Bill Oliver '86 Celebrates Release of First Feature Film

Creative passions can emerge at any time, and for Bill Oliver ’86, his began at Indian Springs. Founder of the school’s film society, and co-editor of the yearbook, he didn’t really imagine a career in movies. Instead, as he explains it, “I just knew I loved photography, and had a passion for film.”
Pursuing these passions led him to Princeton—and the university’s film society—then to a job with an independent producer, before enrolling in the Whitney Independent Study Program. And there, he produced his first film. More formal film studies followed: “I received a Master’s in Cinema Studies from NYU, then an MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute, and all the while I was writing screenplays and trying to get my first feature off the ground.”
Now you could say that Oliver’s first feature is, literally and figuratively, off the ground. He has co-written and directed Jonathan, a stellar, subtle, sci-fi thriller starring Ansel Elgort, Patricia Clarkson, and Suki Waterhouse. The film, which debuted at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival last spring, opened in wide release in November.
Oliver keeps his Springs experience close, working at a desk with a picture of his friend and mentor Helen Payne, who taught French here from 1975 to 1997, above it. When asked what value he most appreciates from his time at Springs, he speaks of Payne fondly: “She taught us that in order to live fully we have to be attuned to the world around us. She was able to live her life this way; she inspires me every day.” Oliver, too, is an inspiration, in his quiet persistence, his commitment to craft, and the beauty of moments like those in Jonathan that he is able to share with us today.

Watch the trailer here: