Welcome to the Join Up Dots Podcast with Monique Walton
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Introducing Monique Walton
Todays guest was born and raised in Long Island, New York, and became a graduate of Yale University in 2004 where she gained a B.A, with distinction in Latin American Studies.
And according to her profile she then began working straight afterwards as an intern for Chimpanzee Productions, where she assisted in the making of the feature-length documentary “The Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela.”
Later after working for Viacom for four years producing educational on-air and web videos for Nickelodeon, she moved on to film school and went after additional education in the area that she had been working.
She decided that she needed more tuition in film production, when so many people would be saying that’s job done…time to be and adult and earn the bucks, this time she studied M.F.A, Film & Media Production.
And this time it seems to have been the lost block to the career that she truly wanted, and could see clearly in front of her.
How The Dots Joined For Monique
Both sets of knowledge gained at Yale and Texas came together, and she has since directed and produced numerous short documentary and narrative films focusing on racial identity and belonging.
Her documentary film, Still Black, At Yale, screened at over twenty international film festivals and educational conferences including the Pan African Film Festival and the San Francisco Black Film Festival
Whilst even Forbes recognized her innovative film-based wellness efforts calling her work the “Smartest, Sexiest Workout Videos Ever.”
And believe me I have watched them, and had to have a cold shower afterwards.
So how did she find the thing that she truly wanted in her life, luck, hard work, or a bit of both?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots, with the one and only Monique Walton
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Monique Walton such as:
How so many people often struggle with the concept of black people being placed into the futuristic movies we see.
How she feels that you no longer need to go to film school to get a foot in the business, as hustle and talent can really get you noticed.
Why film is the ultimate failure playground, where you are guaranteed to fail everyday, which you need to get over big-time if you want to succeed.
Why she feels the American Movie industry is killing itself to due to its lack of originality with the huge franchises that fill our screens every year.
How she cant think of anything better in life than being the Producer of Star Wars 10 (even if it means missing out on Iron man 10!)
How To Connect With Monique Walton
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy
Full Transcription Of Monique Walton
David Ralph [0:00]
Today’s show is brought to you by podcast is mastery.com. The premier online community teaching you to podcast like a pro check us out now. podcasters mastery.com
when we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:38]
Yes, hello, everybody and welcome to a Join Up Dots with David Ralph. This is Episode 360 coming from the United Kingdom and as normal we do this a lot. We’re going across the pond and we are speaking to a lady in America. Yes. Today’s guest was born and raised in America, actually Long Island, New York and became a graduate of Yale you diversity in 2004, where she gained a BA with distinction in Latin American Studies. And according to her profile, she then began working straight afterwards as an intern for chimpanzee productions, where she assisted in the making of a feature length documentary, The 12 disciples of Nelson Mandela. Now later after working for Viacom for four years producing educational on air and web videos for Nickelodeon, she moved on to film school and went after additional education in the area that she had been working. She decided that she needed more tuition in film production when so many people would be saying that’s job done time to be an adult and earn the box. And this time she studied MFA Film and Media Production. And it seems to me that this is what the last block to her career but she truly wanted and now she could clearly see how powerful in front of her both sets of knowledge gained at Yale and Texas came together. And she’s since directed and produced numerous short documentary and narrative films focusing on racial identity and belonging, a documentary Films still black at Yale screened at over 20 international film festivals and educational conferences including the pan African Film Festival and the San Francisco black Film Festival. Whilst even Forbes yes Forbes themselves recognised her innovative film based wellness efforts calling her work best smartest sexiest workout videos ever And believe me, I’ve watched them and you have to have a cold shower afterwards with those videos. So how did she find the thing that she truly wanted in her life? Was it luck hard work better both? Well let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start Join Up Dots with the one and only Monique Walton. How are you?
Monique Walton [2:38]
I’m doing well. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
David Ralph [2:41]
It is a lovely to have you on you are you kind of look from the from the introduction. I’m gonna get straight to the chase here because we’ve got so much to talk about. But you seem to be somebody that is a grafter, you you seem to work hard and when you feel like you’re lacking in knowledge, you’re quite happy to go back to school. gain that knowledge isn’t Is that correct?
Monique Walton [3:03]
Yeah, I’d say so. I mean, I think I definitely feel like I like the structure of school, it kind of helps me hone in on what I’m trying to hone in on my goals. So going back to school was never a big decision for me. I always knew that I wanted to after I kind of left undergrad,
David Ralph [3:20]
but but so many people would go are done that our school was boring, you know, worst time of my life or whatever. And actually, when you’re an adult, you look back on it and you go, actually, it was pretty good. But at a time when you’re sort of close to it. Did did people say to you, it was a wise decision to go back or people did they say no, just experienced this get career experience?
