Innovations in comedy and technology have been
the hallmarks of Walter Williams' career. That's as true of the first Mr.
Bill short (which he created 30 years ago for under $20) as it is of the
digital desktop studio he used to create a one-hour PBS documentary entitled "New Orleans - The Natural
History." "It's so cutting-edge, I'm bleeding," he
Williams, a New Orleans' native, was 17 when he
discovered Super-8 film. "Fortunately, I had no aptitude for anything,
so Med. School was out of the question. He
started making his own comedy movies and showing them in local clubs and
bars, which led to his own UHF-TV show in New Orleans. When "Saturday Night Live,"
still in its incandescent infancy, put out a call for home movies in '75,
Williams submitted his reel and launched Mr.
Bill on national TV.
Williams followed his mutilated little
creation to New York,
where he made more films for SNL and did stand-up at the Improv. After three
seasons, Lorne Michaels hired him as a full-time staff writer, responsible
not only for the 20-plus Mr. Bill skits he did from 1978 through 1980, but
for other sketches and films as well, including "Elvis
Presley's Coat." Williams left when Michaels and the rest of the
original cast exited in 1980.
Since then, he's continued to build his own
career and Mr. Bill's, working with live actors whenever possible to
establish himself as something other than the premier Play-doh director. He's
written screenplays and directed hundreds of shorts and shows for television,
including "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and directed the Fox
show "TV," conceived by
fellow SNL alum, Michael O'Donoghue, which starred Rutger Hauer, Kelly Lynch
and Brian Keith.
Williams launched a successful commercial
directing career with the "Pizza
Head" character he created for a national Pizza Hut TV campaign.
Over four years, the 20 spots became so popular with kids that a Mr. Bill
tape sent to a friend's son caused him to declare it "a Pizza Head
take-off." He has also directed national Mr. Bill campaigns for Lexus, Burger
King and Ramada Inn.
In the last ten years, Williams has built a
fully-digital video system. Taking advantage of the dramatic advances in
technology, he now creates digital, broadcast-quality shows and DVDs, doing
the video editing, sound mix, music, CG animation, titles, graphics all on
his digital desktop. His company, Dreamsite Productions, Inc., has lately
been authoring and encoding DVDs for mass release.
The system has also allowed Williams to create
work that would ordinarily be impossible without much higher budgets--from
segments for ABC's "Into the
Night," -- to projects closer to his heart, such as programs for
the National Audubon Society, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and his recent
Recently, Williams combined every trick up his
sleeve to create forty new episodes of Mr. Bill for "Ohh Nooo!!! Mr.
Bill Presents" for the Fox Family Channel and has authored the new Lions
Gate 3 DVD boxed set "Mr. Bill's
Disasterpiece Theater – Celebrating 30 Years Of Sluggo's Greatest Hits" which
includes the original SNL Super-8 and 16 mm films which were digitally
remastered for this project.
In addition to comedy, Williams is currently
focusing on documentaries and educational DVDs. As a result of his New Orleans documentary he was enlisted to create ten
Public Service Announcements featuring Mr. Bill and a group of creatures
called the Estuarians who are out
to save Louisiana’s
wetlands. They can be viewed at http://www.mrbill.com/Estuarians.html
He also recently completed interactive DVDs
for The Historic New Orleans Collection on the Battle of New Orleans and Free
People of Color to accompany their current exhibits and a documentary
about the history of lighting in New
Orleans for Bevolo Gas Lights. These can also be viewed at www.NewOrleansHistory.net.
Since Katrina, Williams has been documenting
the recovery and is working on a new film about “How” to restore the
wetlands. “Finally our efforts about
why we need to restore the wetlands has convinced the public of its
importance. I now want to focus on
specifically how to restore our coast so the public can visualize it and
support it. “