Chel White

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Chel White
Chel-White Paris 2013.jpg
Chel White, 2013
Born (1959-05-30) May 30, 1959 (age 56)
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Alma mater Antioch University
Occupation filmmaker, director, composer
Years active 1985-present

Chel White is an American film director, commercial and music video director, composer, actor, screenwriter, and visual effects supervisor on feature films.[1]

He is co-founder of the international production company Bent Image Lab[2] in Portland, Oregon, along with co-founders Ray Di Carlo and David Daniels.

Known for his first person narratives and stylized use of images, White's films explore love, obsession, alienation, memories, and dreams. He uses allegory and frequently black humor to paint pictures of the human experience. His narrative films are often told from the perspective of the estranged individual; the outsider looking in.[3] He has made three films based on the work of Peabody Award winning radio personality and writer Joe Frank[4][5] (Dirt, Soulmate, and Magda), and has directed music videos for Radiohead's lead singer Thom Yorke, as well as Chrysta Bell and David Lynch.


Chel White was born May 30, 1959, in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. White cites his earliest influence as being the Surrealist painting he was exposed to in grade school when visiting the Art Institute of Chicago.[6] He began making films in high school and went on to received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts, with a central focus on experimental film, from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Independent Filmmaker[edit]

Chel White began making independent short films after college, starting with Metal Dogs of India (1985), which was drawn on clear film and made without a camera. The films that followed were Machine Song (1987), Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha) (1991), Dirt (1998), Soulmate (2000), Passage (2001), Magda (2004), A Painful Glimpse Into My Writing Process in Less Than 60 Seconds (2005), and Wind (2007). His films have screened in the Sundance Film Festival,[7] Berlin Film Festival,[8] International Film Festival Rotterdam,[9] Seattle International Film Festival,[10] SXSW,[11] Animafest Zagreb, Portland International Film Festival,[12] Ottawa International Animation Festival, Annecy Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, and Edinburgh International Film Festival. The awards for White's films include Best Short Film from the 1998 Stockholm International Film Festival (Dirt),[13][14] Best Animated Short from the 1991 Ann Arbor Film Festival (Choreography for Copy Machine), Grand Jury Award for Best Animated Short Film from the 2005 Florida Film Festival (Magda),[15] and the EMPA Work Life Award from the 2005 Ann Arbor Film Festival (Magda).

Through various film festivals, White's films have been screened at The Brooklyn Museum,[16] The Smithsonian Museum,[17] The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston[18] and The High Museum in Atlanta.

Chel White is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation Media Arts Fellowship[19] through Re:New Media, a Media Arts Fellowship from 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 2005, and is distributed by Microcinema International.[20]

Chel White's feature film directorial debut, Bucksville,[21] is a story about man who tries to leave a small town radical militia started by his father. Completed in 2012, the film stars Thomas Stroppel and features a cameo role by Academy Award Nominated actor Tom Berenger, who is also an executive producer on the film.[22] The film also stars Ted Rooney and Allen Nause. The screenplay is written by Laura McGie[23] and Chel White, with music by Tom Brosseau. The film won Best Narrative Feature at the 2012 Kansas City Film Festival,[24] Second Place for Narrative Feature Film Award from the 2012 Athens International Film Festival and a Platinum Award for First Feature from the 2012 WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival. Bucksville also screened in the 2012 Brooklyn Film Festival[25] and the 2012 Ashland Independent Film Festival.[26]

Professional career[edit]

Chel White started his professional career working as an animator at Jim Blashfield and Associates,[27] Portland, Oregon, in 1986. In 1991, he began creating visual effects for film director Gus Van Sant,[28] starting with My Own Private Idaho (1991). White was 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 title effects supervisor on director Todd Haynes' film, I'm Not There.[29][30] 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)[31] and "Blue Christmas" (a.k.a. "Santa and the States")(season 30, episode 8).[32][28] Both are parodies of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special (1964), produced by the Rankin/Bass productions company.[33] 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.[34] Airing first on December 18, 2004, shortly after U.S. president George W. Bush's presidential 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.[35]

In 2006 White directed the music video for Thom Yorke's song "Harrowdown Hill",[36] which won the award for Best Music Video at the 2007 SXSW Festival.[37] 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[38] to the song "Bird of Flames" from the album This Train. The video won the Audience Award for Best Experimental short at the 2012 Northwest Filmmakers' Festival.[39] In 2007, White's film Wind was commissioned by the climate change awareness organization Live Earth,[40] to be included in "Save Our Selves", a global concert and simulcast on July 7, 2007. Wind premiered April 26, 2007 in the opening night program of eight Live Earth short films, in the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival with keynote speaker Al Gore. The commercials Chel White has directed have been honored with Clio Awards, 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.

As an actor, Chel White made his only appearance to date in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), playing a brain surgeon in a scene with Uma Thurman.

Personal life[edit]

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. White and McGie are writing a feature film screenplay based on their shared experience, titled Stranded.

Since 1985, Chel White has made his home in Portland, Oregon.[41]


Feature films[edit]

  • Bucksville (2012)[42]
  • Fever Dreams and Heavenly Nightmares: The Short Films of Chel White (2005)[43]

Short films[edit]

  • 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 1950's (1999)
  • Good Night, Bob (1999)
  • Dirt (1998)
  • Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha) (1991)
  • Machine Song (1987)
  • Metal Dogs of India (1985)



See also[edit]


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  29. ^ Variety Magazine: "Back to the Camera" By Christopher Grove
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  33. ^ "Chel White". Independent Exposure. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
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  40. ^ TRIBECA '07 DISPATCH | Tribeca Fest Thinks Globally With Gore and Climate Crisis in Opening Night Spotlight
  41. ^ Animation World Magazine, By Taylor Jessen, 11/22/2006
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  45. ^ Harrowdown Hill

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