2004_08_dianawilliams_large.JPGVital Stats:

- Diana Williams
- "Old Enough to know better"
- Film Producer
- Grew-up in New Jersey; now lives in Chelsea


Diana's World:

On her typical day as a movie producer:
Get up, read script, start NY calls, wait for LA to wake up, lunch, LA calls, snack, read some more, then go to one or two screenings.

On the decision to switch from physical production of big-budget mainstream fare to independent filmmaking, and whether "indie" filmmaking still exists:
I was hit in the head by a baseball. When I woke up, I was in NY meeting with and working with some of the most amazing writing and directing talent. But I still spend a lot of time in LA. If by indie film you mean financing: the foreign sales/pre-salesmarket decreased but ancillaries -- DVD for example -- increased. Producers have to think outside of the "usual suspects" when it comes to finding financing. If you mean quality of film: every year I am floored by the talent that is coming up and the projects coming from directors I have admired for years.

On the role of the producer in a realm that gives the glory to directors:
Ooooo ouch. The role of a producer is the same whether the film is a hit or not: put it together, get it shot, get it shown. The producer getting "enough" credit is a film by film case. At festivals the director is king/queen, that is just the way it is. But to some financiers, the producer is the one that assisted the director to get the project done but also protected the investment.

On how she chooses projects:
I am primarily story driven. I either dig the story or I don't. I have to go with my gut, and pay attention to the marketplace. Unfortunately these two philosophies tend to contradict one another. Some projects have their own flow, and you just have to keep on top of it. Others, you have to create the buzz and flow to jump start the interest.

On the role of film festivals including Tribeca:
For some films, festivals are the only way in which they will be seen. Festivals are a distribution method for some. I love them all. Tribeca's programming gets stronger with each year. I saw some real gems this year. It's great to have a festival in my back yard. (It has raised) the visibility of the NY film community. It is a young festival. I think there are more contributions to come.

On what she's liked lately:
My taste goes back and forth between the two (small indies and big mainstream films). I can swing from a small poignant swedish film to a head ripping zombie fest.

Napoleon Dynamite -- could not stop laughing. King Arthur -- interesting take on the King Arthur legend.

On trying to explain how the rare indie (e.g. My Big Fat Greek Wedding) crosses over to bigtime mainstream hit:
If I could explain any of it, I would be a kajillionaire. The only thing that any of them have in common is that someone, somewhere along the line -- whether the producer, filmmaker, and/or financier -- believed that the film had an audience. And then that person was able to find a distributor that shared in that belief, and they worked toward it.

On how working in film has affected her enjoyment of movies as entertainment:
Not for me. I see a lot of films. I go to festivals whether I have a film in or not. I want to see what is going on in the filmmaking communities in China, Korea, Australia, UK, Spain, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. There are definitely times when I am watching a film and thinking, "What the hell did that helicopter shot cost?" Or, "Why the hell did they think they needed that helicopter shot?" But overall I just want to be shown a good story and lose myself in someone else's tale.


Ten Things to Know about Diana (with debts to Proust, Krucoff, Meyers-Briggs and previous G.I.s):

What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged from the street?
Sadly I have never gotten anything off the street. I think I go looking to late in the day.

Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
Paycheck?

Gotham Mad Lib: When the ________________ (noun) makes me feel _______________ (adverb), I like to ______________ (verb). Feel free to answer, or explain your answer.
When the city makes me feel happy I like to skip. When was the last time you skipped or played on a swing?

Personality problem solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you and vice-versa?
I am obsessive. Anything else I say could seriously incriminate me.

NYC confessional: do you have a local guilty pleasure?
Gray's Papaya recession special. But I never feel guilty.

When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
My apartment. And sometimes the Ganesvoort Hotel for 4 PM cocktails. Can't beat the view.

What's one thing you've done (or regularly do) in NYC that you could not have conceived doing anywhere else?
Annual/monthly/weekly/whenever-we-feel-like-it eating tours: pick a neighborhood (ie: lower east side, harlem, etc.), and go from one restaurant to another trying appetizers and drinks. Great fun cheap way to find new restaurants, try food, hang w/ friends.

Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
I chased down a f***ing dog owner that felt it was okay to leave dog shit on the sidewalk. If you can have a dog, you can pick up after it.

311: Help or hoopla? Have you ever put it to use?
Wait a minute…. That thing is for real?

There are 8 million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
Never try to walk in brand new 3 inch Manolos after 1/2 price mojitos at Paladar.

P.S.: My answer about the asshole NY moment (chasing down the shitty dog owner) is a part of my Mojito drunk Manolo experience. I do wonder if I was not somewhat buzzed, if I would have chased down the dog owner in my high heels.


Diana Williams is the producer of films such as Our Song and Nice Guys Sleep Alone. Her feature film credits also include The Brady Bunch Movie, Clueless, and Soapdish. Her company, Exit 5 Entertainment, is currently developing several projects including this year's Tribeca All Access winner, The Road Home by Ellie Lee.

-- Interview by Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei