…Another thing is to not stress. I see people stressing at work all the time. It will be what it will be and we can only do what we can do in the time allotted but stressing about it makes you lose concentration and make mistakes, ultimately costing you more time.
I had a pleasure interviewing John R Walker. John was born and resides in the UK. The 48-year-old currently works as a 3RD AD for a BBC Continuing Drama called Doctors. At 18years old, he was sent a 2-minute video sequel to the TV movie Snowbeast in 1990 so immediately bought a video camera and went out to shoot Snowbeast 3. He has always had a love for film making and yet somehow ended up in retail for a career. It was whilst working for Safeway Headoffice that he found out there was a budget for corporate films. He relished in this role and took the role of Head of Internal corporate films for Morrisons supermarket when they took over Safeway in the UK. 5 years of making corporate films for Morrison’s until he finally left in 2008 to go self-employed. He went onto several low budget films/shorts and corporates in the AD (Assistant Director) role but wasn’t earning enough money so he had to try another angle. He went to a local supermarket to run the Meat/Deli counter and used his free time and money to make features. Amityville Playhouse was his first. He self-funded it and shot it in Canada.
The following year, he self-funded Ouijageist but having lost all the money on Amityville as the USA distributor went bust, he had to cut the ouijageist funding. (Plus the ending that was to be filmed in Morocco) It has taken four years to get the film finished. In the meantime, John went to the BBC and finally followed his passion. He went in as a runner at 47 years old and now works as a 3RD AD on the BBC. He was married to a girl who he met playing his wife (Neilum) on TV Doctors in 2008 and they had their daughter (India) in 2015
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Hi. How I grew up?
Well, I was lucky enough to be born in the early 70s, meaning I had the full VHS experience in the 80s. Watching pirate copies of the then banned “Exorcist” at parties and I remember getting my Mum to rent “The Burning” and “Day of the Dead” from the Video store. She soon learned the reason films have a certificate when my little sister would start repeating words from the movies! I was brought up in the West Country and to this day I’m not sure if I’m a bigger Sci-fi fan or horror fan.
We are the sci-fi generation….even James Bond went Sci-fi and at the same time we were the slasher generation but these films were off-limits to me until the later 80s..with our video recorder.
I bought my first VHS camera in 1990 and went out each weekend to make a 20-minute mini-movie! We called them Scrap films.
I was VHS mad. I had 100s of films and it was what I spent all my money on but unfortunately, I was doing quite well with my retail job so I had to keep the mini-films as fun things to do and never got to take them to the next level.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was working in retail operations for one of the largest retail firms in the UK. Someone happened to mention at work that we have a budget to make corporate films. Such luck, It was a way I could combine my job with my passion.
Then in 2003, I got the job as Head of Internal corporate films for another retail firm so I got to make films for a living.
I had wanted to make my own feature film forever and it was whilst working as 1st AD on the film Deadtime in 2008 after I had left retail films that I was asked to be a second unit director.
Hesitant at first but I had a great director who would give me feedback daily.
It was then that I thought that it was finally time to make my own film.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I wasn’t making enough money as a self employed corporate film maker so I did some extra/background work. I’m not sure how it happened but after I’d given it up, I wrote and self published a book called “Extra Time”
The press went MAD for it. I had a page in every single national paper in the UK.
To this day, if you google “Britains most prolific extra”, my name comes up. Not a path I wanted but a fun fact when I speak to people.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know about the funny mistakes but…
Whilst filming Deadtime at 5 o’clock in the morning outside the gates of our studio, I was 1st AD and the entire crew were in the locked off-road whilst I was with the cast on the other side of the 8ft wall and gate.
The actor locked the gate and then the key snapped off in the lock. The entire crew was stuck in the road with only an hour until the traffic would come back.
I panicked, stressed, and shouted my despair.
The director later spoke to me. He told me the entire cast and crew look to the first for calm leadership and when I’m stressing, the entire crew stress. It was a tough lesson but it’s something I’ve never forgotten.
