Draining the lukewarm contents, the 28-year-old Gainesville native touches the stubble of his chin, focuses his piercing green eyes and attempts to explain how he approaches work in the movie industry.
He picks up the glass mug.
“There are many components that go into making the finished product. There’s the brewing. There’s the glass. There’s the spoon used for stirring,” Walton said. “I want to know about all of that. I want to know how it all comes together to arrive at this table before we drink it.”
The analogy is meant as an explanation of his work ethic; but, it is also — at least, in part — what makes Walton tick. Having been employed in the film industry for several years as a light technician, producer and photographer, the 2005 Gainesville High School graduate to this day still uses a trick he learned back in GHS theater.
“When I’m working on a set, I make sure I know everyone on a first-name basis,” Walton said. “I try to know what everyone does.
“With my theatrical training, it was suggested that I should spend a little bit of time in each discipline so I could understand and relate to everyone who is there. I think it’s very important to understand how everything works … and, the industry I work in is very departmentalized. It’s a machine that just moves like a freight train.”
The past several years have been especially busy. He’s worked in various capacities on films such as “Anchorman 2,” “The Internship” and “Last Vegas.” He’s also worked with crews on an episode of “The Walking Dead” and most recently “Rectify.”
Being involved with films such as these has afforded him the opportunity to cross paths with many different celebrities.
It’s interesting meeting people like that, he said. But it’s even more interesting watching others, in the throes of star-struck hysteria, interact with celebrities.
He witnessed several such encounters while working with Morgan Freeman on a video about the celebrity’s blues club in Mississippi.
“When we were hanging out with (Freeman) for a while ... I got to see people come up and just lose their minds around him,” Walton said. “But the thing about that is, he’s just a real person like anyone else. He has weird hangups like everybody else. Nobody realizes that when they meet celebrities. But, it’s the truth.”
Although, Walton admits it’s always a little strange, even for himself, to meet big-name celebrities on movie sets.
“There are times when I walk by these kinds of dudes, and part of me is like ‘I want to talk to you, but I have nothing to say to you. I don’t actually know you,’” he said.
TECHNICIAN AND CREATIVE ARTIST
While on set, Walton’s job changes based on the need. Since he began in the industry in 2008, he’s held titles such as lamp operator, rigging technician, electrician, set dresser and still photographer. He’s also acted in a film or two, with movies such as “Sacred Journey” currently in pre-production and a TV show called “The Red Road.”
Walton realizes many of the terms associated with his specific roles can sound a bit nebulous to the layman. Few truly understand what he does on a set unless they’ve seen him doing it with their own two eyes.
“It’s hard to explain what I do to someone unless I show them,” he said, adding the film industry is “kind of like any other job — you work a lot.”
He said he feels there are two distinctions though in the types of employees: technicians and creative artists. He’s spent time as both.
Pam Ware, who taught Walton at Gainesville High School in the theater program, said it was somewhat rare to find a “jack of all trades” like him.
“He acted in many different roles, but he also did set construction and scenic design … you don’t always find actors who are also great technicians, but Steven was certainly that,” Ware said.
Addison Miller, a friend and professional colleague, said Walton is “one of the hardest working people I know in the industry. If I were going to have anybody on my set, I’d want it to be him in some capacity. Because the thing about Steven … if he doesn’t know how to do something, it’s his nature to go figure it out, and that makes him really valuable. He’s a problem solver.”
TIME FOR EXPERIENCES
Miller and Walton were roommates in Oklahoma, where Walton attended college, graduating in 2010 from University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Upon graduating, Walton worked on several productions in Oklahoma, Texas and Los Angeles, before returning to his home state.
He is happy to be working in Atlanta and loves his occupation.
Most of his work has been on the technical side, but Walton considers himself a storyteller at heart. Picking up the empty glass mug, he leaned once again on a tea metaphor, this time taking a different angle.
“You know that distinction I was talking about earlier, between technicians and creatives in the industry?” Walton said, clinking the glass against another mug — performing a charade of pouring tea from one vessel to another.
“I think that as a creative you need time to breathe,” he said. “You pour everything into the cup, and then you consume it, and it’s empty. You’ve got to have the time and resources to fill it back up. If you’re working 70 hours a week, you don’t have time to brew the tea. You don’t have time to breathe. You’ve got to make time to go have some experiences. And then, you can come back to it.”
While it’s often time-consuming, he said he wouldn’t trade the technical work he does in film for anything in the world.
“I really enjoy what I do, and somehow I’ve made a good living doing all the things I’m doing,” Walton said. “I’m not sure what else I would do at this point, or at any point … I made a choice a long time ago to do what I wanted to do. It all comes down to making that decision, doesn’t it?”