MotionMasters rolls out Johnson documentary

By Chris Lawrence MetroNews | April 23, 2018


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although a book and the hit movie “Hidden Figures” introduced West Virginia native and NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson, to the world, there is more to be learned about her remarkable story. At least that’s the aim of documentary filmmaker Diana Sole-Walko of Motion Masters in Charleston. The documentary entitled “Outlier” will premiere Monday night on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.


“We started on this project before there was a book and before there was a movie,” said Sole-Walko on MetroNews Talkline. “We actually started it in January of 2015 and interviewed Katherine herself in March of that year. We’re very excited after three years of work to roll out this documentary.”


Sole-Walko believes her piece captures the true character of Johnson herself, without all of the dramatic license used in Hollywood’s recreation of events.


“You get to see Katherine herself. No matter how good Taraji Henson was–and she was fabulous in the role– you get a sense of who Katherine is as a person,” Sole-Walko explained. “Her catbird character comes out in the interview we did with her.”


Sole-Walko says the idea to chronicle the life of Katherine Johnson was planted in her mind several years ago when she attended a function at West Virginia State University in which they were honoring a number of alumni. She was blown away when listening to Johnson speak at the event.


“I was taken in by this story of an African American woman who stood up in front of the group as regal as could be and spoke about her years at NASA,” she said. “I started to track down, well who was that woman.”

It’s not her first time taking on a challenging project which requires endless research, meticulous detail, and constant editing and refinement to get a finished product which is not only compelling, but accurate. Sole-Walko has documentaries to her credit on the life of Dr. Leon Sullivan and U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.


The documentary will air Monday night on West Virginia Public Broadcasting following the U.S. Senate debate from Wheeling and re-air on Thursday night.

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