A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

People of NKY: William Chaffin, independent filmmaker, actor, writer, director — and dad

By Ginger Dawson
NKyTribune reporter

Technological advances over the past twenty years have affected each and every one of us in our own unique ways.

William Chaffin

We’ve all had to figure out how to navigate the world without telephone books, road maps (paper ones), and a TV guide.

If you like to watch a lot of TV, you’ve had to figure out how to make the damn thing work, let alone find something to watch on it.

In the office, communication by email has its own specific forms of protocol that must be heeded, at the risk of some inter-office faux pas.

It’s affected every aspect of our lives.

If you are over the age of 50 (or there about) you’ve had to go through that egregious process of transitioning from an analogue brain to a digital one.

If you are under the age of 20, you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Now, we all like to watch movies.  But how on earth has the past twenty years affected people who not only love to watch movies, but have a singular passion for making them?

William Chaffin, filmaker. Confined, out on Amazon Prime

Billy Chaffin (professionally known as William Chaffin) has navigated this terrain and has figured it all out, first hand.

In fact, as an Independent filmmaker, he has just released one of his most recent movies, Confined, on Amazon Prime, the popular subscription movie streaming service.

Getting this to happen was not an obvious, easy process. He figured out each step by doing it.  Successes, setbacks and a serious talent for adaptability have all been a part of this equation. 

The movie business, as we have all seen over the years, transitioned from the theatrical movie releases we are familiar with, to the marketing of entertainment in the form of VHS tape cassettes and DVD rentals and ownership, to the current format of streaming online.

Only a very few of us have had to navigate it from the other side of the movie camera.

Billy Chaffin’s first love was baseball. He was all in, but for the misfortune of a childhood heart condition (which he ultimately outgrew) that made a full-blown engagement of this passion a challenge. He looked upon this not as a handicap, but as something to confront and conquer.

It was an early lesson and marked his character. Challenges were to be met head on.

William Chaffin in action — Rebel Without a Crew-style. Shooting a scene from Confined.

Considering his obvious drive, he would probably be a professional baseball player ending his career by this time. But, fate took him in another direction. 

Billy, who grew up in Independence, took a drama class at Simon Kenton High School (he figured it would be an easy credit). 

Instead, this easy credit totally surprised him and acting and drama replaced baseball as his grand passion. 

In pursuit of this new obsession, he enrolled in the theatre program at Northern Kentucky University after graduating from high school.  He studied there for two years.

Not one to waste time, in 1997, Billy went to Los Angeles, California to attend an International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) convention to network and immerse himself in the world of acting, movies and everything associated with it.  

It was a crash course in the movie business. He learned a ton and had the thrill of meeting Ashton Kutcher, Josh Dumel and Jessica Biel — actors who were his contemporaries at the beginnings of their respective, successful careers.

Back home that summer, ready to move forward, he secured an acting role in a local, low-budget film, The Golem. It was aired on Channel 9 WCPO around that time. 

Another scene being filmed from Confined. Lean and mean movie-making.

This was a pivotal experience. He witnessed movie-directing first hand and recognized his affinity for it. This shifted his focus away from acting and towards directing and production.  

He wanted to make movies.

In order to learn more, he then enrolled in a nine-month course with the Ohio Center for Broadcasting in Cincinnati, where he learned to shoot and edit film.  

Now, you have to remember, everything he was learning about film production was about to change. Digital filmography, the new wave, was just around the corner.  

Actually digital filming changed way more than just shooting movies —entire distribution channels were about to be upended.

And since everything would be so new, there was nowhere to go to learn it.  

Setting up a scene for the new 2020 release, Streets of Syndicate.

Billy learned how use the new technology, but there was a lot more to figure out: budgets, distribution platforms, production techniques, etc…  

How does one make a film in the new world?

He came upon the path forward when he discovered the films of Robert Rodriguez, an American film producer from Texas.

Rodriguez’s 1992 action film entitled El Mariachi, was a movie-making anomaly in that the film grossed $2 million dollars at the box office with a $7000 budget!  

Rodriguez is a one-man production crew. He produces, directs and writes his films. He can also serve as editor, camera operator, and just anything that needs to be done. 

Since Rodriguez insisted upon listing his own multiple roles in his film production credits, he was rejected by the Director’s Guild of American for not complying with their union-guided dictates.  

He is a TRUE independent filmmaker. In fact, Rebel Without a Crew is the title of the 1996 book that Rodriquez wrote detailing his experiences.

This was a revelation for Billy and it became a very serious part of his philosophy for film-making.

Over the past 20 years, with different production companies and partnerships, Billy has developed his film-making chops, first with movie shorts, commercials, and music videos.

He started producing feature films in 2003.  

His preferred genres are mostly thrillers, encompassing crime, action and psychological storylines.

Over this time, he not only developed his production and directing style, he has also, through research and resourcefulness, successfully landed his most recent release, Confined, with Amazon Prime, as referred to above.  

Devil’s Point, an earlier release. A psychological thriller.

If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, be sure to check it out.

It is important to note that he followed Robert Rodriguez’s lead and true to Rebel Without a Crew style, produced this movie for $2500.

The list of William Chaffin’s films: The Joining—2003, Hallowed Ground—2007, Watch—2010, Devil’s Point—2014, Confined—2019, and in the pipeline for release in 2020, Streets of Syndicate.

Billy Chaffin has no fear of failure. Like so many other important things that he learned from his early love of baseball, he received a great object lesson — three hits out of ten times at bat is good. It also means that failure happens seven of those ten times. In the movie business, a healthy relationship with failure is important.

Oh, and by the way, with all of this time and energy in producing, directing and making movies, he has somehow managed to have a 15-year full-time career in the financial world, most recently with 5/3 Bank as a property preservation coordinator.

William (Billy) Chaffin currently resides in Ft. Thomas with his wife, Melissa, and his daughters, Sydney and Sierra.

When asked which accomplishment, out of so many, that he was most proud of, he answered, “Being a good dad. It’s hard work!”  

We certainly do have some amazing people in Northern Kentucky!

Ginger Dawson writes about people — the neighbors you need to know and people you need to meet and understand. If you have ideas for subjects please share them with Ginger at ginger@fuse.net.

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One Comment

  1. Bonnie Anderson says:

    Beautifully written. Another thoughtful story.

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