May 30, 2020

Professor by day, filmmaker by night

The political science department of the College may seem like an unlikely place to find an independent filmmaker. However, William Ball, professor of political science, has been creating short films since 2003. Ball’s films have been featured in numerous independent film festivals, including the Trenton Film Festival, the Cape May NJ State Film Festival and the Delaware Valley Film Festival. With his latest film in its early stages of production, Ball is sure to attract the attention of critics and peers with his evocative approach to filmmaking.

Ball began making short films for recreational purposes to provide a “break” from his work at the College. Although the roles of an educator and a filmmaker are seemingly unrelated, Ball says the two have begun to overlap in his four years of experience as a filmmaker. This is primarily the result of his incorporation of students into his films, both as actors and on the production end.

“The (students) I have worked with knew about as much about this stuff as I, so they teach me as I teach them,” Ball said. “It’s really not a teaching environment; it’s more (like) an open-ended experiment. I find it has made me a much better editor of my work.”

Ball, like many other new independent filmmakers, found filmmaking to be a readily accessible hobby due to the advent of digital technology. “Digital technology has greatly reduced part of the cost of entry level movie making,” Ball said. “However, it hasn’t done anything to reduce the other resource needs, mostly in terms of people and other resources needed in production.”

According to Ball, cheap equipment does not guarantee quality filmmaking. “The major thing to keep in mind is that the cost of equipment has no relationship to the talent that comes to it,” Ball said. “I’m not sure anything has changed to increase the scarce supply of talent and originality on either side of the camera.”

Ball has certainly brought both talent and originality to his side of the camera. He describes his films as “not the sort of thing you find in the mass media.” Ball’s previous films, including “Almost Forgotten,” “Rummy,” “Lieder” and “Point of Separation,” feature characters who have reached impasses in their lives and must address their individual needs for change or confront personal demons. His character-driven films are both realistic and compelling, focusing on individuals between the age of 30 and 60, a time when, according to Ball, “you begin to feel your mortality and question your abilities.”

Ball’s films, especially “Almost Forgotten” (filmed primarily in black and white) and “Lieder,” convey the essence of a bygone era of film. His influences, rooted in the early origins of film, certainly set Ball apart from other contemporary filmmakers. “I am drawn to (the) early silent era pioneers, independent thinkers of the later black and white era and a very few people today that are way outside the mainstream,” Ball said.

According to Ball, his 10-minute films are created on a budget of approximately $1,000. He typically begins pre-production work, including location scouting and casting, in the spring. The actual shooting of the film, which Ball describes as “the hard manual labor part of the process” and “not much fun,” beings in late May.

Presently, Ball’s latest film is in the stages of pre-production. He has solicited the assistance of students at the College, looking for members of the cast and crew. Ball cryptically described the subject matter for his latest film as “strange tiles in the road, death, the planet Jupiter and dealing with your mother.” Based off of his previous results, his upcoming film will certainly prove to be both thought-provoking and imaginative.

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