Growing up in Memphis, Adriane Williams discovered two things about himself: he loves storytelling, and he "devours" visuals. As a boy, he couldn't wait to get home from church and watch everything from Charlie Chan movies to Gunsmoke and Bonanza . He acted in plays, won an award for an essay, and after a stint in the navy, spent three months writing a novel. "I knew I was too descriptive," he laughs about the unpublished work. "If a fly buzzed into the room, I'd have to describe it."
Williams' talents, along with numerous skills he's mastered over the years, helped forge his way into Memphis' independent film industry. As a videographer, producer, actor, and writer, he's had countless people ask for his help finding a worker with certain expertise. "They'd say, 'Man, I hear you do videos. Who's a good editor? Who's a good [director of photography]?' I became sort of the nexus of networking," Williams smiles, "so I thought, 'Why not develop a website that's a one-stop shop for anybody in the film industry?'"
Thus comes CrewMe.com, which Williams recently launched with help from Emerge Memphis and Launchpad Memphis, organizations that assist entrepreneurs. For individuals who register with the site, it serves as a database of local filmmakers, actors, crew members, and more. "For instance, a makeup artist or costume designer will see a film project posted," says Williams, "and they'll say, 'I want to join that.' And they'll submit a request to the filmmaker or project director. It's almost like a 'friend' on Facebook." In the first two weeks after launch, 25 people registered and one filmmaker expressed interest in converting his film to download distribution.
Williams' own quest for jobs in the film industry started with a move to Houston, where for a while he simply worked where he could. Then he lost three important people in his life, including his adoptive grandmother and a childhood friend. Feeling depressed after the funerals on the flight back to Houston, he looked out over the plane's wing and saw "something like a vision walking in the clouds." Whatever the vision may have been, it helped him realize two things: that life is beautiful — and brief. The next day he hit the streets, met some key people, and gradually landed minor acting roles in independent films, commercials, and plays.
In 2003, he returned to Memphis to be closer to his daughter. For several years he worked for Brother International, but in his spare time he got to know people in the film world. "I'd read their scripts, consult, and edit them," he says. He also stayed up late watching tutorials on everything from videography and editing to film production, and was hired as a freelance video grapher. "The company would send me on assignment to interview subjects," says Williams. "I'd send them the raw footage, and they'd send me a check."
Then he took a leap, applying for a position as corporate video editor with the local firm, Consumer Driven Solutions (CDS). The firm gave him five days to write, crew, and shoot a car commercial. When Williams' sister died suddenly the next day, he wondered briefly if he could make it happen. "Maybe moments of extreme loss motivate me a step further," he muses. So in spite of his grief, he finished the assignment, got the job, and in less than two years edited, produced, and co-produced more than 700 corporate videos for CDS.
Now self-employed — he's also a board member of On Location Memphis International Film and Music Festival — Williams started focusing on CrewMe.com in March. He received "seed capital" from a local firm to pay the web development company, e-biz solutions, to build it.
Describing the site's unique functions, Williams says, "When actors register, they can read the movie scripts. If they're interested, they can upload a video to the filmmaker of themselves auditioning." The site also provides a way for indie filmmakers to distribute their projects on iTunes.
"I'm as excited about this as I was when I first thought of it," says Williams, recalling how the idea made him drive home, clear the kitchen table, and start writing all his thoughts. "Whether you want to make a feature film, a music video, a documentary, or maybe just shoot a court deposition, I think people can find what they need right here."