Authority Magazine
Published in

Authority Magazine

Producer William Garcia: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker

How to independently finance a movie. I wish that someone at the beginning of my career had explained to me exactly how you independently finance a movie. I had no clue when I first started, and I would have benefited from knowing more of the “business” part of “show business” earlier on. No matter how much passion and creative vision you have, you can’t make a movie without financing. I wish I had been told to educate myself and learn as much as possible about that side of this career.

As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing William Garcia.

William Garcia is an award-winning producer based in Los Angeles, California. With a passion for television and film, he has been in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years. He was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and his childhood was filled with days at the beach, Cuban food, dancing, and music.

William’s career started in news, sports, and documentaries; he filmed some of the most newsworthy political, sporting, and historical events of the late 20th century, for which he won over a dozen awards and nominations. He started his career as a video journalist in the early 1980s while attending Miami-Dade College. William covered world news and sports for WPLG-TV, an ABC Television affiliate in Miami, Florida. His work included coverage of Princess Diana and the Cuban Mass Exodus. In 1992, William was chosen to represent WTSP-TV in Saint Petersburg, Florida, in a journalist exchange program with the former Soviet Union. During perestroika, William worked with Gosteleradio Network; he documented entertainment, lifestyle, and the people of Russia for the network and broadcasted a live show called Druzba: A Citizens’ Summit.

During William’s video journalism career, he was a finalist in ‘Television Photography’ from The Atlanta Chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists; nominated for an Emmy from the Suncoast Chapter for ‘Best Camera Work’ for Land of The Lost Guatemala; and then won an Emmy for Hot Shots, a documentary on the fashion industry in Miami, Florida. William also won two New York Film Festival Awards for Best TV Spots for ABC-TV and a nomination for Ten Taxi, a promotional commercial for WPLG-TV in Miami.

After an illustrious career in broadcasting, William was hired as General Manager for Moving Pictures, a film, television, and equipment rental production company based in South Florida. He supervised and controlled all aspects of the company, including creative, financial, technological, and administrative, with the direction of the CEO.

After five years in an administrative position, William earned the title of producer and director for features, commercials, television programming, and music video productions. William has worked on notable musical projects with some of the world’s greatest musicians: Paul McCartney, Lenny Kravitz, Shakira, Juanes, Enrique Iglesias, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Ricky Martin, and Christina Aguilera, just to name a few.

William’s non-scripted credits include Get Out for HD NET; The Real World: Miami and Making the Video for MTV Network; Divas de Azucar for MTV Tr3s; and Dick Wolf’s television series, Arrest and Trial, for USA Networks.

In 2010, William founded Playworld Pictures, a film and television production company based in South Florida. Two years later, he relocated the company to Los Angeles, CA. His clients have included Viacom, Discovery Network, HD Republic, Nancy Glass Productions, High Noon, Republic Records, and MTV.

William’s feature films and television credits include many award-winning films in English and Spanish. One of his first films was the feature Loren Cass, directed by Chris Fuller and distributed by Kino Lorber. The film was nominated for The Gotham Independent Film Award, Locarno Leopard Filmmakers of the Present, and Cinevegas Grand Jury Prize. William followed the success of Loren Cass with the Palm Beach International Film Festival Audience Award Winner The Shift, starring Danny Glover and Leo Oliva.

In Spanish-language films, he lensed Amor Y Frijoles, Quien Paga La Cuenta?, and the Puerto Rican hit Mi Verano con Amanda 3, directed by Benjamin Lopez, a popular Puerto Rican director. In 2018, William completed the feature film Obsession, starring Mekhi Phifer, Elika Portnoy, and Brad Dourif, released by Samuel Goldwyn Films. His television productions included the series H8ters for studio Astronauts Wanted/Sony Entertainment for Full Screen Media.

From 2019 to 2021, he was the EVP of Development/Production for Rebel Way Entertainment, a feature film production company founded by Ori Globus and Yoram Globus, the former President of MGM Studios and founder of the Gannon Group.

