“Spaz” explores the failed success of cinematic CG artist Steve Williams. [SXSW Film Festival]

Steve Williams. This is a name anyone who loves movies should know, but how many people can honestly say they know of Steve Williams, or Spaz as he was known to friends? He is the reason why James Cameron’s Abyss redefined the genre. He’s the reason why Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park looked as magnificent as it did and still does. He was a pioneer of computer animation, but his own ego, disrespect of authority, and general stubbornness are the reasons why Steve Williams’s name is not held in the same regard as that of George Lucas or James Cameron.


Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams is a pioneer in computer animation. His digital dinosaurs of JURASSIC PARK transformed Hollywood in 1993, but an appetite for anarchy and reckless disregard for authority may have cost him the recognition he deserved. | Photo Credit: Sean Casey.

What happens when James Cameron gives you a call and asks you to come save his movie? You do everything you possibly can, at least if you know computer animation, and that is what Steve Williams was an expert at. Cameron needed someone to make the creature/water tentacle in the Abyss look realistic and non-CG animation couldn’t convey the imagery that Cameron wanted for the film. Steve Williams was essentially a team of one, that later developed into an actual small team, that managed to pull off what was near deemed impossible and thusly paved the way for all computer animation we have come to know and love throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. When Jurassic Park came around, Williams was told not to try and CG the dinosaurs, that it would be dealt with otherwise. Through his own arrogance and perseverance he ignored orders and did it anyways. This sent ripples down the pipeline, and some choice words during an interview essentially blacklisted Williams and robbed him of the recognition he rightfully deserved.

Spaz takes a look at what Steve Williams did in his career and what his efforts meant to the world of CG animation as well as what sparking a fire in the corporate world can do to one’s career. Steve Williams was working with the likes of Steven Spielberg and James Cameron and was invited to Skywalker Ranch and rubbed elbows with people like Kathleen Kennedy. With interviews with Steve himself, Phil Tippett, and Mark A.Z. Dippe, the career and life of Steve Williams is analyzed, deconstructed, and pathed to pinpoint the genius that is Steve Spaz Williams and the ultimate downfall that led to the lack of recognition he has garnered for the magnitude of change he brought onto the industry.

Director Scott Leberecht had a daunting task ahead of him as having to pull the veil back on Steve Williams, most likely, was no easy task. Steve has fallen on hard times, despite being a pioneer for what has rather overtaken cinema today. He lost his way, became an alcoholic, and is struggling to even find work. It is hard to repair burned bridges when those bridges are upheld by the who’s who of Hollywood. Steve Williams helped make the game changing animation and graphics in movies like Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, and The Abyss, yet his own ego and hubris cost him that recognition and better life.


Director Scott Leberecht. Photo Credit: @salinasholcomb.

When the documentary shows how much work Steve has brought to the table and how much he has given the industry, it is honestly appalling that his name doesn’t resonate with most audiences. He is responsible for so many memorable moments, including being responsible for that brilliant Blockbuster ad from the ‘90s/2000s with the rabbit and guinea pig. The genius behind the deeply flawed human being that is Steve Williams cannot be ignored. Spaz dissects the fact that no matter how smart and creative you are, everything comes down to politics, and when you don’t want to play ball, you get benched.

Screening during the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

SXSW Screening Information:

*Monday, March 14th, Screening @ 3:45 pm CT, Alamo Lamar E

*Tuesday, March 15th, On-line Screening @ 9:00 CT

*Tuesday, March 15th, Screening @ 12:15 pm CT, Violet Crown Cinema 2

*Tuesday, March 15th, Screening @ 12:45 pm CT, Violet Crown Cinema 4

*Thursday, March 17th, Screening @ 5:15 pm CT, Alamo Lamar B

For more information, head to the official SXSW webpage.

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.

SXSW 2022

Categories: In Theaters, Reviews, streaming

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