Simon Williams is an Australian film maker, writer, musician and mentor from Sydney’s Northern beaches. Tim Boreham sat down with Simon recently and here’s what he had to say.
So, tell us a bit about yourself, how did you end up where you are today as a writer, mentor, a musician and film maker?
When I was young, I had a real passion for storytelling. I would carry around little notebooks and write stories in them all day. In second grade, my teacher cast my whole class in different roles of a story I’d written and we recorded it as a radio play. It was called, The Silver Bullet, and was about werewolves.
Not long after that, I made the decision to focus my time and energy on sport and therefore suffocated my creativity. It was during this time I learned how to coach and mentor people.
It wasn’t until my eighteenth Christmas, my mother bought me my first guitar, and the flood gates were reopened. I found so much excitement in the sparks of creativity and inspiration that it fast became my purpose. I proverbially base-jumped off the mountain I had been climbing for fifteen years because the universe was drawing me to another one. So, armed with optimism, passion and ambition, I began the ascent by teaching myself how to write and play. A good mate and I would play Blink covers in his basement, then party around his pool with a bunch of people and guitars in hand. From there, the desire to achieve more, and to affect people more deeply, became the goal so I started teaching myself how to write for film. I went on solo adventures all around the world to immerse myself in the ‘search for self-discovery’, and then I’d write about it. I went all in.
It sounds cliché but I see the whole journey so far as a gift. That’s the magic of mountain climbing – the view is beautiful from every point of the climb, we simply need to turn our gaze and take notice.
How much do all these aspects of your life inform one other?
For me, there is no greater emotional experience in life than one that is a harmonious mixture of the senses. Therefore, everything I write tries to encapsulate them. They are all as important as one another so my aim is to deliver a sensory marriage that affects the audience in a positive way.
You are a man of many projects and ideas, how do you maintain balance between new ideas and finishing active projects?
It is difficult but keeping an active diary is paramount for me. And passion – you can’t fake passion so I try and only work on projects I am passionate about. That can become difficult too because I am passionate about seeing my friends succeed so helping them achieve their dreams has to be juggled with achieving my own. I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t have to but a healthy mind is the tonic for clarity of thought, which is where my creativity stems from so I try and find balance so I can be a better creator. A better me.
Tell us about your most recent project Breathless, there are some very emotive tones throughout the film, do these ideas come from a personal place?
Yeah they do. It was only after I read back over a script I’ve been working on for a little over six years that I discovered I write from both the conscious and subconscious mind. That’s not anything new or something special that others aren’t doing but it was a discovery I made of myself. Everything I write is a mixture of light and dark, black and white, hope and despair – film and music. For me, I find that you can’t have one without the other and the other resonates at a greater depth when it is placed harmoniously with its counterpart.
Describe the feeling you get when a project is finally finished and you are sitting in the audience as people watch your creation?
You have a new project in the works that brings together film makers and story tellers from all over the world. Tell us more about this concept and why you want to take on something of this scale.
Initially, I simply wanted to write and direct a dialogue film, however, after the screening of Breathless, I felt I needed to think bigger. I needed to dream bigger with this next idea because Breathless was a mountain all on its own and we’d scaled it. So, I explored the idea of expanding the film project into a global film initiative that sees filmmakers from different countries team up to make a greater splash – a bigger difference – in terms of awareness and support, to each filmmaker, their teams and to victims of domestic abuse which is what the script is about.
So far, I’ve had a dozen filmmakers express their desire to be involved in the initiative which is exciting, however, the more countries and filmmakers we have, the greater the impact then becomes.
Each filmmaker is their country’s representative and they will produce their vision of my script and soundtrack that I provide – the result being an online hub of films, and charities, a global online network that supports victims of domestic abuse.
I feel we have a duty to make a positive difference in this world and this is one way I believe I can do that.
What gets you most excited about starting a new project?
The way it makes me feel. The anticipation of adventure. The new connections I will make with myself and those who join me on the journey. Coming from a team sport background, there is nothing I have felt that trumps the elative experience of victory with your teammates by your side so I take that hindsight and use it as the foresight for every new project.
Also, over the past decade, I have learnt that it is just as important to allow yourself to celebrate the little victories along the way with those who believe in you.
How important is surrounding yourself with the right people on each body of work?
There is nothing more important. I believe in order to create something great, you need to surround yourself with great people. It’s like partying – if you are out with a group of people you only kind of like, it’s a pretty shit old time.
Again, it as an incredible gift from the universe that I get to spend my time with the greatest people I know.
If you could work with any one person on your next project who would it be and why?
Honestly, that depends on the project.
Musically, my band is about to step into the studio with a producer we really respect in the industry and we are extremely excited to be working on our record with him. In saying that, I’d get a sweet kick out of jamming or putting pen to paper with Justin Vernon or Dallas Green.
In film terms, I love the guys I work with. We’re all good mates so it makes the long days (and nights) enjoyable and turns each into lifelong memory. So I am working with that one person in every project. Inspirationally, Sean Penn and John Carney come to mind.
Any finally, any advice for a fellow creative juggling projects and ideas?
I had coffee with a good mate the other day about the importance of doing things because we want to do them not because we need to. Unless what you’re doing serves a purpose to achieving your dreams there’s no point doing it. It is a literal waste of time. So, my advice would be to write all of your ideas down, sit in their company and let inspiration find its way to you by feeling which one (or ones) spark a wildfire.
Interview: Tim Boreham
Pictures: Lee Kelly
Simon Williams is a filmmaker, writer and musician from Australia who creates under the moniker of The Stampede Trail (www.thestampedetrail.com).
If you’re a filmmaker or producer and want to contact Simon about the global film initiative: firstname.lastname@example.org