Los Angeles-based filmmaker William Hilferty, TFM ’13, tells compelling stories through the documentaries he edits, uncovering plotlines, creating structure and building narratives from raw footage.
As an aspiring filmmaker applying to film schools, Hilferty knew that the Los Angeles Study Away program made Temple stand out. In fact, it was what made Temple his top choice.
What Hilferty couldn’t have known is just how instrumental that experience would be.
“The biggest thing was being able to come out here to L.A. as a student and just start working in the field without so much pressure,” he said. “If it didn’t work out, I knew I could always go home.”
He’d arrived in L.A. wanting to write and direct films. During his internship at a postproduction house, he offered to recut a promotional video for its director. Not only was the video a success, it also sparked a newfound passion for editing and its power to shape a story.
When the director asked Hilferty to edit his next project, one thing led to another and Hilferty hasn’t left L.A. since.
“All of the relationships I made in the L.A. Study Away program are with people I’m still in communication with today—I continue to get opportunities through them,” he said. “That program really planted the seed for my career, which continues to grow.”
An Owl network
Hilferty has made it a point to hire and support other Owls from the internship program, and as a result many of his friends are fellow Temple alumni. He also speaks to undergraduates once a semester to share his experiences in the industry and regularly updates the career development office with new job opportunities.
There’s a shared work ethic, he’s noticed, that students learn at Temple and which its graduates carry with them into their careers.
“People [in the industry] tend to think of Temple students as hardworking,” he said.
A Python and Prince
Since graduating, he has worked for Associate Professor and L.A. Study Away Faculty Director Lou Pepe on his last two film projects, including He Dreams of Giants, a documentary about filmmaker and Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. Hilferty feels it’s his greatest achievement so far.
“It was very challenging because it’s about an older man coming to terms with the end of his career by finishing a film 27 years in the making,” Hilferty said. “I don’t have that experience, so to edit that piece effectively and properly tell his story I had to immerse myself in Gilliam’s life and try to truly understand him and his creative obsession.”
While Hilferty once thought he would work on feature films, he’s discovered a love for documentaries and the process of creating structure and logic out of raw footage. His current project is a docuseries for Netflix about Prince. Hilferty has spent hours in preproduction, reviewing previously unseen archival footage to help piece together a narrative arc about the enigmatic pop star’s life.
While the project is still in its early stages, it’s inspired Hilferty to think about someday making his own documentary, ideally one with a meaningful message.
“What drives me is telling real stories of real people and trying to make an impact, in the same way that the films I’ve worked on have impacted me,” he said.
—By Elisa Ludwig, CLA ’99, and Edirin Oputu