John C. Williams, Co-Founder & Executive Director, of Reel Works is an award-winning film and television writer, producer and director. Reel Works is an organization providing free filmmaking programs to inner-city youth in NYC. Their Annual Benefit Gala (April 16) is a fundraiser for the organization, and also a chance to honor industry leaders who are paving the way in terms of diversity and representation. This year they will honor Hasan Minhaj (Netflix’s “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj”), Ruth E. Carter (Academy Award-Winning Costume Designer of “Black Panther”), Michael Houston (CEO of Grey Group), and James F. Lopez (President of Will Packer Productions).
Before the upcoming Annual Benefit Gala, we talked to John and here are the excerpts.
What does REEL WORKS mean to you and why do you think it's important?
Reel Works is a community where teens are mentored by professional filmmakers to tell their stories and have their voices heard. It’s a powerful combination that changes young lives and reaches millions with their remarkable films. As teens discover a passion for filmmaking, they learn about careers in media. In fact, over half of our graduates make careers in entertainment.
I am proud that nearly two decades, Reel Works has contributed to building a more diverse workforce in the film industry. We really believe that when you change the storytellers, you change the world.
What are the primary challenges for your organization and how can people help?
Reel Works is focused on building stronger partnerships with filmmakers and craftspeople to mentor and support our filmmakers. We are also seeking stronger partnerships with media and production companies to create opportunities for our young people to build pathways to careers.
What has been the most satisfying thing/incident as part of your journeyThe most satisfying part of this journey has been watching young people develop and mature as young artists and citizens. Students often stay with us throughout high school and into their young adult years. At first it’s about telling a personal story. Through that process a passion is ignited - leading to a lifelong journey of growth and discovery through filmmaking. Seeing our young filmmakers on stage after screening their films is the way I personally recharge my enthusiasm for the work.
How do you pick the honorees and why these people?
This year, we will be celebrating Change Makers, whose accomplishments in various industries have made an indelible cultural impact and encourage our students to envision a future where their voices are represented and respected:
James Lopez, President of Will Packer Productions for reinventing the American mainstream in film and television.
Hasan Minhaj for mercilessly taking those in power to task through humor to engage and awaken audiences of all backgrounds
Michael Houston, CEO of Grey Advertising for bringing a new generation of leadership to the creative renaissance in marketing and advertising worldwide
Ruth E. Carter - Academy Award Winning Costume Designer for Black Panther - the first African-American to win an Academy Award in that category.
What is your message to all budding young filmmakers and storytellers?
First - Be an active creator rather than a passive consumer of media. The world needs to hear your stories.
Second - This is a great time to pursue a career in entertainment - especially in NYC where there has been an explosion of production and post production jobs in recent years.
John C. Williams, Co-Founder & Executive Director, is an award-winning film and television writer, producer and director whose credits include independent shorts, features, documentaries, television programming and corporate communications. Prior to founding Reel Works, John created original television for WNET/Thirteen, Oxygen, WE: Women’s Television and Metro Channels. John has produced numerous major market television commercials and independent films. John holds an MFA in Film & Television from New York University and a BA in English from Boston University.
Reel Works is an organization providing free filmmaking programs to inner-city youth in NYC. Their Annual Benefit Gala (April 16) is a fundraiser for the organization, and also a chance to honor industry leaders who are paving the way in terms of diversity and representation. This year they will honor Hasan Minhaj (Netflix’s “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj”), Ruth E. Carter (Academy Award-Winning Costume Designer of “Black Panther”), Michael Houston (CEO of Grey Group), and James F. Lopez (President of Will Packer Productions).
Students of Reel Works are from all over New York, and over 50% go on to be employed by the entertainment industry. Their programs develop students as young artists and citizens and help them graduate, get into college, and launch careers in media.
Previous honorees include “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler, Alex Gibney, Danai Gurira, Phoebe Robinson, Gabourey Sidibe, Jeffrey Wright and more.
For more details, checkout the link below