Emmy Award winning director, James Ronald Whitney, has been bi-coastal for nearly two decades, but is now living in Palm Springs, CA. Born, married and divorced in Las Vegas, in addition to being a professional filmmaker and casino dealer, in his formative years, James was a competitive wrestler, martial artist, golfer, racquetball player and gymnast; an instructor of judo and dance; and an avid skydiver, who now has a high-performance plane, which he learned to pilot. Always the adventurer, James has raised three monkeys, and with only a toothbrush and an extra pair of boxers, has backpacked through more than 100 countries. During Whitney's travels, he became conversational in Indonesian, German, Esperanto, and several other languages, and is presently creating his own universal language, alphabet and numerical system, which will be included in his upcoming autobiography.
Whitney's first career was as a professional dancer, where he performed on hit shows like "Fame" and was both a "Dance Fever" and "Star Search" champion. For a number of years in the 80's he was even a Chippendale's Dancer. At only 17, he was awarded a Congressional appointment to the United States Coast Guard Academy, where, as a cadet, he joined the cheerleading squad, gymnastics team, and soccer team. James was later granted a full economic scholarship to Arizona State University, where he joined that cheerleading squad and became president of a fraternity. He also opened a dance studio, and competed on numerous game shows, where, as an undefeated game show contestant, he earned tens of thousands of dollars, while writing two game show treatments - one of which is the subject of his film series, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY." Whitney's love of games, however, is not limited to game shows and motion pictures. He is also a professional casino dealer, who has mastered table games including Blackjack, Pai Gow, 3-Card Poker and Baccarat, and has dealt at events that have headlined some of the world's greatest professional gamblers.
At 21, Whitney married the tightrope walker from "Cirque Du Soleil." They met while she was starring in "CATS," and they eventually became dance partners. James and his former partner then opened several stores together, one of which was one of the largest stores in Hollywood called "Oscar's Wilde," where, as the customers shopped, Whitney and his wife walked the tightrope over the patrons' heads, and performed routines on a trapeze he had mounted high in the air. Eight years later, they divorced.
Throughout the 90's, and until 2004, Whitney served as Vice President at several Wall Street firms including John Hancock, and The Royal Bank of Canada. As a financial expert, he has been featured in (to name a few) The New York Times, on CNNfn, and other industry news programs, and has been featured and on the cover of Wall Street rags such as Research Magazine, Registered Representative and On Wall Street. Additionally, he has served on Goldman Sachs' Blue Chip Council, Munder's Millennium Advisory Council, and Oppenheimer's Executive Council, where he received countless financial achievement awards.
During this time, in that Whitney is also an accomplished musician (saxophone, percussion, cello, and piano) he wrote and scored two musicals, "Yesterday's Tear" and "Hoods," wrote dozens of songs, and scored two of his films, "Just, Melvin" and "TheWorkingGirl.com." He also wrote the theme song to his film, "Telling Nicholas," and was co-composer for his last two movies, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" and "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood."
Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival 2000, "Just, Melvin" (www.JustMelvin.com) was Whitney's directorial debut, and he went on to win the "Best Documentary Award" at film festivals all across the country and was nominated for the 'Independent Spirit Award' in 2001. After playing theatrically in New York and Los Angeles, HBO purchased the US broadcast rights, and the world television premiere of Whitney's first film aired following "The Sopranos," broadcasting his first movie into the living rooms of nearly 10 million homes. "Just, Melvin" continues to air on HBO, and on television and in theaters around the world from Australia, Sweden and Israel to Canada, Holland and England. As one of only 10 films honored by the British Film Institute to tour the U.K., "Just, Melvin" premiered internationally at London's National Theatre. Whitney’s film qualified for both the Academy Award and the Emmy Award.
When the 9/11 Attack occurred, James was living in Tribeca, a neighborhood in Manhattan, only a few blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood. He filmed in horror as he watched dozens of people jump from the Twin Towers to their deaths, and as both of the towers collapsed. After running from the debris cloud that forced Whitney from his home, he filmed the events that followed the Attack on America for the next 10 days, focusing on one story in particular--the mother of a 7-year-old boy named Nicholas was in Tower Two when it collapsed, and her family was certain that she was simply lost and would eventually find her way home. It took Nicholas' dad 10 days to tell his son that his mother is dead. After The Museum of Television and Radio held a Special Screening for Whitney's film that had already been featured on "Oprah," a film that TIME Magazine described as "Wrenching, cathartic and even funny...but not easy to watch!," the premiere of "Telling Nicholas" (www.TellingNicholas.com) debuted following "Six Feet Under" on HBO. Additionally, like "Just, Melvin," HBO continues to broadcast "Telling Nicholas," and the movie has played theatrically in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where it was part of the Academy Award's Special Presentation Series. Whitney again qualified for Academy Award consideration, and in 2003, he won the Emmy Award.
