The Interview: Filmmaker Edwin Walker aka E. Micheaux

Edwin Walker/E.Micheaux
Edwin Walker/E.Micheaux

One of my favorite songs is “Use Me” by Bill Withers.  The lyrics say, “You just keep on using me until you use me up, Until you use me up.”  I want to do as much work on this planet until I can not be used any longer.  So I say, ‘use me,’ to me, ‘to use me up earth!’  I use that as my mantra everyday while putting my best foot forward.

When you go on adventures in life, you never know who you will meet or the people that the universe will place in your path.  I met Edwin Walker (aka E. Micheaux) during the NYC Premiere of the movie “Dope” during the American Black Film Festival.  We ended up sitting next to each other during the film, chatting for some time before the movie started.

I told Edwin a little about myself and he told me his story.  His story is one that is worth sharing with the world because it is a remarkable story of how this young man (he’s only 26 years old) went out and pursued his dream to be a filmmaker at a very young age.  He has done more things and has experienced a lifetime worth of stories in his short life than most people do by the time they are 26 years old.

Edwin continued telling me his story the day after the movie when we caught up with each other again at a special ABFF dinner.  His story was so remarkable that an old gospel/jazz singer I met at the dinner was so amazed by the story, she pulled him over to remark on how inspiring he was to her!  A 65-year-old woman saying a 26-year-old was inspiring her!

Edwin and I carried our conversation on over to the HBO “Ballers” party after the dinner and talked well into the late night hours about life, business, and social media.  One thing I know for sure is that meeting Edwin was like meeting a new friend I know I will have for the rest of my life.

Edwin is a remarkable and amazing person that is very passionate about life and film.  He’s sharing his story today in order to help inspire others to live their dreams.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am Edwin Walker and I am a Creative Activist of Art & Storytelling.  I am from Chicago, IL.  I’m 26 years old, yet on some days I feel like I’m 66.  I’m such an old soul.  I am working day in and day out to bring fresh and authentic stories to audiences.  My ultimate goal is to have my own distribution company, a digital media network and entity.  With that, I want to target Generation X and Millennials audiences, giving them content that they want.  Innovative, yet fun and refreshing.  In today’s media, many companies are owned by conglomerates that are feeding audiences the same content.  I want to be at the forefront of giving audiences the content and projects that they want through a Direct to Fan strategy, cutting the middle man out, and letting the content curators and audiences do all the decision making.  So that is my quest, it’s a big part of who I am at this point in my life and career.

2. How did you end up in LA?

How did I end up in Los Angeles aka LaLa Land?  Well…the ambition and passion that I had for the Arts & Entertainment, I knew that it would take me to LA or NYC, and this was at a young age.  My Grandmother always tells me, when I was five I would call NBC and ABC in my hometown and want to speak to the person who could get me on TV, on shows like The Cosby Show and Family Matters.  This was at five.  So I knew this would be something that I loved, and I felt the passion growing quickly, watching TV shows and movies wanting to be in their world.   So when I was 12, I moved to Pasadena, CA, a city outside of Los Angeles to live with my Grandfather, and I began acting.  I started doing commercials and got the opportunity to be on the Disney Channel Show, “The Famous Jett Jackson.”  Other opportunities were starting to build when I got homesick.

I was miles away from all of my family in Chicago.  Living with just my grandfather and no other family was tough.  I was away from my Mother and Grandmother, living with this man who was strict and everything was so different from the life I knew in Chicago.  So I moved back to Chicago after only a year and a half.  I felt like I was failure at 13, like I started something that I couldn’t finish.  So that caused me to give up on my visions and myself.

For about 3 years, I wanted to do nothing associated with entertainment.  I tried Football, Science club, the debate team…anything to try to ignore my true passions.  I just couldn’t escape it.  I then started writing more at 16.  I wrote songs, which led to me joining a singing group.  That didn’t last for long.  That soon turned into me writing scripts and short stories.  My passion was reborn.

I got an agent in Chicago and started back acting.  I took media classes and fell in love with directing and the camera.  Soon after that I got a role in the movie “The Promotion,” starring John C. Reilly and Sean William Scott, written and directed by Steven Conrad (this is the man who wrote the script for the amazing film “The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith).

This experience was the game changer for me.  At 17, I was working with A-list actors and top producers and directors.  The week that I worked with everyone on set, I was a sponge soaking up as much information as I possibly could. They all gave me such great advice on what I should do in my career.  John gave me a list of agents, Sean gave me a list of managers in LA, and Steven took all my scripts I had written and read them and told me about screenwriting programs in LA.

So I prayed hard about whether I should forego college and leave for LA.  All signs pointed to this move.  So at 18, with $1,700 to my name and knowing a handful of people in LA, four suitcases in hand, I did my homework.  I found a few studio apartments to check out to move into.  I packed up and moved there.  I didn’t even finish High School.  I enrolled in a program where I would get my last credits through mail.  The program was called “American School.”  It was like a home school program.

I can still remember getting on the plane at 18, literally a few months as an adult.  I just turned 18 in November and I was sitting on this plane to LA on January 26th, 2007.  Fear did not come over me at all.  I was rather anxious and excited for the unknown.  Once I got off that plane and returned back to LA, I was ready for the struggle, disappointment, “No’s,” doubt.  Everything that could possibly happen to me in my 8 years living in LA has happened to me.  From evictions, car repossessions, car accidents, bad managers stealing your money, being robbed, having to pawn camera equipment to pay rent, losing friends, losing money and losing things in fires.

Everything has happened to me, and I have had my days where I want to quit.  I can’t lie, but I revert back to that 18 year old that was on that plane who had no fear.  I could of turned around then, but I knew I was ready for the challenge ahead.  That has kept me going thus far…along with a lot of prayer and trust in God.

3. Why did you choose being a filmmaker as a career?  Were there certain influences that made you realize this is who you are?

I don’t think I chose being a filmmaker, it chose me.  I’m an only child, and I always had to entertain myself.  I was also a latch key kid.  My Mother worked two jobs at one point in time.  I’m a child of a single parent, so I would escape into different worlds.  Creating scenarios of what my life could be, or how other lives were, how would it be if something was this way, or imagining life in space or life in the ocean.  Creating stories and using my imagination was always thrilling to me.

I always got into trouble in school, because I felt like the teachers wouldn’t let me use my imagination and create more.  I felt stifled.  Once I started acting and studying my craft, I saw how much of a responsibility it is as an actor to make people believe you are another person rather than yourself.

Through studying filmmaking, I realized that the responsibility is now greater than the actor, because as a filmmaker you have to create a world and living things that people have to interpret.  Growing up – I truly believe was my film school.  I didn’t go to NYU or USC’s prestigious film programs.  I went to 7 different schools in my life from Kindergarten till 11th Grade.  In my entire life, I have lived in five different states.  I’ve had all of these experiences with different people in my life that made me view people and places from a broader scope.  Those experiences made me want to tell real slice of life stories, and start writing those stories. Filmmaking honestly chose me.

I think other filmmakers would agree that it’s bigger than passion when you have to spend a large amount of your time in your day giving brain power to stories that are sticking with you.  You have to make that come alive through words and fonts that could take months, through scripts– sometimes even years.  Then you have to find the money and the team to bring the vision to life and that could take years.  Being a filmmaker is an emotional, yet invigorating, journey.  You have to really be in it, knowing that it’s your calling.  It called me and kept calling me and I couldn’t get away from being a filmmaker.  It chose me.

4. What projects is your company Edclusive Entertainment creating now?  

I have to keep myself productive, so in between gearing up for my feature film directorial debut, I have created mini pieces that are under 5 mins that are conversation pieces.  My first one up is Lyfe + Def: A Reckless Love Story.  It’s the tale of two young lost hearts.  I’m really excited about this project because we live in a society that so many young people want to be loved, but they don’t know how to love.  This project will explore that in a unique way.

The project that I will make my feature film directorial debut on is “Hometown Hero.”  We are in the early stages of development.  This story is one that I have to tell.  It’s …

The gripping story of the demise of a young promising professional football player’s struggles with mental illness resulting from untreated trauma.  Mental Illness advocacy is something that I am involved with by getting more narratives out there about cases in order to create awareness.

5. Can you talk a little about the social impact of the films you are creating?

The social impact that I intend to create is awareness and displaying slice of life stories that audiences don’t normally get to see.  I want to do it from a new approach that the audience can understand and relate to.  We are accustomed to seeing movies that are violent, but we don’t see many films that explore what makes a person violent.  Through creating those images, I hope to create conversations that will translate into change, or new ideals of how we view one another, our communities, industries and the world we live in.

6. What is your favorite film and why?  Were there any films that influenced you to become a filmmaker?

My favorite film is tough to say because I have so many, but if I could choose two that equally influenced me to be a filmmaker, I would have to say “Bicycle Thieves” directed by Vittorio De Sica (an amazing Italian film), and “The Defiant Ones” directed by Stanley Krammer.  Both of these films show humanity among men and their quest for a better life.  They are both authentic and intriguing.  After seeing these two films, it made me make the conscious decision to be a filmmaker that makes films that tells stories with social issues from real people in real life that leaves a residue with audiences.

I want to tell stories about people who are real and have purpose in what they are seeking or know that they have.  In those two films, not only are the characters memorable, but they are people who we all know, no matter if you’re black,white, green or blue.  They are depictions of what we face in the world we live in.  I could watch those two films everyday.

Once a week for 6 months, I actually did before.  It was reassurance that I’m doing the right thing with the films I intend to make.

7. What’s upcoming for you and Edclusive Entertainment?

lyfe and defI mentioned a little bit above, Lyfe +Def: A Reckless Love Story, the short mini piece [Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram].

I have a short film that we produced titled “Perfect Love” directed by Simon Slavoj, which we associate produced.  It’s the story of a woman seeking an answer that she’s not ready to really know.

I am also in production of directing and producing a documentary titled, “A Refugee’s Heart” where we follow the journey of a 47-year-old Cuban woman retracing her journey to Cuba for the first time since she left the country at the age of two.  She returns back to Cuba to help other young women who are in need.

The-Psychiatrist-Poster-ds-692x1024I am also producing “The Psychiatrist” directed by Bahiyjaui Allen.  It’s a suspense thriller short about a twisted relationship between a patient and their psychiatrist.

We’re still developing and raising capital for the “Hometown Hero” movie.  It moves slow on some days and fast on others, but meetings and interests are happening.

Extra:  Why E. Micheaux?  What is that name from?

When I direct, I use the moniker E. Micheaux.  It’s homage to Oscar Micheaux who was the first black man to produce, write, direct and distribute his films and books in the 1920’s.  I stand on his shoulders, and he is one of my greatest inspirations.

You can find Edwin and his company Edclusive Entertainment at the following places: