Rob Williams is an award-winning filmmaker, and co-owner of Guest House Films. With an impressive eight movies under his belt (Long-Term Relationship, Back Soon, 3-Day Weekend, Make The Yuletide Gay, Role/Play, The Men Next Door, Out To Kill and the upcoming Shared Rooms), Rob is one of the most prolific professionals within the gay film industry.
Before launching his filmmaking career, Rob graduated from Texas Christian University with a BBA degree in Finance, and received an MBA in Marketing from the University of Texas. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked in public relations for more than a decade, specializing in writing, special event organization and video production, first within the agency world and then as a freelance consultant.
Frustrated with the lack of creativity in the PR field, Rob began studying screenwriting at the Twin Bridges Screenwriting Salon, where he developed primarily “mainstream” scripts such as thrillers and horrors. But what he really wanted to do was make gay-themed movies, and so he started Guest House Films with his partner Rodney Johnson.
The company started production on Long-Term Relationship in January 2006, and has made eight films in ten years, with Rob serving as writer, director and producer of all films. The movies have been screened at film festivals around the world, winning audience, jury and acting awards, and securing distribution deals in North America and foreign territories.
While he didn’t attend film school, Rob’s passion for movies was always present in his life, and it was his fascination with movies that he credits as the best sort of training for him. In addition, the tremendous amount of supportive feedback from viewers continues to fuel Rob’s creativity and his desire to keep making movies.
Among his various awards, Rob received the inaugural “Director’s Artistic Achievement Award” at the 2014 qFLIXphiladelphia film festival. He previously was honored with the “PRIDE In Cinema Award” from the QBliss GLBTIA Creating Change Community Awards, and was named the “Filmmaker In Focus” at the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. Along with partner Rodney Johnson, Rob was named one of Instinct Magazine’s “Leading Men” for their contributions to gay cinema.
Rob is currently developing several feature films and acquiring short films for the series of gay-themed short-film collections distributed by Guest House Films. He also is working on a novel that continues the characters’ stories from his Christmas comedy film, Make The Yuletide Gay.
Rob lives in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, California.
GFM: You used crowdfunding for Out to Kill, Make the Yuletide Gay 2, The Men Next Door, and your new film Shared Rooms. What do you find to be one of the biggest challenges of crowdfunding a film?
Rob: Everyone is using crowdfunding today, and that’s the biggest challenge. At any given time, dozens of gay-themed films are on IndieGoGo or Kickstarter, so you have a lot of great projects competing for the same dollar. You have to make your project stand out, and you have to know that a crowdfunding campaign is a full-time job in itself. But once you build a fan base, it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to interact with them and give back to them with unique perks like letting them be in the film or getting a prop from one of our films, or even getting to name a character. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun.
GFM: You’ve used both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Do you have a prefered platform to use after having experienced both?
Rob: Both have their advantages, and we’ll continue to use both, depending on the project. The main advantage that IndieGoGo has is that you can get whatever you raise (less fees, of course), while Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition – you only get the funds if you reach your goal. So you have to be smart about which platform best suits your needs. Of course, finding outside investors is a much better option if you can manage it!
GFM: Shared Rooms adds to your collection of films set during the holidays. Is there an underlying motivation for this setting?
Rob: I didn’t intend for Shared Rooms to be a holiday movie, but as it developed, I needed for the characters to be at home, not working, and that period between Christmas and New Year’s Day is one of the few times that you can really justify that in your storytelling. Plus, I love holiday movies, I’ve loved the reaction we had to our previous Christmas film, Make The Yuletide Gay, and I hope our fans will enjoy another holiday adventure.
GFM: What was one of your biggest challenges with filming Shared Rooms?
Rob: With this film, it was all about the casting process. We had to find the right actors to really make the film work, and we worked with a great casting director, Jason Frazier, to find this team of incredibly talented actors. And when shooting in Los Angeles, finding locations is always a challenge, but we actually managed to find three locations on one street! That made things a lot easier.
GFM: You’ve been making LGBT films for 10 years now. How do you feel you have grown the most from Long-Term Relationship to Shared Rooms?
Rob: I feel that my biggest change has been in my confidence in directing. I am much more comfortable now in creating and sharing my vision and being more confident on set. I also have learned a lot about the editing process over the past 10 years and that really impacts how I direct, how I choose shots and how I work with actors.
GFM: Do you have a favorite collaboration over those 10 years?
Rob: My favorite collaboration definitely has to be with my partner (in life and business), Rodney Johnson. He’s a producer on all of our films, and we’ve developed a great working relationship that enhances our personal relationship. That’s better than any of the creative collaborations I’ve had with actors or crew members.
GFM: Do you have an upcoming LGBT filmmaker whose films you enjoy watching?
Rob: Too many to name! I will say that the documentary filmmaker Robert L. Camina (Upstairs Inferno, Raid of the Rainbow Lounge) is doing some great work and telling very important stories, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. There are a lot of incredibly talented filmmakers making LGTB-themed films today, and I hope everyone takes the time to search them out and support our industry by (legally) buying their films.
GFM: You self distribute through your production company Guest House Films. How has the progress of digital film helped you to turn this into a business?
Rob: The ever-growing viewing options that are available now are really what make our distribution operations work. It’s easier than ever to make films available to rent or buy online – and on so many different outlets – and the cost of making DVDs has gone down while the ability to sell DVDs yourself on Amazon.com and other sites has become much simpler than in the past. It’s not just a digital revolution, it’s a dramatic change in how small businesses can take control of the distribution operations themselves.
GFM: Do you feel social media has helped you to market your films and stay in contact with your fans?
Rob: Absolutely! Social media plays a vital role in marketing films but especially with connecting with fans. I have developed wonderful friendships with people around the world who initially contacted me via social media, and I love being able to communicate directly with people who have liked our films, actors who want to be in our films and film festivals who want to see our films. We couldn’t have launched our distribution arm without social media, and I don’t think our films could have been as successful without them. (For the record, our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/guesthousefilms, our Twitter is @guesthousefilms and our Instagram is @guesthousefilms).
GFM: Everyone knows about Frameline, OutFest, and NewFest. Do you have a favorite film festival which is outside of the standard LGBT circuit?
Rob: My two favorite LGBT film festivals are the TampaBay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (we had so much support in Tampa that we shot one of our movies there!) and the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, which is one of the best programmed and most organized film festivals I’ve ever attended. I also had an incredible time attending the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival in India a few years ago, because people there rarely get to see positive portrayals of LGBT people on film, and you could tell how excited they were about the movies.
Brandon Ruckdashel is a filmmaker and festival programmer based in New York. As a filmmaker he is most well known for his acting work in the HBO series Co-Ed Confidential and numerous B-Movies. Brandon has worked with Roger Corman alumni Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski along with a number of other very talented directors on nearly a dozen different films. Brandon's Directorial debut GRINDER will be out in theaters in 2016.Website: www.BrandonRuckdashel.com