Movie News & Reviews

Director Anson Williams slams Asbury film department, asks that his name be removed from film project

Director Anson Williams of "Happy Days" fame feigned arrest in May during a surprise visit from Wilmore police chief Bill Craig. Williams’ mood has soured some since.
Director Anson Williams of "Happy Days" fame feigned arrest in May during a surprise visit from Wilmore police chief Bill Craig. Williams’ mood has soured some since.

Director Anson Williams has slammed the film department at Asbury University, saying he wants his name removed from a student film he directed in May.

“I can’t recommend this film, I can’t recommend this film department, I won’t be attached to it in a professional capacity,” Williams said in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

He said the 60 students who participated in the film weren’t at fault and had worked hard. “I’m the one protecting them from doing a bad job. The department should be protecting them.”

Williams said he had put extra work into the project, not only directing it and re-writing some scenes, but editing it so students and professionals who worked on the film would have a good product to show. But when Asbury film officials turned down a request that the name of the film’s town, Nazareth, be shot with a better town sign, Williams said he reached the limit of his patience for putting extra effort into the product.

Williams, a director who remains well known for his role as Potsie on the sitcom “Happy Days,” was a major “get” for Asbury as a director for the film “Nazareth,” the story of a Manhattan executive moving to a small town and re-establishing his family life.

The film featured professional actors including Doug Jones of TV’s “The Strain” and Nancy Stafford of “Matlock.”

Williams has directed episodes of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Sons & Daughters” and “Lizzie McGuire.”

During the May filming, Jim Owens, Asbury’s dean of the School of Communications Arts, said the project began with the question, “What can we do to give our students an outstanding experience?’ The icing on the cake is if it sells.”

On Wednesday, Owens said in an email statement that Williams had repeatedly praised Asbury’s film department during the filming.

“Whether it’s working with Anson Williams, Hollywood actors or as paid broadcasters at the Olympics, Asbury’s Comm Arts students are offered opportunities they just can’t get anywhere else,” Owens said.

Owens said in his statement that Williams requested additional work on the film project that would have added to expenditures.

“The ultimate goal of this project has always been education…and we succeeded with that goal this summer,” Owens said.

Williams said the idea that the film was a TV pilot that could sell to a network “was kind of made up. It’s not a pilot and it’s not going anywhere. It’s a student film.”

Owens said that the school is still working on the film and hopes to have it ready by December as a feature film for TV.

Williams detailed his stand in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon that made it clear that his ire was directed at Asbury’s film school rather than the entire university. In a follow-up later in the afternoon, he criticized Owens, saying his “reply is transparent in embracing his need to hide from not doing right for his students.” He also said positive comments that Owens cited were made in the first few days of the film-making process.

“I have been a professional in the entertainment industry since 1971,” Williams wrote on Facebook earlier. “Never in my entire career have I been through such an unnecessary, negative situation as the Asbury University Film School in Kentucky. The University is outstanding and a major asset to all that attend. I cannot say the same regarding its film school.”

Williams said in the telephone interview that the film school owed him an apology: “I put my heart in this. They didn’t. ... I’ve never, ever in my entire career had a situation like this, ever, and I’ve worked with tough people.”

Asbury University statement

From Jim Owens, Dean of the School of Communication Arts at Asbury University:

“Whether it’s working with Anson Williams, Hollywood actors or as paid broadcasters at the Olympics, Asbury’s Comm Arts students are offered opportunities they just can’t get anywhere else. Mr. Williams recognized that while he worked on this project and we appreciate the praise he offered over and over to multiple outlets. Mr. Williams said to the Lexington Herald-Leader, ‘a professional crew in L.A. wouldn’t have done any better,’ and I certainly think that speaks to the education and professional experience the students are getting through Asbury’s program.

“Williams also said this following the filming process: “There’s a lot of talent at Asbury, and it has one of the finest film departments in the country. Students at Asbury act and are prepared just like professionals. … They were ready to go with what they’ve learned at school.”

“We have disagreed with some requests that Mr. Williams has made requesting Asbury to finance additional work on the project that are outside of the original agreement. The ultimate goal of this project has always been education…and we succeeded with that goal this summer.

“We, of course, are surprised that Mr. Williams’ reaction to Asbury holding to the original goals and agreement is to suddenly change his views on the entire process, the project and even the program itself. Asbury Communication Arts alumni continue to be recognized annually from Hollywood to New York and current Comm Arts students just returned from an only-at-Asbury opportunity to work at the Olympic Games as paid broadcasters. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind program with tangible results and success.

Where does the film stand?

“The film edit was locked less than a week ago and now moves to the audio and color phases. Asbury students continue to work with professionals who mentor them through the processes. The film is being scored by Asbury’s Dove Award-winning audio professor, Barry Blair. Asbury’s goal is to finish the project by December, which would be an incredibly fast turnaround for a feature film for television.

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