Building to a Magnuson opus

Lifetime film buff, cinematic arts major reflects on directing, plans for future in the industry


Senior William Magnuson helps junior Noah Powell use a steady cam while filming the Taco Shack Pep Rally. “I was spotting him; that means I was making sure he wouldn’t fall or walk into something,” Magnuson said. Photo by Madison Olsen.

JR Cardenas

William Alexander Magnuson, a proud member of the class of 2018, has left his mark on McCallum by using the resources from the AV department over the past four years to create short film after short film. If you ever ask him why he enjoys movies, he could talk until the end of time about movies he loves— and he could talk just as long about movies he hates.

Magnuson’s origin story comes from humble beginnings.

“My parents are divorced,” said Magnuson. “Whenever I was with my dad, me and him would always watch movies. Not like ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ or garbage like that, but a highly regarded film like ‘The Goonies’, like a classic movie, and we just really bonded over that and I fell in love with movies themselves.”

Magnuson hadn’t started filming at this age, but according to him, it was almost destiny that he would eventually.

Magnuson was all in for Denim Day during the spirit week leading up to Homecoming. Photo by Audrey Sayer.

“My brother was in the film program at McCallum while I was in middle school, so naturally I saw what he was doing and I wanted to do it too,” said Magnuson. “So I was like f*** it, I’m gonna be a director.”

The rest, they say, is history. But Magnuson isn’t done making his history just yet; He’s always practicing and trying to get better at his craft.

“It’s really a lot of guess and check,” said Magnuson. “One thing I do all the time is after we finish filming a movie, I sit down by myself and I just watch the movie, and while I’m watching I take notes about everything I did wrong. I’m brutally honest with myself, but it’s good because I can see what I need to improve on and the next film I shoot is always just a little bit better than the last one.”

Magnuson went on to share his criteria for how he breaks down his movies in post while he watches them into three categories: cinematography, audio, and lighting.
Magnuson also described a major problem he has faced when making movies in high school.

“Acting in high school you can’t pay, I mean unless you’re rich, you can’t pay people to act in your film,” Maguson said. “Sometimes they’re good, like it’s hit or miss.”

Magnuson has a preference in genres of movies that he enjoys to direct.
“It’s more fun to make a comedy something like a good old fashioned comedy with slapstick and smart humor,” said Magnuson. “I’m not into fart jokes or whatever, just like good old comedies like ‘The Nice Guys,’ that’s a perfect example of what my kind of movie would be like. I would consider myself successful person in life if that could be my movie.”

Along with comedies, Magnuson’s other favorite genre is, “Thrillers. And when I say thrillers I don’t mean like, there’s a guy in the building with a gun and it’s like “oh where’s the guy with the gun” It’s like movies that are important like the movie ‘Sicario.’ It’s a great combination of a little bit of action and showing both sides of the story of the U.S. versus the drug lords.”

“One of the motifs used in the movie, shout out to Nikki Northcutt, is when they blur the lines there’s like this tanned color scheme throughout the entire movie, where like tan is kind neutral, like it’s not good like not white, but it’s not black like it’s bad, it’s like in the middle it’s like this tan color like this obscure line or zone like the truth, where what’s right and what’s wrong happens,” finished Magnuson.
Yeah, William’s big on movies, in case you haven’t realized yet.

With every preference there is a hatred that follows. William’s least favorite genre is “Rom-Coms,” said Magnuson.

“Really just any genre where they sacrifice the story or the character or the developments for the cheap thrills in a comedy like a fart joke like there’s no meaning to it, like it’s just a ‘Ha-Ha’ sort of thing.”

“Then you have thrillers— and not just any thrillers. Bad thrillers, where they sacrifice everything for the scare. Like it’s not even a good scare, it’s more of like a jump scare that scares you in the moment but it doesn’t last for more than a few moments. It’s not one of those really good scares that like sinks into you and sticks with you long after the movie ends.”

“That being said what people like to see in festivals is not comedies and not action movies, even if it’s a great action movie, it’s hard to make a good action movie in high school you know? You can’t do it, like if you can then it’s like Michael Bay. It’s like you’re pressured to make a deep, artsy film, and you know I was never really interested in that and you can make anything deep and artsy if you do it right. And one time for an ‘experimental film’ that was just like 2 or 3 minutes of just artsy stuff which I just hated because it was just abstract shots of just like blowing out a candle, and I just like did a bunch of different shots and stuff and like people thought it was great and all but like I didn’t like making it. It looked good but like, what does it mean? It didn’t mean anything, it was just a bunch of cool looking things, like they asked me what my emotion was and I was like ‘uh, jealousy?’ like I had to just spin the emotion wheel and pick one.”

Magnuson has made several films in the past including (Insert production names here) that have ranged from one genre to another.

“My last film I made, ‘Alzheimers’ I was really pressured by my class to make a really serious good, and when they say good they mean artsy, dramatic, and serious like a film like that. So I kinda caved in and I came up with the idea that the man has alzheimer’s and his caretakers are Jewish and they find out that he was a Nazi. And it was a cool idea and all but it didn’t really have too much of a meaning from it. Didn’t have anything to say you know and like halfway through the movie everything fell apart like the script fell apart the set all my props and just terrible to the actors and it was the worst experience for me directing because I caved and I didn’t have any heart into what I was filming so everything I did I half assed it and it just looked terrible shots were pretty good at the beginning but then it just turned into me just trying to get it done. It was a 20-minute film, so it was a hard thing to do because usually it takes like day or two to do a 5-minute scene so I just didn’t finish it,” said Magnuson.

“It’s probably not the best way to deal with this failure but that’s what happened,” Magnuson concluded.

Magnuson has a plan set for post high school.

“Here’s my game plan: Go to college for film like majoring in media and that would be like PRATT,” explained Magnuson. “They’re probably my number one school. I’d apply to, but it’d be a miracle if I got in and another miracle if I could pay for it, would be NYU and same with the USC and UCLA. That’s like a dream like ‘if I could’ you know what I mean, like I think about applying but at the same time why would I waste my money on application fees. Then my safe option would be UNT because they have a decent film program and it’s a nice town and I’d probably take an acting class and take a film class and just get into both sides you know, like I’d be happy to be a part of any part of the film industry just to where I feel like I can do something meaningful and like leave an impression on someone. As long as I can make a living,” finished Magnuson.

Even further beyond college William is already forming his plan for adulthood.
“I wouldn’t move to LA,” said Magnuson. “LA would be too hard because everyone goes to LA. It’s totally saturated with talent, so there’s no chance [that you can make it] unless you’re already solidified as someone. So I think the best option for me would be New York,” said Magnuson.

“I think I could survive in New York,” Magnuson said. “It’d probably be hard but I think I could do it. My other option would be New Mexico. They have an amazing film industry out there, and it’s just blowing up right now so that’d be a great place to go and find work.”