Ross Williams is a three time Zooppa finalist who has won a combined $20,500 with us. These include the JWT: Social Animals, Buick: Human Highlight Reel, and Totino’s: Mom Up campaigns. Hailing from Talent, Oregon, Ross currently runs his own video production company called XRATS Productions where they specialize in almost all types of filmmaking. Check out his full interview!
Tell us about yourself, personally and creatively.
I’ve had a deep love affair with movies since a very young age, but it never connected with me to try and make them on my own until my 20’s. I’ve been making movies for over 10 years now, mainly for my own amusement. I’m married to a fabulous woman that I’ve been with since I was 19, she’s a constant source of inspiration and stability. Together we have two young kids that keep us very busy, but laughing constantly. Quickly approaching 40, I’m trying to figure out how to support my family by doing what I love most, making films.
What first interested you in film?
When I was about 8 years old we got HBO. Right away films connected with me a way that regular TV did not. It didn’t really matter that they played the same 10 movies over and over, I was constantly watching that channel. Soon after that, we got a VCR and I was hooked. I watched every movie I could get my hands on, absorbing by osmosis how they were created.
What drew you to the Zooppa community?
As a filmmaker I’m often searching for inspiration and structure, two things that Zooppa offers. Left to my own devices there are too many ideas, I never know how to focus on one, and with no timeline I can drag on a project for years, trying to perfect it. Zooppa, through their contests provides the perimeters needed for me to nail down projects. You want a 30 second comedy about lemonade, and you need it one month from today… let me get on that. Structure helps me build ideas and deadlines make me get it done.
What do you like most about crowdsourced film contests?
It gives me an opportunity to reach out to large companies that I don’t have connections with, while building my portfolio and hopefully helping me find a larger audience for my work.
What do you like to do when you’re not creating video masterpieces?
I still love to watch movies. But with two kids I don’t get to watch as many as I’d like. Before kids I averaged almost two movies a day, now I’m lucky if it’s two a week. But as they get older, it’ll be fun to see more than the Disney classics and introduce them favorites of my own.
Where is home for you?
Talent, Oregon. Which is about 20 minutes from the California border on I-5.
Where do/did you go to school? How has your education influenced your filmmaking?
I went to the Art Institute of Seattle. I studied graphic design and advertising at a time that computers were just starting to take over the business. Over my 2 years there, I realized that I didn’t want to go into advertising, but got addicted to film instead. Coming from a very small town, I was highly inspired by the city and the artistic kids I went to school with. Surrounded by kids that constantly talked about movies, I started to get exposed to films as an art form.
What/where do you find inspiration for your films? Share a bit about your creative process.
Every single film has come about in different way, so I have no specific process to it. It starts by having an idea that I just have to see come to life. I’ll play it out in my head a few hundred times, trying to work out the kinks. Then I’ll write the script, which is a tough process for me, because if I know I’m going to make the film soon, I limit myself to cast, crew, locations, budget that I know won’t be a huge struggle to get my hands on and write to those limitations. After that, I create very rough storyboards, working through the script, figuring out the shots and cuts. Pre-production is the most difficult stage for me. Working with no budget it is a constant juggling act.
Trying to schedule all the cast, crew & equipment, getting it to the same place at the same time with no money is a tough slog. Shooting can be a joyous, a highly creative time if everything is working right. But if not (and it usually isn’t) being the producer/director can be highly stressful… and instead of it being creatively fulfilling, it’s instead a struggle to get the shots you know you have to have to make the film work. Editing is by far my favorite stage of filmmaking, this is where the film truly comes together. Most of the stress has passed and I love seeing how a cut here and there turns mundanity, into magic.
Which was your favorite Zooppa contest to participate in? Why?
The Totino’s “Mom Up” one. The project came together relatively easily. I was able to use my own home and kids as part of the process. I thought it turned out very funny and apparently so did Totino’s, because I won 1st Place. See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh6PhDoIAjM&list=PL8Llvi50IAILC8v5Q3mzflF_9veqBWPwX
What are you currently working on (job, films)?
I run my own video production company called XRATS Productions. I make local commercials, business profiles, product videos, etc. I’m also a stay-at-home dad. After getting the kids off to school. I’ll spend a few hours shooting or editing, while also trying to build the company into something that will be able to support the family. There’s never enough time in the day for everything that I want to do.
We recently released two films through the XRATS name, a short documentary called Be Yourself about artists following their dreams. I was editor and co-producer, my wife shot & directed it. You can see it here: https://vimeo.com/92339712
The last film I directed was a trippy three-minute ride into a zombie’s mind, called Necrotic. It’s going to be released with a horror anthology called World of Death later in the year. You can see it here: https://vimeo.com/92339712
I get my kids involved more and more with filming all the time, my 9-year-old son and I just started a new YouTube movie review show. We’re 5 episodes in, I’d like to continue it as long as he’s up for it, I want to see him evolve and get his perspective on the latest films while also introducing him to the classics. It’s called The Kid Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8Llvi50IAIKTyYN6ndZUOPxyd94egkNE
I’ve got a few short film ideas in mind, nothing is begging me to make it yet. I’m waiting for the right inspiration to hit to begin the painful process of actually making the film.
What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My ultimate goal is to be making feature films at a high level. Nearly 15 years into filmmaking, that goal seems even further away than when I started. I have a few scripts that would take millions to make. Eventually I’ll find just the right idea to make one on my own.
Link us to any work/a portfolio that you would like mentioned.
You can find my official website here: http://xrats.net
See my portfolio of work at: http://vimeo.com/xrats
Follow along with all the latest news on: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/XratsProductions?ref=hl