Balti Meets: Molly Manning Walker
In an industry of extreme saturation and competition, Molly Manning Walker is quickly emerging as one of the most notable and talented filmmakers in London. Having worked with the likes of Billy Boyd Cape, Frank Lebon, Kwaye and Mount Kimbie, Molly has stamped her unique style and perspective across a number of works, writing her own short film along the way, which went on earn the coveted "Best of the Month" title on Vimeo. We were extremely lucky to catch up with Molly and ask her a little about her work, her influences, and her thoughts on gender equality in the film industry.
Hi Molly, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. I suppose there are a lot of questions to get into but the first one would be, when did you start your career in filmmaking and why?
Well I was always into photography. When I was 16 I was asked by a newspaper up north to take photos of Occupy, so I went down to St Pauls but took my DV cam, I ended up shooting a documentary and that’s really what got me into filmmaking.
There are so many different aspects to filmmaking, so what drew you to being a DOP?
I think again it connects to the photography element. Finding a frame that can tell a story. I love looking at natural light and thinking about how you would achieve it if you where trying to create it in a studio. But I love writing and I find it really difficult to shoot projects I don’t believe in or connect with. So maybe that will take me somewhere else.
You wrote and were DOP on More Hate Than Fear, a powerful short film about a graffiti artist who is imprisoned, what was the inspiration behind this piece?
My brothers best friend went to prison for graffiti. He was a big part of our lives at the time and I remember just being completely blown away by the response online. The comments on the articles online: “cut his hands off and tattoo his head with criminal” I just couldn’t believe that anyone would feel this strongly about graffiti. I made a documentary about him when he got out of prison and from there the script developed. It’s a topic that I feel really strongly about and its not so much that I am rooting for graffiti but looking at a justice system that serves money and property as opposed to protecting human life. I’m just finishing another Doc about a graffiti writer in Colombia, I’m really excited to show this one.
Is writing something you’d like to get more into?
Yeah for sure. I’ve written another short it’s from a different point of view but equally looks at the absurd nature of our justice system.
Was it difficult to gain support or funding for the film?
We were actually super lucky. A lot of people backed us on kickstarter and we sold t-shirts etc. It was tough and theres only so many times you can ask family and friends to donate but it was definitely worth while. It was also our graduation film so we already had access to kit and a studio to build in etc. People always ask me "what prison did you shoot in?", the production designer Amy, and art director Rafi actually built a 40ft prison.
Many people still see Graffiti artists as vandals and nuisances to society, what would you say to these people?
I totally understand that! Graffiti isn’t everyones cup of tea and that’s exactly why it’s important. Graffiti shows a discontent towards the status quo. It’s visible upset. If you continue to charge people a tenner to get across town but pay them £6.50 an hour. If we continue to back a failed education and benefits system, if we lock people away for painting on the walls but protect pedophiles, there is going to be discontent, a very simple way of protesting is by writing on the walls. The precious brick and mortar of the system.
A few months ago we interviewed Billy Boyd Cape, who directed your film More Hate Than Fear, you guys have also worked on several music videos together, how did this collaborative relationship come about?
Billy and I went to Uni together. We were friends before we made More Hate Than Fear and then we were forced to be friends as we had to go to festivals together. I’m joking he's one of my best mates.
You have shot a few videos for the extremely talented Frank Lebon and Mount Kimbie, what is it like to work with these artists?
Frank’s mind is unbelievable. It’s a real pleasure to work with him, he also has a heart of gold. I love working with lovely talented people makes doing something different very easy.
Have you found it difficult to be a female DOP, and are you noticing a shift in gender balance in the industry?
Maybe a year ago I would of said “Don’t know what your talking about don’t think its any different being a female DOP.” But the last year I’ve found really really difficult. Ive been extremely blessed not to feel it up until this point. I do think the industry is changing but its going to take a long time. Theres a lot of baked in prejudice. And I think this is found in all sorts of corners. I really believe that it starts in front of the camera, we need to start making films about girls/women that truly represent women of today. We need to stop worrying about the age of our women on screen or how to light them so they are “beautiful” it’s a societal issue. Once we begin to see women as humans and less as sexual objects I think our lives behind camera will change.
What other DOP’s or filmmakers do you look to for inspiration?
We watched 'Irreversible' just before making 'More Hate Than Fear' and it totally changed my perspective on filmmaking. La Haine, The Tribe, A Prophet are the sort of films that strike a chord with me, so I suppose filmmakers that are fighting to say something are who inspire me most.
DOP wise constantly drawing from different inspiration, I think Ed Lachman who shot 'Carol' is amazing, I look to his work a lot.