Chel White, Paris, 2013
May 30, 1959|
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Alma mater||Antioch University|
|Occupation||film director, screenwriter, composer|
Chel White is an American film director, commercial and music video director, film producer, composer, actor, screenwriter, and visual effects supervisor. He is co-founder of the international production company Bent Image Lab in Portland, Oregon, along with co-founders Ray Di Carlo and David Daniels.
White is known for his stylized, often experimental use of images, and first person narratives told from the perspective of the estranged individual; the outsider looking in. He frequently uses allegory and black humor to depict the human experience, exploring topics of love, obsession, alienation and dreams. He describes his own work as “images that reside on the brink of dreams, or linger on the periphery of distorted memories.” He has made three films based on the work of Peabody Award winning radio personality and writer Joe Frank (Dirt, Soulmate, and Magda). The films Chel White made between the mid-1980’s and early 1990’s fall into the category of visual music; largely about the playful interactions of music and animated imagery.
The Austin Chronicle says, "(Chel White's) work seems to dispatch itself in some secret, subversive code, flashing messages amid animation, obscure stock footage, and actors with crazy eyes." Chale Nafus of the Austin Film Society says, "I have been amazed at the stylistic and thematic diversity in (Chel White’s) films. Surreal, ethereal, wistful, and witty are some of the descriptions that come to mind. Mainly I just allow my imagination to be taken into his complex, mysterious worlds.”
In the realm of commissioned work, Chel White has directed music videos for Radiohead's lead singer Thom Yorke, The Melvins, Tom Brosseau, Chrysta Bell & David Lynch, and collaborated with the Oregon Symphony. He has worked extensively with film director Gus Van Sant, creating visual effects on several of Van Sant's projects. White began directing commercials in the early 1990’s, and directing television programs in the late 1990’s, including two parodies for Saturday Night Live.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Independent filmmaker
- 3 Professional career
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Filmography
- 6 Fellowships, grants and awards
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Early life and education
Chel White was born in Kansas City, Missouri and grew up in Colorado, Michigan, Stockholm, and Evanston, Illinois where his father was a Northwestern University professor and his mother a schoolteacher. White cites his earliest influence as being the Surrealist painting he was exposed to in grade school when visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. He began making films in high school and went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts, with a central focus on experimental film, from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Chel White began making independent short films after college, starting with a drawn-on-film animation titled Metal Dogs of India (1985). In 1991, White completed Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha), an animated film created solely by using the unique photographic capabilities of a photocopier to generate sequential pictures of hands, faces, and other body parts. The film is widely considered the first noteworthy animated film using this technique. The Washington Post describes it as “(a) musical frolic which wittily builds on ghostly, distorted images crossing the plate glass of a copier.” The films that followed are Dirt (1998), Soulmate (2000), Passage (2001), Magda (2004), A Painful Glimpse Into My Writing Process in Less Than 60 Seconds (2005), Wind (2007), and a Donald Trump horror film parody called Little Donnie (2017). His films have screened in the Sundance Film Festival, Berlinale, IFFR, SXSW, Portland International Film Festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival, Annecy Festival, HKIFF, SIFF, and Edinburgh International Film Festival. Chel White's feature film directorial debut, Bucksville, is a story about a young man who tries to leave a small town radical militia started by his father. Completed in 2012 and released on DVD/online by Phase 4 Films in April of 2014, the film stars Thomas Stroppel, Ted Rooney and Allen Nause, with a cameo role by Academy Award Nominated actor Tom Berenger as The Patron of Justice. Along with Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Hume Kennerly, Berenger is also an executive producer on Bucksville. The screenplay is written by Laura McGie and Chel White, with music by Tom Brosseau. Jamie S. Rich of The Oregonian calls Bucksville, “An insightful portrayal of an extreme point of view without the expected self-righteous critique.”
