William Nisselson, regarded by many as the greatest champion of the independent film community, died on June 19, 2001, in his office at Sound One in New York.
After working in a broad spectrum of businesses, including stints at The New York Times, in the garment industry and as a taxi driver, Nisselson joined Sound One in 1980 as a production coordinator and quickly rose to the position of studio manager. In 2000, subsequent to Sound One becoming part of the Liberty Livewire family of companies, Nisselson was named COO of Sound One.
Nisselson’s career gave him the perfect opportunity to combine his passion for movies with his commitment to the underdog. In his everyday dealings, Nisselson connected with the entire roster of Sound One’s more notable clients, including Woody Allen, Ken and Ric Burns, Joel and Ethan Coen, Jonathan Demme, Brian DePalma, Nora Ephron, Milos Forman, Lasse Hallstrom, Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Mike Nichols, Martin Scorsese and M. Night Shyamalan. But Nisselson also found the time to support independent and documentary film directors, including Tom DiCillo, Charles Guggenheim, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Moore, Mira Nair, D.A. Pennebaker, Nancy Savoca and John Sayles. Posters for many of the film and television projects mixed at Sound One are exhibited in the facility’s hallways, and many of them feature handwritten notes that express both gratitude and appreciation for Nisselson and his outstanding team.
“I didn’t have enough money, and he gave me a lot of time and cut rates, which was the first time anyone had gone out of his way for me,” said director M. Night Shyamalan. “All he said was, ‘When you become famous, bring your films back here.’ It was a good moment. It was like your father giving you the keys to the big car.” Director Joel Coen also testified to Nisselson’s generosity and enthusiasm. “He was someone who bent over backward to make it easy for people who were just starting out,” said Coen.
Nisselson’s true talent, however, was creating a family atmosphere within a technologically fast and talent-driven environment, as evidenced by the longevity and loyalty of his exemplary staff. Nisselson is survived by his wife, Susan Diederich; mother, Herta Danis; sister, Jane Assimakopoulos; and stepdaughter, Alana Vidal.
Information provided by Sound One, with additional reporting by The New York Times.