By Bria Isaacson, News Editor
Nazareth, the TV pilot created over the summer by Asbury University staff and students, has gone through some changes recently. It has not only transitioned into audio and color editing, but has also had to remove its director’s name from the film.
Director Anson Williams demanded through Facebook and newspaper articles on Aug. 31 that Asbury remove his name from the pilot, saying on Facebook, “Never in my entire career have I been through such an unnecessary, negative situation. . .However, the ineptitude…of the film school itself, its willingness to connect its students to a flawed product and then take advantage of others’ hard work to protect the school from itself, is just beyond comprehension.”
Jim Owens, dean of communication arts, said this was just days after an Aug. 25 email from Williams that included the quote, “Nazareth is a good film and I’m proud to have my name on it.”
In less than a week, Williams changed his mind. In addition to demanding that his name be removed, he went on to say that he rewrote, directed and edited the film.
“The ultimate goal of this project has always been education…and we succeeded with that goal this summer.”
According to Owens, Williams completed minor writing tweaks to the project, as any director is expected to do, as well as provided extensive editing as detailed in an agreement between Asbury and Williams. Otherwise, the film was written by Asbury professor Jim Shores, professor Jacob Klein and Asbury graduate student Aaron Bohn. Dean Batali, a Hollywood writer, supervised and produced.
Owens said that the dispute stems from Williams’ recent decision to reshoot a scene with a new town sign.
“Bottom line, he decided to re-shoot a scene with a sign, we decided the film was very good as it is and declined to shoot anymore,” Owens said. “He disagreed and contacted the media.”
This occurred despite the clear budget outlined in the contract with Williams, as Asbury Director of Marketing and Communications Brad Johnson told LEX 18.
The additions that Williams wanted were expenses that Asbury could not afford, as the project is already exceeding its estimated budget of $100,000, according to Owens.
“He wants to take it to another level, but taking it to another level is at Asbury’s expense,” Johnson said.
Taking it to another level was never Asbury’s goal, according to Owens. In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, he said, “The ultimate goal of this project has always been education…and we succeeded with that goal this summer.”
Junior Rosebelle Easthom worked in costuming for Nazareth, and she said that she learned “how to do a lot of things on my own…[and] how to cope in a stressful environment.”
Many students had positive experiences from working with Williams.
Senior Lynnette Cagle, script supervisor for Nazareth, said, “Anson could be difficult when things didn’t go his way, and it was frustrating for some who were new at their jobs or for those who were limited on time and resources. [But] I personally really enjoyed working with Anson. I learned all kinds of things from him, and he was really positive and encouraging towards me. Working with Anson solidified my decision to work in the film industry.”
In his Facebook post, Williams made it clear that the students were not to blame for the film’s apparent inadequacy.
“The students and cast that I worked with are outstanding and deserve to be recognized,” Williams wrote.
Easthom appreciated that he complimented the students, but said it hurts her heart that he has taken his name off of the project.
“It especially hurt with all the hours I put into the project,” Easthom said. “I know [it] wasn’t for nothing, but I feel like a good bit of the worth was taken away. I guess if the worth is tied to a person though, I should fix my thinking.”
Williams removed his Facebook post detailing the disagreement with Asbury on Sept. 1. and did not respond to the Collegian’s request for a comment.
“We are delighted that he chose to remove everything from his Facebook page,” Owens said. “We feel it is very unfortunate to end our collaboration this way, but want to honor his wishes to remove his name, as well as honor our fiscal responsibility. That specific educational experience has ended, we have a good film, and we need to move on with educating students.”