Monique Walton [3:41]
Yeah, I mean, it’s an interesting question, because especially working in film production and media, you definitely don’t need to go to school. And I would say that for people who are kind of on the fence about going to film school especially, you don’t have to you can definitely just get all the experience you need just from working on a lot of productions. What I what I found the benefit was that a I could kind of leave New York and start fresh in a sense and another place. It also kind of gets you in really close contact with a lot of future collaborators. And that’s what I really wanted was just to kind of be able to interact with people and this really specific, like intimate way you get you find new friends, but also you find people who you’re going to work with in the future. And you can do that in the real world. Definitely. But I think it’s just harder because there’s so many things working against you when you’re trying to find a job or trying to find the next project to work on. But in school, it’s it’s like you can you meet people wait, my cohort was 12 students total. So we really just kind of did everything together. And a lot of them became close friends and then also people that I want to work on future projects with
David Ralph [4:50]
and you see people still today but you were sort of hanging around with at school and as anyone sort of gone on to huge global Because I was talking to a bloke the other day and he was saying that he used to ride on a bicycle with who’s the one who made john malkovich film? spike Jones. Yeah, yeah. And he said he was just a kid with him. And now he’s gone on to win Oscars and all that kind of stuff. Any one in your mix that has gone on to global success?
Monique Walton [5:25]
I’m not necessarily a huge blockbusters yet. But as you mentioned, I worked with Anya, Andi, I met a yell on the very first day of school actually, and we’re still working together. We’re starting these, this fit Cycle series of videos. And then also one of the short films that I produced last year, went to the Cannes Film Festival and the centre foundation category, and that films called Skog which I produced and Andy Silverstein directed and wrote and that film I mean, I guess it’s got pretty much world recognition because it won the top prize in the category. So that was kind of like a huge, a huge deal for us just because it’s so difficult with short films, kind of to get them into festivals and to get them seen, and the fact that it was able to kind of travel over to France and, and compete against these other schools and when was was just a huge, huge deal for us.
David Ralph [6:22]
And did you consider your work niche or is a broad appeal to them?
Monique Walton [6:28]
Uh, it depends on the project. I feel like I’ve been pretty versatile. The work that I create myself that I write and direct, it’s pretty niche. It’s like, sci fi, it’s Afro futurists. I’m still kind of exploring, you know, different ways, different narrative structures. It’s not totally straightforward or mainstream in any way. So that would be considered niche. But the but the other work that I that I work on that I work on as a producer is definitely a bit more major. stream. It’s just it’s very narrative based, you know, narrative based work that I think that it appeals to a broad spectrum of people.
David Ralph [7:09]
And while he’s Astro futurist, I’ve never heard that phrase before.
Monique Walton [7:15]
I mean, I don’t even know if I can give a really good definition of it. But it’s, there are groups of people all over the world, that, that think about futurism in a way that really puts at the forefront, this idea of having an African or African American identity. So it’s, it’s this idea that, you know, for example, the idea of slavery is almost you can think about it in a very future Afro futurist way because it’s like people were abducted and then they were brought to a new place and cut off from their past. So it’s just a way of thinking about real historical issues and places. In a way that kind of distances you From just direct, you know, historical renderings, but it also allows you more freedom to kind of imagine a future where there’s there, there’s like African traditions are like kind of the primary primary stories that you’re that you’re hearing. It’s hard, it’s hard to repeat it to kind of describe it.
David Ralph [8:24]
But we know he’s not gonna be Star Wars seven,
Monique Walton [8:26]
he’s not going to be back. It’s not going to be Star Wars seven. And I think that it also kind of stems from this idea that a lot of sci fi films, especially mainstream films, you rarely see films that have Africans or African Americans in the future like they’re kind of always like maybe smaller characters. They’re not like the lead characters and it starts to make you kind of wonder like, is it high? Is it difficult to envision futures that are very multicultural that are you know, that I’ve primarily African American lead characters or African characters And why is that? So I think that that that is kind of what what I’m interested in as well.
David Ralph [9:06]
Yeah. And why is that because, you know, harking back to Star Wars seven, I know that the first clip of it was a stormtrooper, a black Stormtrooper. And it didn’t even I didn’t consider anything I’ll just well it was it was a Blackstone trooper, but I know there was a lot of stuff on the internet saying, oh, that shouldn’t happen. It’s strange, isn’t it? But even in that world, but you would think to yourself, where there’s aliens walking around and just weird people that people can’t quite grasp the fact that you can get a black Stormtrooper. It’s bizarre.
Monique Walton [9:37]
Yeah, yeah, I think it’s just that we’ve kind of been conditioned in this way just because of the way that sci fi films especially have been imagined that for that there’s only certain people that exist in the distant future. But I think that it’s definitely changing now, and especially with afrofuturism, and it comes in waves. There was a very, there was a big wave in the 90s actually, were alive. There’s a lot of Afro futurist novels and films, some films that were coming out. There’s actually an artist called john a compra, who is from the UK. And he made a film that really just inspired me called the last Angel of history. And it was about techno it was it was actually a hybrid documentary, and sci fi narrative that just kind of blew my mind because he talked about tech now, but in this way, but like through this, the use of this fictional character, who came from the future, to kind of explore the past and the and the pathways of music and how especially African Americans kind of connected different cultures throughout the world, and made it come to life through music. So it was really it just kind of like changed the way that I thought about how you can make a film and that it doesn’t have to be totally straightforward. And that it can really connect from different different cultures and still make sense somehow.
David Ralph [11:00]
So if we took you right back in time, like we do on Join Up Dots to that little girl, were you very aware of that time of your sort of your history, your genealogy, or was it something that you’ve sort of moved into as you as you got older?
Monique Walton [11:16]
I’ve definitely become more aware of as I’ve gotten older, and especially my history, I think this idea especially being an African American, there’s only so you know, so far back you can go depending on where you’re from, just because I can’t chart necessarily chart my direct lines back to Africa, like my dad is from Long Island. He grew up on Long Island, born and raised, his father grew up on Long Island, born and raised. We have family going all down South America, South, the southern states, down into Georgia. But beyond that, it’s hard to track and I think that that also is why I like to kind of explore this idea of identity of knowing like how do you create your identity? What what parts what aspects of your life do you draw from to kind of identify yourself in the present day? My mom is from Colombia. So she has a totally different trajectory. She moved here from card to Hana, when she was 13. So she also brings like the, the immigrant experience. And but as a girl, as a young kid, I never even thought I studied music as a kid. I studied classical, violin and piano, and I never even considered doing anything with film just because I didn’t really see people that look like me working in film. So I just never thought Oh, that’s something that I’d like to do. I just thought that was something that kind of like rich white guys did in Hollywood and it was very distant from from you know what I was growing up around. But now as I got older, and especially since it’s so much easier to access, technology and cameras and editing, it’s so much cheaper now. So it really does feel like it’s it’s, you know, the landscape has totally changed.
David Ralph [13:00]
Obviously we’re going to touch on the sort of the movies and the films that you’re making but but with your history, it’s interests me greatly. But in America, you use that phrase African American because in the United Kingdom people never say African British or whatever it just doesn’t apply what what do you do you think there’s that that connection with Africa which or maybe you can answer this so that we don’t feel here? I don’t think people get that connection at all. We are just who we are.
Monique Walton [13:31]
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s because there’s a you know, strong history in presence the civil rights movement and and just this I think there’s always been like this struggle to be to define ourselves in this country because we were so easily defined by you know, the what white culture as one thing and you know, the especially names and labels like it was Negro, and then it was then it was African, Afro American or black. And now I mean, it’s coming to that people really don’t want to be defined anymore. Don’t want other people to define them. And I’ve always identified myself as African American, I feel comfortable with it.
David Ralph [14:11]
You will not feel comfortable tomorrow. Are you free for your parents?
Monique Walton [14:16]
I’m not not direct, you know, not my, you know, generations of my of my parents or grandparents. But beyond that, yes. I mean, I would love to do my next project, I’d really I’m trying to get my all my family members to get their DNA tested so that we can all kind of like explore that in a more in depth way. And my dad, especially as he’s kind of a historian of the family, so he really gathers collects all this information and kind of goes into the archives and has actually found records that are in this library, I think in North Carolina that is connected to our family. So we’re trying to plan kind of a trip down there. But I think that it’s like There’s definitely this yearning for a connection to Africa in the United States. And not everyone feels it, but I definitely do just because it seems like it was it was erased. It was they tried to erase the history. So I think it’s important for us to kind of try to gather that back.
David Ralph [15:21]
And do you feel that strongly in your films? Because I know that the first one that you did was the 12 disciples of Nelson Mandela. And if anybody played a part in sort of freeing Africa, he was the chap. So did it sort of influence you at that time or before then how did it all come together? Because it does seem to be like two clashing cultures, the movies and the sort of history just just pounding together with you.
Monique Walton [15:47]
Yeah, I mean, I definitely think that I’ve tried and all of my and a lot of the work that I’ve worked on, especially with the troubled cycles of Nelson Mandela, interestingly enough, that was about the director, Thomas Allen Harris. Kind of reconnecting with his stepfather who worked as a freedom fighter in South Africa. And I think that it’s like, I think that when you get when you kind of get older, you start to reflect on the things that are maybe stigmatised. I think that when I was growing up being from Africa or connecting to Africa, there was a huge stigma around it just because of the what we were fed in the media. It was just, you know, Africans are all poor. And and there’s, there’s this, this, this whole complete negative portrayal of what the causes huge continent was. So there’s like, on the one hand, this mystery, and then on the other hand, there’s this like, forced, you’re being fed by the media, that it’s just one thing and that it’s a very negative thing. And then as you grow older, and you start to kind of learn your history for yourself, you realise that there’s just this wealth of information in this wealth of history, that that is available to you to connect to if you want To one other thing that happens to me a lot. Is that ever since I don’t know, probably for the past 10 to 15 years, I’m always stopped in public and told that I look ethiop being and that’s something that just kind of stays with me because, I mean, it’s very, it could be quite possible that I do have sort of fruits. Yeah, but I get stuff constantly when I worked when I lived in New York, it was much more constant just because I was encountering more people every day, but I still to this day, get stopped Wherever I am, and asked where I’m from. And you know, and told that I that I like it. I looked like I might be from Ethiopia, Eritrea. And so I think that that also just on like a day to day kind of this visceral thing connects me to just wanting to connect to Africa and to two different cultures there.
David Ralph [17:52]
So So what Julian because he obviously you in a very competitive industry, what drives you on you You making a difference for your race or making a difference for your gender? Because you got a double whammy there? Haven’t you? Really?
