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An Ode to Film: Pawel Williams’ Perspective on Hollywood

By: Nicholas Tucci '20

Damp and cold, the echoes of rain falling on the dimly lit Chicago streets are heard even through walls. Inside the walls of a similarly cool apartment, a group of mysterious men play a tense game of poker.

“Cut!”

The dark nightscape and the seedy apartment dissolve, revealing a basement in Minnesota with black sheets pinned to white walls by thumb tacks, a boom mic, and a Canon camera capturing the entire scene. Pawel Williams lifts his head from behind the camera and assures the cast and crew of his short film The Seven Aces that they are doing a spectacular job. He calls out his patented “perfect!” followed closely by, “I just need a few more takes” along with a sigh of disappointment by those involved.

Pawel, a senior here at Saint Thomas Academy, has developed such a special love for the film industry that he himself aspires to become one of Hollywood’s great directors. Next year, his journey will take him to a school with a strong film program, a list that includes New York University, the University of Southern California, the University of California, Los Angeles, or Loyola Marymount University where Pawel will continue to hone in on his filmmaking skills.

However, filmmaking means a great deal more to Pawel than simply a career and a way to make money. When I sat down with Pawel and asked him what movies meant to him he said “when I make films I am able to tell stories that people don’t normally see as well as create emotions that people can empathize with.” It is very important that people find ways to empathize with other perspectives and situations in their lives. For many, literature fills this role, but according to Pawel, “movies are a great outlet for empathy. It is easy to empathize with a character that displays or conveys emotion through good writing and acting.”

In Pawel’s two most recent short films, he explores themes he finds crucial to his male counterparts at Saint Thomas Academy. In Our War, Pawel puts the spotlight on the relationship between a father and his son. Pawel believes that “the bond between a father and son is one of the strongest things in the world.” In The Seven Aces, the short film whose setting I described, a relationship between two brothers is the main focus. According to Pawel, “siblings don’t necessarily show their love to each other in the same way parents do. It is important to show that love through film so people can understand it and learn to cherish life and love before it is gone.”

For Pawel, filmmaking is a method of expression. When Pawel was young, his parents got a divorce. Through this, Pawel encountered Pulp Fiction while looking for movies to distract him from what was going on in his home. Pawel immediately fell in love with Quentin Tarantino’s style and watched all of his films to take his mind off of the struggles he faced in his life. Now Pawel incorporates much of Tarantino’s methods into his own films. “I am inspired by Tarantino’s creative and realistic dialogue and how people talk about nonchalant subjects” says Pawel.

Unfortunately for artistic writers, actors, and directors like Pawel, today’s Hollywood has strayed from filmmaking in an emotionally informative sense. True, artistic films are usually rewarded for their effort and meaning at awards such as The Oscars. However, oftentimes those movies that make the most money are those that hold little to no artistic value. Pawel recognized movies such as “summer blockbusters with actors like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. These movies tend to be the same idea every time and I don’t think they serve a purpose to the audience.” In Pawel’s mind, film should come from a place of pure emotional expression. 

Many of Pawel’s movies originate from music he listens to. Pawel describes himself as a “nostalgic person” who listens to music from many decades from the 1900s. He told me that he came up with the idea of The Seven Aces when he was listening to an opera song called Nessun Dorma. While listening to this song he visualized the dramatic atmosphere of an Italian crime family operating in Chicago during the prohibition era. Pawel described to me how the song immediately made him think of two brothers who clash with their newfound responsibility to their family after their father’s passing. From this idea, Pawel created his scene. In his film, the two brothers start out by casually conversing about their work. As the scene progresses, the camera crawls closer and closer to each brother. The focus is drawn to their emotions as their conversation escalates into an argument. At the end of the scene, the camera is close enough to capture the cathartic emotion in each brother’s eyes as the conversation reaches its apotheosis. At the same time, Nessun Dorma reaches its pained apogee as the music and the story are drawn together. From the simple inspiration of a song, Pawel was able to weave together a story, creating a dramatic noir short film that highlights the relationship between two brothers.

Pawel’s experience in film and his future aspirations to create emotionally relatable characters is a step in the direction he believes Hollywood should travel. Pawel explained to me that many times films with high emotional value are pushed to the side by big budget blockbusters. However, young filmmakers such as Pawel see the possibilities of the industry and look to take its future to more personal places. Currently, Pawel publishes his work on his Youtube channel. However, he hopes to enter Hollywood with the goal of providing the audience with films that can serve a purpose deeper than just entertainment. Pawel believes that new directors, writers, and actors in Hollywood brighten the future storytelling by using the big screen as a catalyst for understanding stories, providing people with the opportunity to look through a narrow lens to broaden their perspective on society. End Scene.