Johnny Walter

A versatile actor, Johnny Walter gave a powerful performance as the lead in Kelvin Z. Phillips’ A Swingin’ Trio, a film that explores insecurity, control, romance and dangerous liaisons.

I was very fortunate to serve as the Production Designer on this production, as well as contribue strongly to Art Direction, Graphic Design, Set Decoration and Wardrobe.

Johnny Walter, the son of an investigative-news producer and a biology professor, started pursuing acting at the age of 13 while growing up in Miami, FL. He attended New World School of the Arts, a performing arts high school, and acted in a variety of theatrical productions ranging from “The Government Inspector” to “The Crucible,” where he would play the tragically flawed John Proctor. In 2000, following graduation, Johnny applied and was accepted into The Goodman Theatre School for his BFA. While there, he built up a diverse resume including roles in “Romeo and Juliet,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” and “Three Sisters.” He subsequently went on to perform and study in various workshops within the Chicago theatre community, including work at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

After pursuing theatre for over 10 years, Johnny decided to take a sabbatical from performing to travel and start to gain ‘life-experience.’ He ended up moving to Austin, TX, to be closer with his family, and learned a variety of skill-trades: such as becoming a welder, a teacher, a fish-monger, a clinical-assistant, and a carpenter. He believes that in order to fully achieve understanding about people, one has to experience what people do and who they are. After 3-4 years of living without his art, it was time to dive back into his passion.

2010 was a good year for Johnny, not only because it was the year he decided to go back into the art form he loved, but it was also the year he had his first film debut in the Horror-flick “Boneboys” (2012). Since then, Johnny’s film career has started to make an impact with him booking roles in feature films such as “A Swingin’ Trio” (2012), “Out of the Darkness” (2012), and “The Cain Complex” (2013). Feeling humbled and blessed by everything that comes his way, there seems to be only bigger and better things awaiting this versatile talent.

Ageless Cinema

One of the most difficult things to do as a writer and filmmaker is not to be modish—trendy, appealing but for a moment.

I am regularly surprised how many movies I revisit years later only to be stunned—and the word is stunned—how topically “heavy” they are.

They use false arguments to stack the deck of dialog in their favor, employ sentimentality to swing your emotions out of their more proper place, and invariably vilify the detractors of that age or era without balance. And as strange as it is to actually use in a sentence, you can actually levy the charge of propaganda against these films: I want you to believe what I tell you without qualifying it.

Granted, a two-hour film is not the format for a nuanced debate on any topic. It’s just not. Neither is any number of television shows—left or right—that dedicate a whole, whopping nine minutes in any given segment to “explore the issue.” As is always the case each sides barks its talking points, willfully avoids any true analysis and moves on. It’s great for ratings, and for perpetuating the tension, not for reasoning. These films quickly paint their bad guys in broad brush strokes, use virtually every trick to make the audience side with the main character, and then torque the entire story in favor of the main character’s plight.

And wow, some of these older films do not hold up at all.

When you are younger you ask wonder “why didn’t this film do better? Why isn’t this film held in higher regard?”  Well, you grow up, get a little wiser, and you see these films for what they are: shrieking mouthpieces for a political or social issue the filmmaker believed without a moment’s cross-examination as to the veracity of his views.

Other movies are far more powerful, being perennial.  They are just good for years and decades, and never seem to age.

A last word…

Some of the most successful films in history are really parables.  There is no middle ground: the good guys are innocent cherubs just trying to enjoy life in their paradise while the bad guys are moustache-twirling plunders in black cloaks.

Now, parables have their place: they inform complex moral truths through hyperbole, extremes or satire.  Parables cut through the cloud of nonsense that we as human beings are ever willing to attach to basic issues in order to make them “so complex” that we don’t act in the moral manner in which we all know we should.

Parables work. There is a reason why they are a literary device as old as the human race themselves.

