CLICK HERE FOR J.D. WALKER'S WEBSITE.
Originally trained as an actress, Walker is a interdisciplinary artist, producer, screenwriter, and lecturer. Walker is winner of the 2013 Sundance Pitching Contest for her second feature, a biopic about Oscar Micheaux, the first major Black director to write, direct, and produce feature length films in 1918. Walker's development on her Oscar Micheaux feature film has been chronicled in IndieWire (Shadow and Act), The San Francisco Bayview, and San Francisco Weekly. Her first feature script, "The Postwoman" earned Honorable Mention in the Sundance Table Read My Screenplay Contest. In her younger years, Walker was labeled a "gifted child" and took Honors classes all throughout elementary, junior, and high school. In high school, she starred in and directed talent shows and won several awards as an actress for her dramatic rendition of August Wilson's "Fences." During her junior year in high school, she won the California Forensic Association State Championship in Dramatic Interpretation for her rendition of August Wilson's play, "Fences." In college, she remained on the Honor Roll and Dean's List every semester having earned her recognition with the Golden Key National Honor Society.
graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Theater Arts from San Francisco
State University , where she studied in the Black Studies Department and performed in leading roles with The African
American Shakespeare Co. and The San Francisco Mime Troupe. She was
offered admission into USC's prestigious M.F.A. program in Cinematic Arts. Walker received a full-ride to Howard University, where she obtained both her
M.A. and Ph.D. (with "distinction") at age 27 in English. While at Howard, Walker
self-published two books, worked as a radio host, and wrote cover
stories for the Black press. Walker always knew she wanted to write,
especially screenplays, and spent much of her time in DC honing her
craft, serving, for 7 years, as a freelance journalist, writing feature
stories on Black poets and writers while serving as a photojournalist
for the The New York Amsterdam News, The Washington Informer, The
Tennessee Tribune, and Heart & Soul magazine to name a few.
An extensive background in publishing and journalism, Walker also served as a book buyer, hosting literary panels for authors. She's also served as a Marketing and Editorial Assistant for a University Press. While in D.C., Walker received scholarship awards for her writing from poets E. Ethelbert Miller and Sonia Sanchez, as well as from Gregory Allen Howard (Ali, Remember the Titans) from whom she took a screenwriting class. She toured with Sonia Sanchez, as her personal assistant, and performed her poetry live at literary conferences. Walker also received a National Visionary Heritage fellowship award from Camille O. Cosby, where she was trained to perform documentary work on historic elders over the age of 70. Walker's work with Cosby is now archived in The Smithsonian and a book called "A Wealth of Wisdom" (Atria Books 2004).
Walker is a member of The Blackout for Human Rights Film Collective and is currently producing nationwide shows for Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station/Creed), filmmaker and co-founder of the collective along with Ava DuVernay (Selma), Nate Parker (Birth of a Nation), and more as members. Most recently, Walker produced #MLKNow in Harlem starring Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station/The Help), Tessa Thompson (Selma/Dear White People), Actor and Comedian Chris Rock, Tony Award Winner Anika Noni Rose, Actor Andre Holland, Adepero Odune (Pariah/12 Years a Slave), Actor and Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte and more. She has wrote and produced scripts as well as short videos for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Know Your Rights Mobile Justice app.
Walker teaches blended film and experiential learning courses on the collegiate level. As early as she can remember, Walker has been writing and directing her own shorts. Her love for literature and poetry continued throughout her college years and greatly impacted her storytelling as well as her quest to bring the untold stories of African Americans to the silver screen.
Filmmakers Website: http://www.jdwalker.org
Books & Publications: http://www.jdwalker.org/credits.php
SELECTED SHOWS PRODUCED BY J.D. WALKER
JD Walker, Screenwriter and Director, at Sundance Film Festival 2013.
J.D. Walker is a producer, screenwriter, and director who has been teaching the Harlem Renaissance Movement on the collegiate level for over 15 years. A former journalist and actress with an extensive background in marketing, publishing, and book buying, Walker also teaches courses in Independent African American Cinema; Documentary Making; and Women, Race, Class, and Sexuality. She became fascinated with the silent films of Oscar Micheaux while teaching his works and sought to collect all of the films and memorabilia about him that she could find to share with her students. Walker always wanted to tell Oscar Micheaux's story in film and began working on both a screenplay and a book about his leading women while she was teaching.
Late 2011, Walker was informed that her debut feature script, THE POSTOWMAN, earned Honorable Mention in Sundance's Table Read My Screenplay Contest. She made the decision to go to Sundance 2013 for the very first time, especially considering that her cousin, Ephraim Walker, provided legal services on Ryan Coogler's film, FRUITVALE STATION, and also because she was on set during the filming of Fruitvale. Walker had a blast at Sundance and vowed to return.
While at Sundance 2013, Walker heard that there was a pitching contest going on and she sought to attend to learn how pitching contests were structured. Walker, a proud alum of Howard University's Graduate School, studied Theater at San Francisco State University, where she toured with several theater productions and worked behind the scenes on independent film projects. In high school, she also won the California Forensic State Champion in Dramatic Interpretation for August Wilson's play, Fences, and grew up reciting the poetry of Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez, however, she had never pitched a film in front of executives and distributors before. To complicate matters, the pitching contest was happening on the same days as Barack Obama's inauguration. Torn, Walker went to the pitching contest and slipped out during breaks to watch Obama's speech which was televised live.
The Sundance judges loved Walker's concept about Oscar Micheaux and she soon learned that she made it to the top 6 final contestants. She spent her 15-minute break practicing her pitch about Oscar Micheaux and feeling terribly bad that she was missing the inauguration live. Soon, Walker would learn that she was the top 3 final contestants. This inspired her and made her realize that her feature film about Oscar Micheaux would finally be told. By the time Walker finished her final pitch for the Sundance judges, she was excited while the judges deliberated on their notes. Soon, Walker would learn that she was, indeed, the SUNDANCE PITCHING CONTEST WINNER for her feature film about Oscar Micheaux, which was then tentatively titled BECOMING OSCAR.
In February 2013, just one month after her Sundance pitching contest win about a feature film on Oscar Micheaux, JD Walker received word from her lawyer that Roy Collins, one of Oscar Micheaux's last surviving actors, was still living in Chicago. Collins starred in Oscar's final film called "THE BETRAYAL" (1948). Collins welcomed Walker into his home and Walker interviewed him for one hour on video. Collins discussed his time working with Micheaux and also detailed how he got started acting in race movies. Walker took ferocious notes while he spoke and recreated scenes from memory in her feature script on Micheaux.
At Chicago's Music Box Theater to see "Within Our Gates" by Micheaux.
While in Chicago for the weekend to interview Roy Collins, Walker spent much of the time touring the city, walking Chicago's Bronzeville district, tracking Ida B. Wells and Phyllis Wheatley's footsteps. She drove to South Chicago and toured the original Pullman Standard and even got a chance to see "Within Our Gates" at The Music Box Theater on the big screen for the first time. She had only seen the film via DVD. Above, Walker sits in the audience at The Music Box Theater with an organist who played live during Micheaux's screening.
Just six months after Roy Collins, one of Micheaux's last surviving actors, welcomed Walker into his home, Walker would be devastated (upon doing some research of Collins online) to learn that he passed away on June 4, 2013 (the same birthday as a mentor of hers by the name of Camille Cole Howard who had also passed away). She was hurt but also knew that Roy's passing was Divine Order. Heartbroken, she vowed to continue to tell this important story through film. While everyone agreed that the story was a very strong concept and the screenplay was great, Walker struggled obtaining grants for her feature film. It was then that she decided to take her film directly to investors for financing.
Meeting Oscar Micheaux's Descendants
Fate put Walker in touch with Oscar’s descendants and she traveled to meet them. Once they discovered she was writing a screenplay on Oscar, as well as won the Sundance pitching contest for a feature about him, they gleefully welcomed her into their home, showed her old photographs and newspaper clippings of Oscar in photo albums. It was truly a blessing to receive confirmation from Micheaux’s descendants to proceed with the script.
Copyright 2016. JD. Walker. All Rights Reserved.