Edwin Walker is no stranger to Perfectionist Wannabe. You can read his first interview (when he was 27) and his latest interview (at the age of 35) to see how he’s still living the journey in pursuit of the dream that is ever-evolving.
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Favorite moment in your life so far. Traveling to the continent of Africa, all 3 times.
Name one place you would like to visit. Tokyo
Advice you live by. Bask in L.I.F.E (Live In Freedom Everyday)
Advice you would give to your teenage self. Slow down man, enjoy these years.
Biggest impact Chicago has had on you. It’s kept me grounded and authentic to myself and others.
Biggest impact Hollywood has had on you. It’s taught me to know who the hell you are and own your work and identity.
Would you ever do theater? Of course, I started out doing theater and stopped, but I plan on returning one day and making it to Broadway in the future, God willing.
Favorite film festival. South by Southwest
Favorite artist. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Name an artist you think everyone should be following. Myself – Edwin Walker x E. Micheaux
Your social media go to. Instagram
Favorite filmmaker. Oscar Micheaux
Which project challenged you the most? Caged Birds
What do you do to relax? Meditate, walk, read and rest for half a day once a week.
Morning person or night person? Night
Streaming or in theater kind of person? Both
Favorite movie snack. Any gummy candy
Coolest celebrity you’ve met so far. Tom Hanks
Best advice someone in the industry gave to you. “It’s a marathon journey, not a sprint so pace yourself, slow and steady wins the race.”
First movie you loved.The Lion King
First crush. Kyla Pratt
Person (alive or dead) you would love to meet. Tupac
Do you get imposter syndrome? Nope
Do you get nervous right before you get on stage or get in front of the camera? Of course, I thrive off my nerves and excel in the moment.
Best advice a friend has given to you. Don’t ever change, keep being yourself!
What’s next? So much, we are traveling the country with the “PreSchool To Prison” documentary project. I’m curating art/photo exhibitions, and dinner parties with artists and brands with Lab Eighty 8. I’m shooting a documentary series titled “E’s Global Quest” where I’m traveling to places around the world, meeting new people, learning about culture and cuisine from my POV. I’m producing and directing a feature documentary titled “Every Second Saturday In August” about the enriching chronicle of an annual vibrant celebration of black culture on the South-Side of Chicago. Along with prepping a feature film titled “Love’s Intention” that I’m praying to get cameras rolling Summer 2024 in Chicago. I have so much to be grateful for.
Building Your Collective When Following Your Dreams
It’s been eight years since I first met filmmaker Edwin Walker at the American Black Film Festival and he did an interview for this site. I said back then that I knew we would end up being good friends for the rest of our lives. So far, I’ve been right about that.
Every time Edwin stops into NYC, we try to get together. We spend more time walking, talking, and eating than anything else. We are kindred souls in that we are not just storytellers, we also understand each other on a spiritual level. I think, in a way, we keep each other going on this journey as we follow our dreams.
I do not recommend following your dreams on your own. You need people around you to help you navigate through this journey. It is not all sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows. There are a lot of things that happen along this path that can completely sideline you for years.
For me, I think maybe the hardest thing after leaving hockey was my identity crisis and trying to figure out who I am now and where I wanted to go next. When the pandemic happened, it got even worse. But luckily, I had Edwin checking in on me, forcing me to get on a Zoom call with him, just to talk…so that we both knew we were not alone.
Edwin is a huge reason why you see a resurgence on this site. He came out to NYC during Tribeca Film Festival in June and we stopped into one of the panels. He asked a question that resonated within me. What do we (creatives) do when we become uninspired? How do we push through? We’ve been asking each other this question for the past few years. The answer he received was literally the answer we were looking for.
We, storytellers, need to push through. We need to continue to tell our stories and the stories of others, because we are a very important part of humanity. I think for me, putting a label on who I was helped me figure out what I wanted to do next. It helped me to understand why Edwin and I became friends. We are storytellers.
It is important to always surround yourself with people who are pursuing their dreams, just like you are. It is vital that you know you are not alone as you go through each win and each failure. There will be times of mediocrity and times that will completely gut you and leave you an emotional mess. Sometimes the entire world just stops or your country creates so much turmoil you are scared for your life. This is when you need to reach out to your pack of friends…your collective. Sometimes it helps to know that we are all going through the same thing as we navigate becoming who we are meant to become.
