In 2011, three college students set out to make a documentary for their final project in the Media Production Program at Florida State University. Having heard of Walter as a local Tallahassee legend, they approached him at Publix and introduced themselves. After much patience, they were able to understand the way Walter speaks, and to their delight, Walter met their offer with much enthusiasm.
They quickly learned that Walter loves being in the spotlight. He is very observant and can be
surprisingly charismatic. He used to win chess tournaments at the Black Dog Cafe on Lake Ella and would often reminisce about the times when he was more well known in the community.
One of his Walter's favorite parts of filming was when the crew had to race Walter to work on his electric wheelchair, so they could get shots of his morning journey. Competitive by nature, Walter was too fast for them, even though they had a car. He beat them to Publix before they got all the shots they needed, and Walter was waiting for them with a big smile on his face, saying, "I told you I was fast."
Working with a very tight budget, the filmmakers were very lucky to have a lot of help from some great people, including permission from the local Publix to film on their property. They were also met with scornful looks from people who assumed they were trying to exploit Walter or invade his privacy, but who never bothered to try and speak to Walter themselves.
Throughout their journey, the filmmakers were inspired by Walter and didn't want his story to end. They made this website so that Walter's story could live on after their graduation. They still remains friends with Walter and will never forget the impact his story had on their lives. Making this film also really lifted Walter's spirits. In April 2011, he attended the official documentary screening inside FSU's Doak Campbell Stadium, where the audience greeted him like a celebrity.
However, since the making of this film, Walter has experienced a number of issues with his wheelchair, as well as other medical problems. He has his good and bad days. And though he has many old friends, he loves meeting new people. So don't be afraid to introduce yourself or simply say hi when you go to Publix. Sometimes a smile or pat on the shoulder can make his day! Let him know that you watched his film, and you might be surprised when the smile you receive back makes yours. Remember, he understands a lot more than it may seem.
Finally, the filmmakers want to thank you for watching his film and for spreading his story. For a long time, Walter has been a big part of the Tallahassee community, and we want to remind people of his service to them. He isn't as well known as he used to be, and his disease makes it harder and harder to communicate with new people. But after touching our lives with inspiration, it's the least we can do to get his story back out there. Irene Gardiner, who is featured in Walter's film, still remains active in Walter's life. She has been working on a website to help get donations for Walter, as his wheelchair often needs repairs or maintenance. If you want to help, please visit:
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