Monique Walton [18:07]
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Honestly, I think it’s still work and and the collaborators that I’m able to find and work with. Because it’s a really, especially producing and directing both. It’s, it’s a lot, it’s really hard. It’s very difficult job to do. And you’re kind of like overseeing this massive production, no matter how small the film is, you know, in a sense, you’re you’re building, you’re building a company and then shutting it down in a matter of months, when you’re making a film. Because you have to hire all these people. You have to raise money. You have to, you know, find actors, you have to put all this stuff together. And then you have to make sure everybody gets paid and then you shut it down. But there’s so many different things to think about in the in the endeavour and so I think that for me, I really can’t do it unless I’m working with folks that I Really, I really agree with and, and you know, like what, like how they think about making films that we really are on the same page about that, because it’s just way too hard otherwise it wouldn’t be sustainable otherwise. The last short film that I made that I mentioned called skunk, we both you know, Andy and I both have a history of working with youth. She worked with youth on a reservation for I think, 10 years. And I work with youth doing media skills workshops here at Austin. And I think that we just had a really similar approach to how we wanted to work with youth and how we wanted to approach a film. And, and that’s like, what really helped us get through it because it was just like a really difficult production to pull off. Especially when you’re in film school,
David Ralph [19:48]
I can imagine it must be terrible, but you know, the the end product, the creative part of it must be amazing, but actually having to hustle, hustle, hustle and you hear it time and time again. Well, I had a chap on my show, who had his life story, bought by Disney for a Tom Hanks film. And he made a fortune. And this film has never been made. And he’s got money and he’s happy with his money. And he said, I don’t think this film will ever be made now, but Disney wanted to buy the rights. And when you see a company like VAT, spending so much money and still not bringing it to fruition, somebody like yourself, it must really be hard when you’ve got something that you’re passionate about, and you just can’t get the funding to bring it to this screens.
Monique Walton [20:35]
Oh, yeah. And I think that that’s definitely shifting a bit. It’s hard. It’s hard to make films, it’s hard to make a good film in general. I mean, I think that as much as there but there’s so many more films being made now like the volume of content being created now is much higher than it was you know, even last year, but it’s still hard to make a really good film. And I think that it’s like top of that, knowing that, you know, there are companies that will shell out a lot of money, tonnes of money for commercial, but they won’t help with the creative endeavour, especially in the States, there’s not very much as far as there’s, it’s not like there’s government support of cinema, it’s really about all about private investors. And that kind of getting that kind of money, that kind of access to money. So it’s definitely so on the one hand, if you’re trying to pull off something that requires a lot of money, there’s, there’s a huge challenge there, you have to really, you know, be connected to that wealth somehow. But that on the other hand, if you have something even even an iPhone basically, and you know, some sort of basic sound recording kit, and you have a good story, you can also pull off something that kind of changes lives of all over the world with very with, you know, as little as $100 or something. So, I think it just depends on on the resources and I think especially working As an independent filmmaker, it’s all about utilising the resources that you have and not kind of waiting for you know that big paycheck to come because it’s not going to come.
David Ralph [22:11]
Well we saw that recently Didn’t we we have things like the paranormal activity and The Blair Witch Project. And these films but obviously with incredibly low budget, but they they created a following on social media before they even film was going to release and when you go and see the films now, they’re not actually that good. But they made a tonne of money based on the fact that they they they knew the mechanisms of getting people’s bottoms into the into the seat somehow. Is that something that has been a big learning curve for yourself? Or is it still a game that you don’t play?
Monique Walton [22:47]
As far as building social media?
David Ralph [22:49]
Yeah, building social media and getting the kind of the vibe that your film your your short story or whatever is is something to see.
Monique Walton [22:57]
Yeah, I mean, I’m still I’m still learning that I think that building buzz around your around your film is great. It’s always good. Ultimately, the film has to speak for itself. Because once you get people there, what they’re going to do is they’re going to experience the film, and then they’re going to go home and tell somebody about it. So, I mean, you can build as much buzz as you want. But you know, the film, the story has to be there, you know, the written word is just, it’s really important the script has to be has to be tight. So I think that creating buzz is great. And I think that Kickstarter, actually and these crowdfunding platforms are they’re really useful in that way and that not only are you raising money, but you’re also creating this little kind of marketing, this marketing apparatus of people that you know and love who will then help you get that film out once it’s once it’s finished. So in that way, yes, I don’t I mean, as far as doing something like a paranormal activity, or Blair Witch, I think that’s that’s hard, but the appeal of I think in those films were was that they? They were terrifying. Once you got there, you just couldn’t wait to tell somebody about it, or you maybe wanted to experience again, experience that again. So it’s hard to do that with like, kind of a slow drama. Yeah, character study. But at the same time, I do think that there are ways to just create interest in your film by using social media, which is awesome,
David Ralph [24:28]
because because I must admit, I don’t know how many years ago, The Blair Witch came out. But I don’t remember hardly any of that film. But the very last two seconds is etched into my brain. And that the the image of it was so strong and so kind of shocking. And the whole film was sort of built up to that two seconds really, when when you are building a story, are you aware that it has to have something powerful to say or can you just go into sort of entertainment because I Well when you were making those films with andia and I’ll put the links on the show notes so that people can go and have a look at them. They’re very clever videos because they were great to watch but they had something to say and and the premise of it for the listeners out there was you don’t actually have to go to a gym you can get fit wherever you go so this this lovely lady comes out of the apartment a little bit late for work. And Ben starts working out on the underground in the tube and starts swinging herself around which is kind of bizarre really but still it proves the point that you can do it. So what was there an element of those but let’s be different, let’s be innovative, or was it really the concept of Yeah, you can get fit you don’t actually have to go to gyms.
