We had the good fortune of connecting with Calvin Walker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Calvin, why did you pursue a creative career?
It was my path. I can’t remember a time when art hasn’t played a very big part in my life. I started singing in church at a very young age – most church kids do. We all say it like it was some choice we made. However, the choice was made for us. Anyhow, that was the beginning of my love for singing. In addition to singing in the choir, all church kids have to participate in church plays; all of them. I was a wise man. I was a prophet. I had Easter and Christmas speeches. This was the beginning of my love for acting. I think the first time I begin to love songwriting was when I heard Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” The town I’m from didn’t have an R&B station until I was about 13. So, the radio was filled with singer/songwriter types and lots of dance music. I feel in love with words the first time I heard “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes. I’ve loved TV and film so long that I can’t even clock the beginning of it. With all that said, I’ve tried not pursuing art many times. I always find my way back to it. I usually come back kicking and screaming. Artistic/creative careers come with lots of rejection. They come with lots of “nos” and “you’re just not what we’re looking for.” They come with lots of closed doors and form letters. However, art is something that I’m meant to do. It’s an integral part of who I am. So, in a way, the pursuit of my career is simply a pursuit of becoming my fullest and best self.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Since I was a kid, my art has been about creating spaces for black characters to be fully realized human beings. I didn’t know how to articulate that in the fourth grade. However, that has been the thread that is seen through all of my work. I believe that comes from my love, admiration, and obsession with artists in the Harlem Renaissance. I would read their work and I felt so seen. I felt like they were giving voice to people that were voiceless. I wanted to continue that tradition. I think I’m most excited about the future. My journey hasn’t been easy. I didn’t go to school for this. I wanted to be a vocal performance major. However, I was rejected from the program I applied to. Life in Lubbock didn’t help me feel like I could really pursue acting. I’d auditioned a good amount of times in my hometown and there was never any space for me. I got a crack at a role through my high school theater program. It was amazing. I even got some praise for my work. However I didn’t think studying theater was wise for me. I didn’t find film until after I’d stepped away from school. So, I learned everything through experience, YouTube, and gracious folks that could see something in me. I think I’m finally at a place that I understand my voice. I created my favorite project during the lockdown. It was a Zoom short, “Phoenix.” That piece felt like the clearest representation of my artistic voice. My journey has taught me lots of lessons. The importance of listening is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned. Listen to your crew members. Listen to your actors. Listen to your instincts. Listening to your instincts is super important. You have to learn to trust your gut. You have to learn to still yourself in order to really lean into what that instinctive voice is sharing with you. The other really important lesson that I’ve learned is communication. I’ve battled insecurity my whole life. I was a husky black boy that didn’t fit into black spaces or white spaces. I dealt with intense bullying as a kid. So, at the beginning of my journey, I tended to not fully share what I wanted. I didn’t feel entitled to want things. I didn’t feel empowered to take command of the stories I was trying to tell. The end result was a lot of films that were cool but never felt like what I intended to make. Over the last couple of years. I’ve learned to be a much better communicator. I’ve learned that I have the right to want what I want. When I don’t communicate clearly, I am doing a disservice to my story and my collaborators. What do I want the world to know about my brand? I think I want the world to know that I am striving to create quality content that centers black folks and folks with disabilities. I want people to know that I am striving to create space for other creators.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Food – Hattie’s, Bishop Art’s District – Kellys at The Village, Allen. TX – Bayou Jack’s. McKinney, TX – Razoo’s Coffee – Filtered, McKinney, TX – Honeylu’s Coffee, McKinney, TX Parks – Celebration Park. Allen, TX Movies – Studio Movie Grill – The Angelika, Frisco, TX – IPIC Shopping – Allen Premium Outlets, Allen, TX – Stonebriar Mall, Frisco, TX Theater – Jubilee Theater, Fort Worth, TX – The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, Dallas, TX
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have an amazing family. My parents have always been very supportive in my pursuit. My father was a playwright when I was younger. I saw him write, prep, and direct a few plays in my younger years. My mother was at every concert and recital. They paid for lessons and trips and invested in ideas. I am very blessed to have such amazing parents. My wife has been a huge supporter since we were friends. I used to make her sing the songs that I was writing in order to figure out harmonies. She’s always been in my corner. She pushes me to dream bigger and keep moving forward. My kids are the best! They’re so proud of their father. They flaunt that I am “Google-able.” I had no idea until they came home from school and told me. Knowing that I make them proud means so much. I’ve had mentor moments with some great people. M Legend Brown, a Dallas filmmaker, took me under his wings for a season of life. He taught me a lot. He gave me books to read and videos to watch. He brought me on as a staff writer for a series he was developing. It was my first time working inside of a writer’s room. It was an incredible experience that helped sharpen my understanding of story. To sweeten the deal, the legendary Irma P Hall was in the cast. It was amazing to hear her saying my words. C Nathaniel Brown is an author and filmmaker based out of Atlanta, GA. Chuck was kind enough to read my first feature length attempt. It was a mess. However, he encouraged me and gave me some incredible notes to strengthen the piece. Over the last eight years, he’s become a big brother to me. Brian C Conley, a Dallas filmmaker, has been a constant friend and mentor to me for the last five years. He’s such a visionary. He’s taught me to see deeper and be more intentional with visuals. Lastly, Adrian Neely, a Dallas filmmaker, is someone that I owe a lot to. He’s provided so many learning resources over the past five years. I’ve had the privilege of working with him on several projects. He’s got so much wisdom to share and he shares it freely. I have great friends who believe in me as well. I won’t do a whole lot of name calling. However, I will highlight a couple of people: Jasmine Shanise Gammon, Cedric Thomas Smith, Shanice Williamson, Jeffrey Creightney, Snoop Robinson, Chad Eric Smith, Nicole Carouthers, Stephanie Anuwe, Taylor Love, Caisha Dawodu, Cheta, Chukwu, Corey Pratt, and N’Zuri Za Austin. There are more names than this. However, I wanted to highlight these individuals because they’ve consistently put my name in rooms. They’ve always mentioned me in conversations. I am grateful for people that think enough of me to recommend me to others. I’m blessed to be aligned with some amazing organizations like Art With Impact and the Denton Black Film Festival!
Ted Ramasola (@tedramasola) G Lee Gordon (@sacredvoyage) Ken Duane (@visionsbyken)