In 2020, William released the hit film Followed, followed by the 2022 award-winning film Samland. In television and digital media, William has worked as a producer/director of photography for MTV, TLC India, AWE, VH-1, Animal Planet, HBO, and many others. William is also a member of the Producers Guild of America.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in a middle-class home in Hialeah, Florida, a growing multicultural Latino community in the northwest Dade County area of Miami during the ’70s and ’80s. The city was known at the time for Pink Flamingos, the Hialeah Park Racetrack, the influx of Cubans moving into town, and Casanova, a popular disco tech in the heart of the city. I have wonderful memories of dancing at the Forest Teen Disco; I was way too young to sneak into Casanova. It was a time of hanging out with my friends at the Westland Mall video arcade playing Dragon’s Lair, roller skating to “Call Me” by Blondie, eating pizza at Figaro’s and ice cream at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. It was a very safe place to live and have fun with your friends. There was some tension in the city with the less politically correct Miamians. I remember the bumper stickers: “Will the last American to leave Hialeah please bring the flag?” That was at the height of the Mariel Boatlift and the racial riots that took place in Liberty City and Overtown. I was attending Miami Springs Sr. High School, and I remember that they shut down the school for a few days during the riots. That was the dark side of south Florida during that time, but I was sheltered by my family growing up.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

In the early 1980s, Miami Springs Sr. High had no television studio, but they did have an Audio-Visual class. I was the nerdy kid that would roll up into the classroom with the audio-visual equipment. I would connect the slide projectors, play the movies for the classrooms, and make sure the equipment was working properly. It was kind of a tech-y job, but it was fun, and I got to roam around the hallways during class. Being the A.V. nerd did not offer me many opportunities to date the cheerleaders, but I enjoyed it. I’ve always been very tech-oriented and had an old 35mm camera. My A.V. teacher Mr. Porter noticed my collection of photos and was very impressed with my composition and lighting. He suggested that I speak with Mr. Farrington, the photography teacher, who looked over my book and suggested for me to take his class. This was a time of 35mm film, no digital cameras, and you had to develop your own film. That was the start of my photography career.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

I have a story that takes place across thirty-two years. I was working for WTSP-TV in St. Petersburg, Florida during the ’90s. It was at the start of my career as a video journalist, and I was assigned to cover the grand opening of Universal Studios in Orlando. It was a big event, with movie stars like Charlton Heston, Michael J. Fox, and Sylvester Stallone, but I was interested in meeting only one person: Steven Spielberg.

I’m a super fan of Mr. Spielberg and have admired his work for years. I knew that he was a consultant for the park and was attending the grand opening. I was excited to get this assignment — I was hoping to have Mr. Spielberg sign a Lucasfilm magazine with his picture on the cover, and I wanted his advice about filmmaking. I was carrying that magazine in my fanny pack during my assignment. By pure luck, early one morning I was walking to the Jaws attraction, and I found myself meeting Mr. Spielberg. Was I going to ride Jaws with Steven Spielberg? That would have been a dream come true, but unfortunately, he looked up at me and said, “The ride is not working.”

Really!? Not only did the shark not work during the filming of Jaws, but it also killed my chance to ride Jaws with Steven Spielberg. The good news was that I met him, had my questions answered, took a picture with my hero, and had him sign my Lucasfilm magazine. But the story does not end there.

His advice at the time was to continue telling my stories, and that moving to Los Angeles would provide me with more opportunities; after all, this was a time before the technology and networking opportunities indie filmmakers have today. So I took his advice, continuing my film career and eventually moving to Los Angeles several years later. I kept the photo of us two framed on my wall for inspiration. The ups and downs of the film industry can be heartbreaking, with plenty of “no”s and very few “yes”es, and you sometimes need a little inspiration to keep going. I always hoped to have Mr. Spielberg sign that photo of the two of us.

Time-warp thirty-two years and Steven Spielberg was scheduled to speak at the 2022 Annual Producers Guild Award breakfast for the nominees of the Darryl F. Zanuck award for best theatrical motion picture. Mr. Spielberg was nominated as one of the producers for “West Side Story.” As a member of the Producers Guild, I attended the event and was fortunate to have Mr. Spielberg sign that 32-year-old photo. My next hope is to visit his set and watch him work. Let’s see if that happens!

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve met so many interesting people, from famous politicians, to actors, poets, lots of musicians, to high-profile sports figures — it’s a very long list.

I have been fortunate to hang out in the recording studio with rock star Lenny Kravitz, attend exclusive film screenings with Bradly Cooper for A Star is Born, work with Michael Jackson during the making of the Invisible album, meet Emily Blunt and her husband John Krasinski during a Paramount Pictures party for A Quiet Place, listen to Paul McCartney rehearse his U.S. Tour, sing happy birthday to Ricky Martin, and work with funny man Will Farrell.

I learned firsthand that when Robert Redford walked out to set, you could hear women swoon. No joke — I was filming a scene in Miami Beach at the time, and you could hear people swooning from afar. It was funny, though: they had the same reaction when Redford’s stand-in would walk out!