Monique Walton [25:47]
Yeah, I think it was the concept. I think that we really just found that. You know, as far as fitness goes, fitness is huge out in the States. I don’t know if it’s safe in the UK, but in general fitness culture is has just blown up here. So everyone’s wearing everyone looks like they’re about to work out at any point, for some reason, they’re all just, like ready to go. But I felt like with videos, we had the opportunity to kind of fuse a really create put a really creative spin on it. So it doesn’t necessarily just have to be someone in a room teaching you how to do a squat or teach you how to do a push up, like you could really try to tell a story and try to appeal to people that way. Because some because some people you know, they may not have a gym members, maybe they can’t afford it, or you know, they maybe don’t have two hours to dedicate to working out but they might have 15 minutes. And it’s really just like a way to inspire people to move their bodies around and what may otherwise be a pretty kind of like stagnant day of sitting, you know, with the computer or something. So we really I mean, I think that the the concept was definitely Yeah, like you You can work out and it doesn’t have to be an hour, it can be 15 minutes and you can get your heart rate up and and you know, and do a lot of benefit to your body health wise.
David Ralph [27:09]
And would you do that? Would you get on the underground and start hanging on the balls? And
Monique Walton [27:17]
if I could if I trusted myself, I think that if I tried What if some of those more advanced moves that I do is doing? No, I don’t think that would that would go too well for me. But some of the easier stuff like you can you can kind of do some calf raises while you’re waiting while you’re standing. Or you know, even a little bit of AB work can do while you’re sitting down. I think that all of those are pretty achievable.
David Ralph [27:43]
I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never, I’ve never been in a gym in my life I’ve never wants to. And I’m a great believer and what I liked about that is you know, a good walk is pretty good. You know, and I went out with my kids this afternoon and we went to a bit of a bike ride. That’s my Kind of workout really when when there’s an activity linked to it, instead of just going there to work out? That would bore me stupid.
Monique Walton [28:09]
Yeah, yeah, I agree. And I think that even it bores people, a lot of people who go to gyms and that’s why they have to like watch movies or watch something because it’s just feels like a chore. And I think that that’s one of the things that inspired us as well was just that you can integrate it into what you’re already doing. And you don’t have to, necessarily, yeah, you don’t have to necessarily just go and sit on a treadmill or stead like walk on a treadmill or sit on a stationary bike. There. There are a lot of exciting ways to work out in New York City right now, there are a lot of classes, like spin classes that are just like, you know, you go in there and it’s a whole experience. But if you don’t necessarily want that or need that there are definitely other ways that you can kind of infuse activity. Like you said, going on a walk is great. Walking around is something that not very many people do in Texas. That’s right. Sure you never see anyone walking.
David Ralph [29:02]
But I was in. I’ve been in America, you know, a lot over the years. But the most bizarre bit was, there was this house. And it was just a driveway and about six houses down. There was a McDonald’s, and I was just walking along the road. And when I was in Florida, nobody seemed to walk about an English and we just go, Oh, we just walked down the road. And this car came out of its garriage drove onto the road, went down and went in the drive through and we saw it go through the drive thru, get its food and come back and it was like six houses. And I thought yeah, these people have got a problem. Yeah,
Monique Walton [29:41]
yeah, it definitely it’s a huge problem. And I mean, I think walking I love lucky I miss it. I don’t do it enough in Austin, actually. But biking, biking is kind of bigger here. But that’s what I loved about being in in New York is that you can walk everywhere and there’s just so much to see so much to look at.
David Ralph [29:59]
Absolutely. Now. Well, I’m going to play some words now, but really sort of take us on to the next part of our conversation. And it’s the the passion, the inspiration, what are you go after something? This is Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey [30:12]
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [30:39]
No, did you? Well, first of all, do you point to those words? Is that the kind of message that we should really be getting out to the world nowadays?
Monique Walton [30:47]
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I just thinking about going into film, it’s constant failure, constant rejection. You’re pretty much failing at it. Like every day. So I think that that was something that I had to realise. And I think that that’s, that’s interesting that he said you can fail at what you don’t want. Because you think that you’re safe. You there’s some sort of job that is that is somewhat safe in some way. But I think that there are there are trade offs in every decision that you make. So if you choose to do something, because you don’t necessarily want to take a risk, you’re you may not Yeah, that may not pan out for you either. So you might as well try to do the thing that you really want to do and just take the risk, know that you’re going to fail, but know that that’s part of that’s part of it as well, that’s part of the process.
David Ralph [31:35]
And you keep fighting it because as you were saying that I thought yeah, you’re right. The film industry must be the ultimate failure playground really where you go there and you’re inspired and you do great fun things. But at the end of the day, those fun things as we were saying before may not even get off the ground. So did you do set your stall out to go? I really believe in this project, but there’s a good chance that he’s not gonna go anywhere.
Monique Walton [32:00]
Now I mean, I don’t think you can you can think that way when you’re when you’re in it because it just it takes too much and you really just have to envision the future of the of the project and and the fact that it’ll get seen, it’ll hopefully get seen by a lot of people and people will, you know, ultimately be moved by it. I think that you can’t really think in your mind while it’s happening. But if it does happen, you should definitely have certain steps in place to kind of manage that emotionally. And I think for me, a lot of it is kind of balancing out this work with you working with youth, doing these media skills workshops, I love working with, with with kids with teenagers in this capacity because they’re just so creative, and they’re so uninhibited. I’ve worked with a bunch of 14 year olds this past couple of months, where we did a workshop where we prepared them to kind of go out during South by Southwest, which is this huge festival in Austin and interview people. So there were like these young, this young little youth, journalist teams called the youth media project. And some of these kids that were, you know, 14 years old, they weren’t shy at all about going out to people talking to them, explaining who they were
David Ralph [33:17]
streets were they doing?
Monique Walton [33:18]
Yeah, well, the festival attracts, you know, kind of the top the top players in the tech industry, and the film industry and the music industry. So it’s a huge conference, and we kind of encourage them to to meet people because you never know, you never knew who was going to be kind of sitting with you, you know, at the convention centre, having a snack or just just walking around. So they were just they were able to kind of just reach out to folks and talk to them and just be completely, you know, just open not nervous at all. And I think about even now, how I get nervous and some of these networking receptions that we have to do, you know, as a filmmaker, you have to be constantly networking and it’s just like You really have to put you know your game face on or put on like your special glasses or something. But you say
David Ralph [34:06]
that you get and I’m really surprised because you seem like somebody that would just breeze it.
Monique Walton [34:13]
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s taken a while I’ve really I really used to hate it, I really just thought it was so silly and, and just like, it just like would make me feel so awkward, like the small talk and stuff. But now I’ve come to kind of just from doing it a lot. It’s just like, most of the people you meet are not going to be great connections. But you know, there might be one person that you meet, that’s great that you’ll totally keep in contact with so you just kind of have to not give it so much weight and it’ll and it’s it’s a bit easier
David Ralph [34:44]
and easy, easier for you with the A listers because I’ve had some people on the show, but quite simply a listers and the results afterwards haven’t been very impressive from bear side. They don’t seem to help promote fight it. They just seem to come on almost like they’re doing you a favour somehow. And then a way it goes, what did you find that as well with the people that you meet, are there some that you go, this is really gonna push it on and it just doesn’t seem to go like you’d want it to.
Monique Walton [35:16]
Yeah, I mean, I think that I have to kind of just try to interact with people as naturally as possible try to interact with them on a human level not I mean, it’s definitely business but at the same time, a lot of this a lot of these connections are collaborations. It’s almost like dating, like you really need to just be able to work with someone. And so I don’t think I tried not to think that just because someone’s in a list or that they’re gonna ultimately Usher anything into fruition because it just may not be the right match at the time.
And also, I think I just feel like
a lot of times a listers, they must have so many people kind of asking them for help. It’s stuff that I think that ultimately if I find someone who just happens to be daily, so But who is somewhat I really connect with just kind of on like the, you know, the ground level of just just about the work that we want to create, then it’ll be fruitful for us. But you know, it’s not it’s doesn’t happen all the time.
David Ralph [36:16]
So so you sit in on the underground and you look to your left and Denzel Washington sitting there. Would you say anything to him? Or would you just go oh, my God is Denzel Washington.
Monique Walton [36:27]
I would say something to him. Probably just introduced myself. I actually have a mutual. We know someone in common. So I probably use that to get him to talk to me.
David Ralph [36:37]
Because he he’s one of those actors that I’m not sure what he’s even got. But if there’s a new Denzel film come out, me and my wife will go, let’s go and see it. We don’t even have to care what it’s about. It’s just kind of got him in it. Yeah. And he delivers he delivers over time. And there’s very few actors that you can literally go to see their film just because their names on there and they always Yeah, Give you a powerhouse. What kind of actors really inspire you in that way that you kind of just go? Yeah, I don’t care what they’re doing. They could read the phone book, but I’m still going to go and see him.
Monique Walton [37:10]
It’s a good question. I mean, I think that recently, I’ve actually been watching and I was just talking to someone about this. This mini series that was on HBO, called Olive kitteridge is with Francis McDormand. And I thought that her performance was just so amazing. I was like, I could just watch her do anything like I haven’t. And I don’t know. I mean, I don’t necessarily. I think that I go to films. Not necessarily for the actors ever. It’s usually about the story. And if I watch you know, a trailer or hear a little bit about how it was made, because a lot of times there are actors that are not necessarily know and that just blow me away. Or like actors that are not even actors, they’re real people that they cast to play a role and for some reason They just bring this reality, just the sense of that it’s so real to the film that it’s just like, it’s amazing. So I think that, that for me, it’s almost more intriguing when I don’t know the actor, because I don’t necessarily know what to expect. And then the performances, you know, they’re just they just blow me away.
David Ralph [38:19]
And do you lose yourself in the films? Or do you kind of look at it and go, Oh, yeah, but they’re using that life. And oh, I can see what I’ve done there. Do you? Are you sort of ripping it apart technically?
Monique Walton [38:30]
Depends on the film. I think that that’s also a measure of how much how good the story is. Because if it’s really good, I don’t I don’t think about it at all. But if it’s, you know, if the story kind of falters a bit, or it gets the pace slows down or something then I started thinking about the technical aspects, my mind starts to wander. I think that’s true of everybody.
David Ralph [38:54]
Because it is the most wonderful experience, isn’t it when you’re in a film and I’ve just before I was recording with you I ran down because it’s sort of nighttime here, I went down to put my daughter to bed. And as I went past my son’s bedroom, Raiders of the Lost Ark Harrison Ford film had just come on the telly. Now, I remember seeing that for the very first time and I got taken to the pictures to see that and order the movies, we call it the pitches over here. And it was the most amazing experience and I just lost two hours of my life. And I look back on that and rarely have I come out of the cinema with that same kind of feeling where literally the whole place could have blown up around me. And I was just lost in the story. Can you remember the last time that you had an experience like that where you just went? Wow, this is this is beyond anything?
Monique Walton [39:48]
Yeah, I mean, I think actually, oddly enough, it’s not necessarily blockbusters that are doing that to me any more recently and he said of mainstream films and I think that’s just because There’s not a lot of like innovation happening in the mainstream American film world right now think that they’ve there has to be kind of just like a total sea change in that regard. But actually, the film that really blew me away was it’s a documentary film called The act of Kelly. It’s by this director, Joshua Oppenheimer. And it was about the genocide, Malaysia of Chinese people, and about how the, the perpetrators actually, you know, they did they got away with it, in a sense. So there’s this whole culture of people who are proud that they murdered people, you know, murdered Chinese people have over many years ago, I think it was like 30 years ago, probably getting my dates wrong. But it was just so surreal. So he asked, he asked the people who are Who were actually, you know, we’re part of the Jetta who actually killed people to recreate their history, recreate these seeds that are horrific. They’re completely horrific. And it’s just so surreal watching them do this, that you’re totally just taken just completely just taken by surprise. If you haven’t seen it, seen it, I would recommend it. He actually also just came out with a with a companion piece called the look of silence. So yeah, those were documentaries. And that hasn’t happened to me in a documentary in a while either. But those two films, I thought, wow, like he is just taking the form, like to the extreme and showing these extreme levels of what may or may not be humanity, and really making you question a lot. So that that those two films, I feel like we’re super powerful in that way.
David Ralph [41:54]
So just before I sort of send you back a couple of questions about your earlier version of yourself, when You see say Star Wars sevens coming out this year or is it next year? I don’t know I lose track of it. I these kind of films are a good for the movie industry because people will go into the movies and they then might buy tickets for other things, or do you think it’s kind of killing it? Because it’s the same story just put out time and time again, basically, isn’t it?
Monique Walton [42:21]
Yeah, for me, I think it’s kind of killing it. I’m ready for more original stories. I know that these franchises you know, they work for a reason they’re easily recognisable, people will go knowing very little about the film. But I think that there’s there’s just so many opportunities to try an experiment with new with new stories with new visions, and not to just kind of like take this route of just doing you know, a trilogy or Part Seven, and they’re part nine of of a story. So yeah, for me, I’d rather see something new and fresh. I think that That’s the way to evolve the evolved filmmaking. Now if we did take you back
David Ralph [43:05]
to this younger version of you, and I know me asked this question a lot earlier in the show, but um, I’ve just found this conversation fascinating. So I’d let it go. But um, were you on this path? Were you interested in film as a little girl? Or did you literally stumble into it?
Monique Walton [43:24]
Um, I would say that I was not necessarily stumbling like when I was in. When I was in college. I worked on this film, still black at Yale with Andrea Winslow. And we were taking a documentary course together. And we, we kind of came up with this idea of, of doing this piece about black identity on Yale campus kind of related to this predominantly white, historically white institution and what it meant to be a black student on on that campus. There was actually a film called Black at Yale that took place 1974 I think is what it when it came out. But we couldn’t even find the film while we were there. So we already had all these ideas. And I think that once that once we came up with that, and we went through the process of doing that I kind of I caught the bug. And originally, I thought it was just documentary. But I started to really become interested in narrative fiction film as well. So I would say around that time was when I was starting to think about, you know, pursuing that, but before that, yeah, I didn’t have any idea that that would be. That would be the case.
David Ralph [44:33]
And did you perceive how much hustle you needed to have to get a film to fruition? As that come as a surprise to you? Because most people is like this show. When I started this show, I literally bought, turn on the microphone, have a chat with somebody and then release it to the world and I didn’t quite believe how much work goes into making it seem effortless really. has it taken you by surprise as well.
Monique Walton [45:00]
Yeah, I mean, I think that when you’re when I’m in it the thing that I like about working with you know, working on stories I really believe it is that when you’re in it you don’t even perceive it as you know, this is going to be a crazy hustle. You’re just like, how do we how do we get this done and as and as things come up, or as there are fires that you just have to put them out in order to keep moving forward. And so I didn’t necessarily perceive like how all encompassing it could be. And I always forget and then once I’m in it, I’m like, Oh, I remember now like he’s gonna take over my entire life. But I but when I believe in the project, I just love it. I love you know, thriving in that
David Ralph [45:42]
in that environment. Have you ever had a project that once you got into it, you you’ve lost the passion for it, he just doesn’t. It’s not going the way that you wanted when when you’re laying there and you’ve got that kind of vision of, of something. It’s almost perfect, but once you actually get into it, you start pulling it together. of you ever had one that you’ve kind of gone? Oh, this is really isn’t what I thought it was gonna be like?
Monique Walton [46:05]
Um, I guess in some, some capacity I think that the interesting thing about filmmaking in general is that it really doesn’t feel like it’s going to come together until it does until the very last moment, you know, right before you shoot pre production. Everyone says it’s like the worst time because anything can go wrong, and then you’re not then you don’t have a shoot and you and there’s just there’s so much uncertainty and that I actually, I find now I think it’s actually kind of exciting because you’re just like, is this gonna happen? is it happening or it’s happening? Okay, where it’s happening. We’re shooting Yeah, we’re shooting Oh, the movies done, you know, like so. But up until that point, and even up until it gets shown. I’ve found that now as I as I meet more people who are doing this, I just realised like, there’s no guarantee. I mean, I understand why, you know, Hollywood, they’re leaning on these franchises, because there’s really no guarantee that any film is going to be a success. I was just recently talking to a friend about the film Just tomorrow with Tom Cruise. I don’t know if you saw it, but it came out I think last year or the year before. And it’s I think it’s a great film. It wasn’t marketed well at all. So I was like, not very, I mean, I still made a good amount of money. But I think that they, you know, they kind of thought that maybe it wasn’t going to do well. For some reason, maybe because Tom Cruise, isn’t it, but it’s an excellent, it’s just like an excellent blockbuster film, a great premise. But I think that it’s like, yeah, you really, that you really don’t know, you have no idea until it’s until audiences see it. And hopefully, it’s like, the right place the right time. And people like it, and they, you know, and then it takes off a life of its own
David Ralph [47:43]
will let us play the theme of the show now, and this is the words that Steve Jobs said back 10 years ago now. And I love playing these words every single day. And I love asking the question that I’m gonna ask off to it. This is Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs [47:57]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking for When I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [48:32]
So those words resonate with you.
Monique Walton [48:36]
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, you have to follow you have to follow your instincts. You have to I mean, what else can you trust? Really, there’s so much out there so many competing narratives of how to do something of how of how to live your life. Everyone wants to tell you how to live your life or you know what you can do what you can do. I think that it’s also just important to see You know, the know that the obstacles and part of the process and like the failure is part of the process. It’s important to fail I think it’s the only way to really know how to do something the right way.
David Ralph [49:11]
So many people don’t do it some people, you know, the theme of failure just routes them to the spot and they will stay in a in a crappy job or crappy relationship or whatever, for forever in a day. You really because of that fear of failure.
Monique Walton [49:27]
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s terrifying. It’s only terrifying is when when you haven’t really experienced it, once you experience it, you realise that, you know, it’s not the word. It’s not, it’s not horrible. And you learn. I think that that’s like, the best way to move forward is to kind of say, Okay, this didn’t work for these reasons. And now I know, you know, not to do that again.
David Ralph [49:48]
So so what what should be done on that timeline that Steve’s talking about? There is a moment or a person that you met or somebody that you look back on it you go Yeah, I think that’s when it all started moving in my direction.
Monique Walton [50:03]
Um, I don’t know what the big.is I mean, I think a probably a medium would be moving to Texas and kind of taking that taking that leap. I really didn’t know. You know, at the time, I had a great comfortable job and Nickelodeon, I love the people that I worked with, I loved what I was doing. It was really fun. It was well paid. And I decided to to leave it and just to kind of leave New York, which is already a difficult decision and to move to Texas and I think that that was definitely you know, it was a risk it was a risk to leave. And, and to kind of and to try something totally different and build, you know, build from from scratch. So I would definitely say that was that was definitely a turning point for me.
David Ralph [50:53]
Well, just before I send you back in time, this is the greatest question I’ve ever asked. I’ve just thought about this. If you get the option to either produce a Star Wars 10 or Iron Man, which one you gotta go?
Monique Walton [51:06]
Oh man, that’s a hard one.
Unknown Speaker [51:10]
Unknown Speaker [51:12]
Monique Walton [51:14]
I had they’re both 10. So that’s just so hard. I mean, I’d like to produce, you know, neither, and just go with someone give me a little bit of money
Unknown Speaker [51:26]
on the fence.
David Ralph [51:30]
There you go under you when the guy was, was, everybody loves a bit of Star Wars done like, well, this is the end of the show now. And this is the bit when I send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the younger Monique, what age would you choose and what advice would you give? Well, we will find out in a moment because I’m going to play the theme and as it fades you up. This is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [52:00]
Go with the best bit of the show.
Monique Walton [52:16]
Hello young 20 something Monique, this is older 30 something money. Just wanted to tell you that you are doing the right thing. You need to just continue to trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s all part of it. you’ll realise that later. Remember that you want to take risks. Don’t be afraid of those. And, you know, find your collaborators find your tribe. And most of all, just remember to have have fun.
David Ralph [52:47]
Monique, how can our audience connect with you?
Monique Walton [52:51]
I’m on Twitter. My Twitter handle is m Walton and I’m also on Facebook at Monique Walton
David Ralph [53:00]
will have over links on the show notes. Thank you so much for spending time with us today and joining up those dots and please come back again when you have more dots to join up because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures money, Walton. Thank you so much.
Monique Walton [53:17]
Thank you, it’s fun.
David Ralph [53:20]
Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Join Up Dots brought to you exclusively by podcast is mastery.com. The only resource that shows you how to create a show, build an income and still have time for the life that you love. Check out podcast is mastery.com.
Now David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you or wants to become. So he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on Join Up Dots.