When Walter V. Marshall decided to pursue a filmmaking career, New York City and Los Angeles weren’t on his shortlist of places to live. “I wanted to come back home and create,” said the Detroit native, who earned a bachelor’s degree in entertainment business and film from Full Sail School of Media Arts in Orlando, Florida.
“I’m here to help bring light to the issues that are being ignored,” Marshall said. “Photography and videography are my gifts, and I choose to use them to improve the quality of life in Detroit and to tell the stories that need to be shared.” He’s come a long way from the silly teenager who, as a high-school freshman, earned a 1.3 GPA because he was, as he recalled, trying to be cool. The class that best held his attention: photography.
“My wife would not have liked me,” he said.
As an emerging, 16-year-old photographer, his exhibit about the black church, which was on display at the Detroit Children’s Museum and later the Detroit Institute of Arts, caught the attention of noted photographer and film director Gordon Parks who told Marshall that he had “a good eye.” Parks remains one of Marshall’s greatest industry influences, along with Steve James.
Now in his late 30s, Marshall is a builder—of stories, of teams and things, of his family. He pours himself into each of those roles.
“When I do any project, I love seeing it come together,” said Marshall, who started his career as a camera operator at Christian Television Network in Michigan. “Whether it’s film, home remodeling, photography, or any artistic expression, I love the idea that I created something.”
A director, cinematographer, and editor with dreams of traveling the world to tell compelling stories, Marshall is an assertive leader and one who wants his teams to take up the appetency for “mission accomplishment and troop welfare” that he learned to hunger after as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It’s not an option to not get the work done,” said Marshall, who completed one tour of duty in Iraq. “I really value initiative and drive and being able to be helpful and engaged. If a person doesn’t have that, it becomes difficult to accomplish the mission. I care about my team, and that means being considerate and making sure they have the tools they need to be successful, encouraging them, putting them before myself, and being a great leader.”
Marshall filmed “Life in Osborn” (2015), a movie documenting a non-profit organization’s effort to remake and bring hope to the neighborhood surrounding Osborn schools on Detroit’s east side. The film was honored with the city’s Spirit of Detroit Award. Other noteworthy projects include the three-time Emmy Award-winning film “Cody High: A Life Remodeled Project” (2014), a documentary about the revitalization of a Detroit neighborhood ridden with crime and failing schools, and “A Love that Hurts” (2013), a film about the healing that Jesus Christ offers a couple in a hurting marriage.
Marshall owns and operates Walter Vincent Films LLC, and he’s been an independent filmmaker since 2009. While he would love for his son—another Walter V. Marshall—to adopt a passion for videography and photography, that’s not the most important legacy he wants to leave for his family.
“If I left my family millions of dollars, that’s great economically, but I would much rather leave a spiritual supply of faith and dependence on God,” Marshall said.
He specializes in projects that allow him to immerse himself into an environment where he can use cinematic, writing, and sound design skills to fully capture reality and create multifaceted stories that keep viewers engaged. “I’m editing reality, but it’s authentic because it brings the viewers into the environment I’m portraying,” Marshall said. “Journalistic-style projects definitely have more grit because they’re real and raw—like the old ’72 Chevelle with a ’66 Corvette engine I used to drive.”
Marshall trains and mentors aspiring filmmakers and former students who have become respected partners on projects. He enjoys reading books, community service, and biking adventures with his family.
Faith. Family. Film. So long as he has those things, life is good.