Alcee Walker, an alumnus of MFA Social Documentary Film (2014) and MPS Directing (2015), recently won the Directors Guild of America Student Film Awards’ Jury Award for his film Inferno. This is Walker’s second DGA win and the film was made as his thesis project for MPS Directing. Walker’s first film, Pain of Love, which was made for his thesis at MFA Social Documentary, received the Jury Award in 2014. The 21st Annual Student Film Awards Ceremony will take place on December 10 at the DGA in New York. Walker shares his experiences as a student filmmaker with SVA Close Up.
Could you tell us a little about both films?
In the first film, Pain of Love, I’m trying to bring my family together for a dinner: the first family dinner in my whole life. I left home at an early age to go to college so I never had a bond with my family. It’s a personal film. I had to make it. I spent my whole life running away from my family issues and when asked to make a film for my thesis, I felt I just had to stop running and deal with those issues. It’s been two years since the film and now I’ve accepted it and I’m moving into the next phase with Inferno, which is also personal but is fiction. The film emerged out of a lot of notes. I thought it was time to tell that story as I emerge as an artist.
How have the films been received so far?
I have screened the films in several cities and they have received positive feedback, especially from the Black community. My family hasn’t seen them though. I’m still perfecting both films to be able to show them to my family and to screen it in my hometown, West Palm, Florida. Both Pain of Love and Inferno, and the documentary that accompanies the latter called the Road to Inferno, are beautiful films and I’m happy that they are getting the recognition they deserve. It’s all a dream come true but I think they’re ugly wins, to use a sports term. I need to get better. I have places to go.
How did the programs at SVA help shape these films?
I made both films while studying in SVA. Bob Giraldi, chair of MPS Directing, and Michel Negroponte, my thesis advisor at MFA Social Documentary Film, were both phenomenally helpful. Michel played a huge role in helping me structure Pain of Love. But I think the most important thing I learned from being a student at SVA is how to tap into resources. I was able to raise $17,000 for Pain of Love and $20,000 for Inferno through grants and scholarships.
Inferno was shot in my hometown in Florida. We ran out of money during the shooting of the film. But I didn’t have the option of quitting. If I didn’t finish the film on time I would not be able to graduate on time. So I went to the local church and asked for help. It made me feel very vulnerable as an artist but being part of a rigorous program I knew I just had to find a way and keep going. I dropped out of California Institute of Arts to come to SVA because I couldn’t relate to the city or the students there. The struggle is real here and that was important to me. Someday I hope to give back to SVA. I received the SVA Alumni Scholarship for Pain of Love and I want to be able to institute scholarships for the students of MPS Directing and MFA Social Documentary Film.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a short film called Child Support. It’s for African-American fathers who don’t have a voice. It’s in the pre-production stage right now and I’m hoping to start shooting in spring 2016. Right now I’m looking for money and going through that grind again. I want to focus on making more fiction films though. Documentaries are powerful but I think I want to use narrative films to get into people’s heads and make them uncomfortable.
Photos from top down: Alcee Walker; a still from Pain of Love; and a still from Inferno.