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Meet the 2012 SXSW Filmmakers #19: Stephen Kessler, 'Paul Williams Still Alive'

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire March 6, 2012 at 2:40PM

Stephen Kessler knows the secret to a successful career in film; "I grew up in NYC before there were personal computers, when moms liked to just take diet pills and lock you in your room with the TV as your friend and babysitter. As it turns out, it was the only thing I really needed." That, and the occasional Hungry Man TV dinner. "I still get excited when I see the words Hungry Man," the director admits. He is the director of films like "The Independent," "Vegas Vacation" and now "Paul Williams Still Alive."
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Stephen Kessler knows the secret to a successful career in film; "I grew up in NYC before there were personal computers, when moms liked to just take diet pills and lock you in your room with the TV as your friend and babysitter. As it turns out, it was the only thing I really needed." That, and the occasional Hungry Man TV dinner. "I still get excited when I see the words Hungry Man," the director admits. He is the director of films like "The Independent," "Vegas Vacation" and now "Paul Williams Still Alive."

What it's about: "When I was a kid, I really wanted to be Paul Williams. For a long time, I thought he was dead. Turns out, he's not."

Director Kessler says:  "My film tells the story of an amazing singer, songwriter, TV and movie star--but it's not a film about singing, songwriting, TV, or movies. It's more about me chasing around a guy I idolized who has zero interest in me following him. Which, as it turns out, is enough to make into a movie. The film is about being happy, and being miserable, and the thin line between the two. So it does give you a bit to chew on while you're wandering around Austin looking for cheap beer and barbecue."

What inspires you? "Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky, Truffaut, and of course Scorcese. Although "Transformers" was an inspiration to try to blow up more buildings and keep things really loud."

What are you hoping to get out of SXSW 2012? "I'd like it if one person said to me, "That film made my life a little less miserable. Thanks." Also, I'd like one of those badges with your picture on it."

Any projects in the pipeline? "I'm doing a TV series about a psychiatrist who lives in Los Angeles in 1971--treating patients with experimental drugs, hallucinagenics, nude psychotherapy, sex. Those guys were like rock stars then. It was a great time and place to be a doctor."

Final words: "If you see Paul Williams, it's okay to say hi. He likes it."


Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: Stephen Kessler, Meet the 2012 SXSW Filmmakers, South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), Paul Williams: Still Alive