Whitney recently completed the first of a feature-film trilogy called, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY.” This first movie in the three-part series, titled, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" (www.GamesPeoplePlayNewYork.com) premiered in Las Vegas to sold out audiences at the CineVegas International Film Festival. Whitney followed that up with a special screening on the 20th Century FOX studio lot, where it ultimately got picked up for distribution. 2004 marked the theatrical premiere of "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York." In it's opening weekend, indieWIRE reported that, "Whitney's risqué feature seduced it's way to #1...grabbing the throne from Mel Gibson's 'PASSION OF THE CHRIST,' which had reigned for two weekends." In fact, during the theatrical run of "GAMES," which played in America's top 10 movie markets, the reality movie became #1 at the box office for a second time after Ebert & Roeper featured it on their television show giving it a THUMBS UP! Roger Ebert called Whitney's controversial film "Compulsively watch-able!" and after attending the premiere, Rex Reed remarked that "...GAMES PEOPLE PLAY is from a very original director--grounded in the fast-track pulse of now, but so fresh, moving, outrageous and smart it's unlike anything you've seen before, with enough shocks and constant surprises to knock you right out of your shoes!"
Six months after the first film in his "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY" trilogy hit theaters nationally, MTV Networks contracted Whitney to turn it into a one-hour, weekly series for VH1. The first installment of that potential series was written, directed, executive produced, and hosted by Whitney in 2005, and completed in 2006. Assuming it will eventually join the VH1 line-up, it is already being touted as, "The most twisted game that will ever air on national television!"
James is also completing production on another film slated to be finished in 2009, titled, "TheWorkingGirl.com" - a longitudinal study that began in 2000 about his friend, Sharon, who is the mother of then 4-year-old Jake. Struggling and single, in order to make ends meet, Sharon decided to enter the cyber-sex industry. Over the past decade, Whitney has received numerous humanitarian awards for his work with children, as well as victims of rape and molestation, and has even worked directly with organizations such as Love Our Children USA, Save Our Children, and the world's largest - Childhelp USA; therefore, the movie, “TheWorkingGirl.com,” not only chronicles Whitney's journey through the world of cyber-sex in an attempt to help his friend make her business venture a success, but he simultaneously addresses the issue of moms doing porn, and includes counseling sessions with Sharon and a number of child psychologists. Of the film, Rex Reed remarked, "These are not your grandmother's working girls. Sad, funny, provocative, informative, energetic, and in your face! This remarkable film is all of this and more. The only thing it isn't...is boring. You won't find this stuff in the pages of Cosmo!"
In addition to completing the "ten-years-later" epilogue for “TheWorkingGirl.com” (www.TheWorkingGirl.com), which will finally wrap the production of the reality film, itself, James is in post-production with part two of his "GAMES" trilogy, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY : Hollywood" (www.GamesPeoplePlayHollywood.com), and is in pre-production with the third film in his series, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: The Bible Belt." As has been the case for the past decade, domestically and internationally, Whitney continues to develop new content in order to challenge both himself and his audience as a small screen and big screen director/writer/producer.
In addition to his film projects, from dealing casino table games to organizing philanthropic opportunities, Whitney continues to pursue his other passions, as well. In fact, from the summer of 2009 through February of this year, Whitney joined a very impressive transition team as both the President and Co-CEO of a company that showcased, rented and sold rare and one-of-a-kind Hollywood studio props and costumes to industry insiders, including some of Hollywood’s award-winning costumers and prop masters. In that Whitney's passion for working with charitable organizations was in perfect concert with the direction of the Chairman and Co-CEO, a former Harvard Professor and advisor to the Dali Lama, Whitney hopes that with the sale of this vast and impressive collection, among the world's largest, through both exhibitions and celebrity auctions, their joint efforts helped to make a difference to charitable organizations and foundations worldwide. Additionally, in 2009, in that Whitney is a life coach of sorts and former professional athlete who has studied various cultures from around the world, he co-founded The Fountain Retreat, a fitness, health and wellness weekend getaway at a world-class resort and spa in the greater Palm Springs area, where he served as the company's CEO. And recently, at the annual "X Foundation" charity event, Whitney helped to raise an impressive sum of money, as he professionally dealt casino table games for some of the world's greatest professional gamblers, including Annie Duke, Andy Block, Chris Furgason, Rafe Furst and Phil Gordon.
As a filmmaker, James Ronald Whitney has been featured in TIME Magazine, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, Premiere Magazine, New York Magazine, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time Out Magazine, Newsday, Village Voice, Details Magazine, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Post, TV Guide, and Daily News (to name a few). Additionally, Whitney has been featured on every major network, including "Oprah," "The Howard Stern Show," "Anderson Cooper 360," "MSNBC," "Starz/Encore," ABC's "The View," "HBO,"NBC's "Celebrity Justice," "VH1," "Inside Edition," "CNN Headline News," "CNN's Showbiz," "The Jenny Jones Show," "NY1," and "Fox & Friends" (to name a few), and in addition to receiving the "THUMBS UP" on "Ebert & Roeper" for "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY : New York," Roger Ebert previously featured "Jus,, Melvin" on his TV show calling the film "One of the angriest, most painful documentaries I have ever seen - and it's one of the best...you have never seen anything like it !" For that film, James also received the coveted THUMBS UP! After winning the Emmy Award for "Telling Nicholas," Whitney was selected by the National Television Academy to join their Blue Ribbon Panel of judges.
RETURN TO Just Melvin | Telling Nicholas | Games People Play: NY | Games People Play: Hollywood | TheWorkingGirl.com | JamesRonaldWhitney.com
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