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An Interview with Amy Walker, Writer and Star of Into Light

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2020

Amy Walker on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Why make the story of Inez Milholland into a movie, what does she mean to you personally, and what kind of research did you do on the subject?

 

Weíre just getting started - thereís so much more to tell about Inez! I was compelled to make a film about her because I was stunned and honestly angry that she literally gave her life so I could vote, and I had never heard of her. Whoever made the history books I read in every class didnít think her life mattered enough to be remembered. But she was instrumental in turning the tide for womenís right to vote. She was also a lawyer and pioneer of prison reform - exposing the atrocities of Sing Sing prison and helping it become more about rehabilitation than punishment. She was an early member of the NAACP when there was a lot of racism in the suffrage movement. She was a peace activist in WWI and had an open marriage ~ she and her husband were redefining gender roles and traditional marriage vows. And so much more. Even though she knew that all of the issues she worked so hard to change were too mammoth to be ďfixedĒ in her lifetime, she gave it everything she had. And she was far from perfect. She struggled with self-doubt and indulgent extravagance and chronic illness. She was a human who did great things. To me, thatís exactly the kind of life I want to learn about and dive into portraying as an actor and filmmaker.

 

Other sources of inspiration when writing Into Light?

 

Primarily the work of four top Inez- and Suffrage-historians: Linda J. Lumsdenís Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland; Robert Cooney jrís Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr; the work and materials of Martha Wheelock of Wild West Women, and relative of Inezís family, John Tepper Marlin.

 

What can you tell us about Into Light's director Jessica Graham, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Jessica is a phenomenal artist and human. This is my third time working with her ~ I was honored to star in her directorial debut on the powerful short film Listen, about domestic violence, and then on a comedy pilot I wrote for YouTubeís Women In Comedy initiative, where I played 3 characters. We seem to pick very diverse genres!

 

I knew that Jessica was the perfect director for this project because sheís also an activist and a writer about positive sexuality and an actress, and Inez was all of those things. Thereís an energetic imprint that Jessica has that I knew Inez is a harmonic of - and vice versa. Grounded and dynamic. Jessica is also a mindfulness meditation teacher, and itís important to me to really unify the team in mindfulness for big production meetings and especially on set. I knew sheíd create a grounded, open, safe container to really dive deeply into the work. Sheís a pure joy to work with and brought everything Iíd hoped for and more. Weíre creative soulmates for sure.

 

What were the main challenges of bringing Into Light to the screen from a producer's point of view?

 

Probably every producer will tell you itís to do with the budget. Itís so important to me to honor peopleís time and work. I canít wait until I can pay people what they truly deserve, but we had to cover everything with donations, so we were working on a very tight budget. For a period piece with the scope of Into Light, that doesnít go very far! This absolutely would not have been made without the incredible hard work of lead producer Martine Melloul guiding our amazing team of Rachel Thundat, Jennifer Brofer and Alejandro Lopez. And the saving grace was Martha Wheelockís nonprofit production company Wild West Women, our fiscal conduit. That meant Martine could get companies to rent us gear for free or huge tax-deductable discounts, and Rachel got us amazing food sponsors, and Jennifer helped with marketing so we could reach donors to support us with tax-deductible donations. People were so generous ~ it really takes a village! And the cast and crew and extras willing to work for free or minimal stipends, but still giving it everything they had. Just deep gratitude.

 

You also play the lead in Into Light - so what can you tell us about your approach to your character, and did you write her with yourself in mind from the get-go?

 

Oh absolutely - Iím really only a writer of scripts I want to act in. I started off as an actor, but Iíve always kind of secretly written scripts because sometimes I feel compelled to play a character in a way that I donít see them having been portrayed yet. Inez had only briefly been portrayed on film prior to Into Light, and not in the way I feel her, but as this beautiful weak thing who faints to death. Inez was a total force of nature and barreled through her life, and I found it a great challenge and honor to play with embodying that.

