Coronavirus Updates: USC  |  SCA

June 14, 2021

FIRST LOOK SPOTLIGHT: Connor Williams

Connor Williams Graduated with a BFA in Film & TV Production in 2021. Williams produced the film, Monsters of Mine, a film about a lonely girl who uses high-tech glasses to fill her world with imaginary monster friends, but when they break, she discovers the value of true human connection.

What are the themes/subject(s) matter explored in the film and what inspired them?

This film explores the fears and anxieties that come along with putting yourself out there into the real world. Meep, only 7 years old, feels comfortable spending her time alone in her bedroom with her imaginary friends. But when her augmented-reality glasses shatter and her friends disappear, she’s forced to venture outside of her comfort zone. But it is here, just downstairs from her apartment, that she meets Amy. After an awkward start, the two hit it off, and Meep discovers that she doesn’t need to use her glasses as a crutch anymore because she has met someone just like her.

This film was created entirely in isolation during quarantine, and the themes of loneliness and genuine human connection resonate as a result of our own feelings of isolation. After spending so much time in quarantine, venturing outside into the real world can feel daunting and overwhelming, just like it does to Meep, and we wanted to capture that feeling while showing what can happen when you trust yourself and leave your comfort zone.

What was your collaboration process like?

This film was extraordinarily collaborative, which made my job as one of the producers so enjoyable. To start, I paired up with Claire Dundee to produce this short, and though we had never worked together, we became good friends by being at each other’s sides throughout the entire process. Whenever I became overwhelmed by logistical challenges, Claire was there to calm me down and help devise a game plan. I’m so glad that I worked with Claire on this because I feel that I’ve met a long-time collaborator.

What were your biggest challenge(s) in creating the film?

The biggest challenge to this film was COVID-19. We were greenlit in the spring 2020 semester as a 12-page, live-action script. Then, the world went into quarantine. Our film was stuck in limbo as we all waited over the summer to see if conditions would improve and if we would be able to make an in-person production. Just a couple weeks before classes began, the faculty and students decided to move forward with completely virtual production. No person in the cast or crew would be allowed to leave their homes, except for equipment pickups and dropoffs. As a creative team, our crew scrambled to figure out how to transition this 12-page, live-action script into something producible in these circumstances. After countless hours brainstorming and pitching, we landed on a combination of miniature sets, stop-motion animation, and puppetry. The faculty of 480 were wary of such an undertaking, but gave us the support we needed to get it done. Nobody on our crew had ever worked in this kind of animation before, and we were all learning as we were doing it. I couldn’t be prouder of our hard work and ingenuity in getting this film made.

What were your biggest creative successes? (It could be anything from finding the right actor to a great location or realizing that you had a similar vision for a scene. Whatever you are most proud of)

I feel that the greatest creative success of the film is in its unique form. Nobody working on the project had seen a comparable film in regards to stop motion animation with paper humans and 3D puppets composited into the world. We all believed in our vision for this project, and we worked hard to find creative ways to tell this story in quarantine. There were many points along the way when I feared that it would all crumble beneath us, and that our gamble wouldn’t pay off, but we all kept our heads down and got to work, and couldn’t be prouder with the outcome.

What was your biggest lesson in making the film?

As a producer, I learned the absolute importance of constant communication. In a virtual production, especially, it’s so easy to accidentally leave someone out of a meeting or neglect to include a particular department in a brainstorm. My biggest takeaway from working on Monsters of Mine has been that my job as producer is to ensure that everyone is on the same page at all times, and that nobody is left behind of the creative process.

Any insights you would share with students who are thinking of enrolling at SCA about what it’s like to have the opportunity to make a First Look film?

I believe that the most valuable thing that SCA offers its students is connection. I don’t just mean the kind of career-oriented “connections” that we hear are so important (though that is a big part of the SCA experience), but the friendships and collaborations that I’ve made during my time at SCA. I know that I’ll be working with these people for a long time. As professors will tell you over and over during your time at SCA, these are the people you will hire and fire for the rest of your life. Making a First Look film with those collaborators and having the opportunity to show that film to industry professionals through the First Look program is an invaluable experience, and one that I’m glad to have had.

The film was made in collaboration with the following SCA students:        

? Claire Dundee, Producer, Production ‘21

? Lana Nguyen, Director, Production ‘21

? Val Tan, Writer, Production ‘21

? Rhys Kroehler, 1st AD, Production ‘21

? Daphne Daniels, DP, Production ‘21

? Gerardo Garcia, DP, Production ‘21

? Justine Chen, Production Designer, Production ‘21

? Laura Malatos, Art Director, Production ‘21

? Ezra Robsinon, Puppet Designer, Production ‘21

? Hanna Adams, Editor, Production ‘21