White's films have screened in the Van Gogh Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The High Museum in Atlanta. His retrospective presentations include the Ann Arbor Film Festival (2002), Southern Circuit (2002),the Austin Film Society (2003), The Humboldt Film Festival (2004) and a 20-year career retrospective at the Northwest Film Center (in the Portland Art Museum) (2012). Chel White is the recipient of media arts Fellowships from The Rockefeller Foundation The Regional Arts & Culture Council, Portland Oregon, and project grants from Creative Capital, the Pacific Pioneer Fund and the Oregon Arts Commission. Fever Dreams and Heavenly Nightmares, a DVD compilation of Chel White's short independent films, was released in 2006 and distributed by Microcinema International.
Chel White started his professional career in 1986, working as an animator at Jim Blashfield and Associates (Portland, Oregon) on music videos for Paul Simon, Tears for Fears and Michael Jackson. In 1991, he began creating visual effects for film director Gus Van Sant, starting with My Own Private Idaho (1991). White went on to be Visual Effects Supervisor on Van Sant's Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (1993), Paranoid Park (2007), First Kiss (2007), Milk (2008) and Restless (2011), as well as the "death eye sequence" for To Die For, visual effects supervisor and titles designer on Dustin Lance Black's Virginia, and title effects supervisor on director Todd Haynes' film, I'm Not There.
In the realm of television, White directed two shorts for NBC's Saturday Night Live for Robert Smigel's Saturday TV Funhouse, The Narrator That Ruined Christmas (season 27, episode 9) and Blue Christmas (a.k.a. Santa and the States)(season 30, episode 8). Both are parodies of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special (1964). Airing first on December 15, 2001, The Narrator That Ruined Christmas was written by Robert Smigel, Michael Gordon, Louis CK and Stephen Colbert, with the voices of SNL cast members Chris Parnell, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Doug Dale, and Robert Smigel. Airing first on December 18, 2004, shortly after U.S. president George W. Bush's re-election, Blue Christmas was written by Robert Smigel and Michelle Saks Smigel with additional material by Rich Blomquist, Stephen Colbert, Scott Jacobson, and Matt O'Brien, and voices by Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Erik Bergmann, and Robert Smigel. Chel White directed two stop motion animated children's television specials for Hallmark Channel. In reviewing the 2011 television holiday programs, Mike Hale of The New York Times called Jingle All the Way (TV special) "By far the best of the bunch. In addition to its charming art and pleasantly low-key storytelling, 'Jingle' stands apart from the other holiday programs by not focusing on the manufacturing or delivery of toys." Hale also mentions, "For some honest emotion, and a combination of retro holiday spirit with adventurous animation, tune in for Jingle All the Way...(it) looks like something you’d see at a European animation festival or late at night on Adult Swim, but it is also gentle..."
In 2006, White directed the music video for Thom Yorke's song Harrowdown Hill (Best Music Video, 2007 SXSW). Along with his team and co-founders at Bent Image Lab, he pioneered the Smallgantics technique that was used for the first time in the Harrowdown Hill video. In 2012, White directed a video for Chrysta Bell and David Lynch to the song Bird of Flames from the album This Train. White’s 2007 short film, Wind, was commissioned by the climate change awareness group Live Earth. Narrated by Alec Baldwin, "Wind" uses a poem by Spanish poet Antonio Machado as a metaphor for humanity's lack of planet stewardship. Along with eight other Live Earth commissioned films, the film made its world premiere in the opening night program of the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival with keynote speaker Al Gore.
The commercials Chel White has directed have been honored with Clio Awards, a D&AD Award, a The One Club Award, two Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) Awards, and two are included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His personal favorite ads he directed are for the Washington State Department of Health in a campaign of surreal anti-smoking ads aimed at children and teens.
Chel White's composer and sound designer credits include Joan C. Gratz's Academy Award winning animated short film Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase, Joanna Priestley and Joan C. Gratz's animated short film Pro and Con, the animated short film Choreography for Copy Machine and the feature film Bucksville. His screenwriting credits include Bucksville (feature), Little Donnie (short), story development for Jingle All the Way (TV special), and the story adaptation based on the original 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the SimEx-Iwerks 4D attraction film of the same title.
In December 2005, Chel White and his then-girlfriend Laura McGie were stranded in a mountain snowstorm for four days, in the Cascade Mountains, Oregon. They were found by Marion County, Oregon Search and Rescue officers who traveled to the remote location by snowmobile.
Since 1985, Chel White has lived in Portland, Oregon.
