After creating the prize-winning short Gold in the late '60s, Paul Williams began directing feature-length films. His first attempt, Out of It, for which he also wrote the screenplay, was well received and nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear, and recommended for an Interfilm Award at the 1970 Berlin International Film Festival and for an OCIC Award. Both this film and the subsequent The Revolutionary (1970) are reflective of their times as studies of the dreams, ideals, and grievances of the younger generation.
In 1972's Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues, which Williams scripted as well as directed, he appears as an actor for the first time in the part of Barry. He appeared on television in 1975 in the series When Things Were Rotten playing Guy de Maupassant in the episode "There Goes the Neighborhood," and in 1976, Williams took a supporting role in Henry Jaglom's Tracks, about the problems of a Vietnam veteran (Dennis Hopper).
He acted the part of Elliot (credited as "P.W. Williams") in his own drama Nunzio (1978), and later under the same screen name as Zee's husband in Henry Jaglom's comedy Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? (1983). His next directorial effort was the comedy La Donna Giusta (aka Miss Right ) starring Karen Black and Margot Kidder. The rest of the '80s was filled with acting roles for Williams: in the TV series Starting Out (1983), as the title character in David Baker's Australian production Niel Lynne (aka Best Enemies ), and as a veteran in the TV film To Heal a Nation (1988).
Williams took on the multiple roles of director, producer, and actor (as Arthur Gwenlyn) for the underrated thriller The November Men (1993), maybe about a plot to assassinate then-President George Bush, or perhaps about a movie being made about a plot -- the viewer is left constantly off-balance. In 1995, Williams assumed similar triple roles for the action-thriller detective movie Mirage where he appeared as the character Donald Gale, with a script by James Andronica, who also appeared in one of the leading roles. The same year, Williams acted in two more television pieces, as Tumbleweed Tom in the "Collision Course" episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, and as Lionel Rose in John Dixon's adventure-drama Rose Against the Odds.
After enacting the part of Paul in Eckelberry and Webb's Movies Money Murder (1996), written by Karen Black (who also appears in a starring role), Williams produced and appeared as a homeless man in the emotionally complex drama Men (1997), which was directed by Williams' daughter, Zoe Clarke-Williams, with a script by two writers who were colleagues on other films, Karen Black and James Andronica.
In 1998, Williams produced Stephen Eckelberry's mystery-drama Charades (aka Felons) and acted the part of Mick, one of six men in Brian Stirner's powerful drama about remembrances of child abuse entitled A Kind of Hush.