I’m probably too calm nowadays.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
So Amityville lost me a lot of money, Ouijageists have yet to make any money so I’ve spent our life savings and if I spend anymore, it’ll cost me my marriage.
So, I have had to go full NO budget.
I have nearly completed “Blood Bride and the Demons from Hell” but have since lost our lead and am currently looking for a replacement to finish the film..as her sister!! It’s cost £42 on a dress so far and is 80% complete.
I’ve had to shoot it myself with no camera team but I have a very willing co-producer whos enjoying the learning process.
Also at present, I am trying to shoot “The Great British Massacre” which may be all mine, or if I’m in trouble, I may reach out to other UK low budget makers to make it an anthology but as one film bonded together with a news report.
I am also working with Dustin Ferguson at present with 5G Zombies (Available from SCS Entertainment on 1st May)
I don’t have the time I would like to make many films but I LOVE the industry and love low budget but the BBC job is 13 hours a day, 5 days a week and I have my daughter all weekend.
So I came up with the idea of doing News reports for other films.
Peter Sommers is the character name and it’s something I can shoot in the office with a green screen and send it to various directors. I’ve just shot one for “Amityville Hex” and I have “Ghoul” in a few week’s time to shoot.
It keeps me happy doing these things so if anyone has a low budget film and wants a British accented newscaster then do get in touch. I think he’s been in about 10 films now.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
In 1990 I went to a careers office and said I want to work in TV.
She laughed at me and told me to stay in retail as I’ll never get into TV with first going to university.
This was a conversation that changed my life.
I should have ignored her and gone on the be a runner on the local TV stations.
It took 30 years of excuses until I finally did that.
Don’t always listen to other people, follow your heart.
Another thing is about making your own film. The budget of the film is not important. Use what can afford to lose.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Ha. I’m more of a Slow budget filmmaker than just Low budget.
I only do what I can at a pace I like. When I made Amityville, I had the distributer rush me to finish it. This was my bad for letting them know I was making it so with Ouijageist, I simply made it at my own pace before getting it to distribution companies.
Another thing is to not stress. I see people stressing at work all the time. It will be what it will be and we can only do what we can do in the time allotted but stressing about it makes you lose concentration and make mistakes, ultimately costing you more time.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Right now it would be to all the people on Social media who are writing so many negative comments about EVERYTHING. I hate reading it and I would just love everyone to be together in this biggest time of need for a long time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Tony Jopia gave me the opportunity to work on his TV pilot. Though it was never made into a show, it not only gave me a chance to work with my now wife but he taught me so much.
If it wasn’t for his teachings I would never have been able to have the confidence to make my own film.
I have worked for Tony on a few projects and it was due to him giving a role acting in “Crying Wolf” that I got to get the confidence in acting too.
I was both 1st AD and an actor in Crying wolf. Something I will never do again so when it came to making “Cute little Buggers” he asked what role I would like and I said just an actor as opposed to 1ST as well.
The feedback was very positive so again I have Tony to thank.
The downside is that I am too busy to work with Tony on projects now, especially since having our daughter.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There’s a lot of negativity about low budget films. This is mostly because the general public doesn’t understand what goes into them (or what we can’t put in them) and one thing I’ll always say to the crew and cast is to not take the negative comment to heart.
When I released Amityville, I knew it had problems and was able to read the criticisms constructively so hopefully, I could learn from them.
We’ll see when people have seen Ouijageist.
But again, I intend to learn from mistakes made with this film.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Ha. Too many. I would love to meet Tim Thomerson. I love his stuff. I would love to make my own Trancers film or even a spin-off.
Then there’s actress Melinda Clarke. I’m happily married but I have to say I have had a crush on her since Return of the living dead 3. I imagine I would discuss nothing and just sit there looking like an idiot the entire time.
My biggest hero in life is Kid Creole (Who? You may ask) but I have been a fan of his music since the early 80s. I would spend the entire lunch talking through lyrics and finding out his thought son all his songs. Is that sad?
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m not worth following….but by all means look up Ouijagesist/Amityville Playhouse, Theater on Facebook and get in touch.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!