 

I tend to approach a character from the inside out. I get a sense of their energy. I meditate on them and literally ask permission ~ ask if they want me to play them or to just write their story and play someone else in it. Then voice is often a way in, because voice is such a pure expression of a personís energy. Iíve spent literally thousands of hours exploring my voice, so when it comes out a particular way that feels like a character, my body naturally moves and holds itself in certain ways that seem to fit. Itís very organic. And a lot of research goes into it because there are ways people sounded and moved in 1916 that donít exist anymore. So if I was to sound like 2020, it would be so dissonant it would just stand out horribly. But I relish the process so much. Itís endlessly fascinating to me.

 

Do talk about the rest of Into Light's cast, and why exactly these people?

 

This cast gives me chills every time. When (director) Jessica and I saw Jessica Erin Martinís (Vida) audition tape, she had everything Iíd imagined in Vida. Vidaís strength is different from Inezís, but no less powerful. Sheís like water, where Inez is fire. She needed to be able to sit with the doctor and wear down his defenses by her pure, loving presence. Jessica has that.

 

The doctor was tough to cast, because the writing has a very specific point of view thatís hard for people these days to understand. Heís not anti-women, he loves and cherishes women and wants to protect them. He just genuinely doesnít understand that his view of women being made to be protected in the home could be considered misogynistic. Travis Joe Dixon had this depth and tenderness in his tape and we knew he had the right energy for Dr. Campbell. His performance gives me chills every time - and Iíve seen it probably over 100 times.

 

And our four Suffragists ~ Martha Wheelock, Justine Wachsberger, Marie Moutť and Raluca Amerine were all incredible and so committed. They all created characters based on real people who would have been there. And the extras were amazing. Several of them had marched in the Rose Parade for the Suffrage Centennial, and they came in their full regalia!

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

We shot it all in only two days, which is a lot of pressure. Respect and mindfulness were really important to us - to stay connected to the reality we were re-creating and the purpose of telling this story. Our costume designer, El Miezel was amazing, and watching our Emmy-winning DP Sherri Kauk work with Jessica and run the camera crew was just mesmerizing. Sheís so clear and on top of every detail. There were certainly stresses, but everyone worked their hearts out and it was wildly fulfilling.

 

The $64-question, where can your movie be seen?

 

Itís on Amazon Prime Video: t.ly/intolightamazon

Weíre also in several film festivals, so you can get the latest at linktr.ee/IntoLight

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Into Light?

 

Itís been so fulfilling to have audiences and critics alike so deeply moved and inspired by it. Itís a dream come true. Especially stories like we had from one of the founders of the Sherman Oaks Film Festival. He has a 12 year old daughter and after theyíd watched the presidential debates this year, sheíd said she didnít see the point of voting. So he showed her our film and she said she really understood how hard-won and how important our right to vote is.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Iím in a few beautiful feature films due out soon: Grace and Grit, based on the best-selling Ken Wilber book of the same title, directed by Sebastian Segal, who poured his whole heart into it for years. Evan Wood, which is a powerful family drama that deals with addiction. And The Scheme of Things, which was so fun to shoot ~ itís a family adventure film. My fiance, Nipun Nair, whoís also my producing partner at SoulFire Creations, and I wrote a song for the credits of Into Light which weíre making into a music video that we shot in gorgeous locations, so thatíll be fun. Weíre also editing and writing a documentary short for filmmaker Sabrina Aman, about binational couples whoíve been separated due to the pandemic; and weíre in the middle of an animation project with Theatre of Will and the LADWP to teach school children about water conservation. Oh my gosh thereís more... Iím in a few episodes of the next season of Boss Baby, which is hilarious and fun. Iím also writing a new biopic short, which I spent a few months researching, and an experimental feature, as well as co-writing an incredibly uplifting family film with my dear friend and writing partner - best-selling author Suzanne KelmanÖ And a poetry book Iíve been slowly chipping away at for a year. Guess I should stop there because this is sounding ridiculous, but there are always a lot of plates spinning!

 

What made you want to become an actress in the first place, and did you recieve any formal education on the subject?

