They Call Him Fast Nickels
People get hired for many different reasons: professional experience, education, personal relationships. James Walker got his first big break more than 26 years ago because his resume said he had experience rotating milk at a local grocery store.
“He was more than qualified to work with us,” says Danny Angotti with a laugh. “He showed up in a coat and tie, which he denied for years until his mother told him it was true, and we hired him on the spot.”
James has a different story. “I needed an internship to get a passing grade in a TV production class I was taking at DVC (Diablo Valley College),” he recalls. “I’m a procrastinator, and at the last minute, I found KFTL, a TV station in San Leandro, and applied.”
KFTL broadcast religious programs on Sundays and evenings and home shopping shows during the day. It turns out the station acted as an incubator for Atomic Productions since that’s where Danny Angotti, Mike Kerhin, and Lucy Nazareno started working together.
James interning at KFTL earned him a degree from DVC and a career in the video production business.
While his first foray into 3D animation was, um, not great (we’ll let him tell you the story), James has become something of a graphics whiz at Atomic. He built the graphics package for the then Oakland Raiders’ Silver and Black Productions, a slew of automotive clients, and dozens of corporate videos.
Additionally, James is one of Atomic’s most proficient editors. With a laugh, he points out that he holds the record for most spots completed in a month — 40.
It’s the record that earned him the nickname.
“We did a video for Profit Velocity, and it talks about making fast nickels or slow dimes,” Danny says. “We realized during that project that James is fast nickels. He puts his head down and knocks out whatever is in front of him.”
He’s also a bit of a self-promoter. “Back when we’d go to NAB, I filled out my registration with the title “Five Star Editor.” They keep sending me stuff with that title,” James says with a laugh. “I think I’m the only five-star editor here, so there’s that.”
Outside of the palatial Atomic headquarters, James is all about the wife, two kids, three dogs, and two birds that make up his family. “I’ve got a great photo that says so much about my family,” he explains with a laugh. “It’s a selfie that my wife took where she cut off my and my son’s heads. You see my beard and the top of his head. We put it in a nice frame in our house.”
Then, laughing, James admits that this is not the first time he’s made a joke out of a picture in a frame.
Some years ago, an unnamed Atomic staffer had a beautifully framed photo of his wife and child on his desk. “He was out on vacation, and I decided to have some fun,” James recalls. “I took the frame apart, scanned the photo, and then Photoshopped my face with a goofy expression onto the kid’s face. It took him a couple of days, but I knew he saw it when I heard laughter coming from his edit suite.”
There are a lot of stories like that — including the time he ate dirt for $19 and some buttons — that feature James as Atomic’s main jokester. Ask old Fast Nickels about the sheet cake next time you’re in the office. It’s a good one.