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Filmmaker Spotlight: Richard Cameron White of "The Sleeping Bear"

This week's filmmaker spotlight is on Director/Producer and Co-Writer Richard Cameron White of The Sleeping Bear.  White's film was selected to be part of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles screenings at Sunset Gower Studios this month. Learn about the film, his inspirations, goals and current projects.

Name/Position: Richard Cameron White- Director, producer, co-writer
Film: The Sleeping Bear

Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it. 

I began The Sleeping Bear in film school, three years before production. The whole process has taken about 4.5 years and we still can’t say we’re done. Basically, we wrote the script as a way to learn how to write the script. I directed the movie as a way to learn how to direct a movie. I backed into the project in terms of actors, locations, etc. It was all written for places in my hometown of Traverse City, MI. However, we also wanted to attempt to make a bigger indie movie, so we broke a lot of rules for example they say only use a couple actors in a couple locations we had dozens of actors and dozens of locations, one scene in particular called for 75 extras... It was a crazy process. We had 10 people living, working and shooting in the main (cabin) location. To this day I don’t know how we pulled it off, I lost 15lbs. Do I think it’s an amazing movie? It’s OK. But I’m extremely proud of what a bunch of film school grads pulled off.

Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?

There’s a massive list. The entire community in Traverse City, MI helped us out. About 100 people donated money on Kickstarter when we were stuck and helped us finish it (we raised 11k). More than anyone, our lead actor and co-writer Ryan Bradley, people like his wife and our gaffer Mica Bradley, our DP Ryan Hase, our camer op/ location scout/ assistant editor John Lurie, our UPM Brooke Arciniega, our lead actress Eleanor Wilson (who didn’t know any of these guys and came in from NY for a month), our composers Jaysen Lewis and Cody James, our 1st AD Becca Dornan- everyone worked for free for over a month. Also my parents and sister who supported us, cooked us food let us sleep when needed, and acted in the movie, editor Nick Ruff... and a thousand other people.

How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?

It’s amazing! An honor. It’s the first festival we’ve screened the film at and probably the last because I don’t want to submit to any more. Looking forward and extremely nervous to see what people outside of Michigan think of the film.

What inspires you?

I’m most inspired when I spend time on the lake at home in Northern Michigan, or with my friends and family, often away from the film world. Traveling. Adventures. I’m inspired when I watch great movies/ filmmakers. I’m extremely competitive, often my inspiration comes from a need to be working on my next project to accomplish my next goal.

Who are your influences and who do you admire?

I’m mostly influenced by Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Stanley Kubrick, Christopher Nolan, Sergio Leone and David Fincher (also Frank Capra and French New Wave cinema). I admire a lot of amazing actors like Jimmy Stewart, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Richard Harris, and many more. Athletes like Michael Jordan, Barry Sanders- I admire and relate to the work ethic and determination of top tier athletes and often put work things in terms of how would an athlete handle it. Steve Jobs. The Beatles. Oresen Welles was an inspiration during The Sleeping Bear- he started Citizen Kane when he was 23, like me, so when people imply that you’re too young to succeed I think of him. He also pulled off the greatest movie of all time, no one wanted to make it. Probably many more cool people I’m not thinking about.

What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?

Many lessons. The biggest in my young (not yet successful career) though would be: it’s not so bad, not so hard, not such a huge mountain to climb. It’s what you put into it and what you’re prepared for. Film school and outsiders like to make scaling the film-world wall seem like an impossible challenge, but it’s a career just like any other. Hard work, practice, and a positive attitude are all you need. What else? Lately, I’ve felt a lot more responsibility to my audience, respecting the audience and the fact that they’ve dedicated 2 hours to this story so I better keep them engaged. Earlier in my career, I wrote and worked more for myself. Now I’m thinking about sitting in a room of 600 people, like I had to do when we screened The Sleeping Bear in my hometown (I went to a bar within 10 minutes). Also, it’s a small industry so make friends, everyone knows everyone and you’ll work with so and so again - many great lessons living and working in L.A.

If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?

All of the people from the admiration question and just about every A list actor out there right now. Every major cinematographer. More specifically, Stanley Kubrick.

What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?

Every day, regarding The Sleeping Bear, was harder than the previous. Honestly. Getting it prepped, shot, finished, has been my toughest experience by far. If I had any idea going into it, I may not have attempted in the first place. Outside of film? My life has been incredibly smooth to date, I have not had to overcome the hardships others have, mine are trivial.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?

- “Write. If you want to direct, write.”
- The book (and title) It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be
- “If you want to be Jimi Hendrix you don’t go to rockstar school and become one after a few classes ... you lock yourself in the garage and practice until your fingers bleed.” - From Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew
- The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and the idea of becoming a professional.
- “You run on your core!” From my track coach. Which is counter intuitive, you’d think you run on your legs and should then strengthen your legs, but there’s a lot of improvement by strengthening your core, which sounds like a metaphor for other aspects of life and work. It’s about being balanced.

What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?

Decide what aspect of the industry you want to work in and begin working toward that specific area, don’t veer off the path or you’ll wake up in a couple years no closer to your goal and 2 years closer to someone else’s goal. If you want to DP, DP, if you want to direct, direct. Be open to opportunities. Don’t worry about money, it will come. Read 3-5 scripts (good and bad, old and new) a week, everyone else is. Figure out how to make a living doing what you want to do. (For example, originally I was going to just work at a restaurant to pay the bills and write/direct during my free time aka become a professional).

You’ll be happier, get your 10,000 hours a hell of a lot faster, and one day you’ll wake up and realize you’ve been working as a paid ________  for some time now, instead of just being a weekend warrior.

Where can we expect to see you next?

I just finished my 2nd feature film THE ROUGHENCKS, a feature length documentary about Pee Wee football in Texas, produced by Marty Bowen (TWILIGHT, DEAR JOHN). We’re taking it to festivals this year. I’m also directing more commercials while writing my next scripts, one of which I’d like to direct in the next year or two.

Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.

For more information, visit:

About the Author

Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner, LA Youth Newspaper and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
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