An interview with Hollywood trailblazer Ally Walker

Ally Walker has been an inspiration to me all of my adult life. Growing up in a small town of less than 1,200 people there weren't a lot of role models to be found so I looked to television. I found my role model in Dr. Samantha Waters from Profiler. Walker played Waters with an intelligence, strength, and passion that made me want to get out into the world and make a difference. Because of the show, I went on to study forensic psychology. The sociology and psychology classes paired with forensics I've learned have helped me with a cold case project I'm working on in Kentucky that I hope will provide closure to some families. To call Ally Walker an inspiration is an understatement.

DP/30: Sex, Death and Bowling, director Ally Walker

Not only did Walker inspire me with Profiler, but she inspired me with a documentary, For Norman. Walker came upon a woman and a one-year-old baby named Norman in a park one day. They were homeless and the baby had cardboard on his feet to keep them warm. After Walker talked to the mother for a while it became obvious the mother was mentally ill. Instead of walking away like most of society would unfortunately do these days, Walker decided to help these two.

She went to a clinic to have the baby checked out, she called the woman's family to try and get them to help but to no avail, and she ultimately found them a shelter to stay at. However, Walker was so worried about the health of the baby that she discussed this with shelter employees who told her to call the Department of Child and Family Services. This is where For Norman picks up.

Walker saw the same woman on the street, this time without baby Norman. Walker wanted to find out what happened to Norman and whether or not he was okay. Instead she found out about a foster care system that wasn't all it was cracked up to be. “My friend Adam Davidson and I started filming,” she told me.

“The court opened up and let me interview kids in the system. At that time, there were 50,000 kids under the DCFS's supervision. The film won awards for showing the struggles these kids faced: being taken from their homes with no real help given to their parents; being moved as much as 20 times within the first year; being separated from their siblings and sometimes being put into much worse situations.

"For me, the experience was shocking. For a country that likes to stress family values we really don't consider families much. The kids I filmed were some of the most courageous people I have ever met. As were their families, both foster and biological. I'd like to do a follow up documentary and see what became of them. Many people in child welfare credited the film with illuminating the struggles these children face and for helping create a movement for change within the system.”


As if that isn't enough reason to be inspired, Walker adds a gay character to a film she wrote and directed called Sex, Death, and Bowling. She assembled a dream cast who all played their roles perfectly and with a subtle beauty that enhanced the words written by Walker. The film centers on 11-year-old Eli who is faced with the impending death of his father. Eli wonders what is death and what happens when we die so he sets about finding out.

I can relate to Eli as my mother is going through stage three ovarian cancer and was given two years left to live by her doctor. I wonder what is death and what will happen to my mother when she dies. Is there life after death? Add to the mix Sean, who hasn't seen the family in years because he is gay and wasn't accepted into the family because of this. This is also relatable. Growing up in a town of less than 1,200 people you run the risk of being bullied, beaten up, and in my case contemplate suicide instead of dealing with the aspect of being unaccepted because of who you are. Most people in the gay community also have someone in their friends or family circle that have walked away because of their sexual orientation. Walker based this character on her friend, Tom Ford.

“I went to school with Tom Ford,” she said. “I knew Tom when he was 14 and 15 and we hung out. I ran into him when I was writing Sex, Death, and Bowling and realized what that must have been like. To be a young man, a kid really, who's basically going to be ostracized if you really tell people who you are and what your definition of love is. And it really struck me because I had just been losing so many people that I was shocked by it. You really get shocked when you start losing people that you love by how petty everything is and how stupid and meaningless a lot of the stuff we worry about is.”

Walker wrote and directed Sex, Death, and Bowling and when I told her my story her response was kind. “I write for people like you,” she said. “I really am glad it spoke to you. The lack of acceptance is what kind of breaks your heart. When people have these preconceived religious notions or whatever kind of notion, I don't fault religion. I think religion is very good in ways, but we really are just living beings and we really need to be able to co-exist with one another without belittling each other or fighting. There's only love. You can be famous, you can make money, but there's only love.”

Love is what life really is all about. The LGBT community has an ally in Walker and I wondered if this felt odd to her. “No, I do the same thing for women and kids too,” she said. “I speak up when I see injustice and I got to tell you I have a lot of gay friends. When people are not accepted, when people have to struggle, when people have been hurt, I relate to those people. I do fight. I do advocate for gay rights. I do advocate for equality for people. I'm sick of this. It should be over. These chapters should be done. They should be in a book somewhere that we read about and go wow I can't believe we were like that.”

“It's hard to be discriminated against,” she added. “It's hard to be judged for what you do and what you look like. People and their preconceived notions of what you are. And that's something that's really hard to get around.”

Yet with Walker on our side we will always have someone humble, kind, and passionate. Walker brings hope and love to everything she touches.

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