Feature-length films and compilations
- Filmmakers Unite (FU), Little Donnie (2017)
- Bucksville (2012)
- The Animation Show, Magda (2007)
- Fever Dreams and Heavenly Nightmares: The Short Films of Chel White (2006)
- 23rd Tournee of Animation, Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha) (1991)
- Little Donnie (2017)
- Wind (2007)
- A Painful Glimpse Into My Writing Process (In Less Than 60 Seconds) (2005)
- Magda (2004)
- Eclipse (2003)
- Passage (2001)
- Soulmate (2000)
- The Beats, the Bomb and the 1950s (1999)
- Dirt (1998)
- Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha) (1991)
- Machine Song (1987)
- Metal Dogs of India (1985)
- Tom Brosseau - Tami (2014)
- Chrysta Bell and David Lynch - Bird of Flames (2012)
- Thom Yorke - Harrowdown Hill (2006)
- Cottonmouth, Texas - Hoops, Ugly People, Me and My Last 4 Bucks (1997)
- Season to Risk - Blood Ugly (1994)
- Melvins - Hooch (1993)
- Candlebox - Change (1992)
- Jingle All the Way (TV special) (2011)
- Saturday Night Live / Saturday TV Funhouse Blue Christmas (a.k.a. "Santa and the States)" (2004)
- Saturday Night Live / Saturday TV Funhouse The Narrator Who Ruined Christmas (2001)
- The PJs / Ghetto Superstars (2000)
- American Indian College Fund - One Percent (2015)
- Lux (soap) - Provocateur (2006)
- Washington State Department of Health - Park and Rec Room (2005)
- OfficeMax - Santa's Helper (2005)
- Reese's Pieces - Center of Attention (2003) (co-directed with David Daniels)
- Fila - Mash (1994)
- Memorial Blood Centers - Photocopy Jazz (1992)
- Live Wire Radio, Episode #198, interviewee (November 12, 2012)
- Oregon Art Beat, Season 2 Episode #219, interviewee (April 5, 2001)
- Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, role as brain surgeon (1993)
- Animation Sketchbooks, featured artist, Chronicle Books LLC, by Laura Heit (2013)
Fellowships, grants and awards
- 2008: Oregon Arts Commission, Project Grant, feature film development, Stranded.
- 2007: Rockefeller Foundation, Media Artist Fellowship, feature film development, Stranded.
- 2007: SXSW, Best Music Video, Thom Yorke, Harrowdown Hill.
- 2006: The AICP Show at MoMA, Office Max Santa's Helper, included in The Art and Technique of the American Television Commercial, permanent collection, Museum of Modern Art New York.
- 2006: Bend Film Festival, Best Short Film, A Painful Glimpse Into My Writing Process (In Less Than 60 Seconds)
- 2005: Regional Arts & Culture Council, Media Artist Fellowship, feature film development.
- 2005: Ann Arbor Film Festival, EMPA Work Life Award, Magda.
- 2004: Florida Film Festival, Grand Jury Award for Best Animated Short, Magda.
- 2001: Creative Capital, feature film screenplay development, Path of Bees.
- 1998: Stockholm International Film Festival, Best Short Film, Dirt.
- 1994: The AICP Show at MoMA, Fila Mash, included in the program The Art and Technique of the American Television Commercial, permanent collection, Museum of Modern Art New York.
- 1992: Ann Arbor Film Festival, Best Animated Film, Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha).
- 1991: Chicago International Film Festival, Nominated for Best Short Film, Winner Gold Plaque for Animation, Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha).
- Norman McLaren
- Joe Frank
- David Lynch
- Jan Švankmajer
- Ladislas Starevich
- Len Lye
- Brothers Quay
- Jean Cocteau
- Maya Deren
- Gus Van Sant
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2015-02-03.
- http://entertainment.msn.com/green/liveearthfilmproject/, MSN, list of films commissioned by Live Earth, Retrieved on 2009-03-17
- "translated by Robert Bly (originally in Spanish)". www.geocities.com. Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
- http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/26/entertainment/main2730075.shtml, Anonymous Author,2007-04-26, Retrieved on 2009-03-17
- Harrowdown Hill