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Jeffrey Walker on Humility, Humour and Finding ‘Director Disneyland’

Jeffrey Walker
Jeffrey Walker is understated. He’s one of a handful of Australian creatives who have found huge success at home and overseas, and yet, your first thought when you hear him speak is wow – this guy is humble. 

He laughs often, with an easy-going confidence, and answers almost every question with a reassuring “that’s a great question.” It’s clear he was born to direct people.  

“I’m so happy on a film set,” he reflects, getting emotional. “I’m just so happy in that space, and I love the people I work with. I can’t even express to the crew and everybody how grateful I am to them each day without choking up.” 

When he arrived on the scene at nine years old, Walker knew he wanted to work behind the scenes, but had no idea how to become a film director. So, he started acting instead. 

But it wasn’t just any old show. No, Walker started with a lead role on every Aussie’s childhood classic, “Round the Twist”. It taught him the ropes, and fuelled a fire for a long future of filmmaking.  

“I was really in a state of training from a very young age for what I wanted to do, which was work behind the scenes,” he offers, chuckling. “I wasn’t sure exactly what, but I knew that I loved acting, but I was really keen to sort of move behind the camera.” 

The now 41-year-old trailblazing director and producer behind iconic shows like “Modern Family”, “The Artful Dodger”, “The Clearing”, and “Young Rock” dives into his career journey on the Variety Australia Podcast, produced by and recorded in front of a live audience of JMC Academy students, each keen to soak up as much of the director’s wisdom as possible. 

Given Walker’s diverse list of projects from feature films to indie projects to smash hit limited series, it’s clear he’s unafraid of a challenge. In fact, he seeks it out. 

“I think I’m actively pursuing things that challenge me,’ he says. “So when I look at material I’m looking for something that’s going to take me somewhere, you know, very different. Where is it going to take me and what psychology or emotional space am I about to explore?”

For Walker, the eight-part psychological thriller, “The Clearing”, was one of these tough choices. 

“’The Clearing’ was really hard. I remember reading it, the opening scene, [and feel] all of my spidey senses at [this] point. It’s like, this is really heavy. I could just go back to doing ‘Modern Family’ and have a laugh,” he explains receiving the script for the first time. 

“[But] I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I was conflicted. I thought, well, they’re all the reasons why you should probably jump off the deep end and explore this thing and find something out about yourself.” 

In the conversation with The Brag Media Editor-in-Chief and podcast host, Poppy Reid, Walker talked about his favourite projects, how humour and gratitude will take you far, and gave his top advice for JMC Academy’s aspiring Australian Film and TV students. 

For Walker, the most important lesson is to love what you do. In everything he says, it’s obvious he’s just as excited about his projects now, as he was when he was just a nine year old kid trying to crack his way into the industry. 

“Momentum is the strongest force in the universe, you know,” he reflects, speaking of the fact that a creative career needs momentum to survive. “Something starts and you’re so lucky, you can taste it for a second, and usually even momentum, if you’re lucky to have it, ebbs and flows.” 

The importance of gratitude in maintaining motivation and avoiding burnout is also paramount. “I’m so lucky, I can’t believe it, so you don’t get burnout, you’re just, you know, you are tired, but you’re so lucky to be doing it,” he states. 

Perhaps a sprinkle of luck is important. But when you’re Jeffrey Walker, there’s a whole lot of talent and dedication mixed into that success too. 


Listen to the full conversation with Jeffrey Walker on the Variety Australia Podcast hosted by Poppy Reid above or anywhere you get your podcasts. This is the first of three exclusive episodes presented by JMC Academy

Explore JMC Academy’s range of creative courses here, including the unique Masters of Creative Industries Post Graduate program where undergraduates can learn how to turn their original idea into a commercially viable project. Applications are now open for 2024.