From then… until now!
I come from a single-parent family in Monterey, California, a region that we like to call, “Clint Eastwood Country.” I have a younger sister, who I helped raise (… and whose life I saved from drowning) during her childhood, who later became a very successful professional woman and social gladiator, and who has saved many lives, herself. At 6 years old, I began my music exploration and sales career by selling flower seeds and Christmas cards, mowing lawns, and delivering newspapers. It was in my teenage years that I enjoyed surfing and got into music on a serious level. As a result, I am proud to have been recognized as one of the first African American surfers in northern California. I later took up photography and won an award in Surfer Magazine for a picture that I shot on my first roll of film. Cool! Years later, I served in the US Army Band, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and studied two years at the College of San Mateo, a junior college. Next, I enrolled in San Francisco State University (SFSU), where I graduated as a Creative Arts Interdisciplinary Apprentice. My major was a combination of music and film, which led my development into who and what I am today – an accomplished director in the entertainment industry.
After I graduated from SFSU, I wasn’t sure what my next move would be until I noticed an ad on a campus bulletin board offering an internship at KPIX, a Westinghouse/CBS broadcaster. The offer was from the Creative Services Department and since I am a creative person, I thought that this internship would be a perfect fit for me. I remember that the interviewer said, “You seem to be a very focused and driven young man. I have just the place for you.” I interpreted that response as potentially being assigned as a janitor or something unrelated to my interests. To my surprise, I was offered an internship on the Evening/PM Magazine television show. There are two things that I learned that day, i.e., 1.) “Creative Services” is an upmarket way of saying “Human Resources” and 2.) the show Evening Magazine was the first nationally formatted television show in America, maybe in the world, and the hottest syndicated television show in the country. That was it; I was on the map. I completed my internship and earned a permanent position on that show. Wow! I thought to myself, “Hollywood, here I come!”
As I climbed the corporate ladder at the CBS affiliate, I learned many facets of the business working as a production assistant, audio engineer, associate producer, producer, cinematographer, director, and writer. The first segment that I produced on my own was about reggae music, and within two years I created over one thousand segments that featured many famous personalities, notably, Beyoncé, Bruce Willis, and Tiger Woods, and a variety of featured subjects. Lucky me! What a great experience! I next was offered and accepted a conditional position as Supervising Producer on a children’s television show at CBS. However, the condition was that I would keep the position until a “real” producer was hired, then I would become an Associate Producer. Aside from it being a conditional assignment, I regarded the job as a step forward in my career and ended up winning an Emmy Award for best children’s television program. Eventually, the permanent producer came on board and I moved on to a new job as a director for ABC’s Good Morning America, the longest running morning talk show in the US. After that, I joined the Director’s Guild of America and never looked back. I was now a “real” director and one for a major network in Hollywood. This was a magical moment in my life. And then came Oprah. Oprah’s company, Harpo, Inc., conducted a nationwide search for a field director for her daytime talk show. Not only did I get the gig, I became the Lead Field Director for the show! My mom was so happy about the news that you would have thought they’d offered her the job instead of me! I, too, was happy.
Now people were talking about “Will Harper” and yes, it felt good to be a bankable name in Hollywood. During my production career I produced and directed shows for the Warner Bros., Disney/Buena Vista, Lifetime Network, Paramount, Universal, ABC, CBS, NBC, TBS, and Intuitive Entertainment networks. Also, I directed Clint Eastwood’s documentary, “40 years of the Monterey Jazz Festival” (Warner Bros.), Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson’s “Magic Hour,” and Jamie Foxx’s “Unleashed,” a stand-up comedy show. I also was the lead creative on a marketing campaign for Universal Studios Hollywood that would ultimately be instrumental in the acquisition of Universal Studios by Seagram Company Ltd. (formally traded as “Seagram’s”).
By this stage in my career I was on a true global trek, working in various countries around the world. And since I was competing on the international playing field, I really had to stay on top of the creative peak and be up on high-end production innovations. From my experiences, I’ve learned that you really must follow your heart, your own intuition, and believe in what you are doing. You must “own it!” This attitude is what makes you original and that is what people are looking for, original ideas, ideas that take them “from zero to hero.” In Amsterdam, the “Hollywood” of Europe, I landed directing gigs with the prestigious ad agencies, Leo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather. When I asked, “What can I do for you?” they said, “Do what you do best. ‘Willify’ our productions. Do your thing!”
“Do your thing” became my mantra! When I “did” the jazz documentary for Clint Eastwood, one of the Warner Bros. executives asked for a few minor tweaks. Clint responded with, “Why change a Picasso?” (What an honor!) I also traveled to South Africa to work on the prestigious “Trumpet Awards Show” (credited as “Executive Producer in 2006 and 2007) and to produce a very special segment with my hero, the legendary Nelson Mandela. I was standing across the room waiting to meet him and before I was formally introduced, he motioned at me to come to him. I looked around and realized that he was talking to me and I quickly made my way over, even though it felt like I was moving in slow motion. He told me, “I like the way you dress, and your hair style is distinctive.” (I had dreadlocks at the time.) Then he asked me, “Who are you?” I told him that I was Will Harper, the director for the show. He seemed happy with that answer and then continued with, “So, Will, what do you want to hear from me?” I answered, “What would be the most valued advice you would give to people trying to make an impression?” He simply said, “With all due respect, never kowtow, Mr. Will. Look them in the eye and give them your truth.”
From these fortunate, unique, and diverse opportunities, I was able to hone a few other beneficial key skills, namely that of executive producer, head writer, production designer, and show runner. With the collection of proficiencies that I acquired from some of Hollywood’s finest studios, I have since produced and directed international award-winning movies, documentaries, commercials, and television series. And in 2004, I founded The Global Touch Group (GTG), a fusion branding and content development agency.
Today, I am happy to bring extensive creative content development, production, and storytelling expertise to every project in which I am involved. I have also fine-tuned my leadership skills, where I can give direction to and guidance on large-scale productions. My adaptable business acumen and marketing sensibilities include a multi-faceted point of view on contemporary show business production from inception to completion and my ability to combine effective storytelling with memorable and visually stimulating images have established me as a prominent director in the entertainment industry.
I feel blessed.
Not bad for a kid who started out selling Christmas cards and flower seeds. I guess this is where I say, “Thanks Mom! I could not have done it without a true believer like you in my corner. I love you.”