 

I knew when I was eight that I needed (and I do mean it was a requirement) to be an actress. I grew up doing all of the arts, but only acting uses everything I have and more, all in one job. Especially because I often write and get to research and learn new skills and inevitably will write a song about any new project at some point. Itís all a deep dive into empathy and finding more and more ways weíre alike as humans.

 

I took every drama class growing up and attended Wollongong Uni in Australia and have taken many acting classes from great teachers here in LA Anthony Meindlís Actors Workshop, Ted Brunetti, the late greats Gary Austin and Stan KirschÖ Itís hard during quarantine, but Iím normally in class.

 

What made you eventually branch out into writing and producing as well?

 

I started writing my first screenplay when I was 16. I knew nothing at all about the format or the craft. Nothing. But Iíve loved writing stories since I was tiny. And then when I was 25, my YouTube channel took off and I started writing sketches. Iíve had an odd career trajectory where basically none of it has been the traditional route, but Iím honestly happiest making stories that matter to me. That I feel can bring empathy and insight and hopefully empowerment into the world. Iíd rather write and produce something that has heart and meaning for me than be in some shiny thing thatís putting out a message I canít stand behind. There is a phenomenal amount of powerful, meaningful content out there, donít get me wrong, and I completely love being able to just drop in and play a role and not have to wear every hat. Itís such a joy to be supported in that and not bear all the responsibility of producing. But at the end of the day, however the creativity wants to flow through me will always make me happy. I think I just relaxed the restrictions on what I thought I was supposed to be, to welcome in all I feel called to create.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Into Light, in whatever position?

 

I love being on set. Thereís this tangible atmosphere of complete focus and respect that feels like home to me. Iíve said so much, Iíll keep this one short!

 

How would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?

 

I talked a lot about this before ~ moving from the inside out. I also usually write as the character - find their handwriting, the way they hold themselves, but it often starts on the energetic level. I get a feeling of them in my body and then start talking, finding their voice, and my body finds its way from there. I research a lot. I can always tell when Iím meant to play a character because the entire universe will send me every experience and piece of info I need to portray them authentically. Thatís why Iím very choosy! Because I know Iím going to go through it as closely as is safely possible. It always makes me laugh, because suddenly everything will be about womenís rights or whatever the subject at hand is.

 

Actresses, writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?

 

Ack so many: Alfre Woodard, Emma Thompson, of course Meryl Streep, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Hudson, Penelope CruzÖ Mira Nair, Ava DuVernay, Nzinga Stewart, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Nicole Holofcener, Jane Campion...

 

Your favourite movies?

 

I have so many! Favorites are hard for me, I want to include everyone. Life Is Beautiful/La Vita e Bella, La Fille Sur Le Pont, Sleepless in Seattle I could watch every year forever, I just saw Soorarai Pottru and was destroyed and rebuilt in 2 Ĺ hours. Beautiful film. 1917. All of the brilliant biopics ever. True stories always been my favorite.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

Filmmaking is hard. I can always find something to love.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

IntoLightOfficial.com

@intolightfilm on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

linktr.ee/IntoLight

 

Feeling lucky ?
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any of my partnershops yourself
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Find Amy Walker
at the amazons ...

USA  amazon.com

Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)  amazon.co.uk

Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

Looking for imports ?
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Thailand  eThaiCD.com
Your shop for all things Thai

SoulfireCreations.com ~ @soulfire.creations on Instagram; @SoulfireCreatns on Twitter.

AmyWalkerOnline.com ~ @AmyWalkerOfficial on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube; @amiablewalker on Twitter.

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Just that I need to shout out my incredible team and donors, sponsors and supporters. Thank you! We did it together! Especially my partner, Nipun Nair, who did all of the editing, sound design, score, VFX, rotoscoping and more for Into Light. Even on set he made sure I had food and water and sanity. Heís an unfathomably brilliant, kind, hilarious, supportive and wonderful human and Iím honored every day to work and live with him.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you! Weíve written a novel together! ;-)

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD