Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Christopher Walters Is Helping To Change Our World

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Be empathetic, realize that other people around the world are in many ways just like you and if you see a social problem right in front of you- something unjust that bothers you- do something about it! Apathy is a big problem.

As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Christopher Walters.

Walters started making a living with his camera when he was twelve years old and by the time he was eighteen, he’d moved to New York to pursue filmmaking. The young director / dp made a show for Warner Brothers Online and another for Sony- early online stuff, then he worked in-house for Dr. Dre, went on to shoot indie features as a cinematographer and finally, in 2019 he hit the road, made his home in Burma and then Eastern Europe.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I picked up a camera when I was seven and since then, it’s the only thing I’ve known how to do extremely well- shooting. And so I became really passionate about telling stories this way. Growing up, my family had kind of an eccentric life and so I always felt like I was living in a movie.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was shooting a music video and I didn’t have an assistant so I loaded the 35mm camera myself; I hadn’t done this very often, it was an Arri 435 and I loaded the film backwards. So we shot the whole video with the film facing in the wrong direction in the gate… and I discovered this after the film was processed, when we were looking at it in the telecine; and there was an exposure! The music video was there, but in loading the film backwards we’d shot through the anti-halation backing of the 35mm film, which only allowed red light to pass through. So the entire video was red and black. It looked very cool.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

When I moved to New York I only had three hundred and twenty dollars to my name and even after I got a low-paying job, I lived in a really inexpensive apartment in a fairly dangerous poverty-stricken neighborhood. And I was fresh out of Nova Scotia- wool socks and Birkenstock sandals, so I really stuck out in the neighborhood. And I made a lot of friends and they were so different from anyone I had known growing up in Nova Scotia. And I was so different from anyone they’d known growing up in Brooklyn. So we were interesting to each other and got along really well. I learned a lot from the people in that neighborhood about humanity. After 9/11 I got onto this long run of shooting and sometimes directing gritty rap videos. I was on staff for a while at Dr. Dre’s company making ultra low budget videos for Snoop and 50 Cent. I would just show up at Snoop’s house in the morning and we’d make something up to shoot, sort of thing. And at this point I’d been living in New York and LA for a few years but I was still pretty fresh out of a Canadian fishing village and I was basically embedded with the West Pomona Crips for a while and then later when I linked up with 50 and that east coast crew, I spent many days in east New York with a lot of bloods- everyone around me was either a gang member or in some way materially affiliated with a criminal gang (I knew this because they all wore red- everyone wore the uniform, except for me). And we all were basically friends. I learned from these people who came from very different backgrounds from mine, that people are people. We’re all basically the same.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

I would say that Nelson Mandela inspires me the most because he was so brave- he led South Africa out of apartheid and spent all those years in prison to do it.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I am making character-driven content in Ukraine, engineered to resonate with an American Audience in order to draw the attention of that audience to cultural similarities between Americans and Ukrainians. We do, in fact, have very similar values as societies and I believe that supporting Ukraine in their resistance to the Russian invasion and attempted overthrow of their democratically-elected government is our responsibility. America has the most powerful economy in the world and we attained a substantial portion of this success by using our military to help American corporations exploit weaker countries. We have overthrown democratically elected governments, in Iran, for example, put down legitimate uprisings in countries such as China, the Philippines and Colombia, and illegally invaded sovereign nations, on each of the most recent occasions (Vietnam and Iraq) we killed a combined total of almost two million people. So I believe we owe a debt to the world as Americans and I am trying to help pay that debt.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Living in Burma, I made a lot of friends there. So when the coup happened in 2021 and a bunch of my friends went to jail I wanted to do something- I was far away at that point living in Eastern Europe but I came up with a plan in collaboration with some Burmese filmmakers to deliver a gut punch to the military Junta that had put my friends in prison and killed thousands of it’s own citizens. Our aim was to promote defection from the Burmese army. We don’t know if it worked, but the comedic episodes in which we had a burmese comedian impersonating the dictator, got a lot of views. When Russia invaded Ukraine, I gave up my flat in Bucharest to some refugees. And I watched the story of this war, on American news slip from top of the night, to number five. At that point, four months into the invasion, I decided to do something.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

It would be presumptuous of me to claim any success at this point. With regard to Burma I really don’t know- many people in Burma watched the show. I have no way of knowing if it influenced more people to defect from the military. And in terms of the Ukraine projects- we will see if Ukraine stays in the American conversation and close to the hearts of American viewers.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Be empathetic, realize that other people around the world are in many ways just like you and if you see a social problem right in front of you- something unjust that bothers you- do something about it! Apathy is a big problem.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I don’t spend much reflecting on my own past- I try to live fully present in this moment and think about how my actions today will impact my own future and the future of others.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

It’s hard for me to feel right about telling anyone else what to do. But I hope that people will be empathetic and will act on this to achieve goals that decrease suffering of those around us and throughout society. And if you are an extremely empathetic person and a you do want to make a positive change then I would suggest that you are most likely to succeed if you make this your highest priority in life! You need to want to make this change more than you want family, romantic love, money, etc. It needs to be the most important thing in your life. And ultimately it does feel good to spend your time working to make the world a better place.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

A tremendous amount of the effort being put forth to defend Ukraine consists of support from civilians who have organized ad-hoc style to do everything from evacuate elderly from conflict zones to treating the wounded. These organizations rely on donations in order to function. I would like to find anyone I can in the US who believes in the cause of social justice and can offer financial support to these civilian-run organizations. One such organization is — they are a civilian volunteer organization who are rescuing wounded from the front lines.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

People do a lot of messed up, adolescent things. But one thing us humans do well is take care of each other, when we want to. Let’s all seek to take better care of each other.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Christopher Walters Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.