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Kent Williamson
Jim Carpenter
Kent Williamson

Continuing Education producer fulfills Hollywood dreams

By Nancy Hurrelbrinck

Everyone who goes to film school probably dreams about making a movie, but how many actually do?

Kent C. Williamson, a producer/director at Educational Technologies, a division of Continuing Education, has made his dream a reality. "When Love Walks In," his feature film about a grieving widower who falls in love with his children's 22-year-old babysitter, will be released this May.

"It's about how tragedy opens the door to new opportunity," he said. "What we see as devastating in reality can be the key that unlocks the next phase in our lives."

David Oulashian/Paladin Pictures
Kent Williamson and Maggie Jones star in the Paladin Pictures film, "When Love Walks In."

On a smaller scale, he could be describing his own life as well. In 1997, he was being courted by a major production house. When he found out that he hadn't gotten the job, it galvanized him to make the film he'd been thinking about for a decade, he said. Williamson, who came to U.Va. in 1995, began working on the project that June and started filming in April 1998.

Several people with ties to U.Va. worked on the film. The cast includes Melissa Dawn Bryant, a U.Va. drama department graduate, and Maggie Jones, then a third-year student. Stephan Prock, a lecturer in the music department, wrote and produced the film's soundtrack, and several U.Va. students served on the crew.

The film was also a family affair. Williamson played the lead role of the father, his 3-year-old daughter played one of the children, his brother co-directed, and the rest of his family arranged their lives around it.

"When we shot at my house, there were people from all over the country living there. My mom and my wife catered the film. It was kind of crazy. It took an incredible amount of coordination.

Say you need a bouquet of flowers. If you don't have it, you have to wait for it," he said.

He had hoped to shoot the whole film in two weeks, but ended up spending 26 days, despite working 14 to 16 hours per day, he said.

The cast and crew were wonderful, he said.

"With a low-budget movie like this, all of the cast is working on points, which means they don't see a dime unless it makes money," said Williamson, who spent $60,000 to make the film.

"Everyone working on this film gave me so much of their lives," he said. "Watching them work changes your life on a working level, and getting to know them has been a real growing experience, a real lesson."

There were a few tough moments. After filming at a Scottsville vineyard, his brother accidentally ran over a $400 tripod with his car. And there was a kissing scene that had to be shot three times.

"There's a climax at the train station," Williamson said. "The babysitter is about to leave, the father asks her to stay, she agrees, and they kiss on the platform. Everyone's tense about filming a scene like that -- the crew and the cast get weird." He and his wife had agreed in advance that she'd be on the set during the kissing scenes, he added. The first time, the scene was rushed because the student playing the babysitter had to get to a class; the second time, they were hurrying to beat the sunset.

"When we looked at the dailies [the raw film footage] after the second shoot, I said, 'It's not ideal, but we can live with it.' My wife was the one who said, 'No, go back and do it again,'" and the third one was much better, he said.

Once the shooting was done, Williamson had to find time to edit the film. Not wanting to cut into the evenings he spends with his wife and four children, he has been getting up at 5 a.m. to spend two hours editing before he dashes off to work, where he produces documentaries for organizations like the Virginia Bar Association. "It's made me very disciplined," he said.

Williamson expects to have finished editing the film in the next month or so, and then he'll start submitting it to film festivals, where, if shown, it could generate interest among distributors and buyers.

"We're trying to come up with a marketing strategy," he said, adding, "I'm much more of an artist than a businessman.

"From day one I've said this will be a success if it allows me to do my next film, whether I sell it and raise money or I can use it [to get financing]," he said.

The film should be available on video in May, and Williamson hopes to do a couple showings at a local theater.

"Any film is an experiment," he said. "You start down a road and have a concept of where you're going, but no idea how long it will take you to get there or what you'll see on the way. It's an incredible learning experience."


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