With his debut film, Neil Creque Williams sounds a triumphant note for people living with epilepsy
For any filmmaker, making the rounds at major film festivals is a measure of success. But for Neil Creque Williams, whose 20-minute short feature, David’s Reverie, is about a musician living with epilepsy, seeing his film on the marquee is also a personal victory. He, too, was diagnosed with the disease.
Williams was 12 years old when he experienced his first tonic-clonic seizure. Although his parents, teachers and friends were loving and supportive, having epilepsy changed the way he interacted with the world. “I became more reserved socially,” he says. “I didn’t want to have a seizure in front of anyone.”
Williams made his first movie at age seven. He received his MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. David’s Reverie was his thesis project.
The movie tells the story of a young jazz musician (played by Brandon Fobbs from The Wire) who must reconcile the reality of his epilepsy with the pressures of being a pro musician. For Williams it was an example of art imitating life. “I never told people about my history with epilepsy until I made this film,” he says. “The movie was my opportunity to talk about it publicly.”
David’s Reverie captures the challenges that people with seizures often experience. Like the character David, Williams stopped taking his antiseizure medication for a while in his 20s. And like the film’s hero, Williams decided to take care of himself by getting back on meds in order to stay on track with his career. “There’s a way to live your life and have this disorder,” he says, “but you have to admit you have the disorder first.”
The film has been well received. David’s Reverie has been shown at festivals such as the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, the city’s Pan African Film Festival and USC First Film Festival; New Voices in Black Cinema at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, New York; and the North Carolina Black Film Festival and RiverRun International Film Festival, also in North Carolina. “It’s been really awesome to screen the film in different parts of the country,” Williams says. A feature-length version of David’s Reverie is now in development.
Like his starring character, Williams is determined to overcome the obstacles and see his artistic expression come to life. “I wasn’t sure how people would respond to the film, but it was a success,” he says. “The audiences laughed when we wanted them to and they felt for our protagonist, David, when we hoped they would. Making this film has been really rewarding.”
Originally printed in EpilepsyAdvocate, Fall 2015