During the filming of “Up Close & Personal,” Michelle Pfeiffer used my cell phone to make a call — I was surprised to learn it was a long-distance call when the phone bill came.

Most people I’ve met or worked with have been very professional, funny, and a pleasure. In this industry, we work long hours, so having talent and crew you enjoy working with is a big plus. It makes the time go by very quickly.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

As an independent filmmaker, there are many challenges climbing up the career ladder. It’s very difficult to succeed in this business without a little help. I know this is going to sound very cliché, but the person that’s helped me the most is my spouse. My wife Elizabeth is a successful paralegal. She’s been instrumental to my success in the industry. She’s part business manager, part financial advisor, and, most importantly, part therapist.

You have many gatekeepers in Hollywood. It’s a challenge to raise funding, get projects greenlit, work with executives that don’t return your calls, deal with emails that go unanswered, and handle people in the industry that ghost you. It’s an industry of closed doors and many “no”s. I don’t have an agent, so it becomes even more difficult to network to potential studios and streamers. I always keep Elizabeth updated on what’s going on, when things are going well, and when I’m struggling to close a deal. She’s the one that says, “Keep moving forward. Don’t stop.” She’s very patient and a great listener. I know I drive her crazy with this industry, but she’s always been there for me when I need her most.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is from my wife: “No means no for today, not for tomorrow.” You cannot give up because you keep getting turned down. You need to find the right partner and buyer for your project. It’s important to continue with your dreams. Just because an executive or producer passes on your project doesn’t mean it’s not an amazing project, it’s just a “no” for them at that time. You might never know the reasons for the “no,” but it’s important to not let it stop you. I’ve had situations when a distributor said “no” and then turned around six months later with a “yes.”

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

My first reason is that, historically, Hollywood has been overwhelmingly controlled by white male executives, writers, and creators. This history of white male dominance in the entertainment industry has created stories that depict stereotypes of races and cultures from their views. For example, the Cuban drug dealer, the Mexican farmworker, the black chauffeur, and the Latina maid. These voices always seem to focus on the same narrative for these cultures in their storytelling: they’re either blue-collar workers or criminals. White male views are sometimes skewed by their lack of knowledge, understanding, and experience in other cultures to provide the viewers with a different narrative.

The second reason is by having diverse storytellers, you will explore a narrative that has not been told — stories that have made an impact to the world but have not been explored because they don’t focus on the typical Hollywood hero type. With diversity in storytelling, viewers will learn and explore different opinions and cultures across the world.

The third reason is that we live in a world ruled by mass media. It’s vital that the people who are not often represented see characters in popular media who look, act, and think the same way they do. These characters and stories anchor a person’s perception of how they fit in today’s society. Having diverse voices will provide all people an understanding of what we have in common. Media is extremely powerful and can provide a positive narrative that inspires unity among all people. It can also positively affect those who hate how we, as humans from different races and cultures, have so much in common, and many of our hopes and dreams are very similar to each other. Storytelling has been crucial in all cultures to bring people together since the dawn of time.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The most exciting project that I’m working on is a movie called Rally Caps. It’s the story of a young boy who loses his father and has an accident during a Little League tryout. He gets hurt and gives up baseball while dealing with his dad’s recent death. He goes to summer camp and becomes inspired by a deaf baseball player. The story is based on a book of the same name, written by father/daughter writing team Stephen and Jodi Cutler. The movie stars Judd Hirsch (Independence Day), Amy Smart (Stargirl), and Carson Minniear (Palmer). The film is in post-production.

Playworld Pictures just purchased the rights to The Maids of Havana, the story of Afro-Cuban maids left behind during the Cuban revolution. I’m in development with the same group of filmmakers who produced the feature film Samland. We’re also developing a limited series and pitching the project to different streamers.

I’m also working on the feature film Online with Love, a Latino romantic comedy. The Script was selected for the U.S. Hispanic Showcase by Filmarkethub. We’re in discussions with numerous studios and production companies for producing this feature film.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

The most important quality to my work is for my stories to have diverse characters and a positive message. What really makes me proud is making sure there are underrepresented voices in my stories — both in front of and behind the camera.

It also makes me proud to help inspire filmmakers at the start of their career and watch them grow to surpass my expectations. It’s incredible to work with people who start as a production assistant, and then, ten or fifteen years later, I’m calling them for a job! I remember once I found a spot for one of our technicians as an assistant Avid editor during Bad Boys II in South Florida. That was his first job. Then, it felt like the next thing I knew, he was the owner of one of the largest offline video companies in Los Angeles. It’s very cool to see people who are just starting out, green and on-the-go, all of a sudden explode to another level.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) Being a CEO of a production company is not a full-time job. It’s a lifetime job.

You won’t be working 40 hours per week. You’ll be living the job. I learned this lesson the first week I started working for myself, when I was answering emails at 2 a.m. because I had a client in South Africa or waking up before dawn to have a meeting with somebody in Dubai.

When you’re the CEO working in the worldwide market, you’re involved in every facet of the company: marketing, financing, sales, all of it. I really didn’t know how much it took to get a company started and moving forward. And a vacation? Forget about that. Even if you do go on a trip, you’re still answering emails and picking up the phone. There’s no real escape. You must have a love for the work.

2) How to independently finance a movie.

I wish that someone at the beginning of my career had explained to me exactly how you independently finance a movie. I had no clue when I first started, and I would have benefited from knowing more of the “business” part of “show business” earlier on. No matter how much passion and creative vision you have, you can’t make a movie without financing. I wish I had been told to educate myself and learn as much as possible about that side of this career.

3) Credits are important!

I wish someone had told me to fight for my credits! When I first started in the industry, I wasn’t forward enough to say, “Wait a minute, I’m producing this movie. I should get a producer’s credit.” Your title during a movie is very important.

There was a feature film called Loren Cass that was brought to my attention at the beginning of my career, and I was involved in the development of the film, as well as producing and shooting. But I didn’t even really ask for a producer’s title. I ended up credited as Director of Photography, which was my main role, but looking back on that specific project… I should have had a producer’s title. I was not confident enough at the start of my career to ask for what I truly deserved, and I missed out — that movie ended up winning a lot of indie awards.

4) How to network.

Networking is extremely important, and I wish someone had told me to get out there, meet people, and market your material. I did learn early on that it’s important to attend film festivals, film markets, or anywhere you can meet other filmmakers, producers, and financers.

As my career started moving forward, I was invited as a panelist at the Miami Media Film Market. That’s where I met Paul Brett, the executive producer of The King’s Speech, and Matthew Stein, who was working for Sony Entertainment at the time. Anytime you can attend, or even be a panelist, at these events, take that opportunity. It can introduce you to the people who you want to work with and who will help advance your career.

5) “No” means no for today, not for tomorrow.

I wish someone had told me how common it is to be ghosted in this industry. People don’t return your calls and emails. Don’t take it personally; just keep moving forward with your projects. It’s okay if your buyers and the people you pitch to say “no” the first time. A “no” isn’t a reflection of you or your project — it’s a natural part of the process.

When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?

At the end of the day, the most influential stakeholder in my works is myself. When I create a story, it’s about what it means to me. If it doesn’t mean anything to me, how can I produce a good film? Of course, I do take into account the responsibility I have to the financers, and I want to make sure we hire the right actors and director for a project. In the back of my mind throughout the development and production process, I always consider the financial side and whether the viewers will want to see the film.

Rally Caps is the perfect example of balancing all these aspects of filmmaking. It’s an inspirational story that’s very in tune with my artistic vision. And to make sure the financers had their best opportunity to recoup their investment, it was important to hire qualified and critically acclaimed actors like Judd Hirsch, Amy Smart, and Carson Minniear. It was the right combination of packaging the film with a quality director and appropriate cast to create a film that gives the strongest financial return of investment while also telling a story that’s important and visionary.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

It’s very important to unite this world and solve the conflicts we have. To share each other’s stories and focus on what brings us together rather than what makes us different: that’s the most important movement I can provide in this world of storytelling and media. This movement’s purpose is to educate, to inspire, and to express people’s experiences — to not just be accepting, but, more importantly, to be respectful of an individual’s choices, culture, and place in this world. We should respect each other, love each other, and embrace each other. No one is trying to remove anyone’s cultural identity in this world. We need to learn about each other to embrace our differences and commonalities.

As a video journalist at the start of my career, I witnessed riots, serial murders, shootings, war… the worst of the worst of what human beings can do to each other. These experiences taught me that, to make the world a better place, it’s important to focus on the positives about what human beings are and can be to each other.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 😊

That is the easiest question I could answer. My ultimate hero, someone whose work I’ve admired for decades, is Steven Spielberg. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him twice, once in 1990 and then again just recently in 2022 during the Producers Guild of America breakfast. But I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with him.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I’m on most social media platforms: Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, and Twitter @wmgarciafilms, or you can visit my website www.playworldpictures.com.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store