That’s the key. We are inspired by the people we surround ourselves with. Even when we’re stuck, wading through the mud, we need each other to help pull each other through this together. Following our dreams is not an easy task. There are moments we are going to feel uninspired and don’t want to continue. There are times life will hit you with something huge and you need to figure out how to get through this, even when you are an emotional mess.
Creatives need each other, because we need to know we are not the only ones going through this hard part of the creative process. But it is not just about the creative process. It is about the dream and the pursuit of it. Following your dreams is not easy. There are going to be a lot of disappointments along the way, a lot of learning curves, but that is just the universe’s way of helping you find your way.
I met Edwin right after I left hockey. The universe helped us find each other because as these eight years have proven, we needed each other when we created our own collective of creative friends. We inspire each other. We lift each other up and encourage each other, even when we are stuck. We help each other figure out what in the world the universe is saying we should do next. We help each other find our way.
Edwin Walker x E. Micheaux ( A MONIKER in which he uses to pay homage and continue the legacy of pioneer filmmaker Oscar Micheaux) is a talented multi hyphenated creative architect/artist with a focus in filmmaking, storytelling, creative directing, experimental art curation, and facilitation of spaces. As an innovative filmmaker his credits include writing, producing and directing several narrative and unscripted short films, series and specials. He has produced shows for Netflix, CNN, Peacock, BET and Comedy Central. He produced one of the finalist films for the 2011 Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award, along with producing the winner of the 2015 Essence Magazine Short Film Contest. Through his 2012 founded production company Edclusive Entertainment he produced the indie thriller “Caged Birds”, starring Khalil Kain, Bentley Green and Kamil McFadden, which is currently streaming on Amazon.Edwin is also an accomplished ACTOR having appeared on NBC’s Chicago PD, FX’s Atlanta, CBS’s MacGyver, Fox’s Empire, and Starz’s BMF to just name a few. This audacious Creative Architect/Artist founded Lab Eighty 8, a creative experience brand that is building dynamic and curated spaces, experiences and exhibits by artists of color who are bringing impactful creative change to the world. His work as an installation artist and curating for Lab Eighty 8 has engineered several artistic spaces in Los Angeles, London, San Diego, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston. Working alongside clients such as AfroPunk, Saint Heron, Nike, Uninterrupted, and Netflix. Edwin Walker x E. Micheaux is poised to revolutionize, disrupt and empower the entertainment, arts and media space. His creative core value and MISSION is to amplify black creative voices, humanize the narrative and imagery of black people with powerful stories, resources, spaces and bold unapologetic art.
It has been eight years since your last interview for PerfectionistWannabe.com. Where has life taken you?
Wow, eight years flew by in a blink of an eye. What a wild ride it has been, from a Pandemic that made the world stop, to political madness, to a deep personal development journey I’ve been on. I’ve traveled to over 10 countries since our last interview. In 2020, I moved back to my hometown of Chicago, IL after doing a 13 year bid in LA. I joke and tell people, living in Lalaland is like a bid, of some sort, into a different world. But that place was really impactful in my growth as a man, an artist, and overall identity in my career. I met so many amazing people and built a collective of friends. A lot of development and evolution happened for me in LA that I’m forever grateful for.
What film projects were you involved in?
I have two projects as an actor. I hope to be able to talk about them soon. But I’ve appeared on NBC’s Chicago PD, FX’s Atlanta, CBS’s MacGyver, Fox’s Empire, and Starz’s BMF to name a few. I recently produced under my production company, Edclusive Entertainment, an indie thriller called Caged Birds. It’s a story about three black high school seniors going to school in the suburbs who are forced to cover up a murder when a prank against a white bully goes wrong. As the investigation into the murders intensifies, the boy’s relationships begin to splinter and their loyalties are tested. It stars Khalil Kain, Kamil McFadden, and Bentley Green. It’s currently streaming on Amazon. It was a great learning experience on my journey as an independent filmmaker.
Life has taken strange turns for everyone in the creative field. From the pandemic to the George Floyd protests to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike, how has your life and work changed for you during these times of adversity? What have you seen as positive (and negative) coming out of these times for both you and the industry?
I would honestly say these past 3 years in turbulent times have been impactful years of major artistic growth for me. I feel more powerful, liberated and free within myself than I have ever felt on my journey. I have created an energetic force field of faith, peace, passion, purpose, and positivity from all the chaos and noise. During the pandemic, I reflected so much about who I am as an artist, spiritual being and filmmaker. I was able to get into therapy, and do some healing from untreated traumas and self awareness work. I was able to keep myself inspired, hopeful, full trust in the most high and in alignment with new possibilities. Now, of course, I had some days that were rough, but I have a motto of “DON’T GIVE IT NO MORE THAN 24.” I process my feelings and survey what I am truly in control of and move forward in gratitude and ease. So as this dual WGA, SAG- AFTRA Hollywood strike has been going on, which I’m a member of both; I reverted back to that energetic force field of faith, peace, passion, purpose, and positivity. I hope we get a resolution soon, but I can’t let it affect how I show up to my creativity and life. I’m pivoting and continuously creating.
Tell us about your latest documentary PreSchool to Prison.
PreSchool To Prison is an amazing short documentary that examines how the United States public school system is built and operated like prisons. Zero-tolerance policies are used to justify suspension and arrests that set up a pathway to send children of color and children with special needs to go from school to prison. Children are being suspended, restrained, dragged, physically manhandled, and subsequently arrested for minor offenses such as throwing candy on a school bus. These personal accounts from people affected by the school-to-prison pipeline give riveting tales about the generational impact on society. I produced this along with the director, Dr. Karen Baptiste, who is a powerful educator, speaker, consultant and now filmmaker. We met at Sundance three years ago,and instantly connected and we’ve been on this amazing journey to eradicate the educational lynching that has been going on in this country.
Lab Eighty 8 is a creative experience brand that is building dynamic and curated spaces, experiences and exhibits by artists of color who are bringing impactful creative change to the world. I founded Lab Eighty 8 in 2021 during the pandemic after seeing so many artists of color struggling to create and not seeing enough spaces that allowed us to create, build and connect. Since starting the creative brand it’s been a rollercoaster ride but an exhilarating one. I’ve grown as an installation artist curating for Lab Eighty 8, I have been able to curate artistic spaces in Los Angeles, London, San Diego, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston. Working alongside clients such as AfroPunk, Saint Heron, Nike, Uninterrupted, and Netflix. We have a few sponsored curated experiences happening in Fall and Winter. So I’m continuing to build the Lab Eighty 8 community and team of bold artists.
What inspires you to create?
Life inspires me. From moving to LA at 18 (only 3 months into adulthood I might add) with only $1,700. Traveling the world, going to foreign places, new elements, being in nature, meeting new people. I have been so blessed to experience life in a way many haven’t been afforded. From being raised by a single mother, being an only child, having to grow up so fast, being in an unpredictable and wild industry and working every job you can think of. I embraced the struggle and grew through it. I value and appreciate every good, bad and ugly experience that has happened to me. At 34, I have lived like 10 lives, it seems. I mentioned building an energetic force field of faith, peace, purpose, and positivity and that must be anchored somewhere. Moving back home to Chicago, I created a creative sanctuary of peace in a garden unit apartment filled with art, plants, candles, and books. Full of peace. You have to find a place to retreat, recharge and have stillness. When I return from my traveling adventures, I need a place where I can process myself and sit still. I’ve done so much reflecting in my creative sanctuary. As I check my life’s journey travels, I am so inspired to create bold art and continue to grow as a man, artist and filmmaker.
Since the George Floyd protests, do you think the narrative is starting to change for Black stories? Are you seeing more of a demand for Black stories, or has it tapered off (as if it were a trend)? Are you seeing more Black creatives and writers breaking ground and becoming a powerful voice?
There’s been some progress, but more progress is for sure needed. It’s so many unique, powerful and creative black voices that need to be amplified. Many black creatives are in need of resources, platforms and spaces to be unapologetic with their art. There are many who are creating these spaces like me, but we need more. I truly believe we need more Allies from corporations, major art/creative institutions, film studios and investors who are not black who want to make sure black creatives have EQUITY in their futures. A true commitment to assisting creatives with resources, and knowledge to own their IP and work. Not performative commitments which we saw a lot of after the George Floyd protests in 2020. Companies spotlighting and highlighting black creative voices, but then they slowly fizzled out and didn’t build a promising 5-10 year plan of creating effective resources and tools. We need more backing and collective unity amongst ourselves as black creatives. I hope to assist in building that paradigm before I leave this earth.
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?
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.
I 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: