A Walk Down the Red Carpet in Cannes

Madison Williams, a graphic communications major, poses for a photo with her camera.

When Madison Williams graduated in May with a graphic communications degree, she walked the red carpet while her classmates crossed the stage at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Newbury, Massachusetts, native represented Clemson at the Cannes Film Festival in France, where her 5-minute documentary on a passionate Tiger football fan was screened alongside the work of the world’s most renowned filmmakers.

“It’s a dream come true, and I have the opportunities presented to me at Clemson and many of the talented people here to thank for it,” the College of Business graduate said.

Williams’ documentary, “136,” is a story about Bryson Carter of Anderson, who lost his sight as a student here but whose love for Clemson football has led him to attend 136 consecutive (now 150) games. She originally produced the documentary to compete in Campus Movie Fest at Clemson last February. Her work advanced to a national competition and eventually was selected to be screened as part of Cannes’ Short Film Corner.

“I have been blessed to have so many people who nurtured me on my journey to becoming a professional videographer,” Williams said. “There are too many to mention, but some of the most influential were people like Nik Conklin, Jeff Kallin and Jonathan Gantt in the athletic department; Craig Mahaffey and Jesse Godfrey in University Relations and Erica Walker, one of my graphic communications instructors.”

Inspiration for the documentary on Carter came from their chance meeting at the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. “Bryson and I shared a ride to the train station in Arizona, and he started talking about his passion for football,” Williams said. “He visualizes the game through the announcers’ commentary and the energy the fans paint in his mind. His story nearly brought me to tears.”

Telling stories comes naturally to Williams, but she had to work to develop her visual communication skills. “At a very early age, I wanted to be behind the lens,” she said. “I made music videos and filmed plays with my very patient sister. Then, in high school, I filmed the football team’s highlight reels and knew this was something I wanted as a lifelong pursuit.”

A year later, she was at Clemson studying graphic communications. Internships at Clemson and in Massachusetts primed her for a role on the Clemson Athletics social media team, where she cut her teeth as a visual communicator for the volleyball team. With the French Riviera experience a memory, Williams is looking forward.

“Right now, I’m looking for visual storytelling roles similar to what I do at Clemson,” she said. “Wherever I land, I know my education here, inside and outside the classroom, has put me in a great position to succeed. I’m very excited to see where my Clemson experience will take me next.”

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