Clayton native Richard White has turned a childhood love of movies and filmmaking into the career of a lifetime.
The 1996 Clayton High School graduate has spent the last eight years working as an assistant director in the film and television industry. The last year has seen him rise up the ladder moving his way forward to big budget motion pictures.
It’s an exciting career that has led White from coast to coast and as far away as Europe.
“I’ve always loved watching movies as a kid,” explained White. “During the summers I’d make my own behind our house, over at the railroad tracks or at the park.”
His mother, Donna White, would drive her son and his friends to their various locations.
White began his education at UNC-Wilmington and completed graduate school at the University of New Orleans. After college, he moved to New York and enrolled in the assistant director trainee program run by the Directors Guild of America.
During the two-year program, White was able to learn his craft with hands-on experience. His first jobs included work on the television series Blind Justice, the movie Rent and a 5-month trainee stint on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
“I was more of a production assistant, which is the low end of the totem pole,” said White. “I did a lot of taking care of the actors and extras. I learned a lot of different positions and had a really good experience on every set that I was on.”
With the DGA training competed, White qualified to work on sets as a Second Assistant Director. He explained that productions hire three assistant directors to work under a project’s director.
As the second assistant director, White reports to the first assistant director and is responsible for assembling the elements necessary for filming and the daily operation of the set. One important job duty is preparing a call sheet, or schedule, for the cast and crew.
In 2007, White moved to California and began work on the ABC television series, Desperate Housewives. He spent three years working on the show and was responsible for making sure the cast was ready to go on set, creating call sheets and organizing details behind the scenes.
“I didn’t know anyone in L.A.,” White said. “It was a good show to learn on and one that everyone can recognize the name.”
After realizing his wasn’t going to be promoted any further than second assistant director, White moved back to the East Coast and purchased a home in Carolina Beach. Shortly thereafter, he learned of an opportunity to work with Dana Delaney, a former Desperate Housewives cast member, on her new television series, Body of Proof. He worked on the show for two seasons and moved up to the first assistant director’s position.
Feature films work was also on the horizon. White spent his time off from Body of Proof serving as first assistant on the 2012 film, Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike. Earlier this month, he returned from Bulgaria after four months working on another film: 300: Rise of an Empire, a $100 million feature film set for release next year.
“It was a challenge working in a foreign country but it worked out well,” said White.
While his ultimate goal is to direct, White is enjoying his job and the flexibility it provides.
“Every job I go on is different,” he said. “There’s an entirely new cast, crew and directors. I’m still learning and I make sure to watch the director to see how they work.”
“I like the finality of the job,” continued White. “I know I’m going to work on it for 4 or 5 months and then move on to a new experience.”