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.
For more on Preschool to Prison: https://www.preschooltoprisondocumentary.com
Tell us about Lab Eighty 8.
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.
You can find Edwin on Instagram.
IG: Lab Eighty 8.