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Meet William Feagins, Jr. of wfjrFILMS in East Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to William Feagins, Jr.

William, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA and I grew up in the Homewood-Brushton neighborhood. In my teens and early twenties, I was deejaying and producing music for my friends who were hip-hop artists. I really enjoyed being involved in music so I wanted to make it my career. When the Art Institute of Pittsburgh introduced their Music and Video Business program, I enrolled with hopes of becoming an audio engineer. The classes covered music and video production and the business side of both, as well as some basics of desktop publishing. While enrolled at the Art Institute, I created my first music videos and had my first experience using graphic design/desktop publishing software which would spark an interest and eventually take me on another path.

After graduating from the Art Institute, I wasn’t able to secure a job in audio or video production, so I went back to working full-time at Pizza Hut. I was still deejaying and producing music in my free time and would go to Kinko’s, rent time on their computer, and design cassette tape covers and labels and posters to promote the music I was making with my friends. Eventually, I got hired at a social service agency where I continued to utilize and develop my desktop publishing and graphic design skillset. I was able to buy my first computer and began doing freelance design work for small businesses in my neighborhood as well as for other entrepreneurs and musicians/hip-hop artists.

As I built my portfolio working with a variety of clients from the Urban League of Pittsburgh to Onyx Woman Magazine to POISE Foundation, I reached a point where I was able to secure a full-time job as a graphic designer. Meanwhile, my involvement in music production had drastically decreased and I stopped deejaying altogether.

In 2009, a little over a year after I started working as a graphic designer, my employer announced the company had been purchased by a company headquartered in Atlanta and they would be moving some of the operations and staff there. I was fortunate enough to be invited to relocate with the company and after some deliberation (I didn’t have long to tell them my decision) I decided to give it a shot and move. Once I arrived in Atlanta I had to start all over with my network and finding the creative community. I stumbled upon the Atlanta hip-hop community and started attending events and filming performances. This allowed me to meet different artists and build relationships that would open the door for being able to work on music videos with them later.

For a few years, the Atlanta Film Festival partnered with “Creative Loafing,” which was a free weekly paper, to hold an annual short film contest. In 2012, a friend of mine, Roni Nicole, encouraged me to enter the contest as that year the theme was Atlanta’s music scene. I pretty much hate contests but I did enter, spending a weekend filming interviews with the artists I had met over the past couple years and editing in some footage of performances I had captured. My mini-documentary, “Underexposed: Indie Hip-Hop in Atlanta,” went on to win the “Critics Choice” and “Audience Choice” Awards. As the winner, it was also screened at the Atlanta Film Festival that year and I had my first experience attending a film festival. Motivated by the film’s positive reception I submitted to other festivals and was accepted at the BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia, PA. Due to the success of the film, I was asked to be one of three Atlanta-based directors to create a short film for the first annual A3C Film Festival. The result was a documentary film called “Change In The Game” which discussed the changes taking place in the hip-hop genre at the time.

I continued working full-time and making music videos and filming performances while creating two new documentaries, “Divided Time” in 2014 and my first feature-length project, “The Possibility of Her,” in 2017. Both films were screened at various film festivals across the country and have won several awards along the way. Now, I have a web-based docu-series called “Our Voices. Our Lives.” which is my focus until I get inspired for the next documentary film project.

Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest challenge I’ve had so far was my relocation from Pittsburgh to Atlanta. I had to start all over with everything from finding my way around town to building my network to proving myself through my work to a whole new group of people. Im an introvert so it can be very taxing at times.

Another hurdle has been the fact that Im primarily self-taught using non-linear editing and motion graphics software. I attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh from 1991-1993 and the technology used in graphic design and video production has changed drastically since then. I find myself learning a lot through trial and error, especially in the days before YouTube and the internet was overflowing with tutorials.

It’s also an ongoing struggle attempting to balance working full-time, creating new content and having a social life/being a good partner/son/brother/uncle/friend. I can very easily get lost in a project that I’m working on and not leave my computer for hours on end. I try to be aware of that and take breaks when I can.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the wfjrFILMS story. Tell us more about the business.
I have two businesses which are interconnected but also separate. High Impact Multimedia is the company I where do client-based work in videography and graphic design. wfjrFILMS is my production company where I focus on documentary filmmaking.

I think what sets wfjrFILMS apart from others is being intentional about using my platform to share stories of people that you might not normally get to hear about. They say everyone has a story and I enjoy being able to capture and relay stories from those who are often overlooked. I think the people I interview and feature in the documentaries are amazing and I’m honored that they trust me to tell the world about them and be true to who they are while doing it.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think in the next five to ten years there will be more Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality videos and I think more people will be using video as a primary or default means of communication.

I have heard vertically-oriented video will be the next big phase but Im holding out hope for landscape orientation to remain on top. Trying to get everything you want in a shot and framed well vertically is a PAIN!!!

I think there will be more short video content but I don’t think the longer pieces will ever stop. Even though people say our attention spans are shorter, theatrical releases are still as long as they have been and some have gotten to be even longer at two hours+. I think it’s a matter of how the viewer engages the content and how engaging the content is to the viewer.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo of me standing with head down by Farah Mithani

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