Former Buffs TE Realizes Dream As Writer, Filmmaker
Americons is opening in theatres Friday nationwide, including in the Denver/Boulder area at the AMC Westminster Promenade. Tickets went on sale earlier this week. The film is rated R.
BOULDER - Now, after what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, struggling and clawing his way to respectability, Beau Martin-Williams is a creature in his natural habitat. The winding road that often comes to define the path to prosperity and fulfillment has stopped at this very point. At last, he is home. A budding career as a screenwriter is about to take flight after a begrudging Hollywood, in all its splendor, has finally extended its hand to a former down-and-outer.
Williams, a former tight end at the University of Colorado from 1999-2002, spent most of the last decade writing a script based on his own real-life experiences for the upcoming independent film Americons, which will be released in select theatres on Friday. But on top of his writing credits, he also co-produces and stars in the film that he and fellow co-producer and star Matt Funke have worked tirelessly to finance ever since Williams' fascinating journey became viable enough to be made into a Hollywood production.
The film, which also stars Sam McMurray and Trai Byers, revolves around Jason, a character modeled after (and played by) Williams himself. It charts the lead character's meteoric rise from a has-been working a slew of odd jobs around Hollywood while trying to make ends meet to a prominent, high-paid loan consultant for a prestigious Los Angeles mortgage company. Williams walked into the industry at a time when Los Angeles, and most of the country, happened to be at the height of a real estate boom that would eventually become so infamously excess-driven amidst a slew of shady practices that it would become one of the leading causes of the global economic collapse circa 2007. But for us and for the purpose of this story, we would be remiss not to examine the totality of his inspirational trip to the brink of ultimate success both spiritually and professionally.
"Turning an idea in my head to a film on the big screen was an enormous vision," said Williams. "To look back on all the blood, sweat and tears over the last 10 years of my life and know that I accomplished what it was that I set out to do is the only reward I need."
For Williams, the long and winding road began in earnest in 1998 during the final year of the Rick Neuheisel era in Boulder. The son of a former Stanford tight end, Williams had arrived in Boulder by way of his hometown of Palo Alto where he starred as both a wide receiver and linebacker at nearby Gunn High School. He had attracted a decent amount of attention from college football programs around the country as one of top receiving talents in an area littered with otherworldly high school talent. During his senior year there, he suffered a torn MCL and was forced to sit out his final season of eligibility at the school while many of those same recruiters were still making their final decisions whether or not to offer a scholarship.
When those same recruiters that had lauded him only months earlier pulled up stakes in search of other talent, Williams decided to head to Phillips Academy in Andover, Md., where he could do post-graduate work and essentially replay his somewhat lost senior year. There, he was able to play another year of football and scored 10 touchdowns on 28 receptions and made four interceptions, in the process earning him All-New England prep honors. He also got a chance to learn from some of the finest high school teachers in any part of the country. It was there also that he dipped his toes into the world of acting and writing for the first time.
WILLIAMS WAS AN OUTSTANDING student but it was his on-field prowess that made him a top-target on Neuheisel's radar. It was his own desire to follow in his father's footsteps by playing big-time college football that became the basis for accepting CU's offer as a "recruited walk-on" in lieu of the chance to attend nearby Harvard. The opportunity at a top-tier college program might also open the doors for a chance to play in the NFL.
For his first year or so in Boulder, Williams was shuffled incessantly from position to position as coaches searched for the right fit. The Buffs, armed with one of the best passing games in the country, were well-stocked at receiver with the likes of Javon Green, John Minardi, Marcus Stiggers and Roman Hollowell in the high-powered offense. As a result, Williams began his time in Boulder as a player without a role. It was eventually decided that he would have to put on 30 pounds and develop as a tight end or fullback if he were ever to play at CU.
By the start of the 2001 season injuries had limited Williams to a total of seven games and just one reception over his first two years of eligibility. It was around this time that the realization began to sink in that all of these setbacks may have just robbed him of an opportunity to continue to make football his future beyond college. His original ambitions would fall flat, and while standing on the verge of adulthood nothing seemed more demoralizing.
"Injuries definitely killed any chance that I had at playing in the NFL and I knew it was time to start the next chapter in my life," said Williams.
In the midst of all that was going on in his football life came a note. "Look into screenwriting." That's all it said. A creative writing teacher had scribbled those words on a paper Williams had written for the class. Little did he know at the time that innocent comment would become the launching pad into the career that so thoroughly consumes him today.
So, with few other options and the end of a difficult football career approaching, Williams clung to that piece of advice. He did look into screenwriting. By his junior year he was regularly taking acting and screenwriting classes with an eye towards correcting everything that went wrong with the first dream.
"It got to the point that by the time I graduated, I knew that making movies was what I wanted to do when I was done playing football," said Williams.
With a football future fading, he fought on. Just because ultimate stardom was now going to elude him on the gridiron didn't mean he still couldn't find a way to contribute before leaving Boulder. He finally got his first realistic chance to contribute that fall as hybrid tight end/fullback, but with the plethora of offensive weapons that were still lining the Buffs roster, the chances of him handling and carrying the ball would still be minimal. Williams though, as always, quickly adapted to his role as a key blocker, and it wasn't long before he was thriving as one of the better outside blockers in the Big 12.
WILLIAMS' BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION to what would become a historic season for the Buffs may have come during an early November matchup against lowly Missouri as CU's once-bright conference title hopes were beginning to fade.
The Buffs had one conference loss already and a second would almost assuredly erase any hope of supplanting perennial powerhouse Nebraska atop the Big 12 North standings.
Just over 10 minutes into the game, Missouri had jumped out to a surprising 14-0 lead. Two missed field goals and three turnovers would keep CU scoreless until late in the first half. The Buffs finally appeared on the scoreboard for the first time less than 2 minutes before halftime trimming the lead to 14-7 on a touchdown pass from quarterback Bobby Pesavento to wideout John Brunson. A quick Tigers' three-and-out shortly thereafter seemed only to ensure that the teams would go into the locker room with the score unchanged.
Instead, the subsequent punt, which was fielded deep in CU territory, quickly opened up for returner Roman Hollowell as Williams cut clear across the field from his flanker position to take out not one but two blockers who had threatened to take down Hollowell before he could even get started. The block paved the way for a crucial 23-yard punt return with 0:43 left on the clock that gave the Buffs the ball at the Missouri 43 with one final shot before the break.
Two plays later, the Buffs were in the end zone again on a touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Graham and had completely erased a 14-point deficit, a huge nod going to an all-important block that most watching the game may have been completely unaware of.
Williams would provide at least two more key blocks on plays that would spring for touchdowns in the second half as the Buffs won going away 38-24. Three weeks later, with the ultimate goal of unseating Nebraska and division champs now a realistic possibility, the Buffs demolished the No. 2 ranked Cornhuskers, 62-36, and claimed their first ever North title. A week later, a win over No. 3 Texas made them conference champions, and they would come just a whisker short of playing for that year's national championship.
His senior year was supposed to afford the opportunity to leave his gridiron dreams behind on a high note, but once again injuries cuffed him just as he was leaving the starting blocks.
"My senior year was my chance to shine after (Mackey Award winner) Daniel Graham left," said Williams. "I tore my MCL in training camp and then my calf between the UCLA and K-State game that year. I was able to finish the season but was not the same athlete that I was when I came in. I came in running 4.4 (in the 40-yd dash) and left running 4.7."
DESPITE THE LATEST RASH of injuries, Williams still managed to have his most successful season statistically in 2002. He pulled down 11 receptions for 123 yards and scored his first and only career touchdown at the college level when he wasn't rehabbing that year. When healthy, he played a vital role in helping the Buffs repeat as division champions.
"To be a great football player you have to make sacrifices and have incredible discipline," said Williams. "To win a championship the team has to be greater than yourself. I've always felt that I was a great teammate. I was a good football player but have some regrets about not being disciplined enough during my career. Knowing that I didn't reach my full potential as a football player is a life lesson and driving force that has helped shape my everyday approach to life."
He left CU in the spring of 2003 with a degree in communications in tow and his sights focused solely on a career in filmmaking. Lacking the means to get started, however, would prove to be a huge obstacle not easily overcome.
"My transition into filmmaking was the most trying time of my life," said Williams. "All I knew was that I found playing God exhilarating and writing didn't cost me anything except my time. It was what I wanted to do. Making a film however, required an insane amount of resources. I moved to Los Angeles with $2,500 in my checking account and I only knew one person in the movie business. I had a lot of work to do. I guess you can say I walked on in Hollywood just like I did at CU."
Williams left Boulder at a crucial, unsettling point in his life. College gave him the hope of fulfilling his aspirations but it remained to be seen whether any of it would ever leave the ground floor.
"When I arrived in L.A., I understood that I needed a steady income while I pursued my passion," said Williams. "I worked security at nightclubs, had some moving jobs and also did some commercial work as a football player just to get by."
How would a broken down former college football player find his way to the kind of financial prosperity needed to kick start such an expensive "hobby?" This dream had every chance to wilt and float away just as the first one did. It was just too big a step, too large a hurdle to overcome.
It was this thinking that clouded his future until that job in security at one of those prosperous Hollywood nightclubs brought the opportunity to create valuable connections to those living in the upper strata of society. Those that had access to the kinds of resources Williams would need to put his screenwriting career into the next gear.
It wasn't long before those connections finally began to pay dividends. A chance meeting with a top executive of a New York-based mortgage bank who had remembered Williams from his football exploits presented the opportunity to work for the company's newly-opening Beverly Hills office. If all of the indications were true maybe this could be the springboard to all of his ambitions. For the first time it seemed like maybe it all really could happen. Maybe he would make it to the big screen after all.
"The temptation of making seven figures a year and being flown on private jets to New York City was enticing enough to pull me into a business that I knew nothing about," said Williams. "I really had no desire to work in the mortgage industry but I figured it could help punch my ticket as a filmmaker. It did, but not in the way that I thought it would."
WILLIAMS RODE THE ROLLERCOASTER that was then the Los Angeles housing market for the next two years. He experienced its very highs and in the end, its greatest lows. Despite it all, Williams never resorted to the shady antics that would make so many of his peers phenomenal successes and eventually, colossal failures. By 2009, Williams had pulled out as one of the few honest men the business still employed.
But all of the crooked antics had finally taken its toll on a battered conscience. Millions were losing everything and it was no longer something he wanted to be a part of. Shortly thereafter came a collapse of the global economy no one had seen the likes of since the stock market crash of 1929.
From all of this came all he had been waiting for, a story to tell and the financial means to finally get it off the ground and onto the big screen for the whole world to enjoy. It was at this point that Williams first met a bartender and actor named Matt Funke who was also trying to find his way into a steady income in the movie business. Funke shared his vision and for the next two years both worked diligently to see their concept come to light.
"The most challenging part of getting the film off the ground was putting together the financial resources to do so," said Williams. "We had three production companies try to option the script along the way but there was no guarantee with an option that the film was going to get made.
"Doing everything ourselves from writing the story, producing, financing, acting in the film, buttoning up all of the paperwork in post-production and putting together our own marketing campaign has been the hardest thing that I have ever done - except for maybe three-a-days with coach (Gary) Barnett in 1999. That was a pretty tough 10-day stretch but not quite the eight-year grind that this has been."
Eventually everything started to fall into place. Many thought it would be difficult to create all the glitz and glamour of the world they were trying to recreate on the relatively small budget the two were working with. It was going to be hard to find an investor that would buy into and help finance the idea. It was then that the duo was introduced to director Theo Averginos, a man known for his ability to maximize the resources afforded to him.
"Theo helped us tailor the script to what we had," said Williams. "He was great at getting a lot out of a little. We made several mistakes along the way and learned more than you could ever imagine. We could not have achieved what we did without the help of so many talented and passionate people."
Now, on the day of its unveiling to his genius to the world, Williams can at long last see all that had once eluded him just over the horizon. At long last, he is home.