie dramedy marks second collaboration for producing pair

By Ryan Gilmour

The first day a student steps onto campus at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, they are told “look to your right and look to your left.” The speaker (Usually Dean Elizabeth M. Daley) tells them that these are people they might be working with for the rest of their careers. Trojan grads and Ryan Piers Williams, Jason Michael Berman and Gavin Kelly took this to heart. The long-term collaborators most recently worked together on their new film Killimanjaro which debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin and is currently available on VOD.

“I’ve been asked over the last year, ‘how are you picking the projects you are involved with?’” said co-producer Berman. “It’s mainly working and supporting the friends that I went to USC with. Ryan gave me my first opportunity to co-produce a feature film which was really big for me. That was The Dryland which Ryan directed and wrote and ended up at Sundance.”

Kilimanjaro tells the story of Doug Collins, a man who has been working a soul-sucking job and coming home to an increasingly loveless relationship. After his girlfriend moves out, Doug pushes himself to live a more fulfilling life starting with a challenging trek to the summit of the tallest peak in Africa, Mount. Kilimanjaro.

“It was about a guy deciding what kind of life he wants to lead and live and I felt like it was very subtle and very simple in terms of it being one character’s journey, but I really loved that this guy was stuck in a routine,” said co-producer Williams. “It’s about a disrupted routine. It was him making a decision about the course he wants to go on in his life. The movie ends in a very bittersweet way and I think it’s very realistic to the choices we all make in our life, that are not black and white. It’s more complicated than that. I like the movie because it leaves you reflecting on your own life and the choices you’ve made in your life. And this idea that we all have dreams that we would all like to achieve or reach, but often things get in the way of realizing our dreams.”

Kilimanjaro marks the third time Williams and Berman have worked together. Berman collaborated four times before with Kelly, who is this film’s director of photography. Williams graduated from the Film and Television Production Division in 2005, Berman graduated from the Bryan Singer Division of Critical Studies in 2006. Kelly also graduated from Production, in 2004.

When asked about their collaboration, Berman said, “There’s a whole realm of people that Ryan and I went to USC with and we’re continuing to work together in the industry. It’s important to embrace that family and embrace those relationships and help each other. It’s one of the most valuable things a student can do at USC. The industry is so big and it’s really awesome to collaborate with the peers that you grew up with. Those people will help you build the careers that you want.”

Kilimanjaro is currently availaible on VOD. For more information, please visit: