Former Florida Guard Soldier puts military experience to work as independent film producer
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. (May 5, 2010) – When Spc. Hillary J. Walker found out she had cancer she thought briefly that her life had stopped.
The 30-year-old Florida Army National Guard Soldier had been looking forward to a long career as a military broadcast specialist, but after being told by doctors that she had a tumor in her foot she saw her plans evaporating along with her health.
“It was a major moment in my life,” Walker said, remembering that day in December 2005 when she was given the news.
After overcoming cancer, a former member of the Florida National Guard took the broadcast and professional skills she learned in the military and decided to make her mark as an independent film maker.
Walker’s first movie – titled “ACTION!!!” – is currently making its way around the international film festival circuit. The 82-minute full-length feature took only three days to shoot, but is already slated for showings at film festivals in Thailand, Ireland, South Africa and England.
During a preview screening of her new film in Central Florida recently, Walker explained that the experience she gained in the National Guard is definitely helping her new career. The training she received as a military broadcast journalist has meshed perfectly with her civilian training in acting and filmmaking.
“When I was working for the Florida National Guard I had this great opportunity to create a news magazine-style product called ‘The Guidon,’” Walker, who served in the 107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, said. “It was very much like producing a film. That was definitely my proving ground for this, and I probably never would have attempted this if it hadn’t been for the opportunity to do ‘The Guidon.’”
Not only did Walker direct and co-executive produce the comedy-mockumentary, she also created the concept for the movie, served as the primary writer and casting director, and even portrayed two characters in the movie.
“I have a lot of roles,” she said, laughing.
Walker noted that the creation of her film company Poison Oak Inc. and completion of “ACTION!!!” required other skills she picked up in the National Guard: flexibility, time and personnel management, and the ability to work with numerous personalities and resources.
James Bok, one of associate producers for the film, said he could see those traits in Walker throughout the production of “ACTION!!!”
“It was incredible to see someone who had to handle keeping people on track with the script, having to remember what she needed to do as an actress, and also making sure everyone was directed properly,” Bok said. “There are stressful moments in any production like that, but to see someone handle all three of those elements in addition to anything else that comes up…it was quite the experience to see.”
The film is basically a tongue-in-cheek documentary about the making of a blockbuster action film as seen through the eyes of a small-town student filmmaker. The majority of the lines were unscripted and relied on the improvisational skills of the actors.
According to Walker the most impressive part of the movie was that it was shot in such a short time period around the Orlando area.
“We made it in just three days – that’s unheard of for feature films,” she said. “Feature films usually take anywhere from six weeks to six months depending on the scale.”
Walker added that she never would have attempted to put together a feature film in three days if she hadn’t previously served in the Army National Guard: “It was a little bit like military training. We just kept moving and finding order in chaos. That definitely helped me get through the pre-production and the production phases of the film.”
Although her career as an actress and film producer is taking off, Walker admitted she still misses serving in the Florida National Guard.
“The National Guard always made me feel like I was doing something that mattered,” she said. “I really enjoyed telling the stories of the Soldiers. I really enjoyed talking to the Soldiers who were returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, taking the pictures of them getting back with their families, and sharing that within the Guard community.”
Looking back on the past five years, she said her battle with cancer was made much easier by the support she received from her “Guard family.”
“I had a great support network: the Guard took excellent care of me medically and financially during that time” she said. “I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if I haven’t been working for the Guard during that time. I really appreciated everything. They were there for me…I felt like there were people that cared.”