P. Frank Williams' journey from the pen to the camera

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
P Frank Williams
East Oakland native P. Frank Williams. Credit: Tyrone Richardson

From SDSU to Hollywood, the career of P. Frank Williams is as impressive as it is varied. Williams, who graduated from SDSU in 1993 with a journalism degree and later earned a master's at Columbia’s School of Journalism, can trace the start of his journey back to his childhood in Oakland. 

“I started out writing love letters for people in my neighborhood and they would pay me money,” Williams said. “Being able to write and tell stories is what I do. Even those love letters that I would write for my friends back in the day were my early form of being a storyteller.”

Immediately following graduate school, Williams secured a position at the LA Times. It was in this role that he began to explore the music world, focusing on Hip Hop and entertainment. His passion for reporting on music led him to freelance for The Source magazine, an American hip-hop and entertainment publication.

The Source solidified his journey into the entertainment realm, eventually propelling him to become the inaugural West Coast editor and executive editor for the magazine. While employed by both The Source and the LA Times, Williams interviewed legends in the hip-hop industry, including Tupac Shakur, Eazy E and Suge Knight, among others.

During his time at The Source, Williams ventured into television and film writing. 

"I spent many years as a reporter but once I got to The Source I got into entertainment. Then I started writing for The Source Music Awards and out of that I started writing for other shows, like the BET awards,” said Williams. 

As Williams found his footing in television and film, his career trajectory shifted. Transitioning from pen to camera, he embraced a different form of storytelling.

“At the core, I’m a storyteller, just like the kid with the notebook and those glasses in 1985. I’m still telling stories. I use a video camera now, while before I used a pen,” Williams said. 

Currently, Williams serves not only as a writer but also as an executive producer, director and showrunner. Leveraging the connections forged during his journalism career, he brings his ideas to life. Despite the shift in his professional focus, Williams maintains a steadfast goal.

“I still just tell stories primarily about people of color and their lives and their struggles. That’s my passion.”

One of the biggest pieces of advice Williams has for current JMS students is to “treat people well” and to not “skip steps to get to the place you want to be.” 

He encourages aspiring professionals to identify their desired careers, connect with those currently working in the field and diligently work their way up.

“You don't have to have it all figured out today,” Williams said. “If you would have told me 20 years ago I would be a showrunner in Hollywood running TV shows and doing movies, I would have been like ‘What are you talking about?’.”

Currently, Williams is involved in three major projects: a documentary mini-series (“Freaknik: The Wildest Party Ever Told”) airing on Hulu, a project on Roger Troutman and a project detailing the life of Busta Rhymes.

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