Films told as parables, however, really suffer on the review, if only because there is nothing deep to grab on to other than the main point: no deep dialog, no ulterior motivations, and no complex emotions.  Once you learn the riddle of the parable there is nothing else in it to satisfy you. And it is exactly the fact the parable has a single central point that makes it so powerful, but also so short.

Examples at a glance: there are no instances or hints of human criminals in The Lord of the Rings films: nobody is shown in jail or a pillory, no gallows, no courts.  All the bad guys are called orcs and goblins.  Now, there are the traitors Sauruman and Grima Wormtongue: what? we can’t throw these guys in jail for nearly exterminating the human race of Middle Earth?  The same is true for James Cameron’s  Avatar: no fat Na’vi, no thieves, no liars, no imperfect tribesmen. So, keep all that in mind.

Film is not about reason. Film is about emotion. It is about manipulating how you feel.

The best films, however, have a good reason for changing your emotions, not just another emotional motive.

When to Lie

Brethren, lying is a bad idea and you shouldn’t do it. The truth is always more exciting, more immediate and more edifying.

That being said, there are times to lie. Maybe I should say, there are many times when it is better to omit than admit.

The simple truth most people, most companies also, are not ready to encounter or believe hyper+______________ people: hyper-talented, hyper-intelligent, hyper-creative, hyper-prolific, hyper-ambitious, or even, oddly enough, the hyper-loyal.

If you are one of these, or more than one of these, you absolutely have the right to lie about—ahem, omit—all the things you can actually do in order to prevent prospective clients, buyers or partners from freaking out.  Remember, most of the world operates at a very, very low level: just one or two frequencies, a few interests. Of course, all you are really doing is responding with a half-truth; those people claim they are excited about working with, partnering with, hiring or allying themselves with a polymath—they aren’t.

They lied first.

They say all that to feel good about themselves, in order to feel they are being open-minded, encouraging, or whatever.

So, if you are one of the Hypers+______________ just tone it down. Nobody has to really know everything you can do.

People frighten easily.

It’s okay to lie down.

Conservatism in James Cameron’s Avatar

Neytiri stack

Many of my agnostic and hotly liberal friends often cite James Cameron’s Avatar as a liberal template for their social theory. Like many things, I believe my liberal friends watch, but do not see. They do not “see  you” to use the Na’vi parlance.

Some conservative attributes of the Na’vi for your consideration:

  • Deeply spiritual, recognize the sacred, given to prayer, and believe in an afterlife;
  • Believe in the right to bear arms and use force responsibly when necessary;
  • Do not demote women to a victimized minority status—regarded as equals;
  • Wholly moderate, honor their ancestors, and revere history and tradition;
  • Do not curse, behave lewdly, blaspheme or shame their family or friends;
  • Not socially pluralistic and do not believe all cultures are equal in merit;
  • Demand qualification for acceptance into their tribe (i.e., immigration);
  • Expect you to learn their language if you are going to live among them;
  • Hunt animals, eat meat and utilize the natural resources around them;
  • Do not believe in taxes or oppressive governmental bureaucracies;
  • Diligent, industrious workers who aren’t looking for handouts;
  • Will kill you if you threaten their home, family and little ones;
  • Do not believe “church and state” are mutually exclusive;
  • Do not embrace the absurd simply because they can;
  • Hold moral law superior to legalism or written law;
  • Believe people are more important than animals;
  • Promote rites of passage and accept hierarchies;
  • Are conscientious stewards of the natural world;
  • Believe marriage is a religious contract—for life;
  • Self-reliant but communally responsible;
  • Athletic, physically fit and adventurous;
  • Generally peaceful, artistic, and brave;
  • Recgonize private property rights;
  • Distrust materialistic cultures;
  • Consider omens and portents;
  • Believe war is a viable option;
  • Fiercely defend their borders;
  • Think fashion is overrated.

Avatar is a 178-minute celebration of true Conservatism.