Madison Williams, a 22-year old Clemson University senior, will be presenting her short film at the Cannes Film Festival in France in mid-May. She’ll be missing her graduation to do so.
Williams has been interested in filmmaking since she was a child growing up in Newbury, Mass. Though she has family in the Upstate, she had never heard of Clemson. Upon visiting, she was drawn to Clemson for its major in graphic communications, which exists in the college of business.
“I really liked the fact that I’d be getting more than just an art degree; it was in the business school and I was able to get a more well-rounded education and open up more doors to me — so really the major was a big pull,” Williams says. “Then obviously once you are actually here and can see what the Clemson family is all about, it’s incredible.”
Williams’ short film, “136,” tells the story of a new friend, Bryson Carter, who became blind during his time at Clemson and was not able to finish his education. Carter is a die-hard Clemson football fan, and the film’s name comes from the fact that he has attended (at the time, now more) 136 consecutive Clemson football games, despite the fact he is unable to physically see the game.
Williams explains she met Carter in a shared ride leaving the Fiesta Bowl in December 2016 in Phoenix. Carter had taken a bus all the way to Phoenix where the Tigers shut out Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal. “It really hit me that we were taking him to a bus station to take a bus all the way back to Clemson,” she says. “I flew from Boston to Phoenix, and that was a long travel day, but not 48 hours of travel both ways. It really hit home for me, and he couldn’t even see the game.”
Williams created the film for Campus Movie Fest, a film festival that travels to college campuses and challenges students to make a short film in a week. She knew this was her chance to tell Carter’s story. “If I hadn’t had that opportunity, his story may have taken a lot longer to get out there, but he made that week so much fun,” she says.
Williams shot the footage in one day and spent the rest of the week editing. Her film won Campus Movie Fest at Clemson in 2017. She advanced to the national Campus Movie Fest competition in Atlanta, where the judges noticed her work. She later received an email that “136” would be one of 30 student films screened at Cannes’ Short Film Corner.
“When I got the email [from Cannes], I sent it to my boss and said, ‘Please tell me this isn’t a hoax.’”
“I am honored that I’m able to screen this film at Cannes because of the story I got to tell,” Williams says. “I feel so lucky that I’m the one who got to tell Bryson’s story, and he’s such an amazing fan and he’s the epitome of what it means to be ‘All In.’ He and I have become great friends, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Though Williams is a little sad to be missing graduation, she couldn’t turn down the opportunity to go see the best of the best. “I’ve grown up admiring the festival and knowing how prestigious it is, and the people, the talent that goes there is mind-boggling,” she says. “The fact that I’m going is the coolest thing and honestly such an honor.”
She is proud to bring the spirit of Clemson to a world-renowned, international film festival. “This has been a really cool story to tell, especially the fact that it’s going to Cannes for the story that it is, it makes it all so much more rewarding,” Williams says. “The story is only a story because of his story.”
Williams plans to continue to work in film and has accepted a position with Clemson Athletics as a videographer.