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Producer Chip White talks the big picture of short film
Chip White isn’t standing in the shadow of his sister Vanna White’s limelight. He’s a shining star standing on his own—just on the other side of the camera.
Sure, the North Myrtle Beach native and producer of several recent award-winning short films still works with his elder sibling, but Chip’s the one making the calls and making waves in the industry while finding his own fortune.
“Vanna comes in as executive producer, but she wanted to see how we did on A Chess Story before she agreed to it,” says White with a laugh. “She’s heard my BS long enough as a little brother.”
White, producer/writer with Charlotte-based Stack 3 Productions, founded the production company as a division of his White Ideas, originally established in California. And at age 56, the late bloomer is giving young buds a run for their money, with short film festival favorites like A Chess Player in 2013 and My Luchador in 2015, which recently took home a Best of Show, Best in Show, Best Short, Founders Award, and was nominated at the Southern Shorts Festival for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actors, Best Audio and Best Cinematography.
White is not green to the world of film, TV and video. He’s been producing for more than 25 years, starting in LA as a field producer for Inside Edition, American Journal and going on to be part of the 2002 Emmy Award-winning production team for Jeopardy! and associate producer for MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and Another Large Production, all before White returned to his Carolina roots in 2005 when he moved to Charlotte to work with SPEEDtv.
He says film production has always been something that traveled with him, from the simple times in the 1970s growing up here in North Myrtle Beach to his days as an acting student at Coastal Carolina University (CCU).
“At CCU, I took acting and it’s a class I actually did well in,” says White. “I think the desire to work in TV and film has always been there, maybe because Vanna always wanted to do it, too.”
As beach babies here on the Grand Strand, White says he and Vanna would surf at the beach all summer and work dinners at Tony’s Italian Restaurant at night. In a previous interview, he related that, “We’d push Italian ice carts on the sand and, after Labor Day, you could practically lie down in the middle of the street here—there was no traffic.”
It was scenes like this that translate today into the powerful yet simple stories he and his team at Stack 3 Productions—including director Shea Sizemore and director of photography Brent Christy—capture on camera.
“Our short films have won so many awards and attracted the attention of a lot film festivals because of the story and quality,” he says. “There are so many shorts out there—really good ones and also some really bad ones. I’ve been told over and over during festivals and screening that they love the story, they can relate to the story, or our film tells a full story in a short form.
“The story is the key, and we package it with feature film quality,” White continues. “My goal is always to have a short movie, not a nice short video.”
White and Stack 3’s group of independent camera operators, editors, stylists and production coordinators strive to tell the kinds of stories about real people and the places where they work, play and love. Each story is authentic and, as he says on his site, “woven with a little bit of passion and faith.”
White’s latest short film, Crab Trap, was just shot over four days in mid-September in and around the Garden City/Murrells Inlet area.
“Shea wrote this one with Jason,” says White. “It was pretty much conceived on Jason’s screen porch in Murrells Inlet looking over the inlet. It’s about an alcoholic, Thirsty Simmons, and how he, as most alcoholics, doesn’t like to talk about it. He’s trying to convince his sister, Peru, that he’s a changed man and wants to have his daughter back in his life. It’s about the consequences that proceed from whether or not he’s a changed man. And it’s the kind of story that anyone who is an alcoholic or recovering from an addiction or knows of someone like this can relate to.”
He can’t talk enough about the amazing cast, with Danny Benson as Thirsty, Rebecca Coon as Peru, Grant Goody of Eight is Enough fame as Peru’s husband, Ben, and more. Crab Trap will be up to 15 minutes long and premiere sometime in March.
So what does a 15-minute film length equal in work and effort from a producer?
“I’m in a make-it-happen sort of role,” says White. “I’m not standing behind the director suggesting shots. I’m usually off-location making sure all the actors and their agents are fine, pulling all the pieces in, like calling for locations and funding, getting permits and releases in place—not so much making sure Shea is doing his job.
“With a feature film, you’re always looking for a huge distribution deal to get into theatres,” he continues, “but short films are more of a resume builder or calling card to get to feature films. The challenge with a smaller budget is to actually raise a budget.”
When asked about working with White, Christy says, “Chip is a strong resource to any idea or project he’s advocating for. In my experience with him in the film world, I can’t think of a problem he hasn’t tackled fearlessly and with a huge smile. His attitude and work ethic are infectious.”
Sizemore adds: “Chip goes the distance, finding and locking locations that seem impossible to get, conjuring up money out of nowhere. There are not many problems in the film world that he can’t solve.”
When White isn’t making short film magic, he and wife, Eve, married for 22 years, taxi their 16-year-old son to football and lacrosse games in and around their home base of Charlotte.
For a sneak preview of White’s work or an update on the premiere of Crab Trap, visit www.stack3productions.com.