What’s in a Story?

Whats in a Story?

Abbie Bagwell, Staff Writer

Let me preface this by saying that there are few times, if ever at all, when I find myself arguing the claims of the good folk at dictionary.com. Recently, however, I wondered what the word, “story” actually means. Eagerly anticipating the page to load to see the definition, I was slightly off put when I read dictionary.com’s interpretation, “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.” While technically this is a valid definition, it just doesn’t do justice to the word, “story.” Stories are an inescapably integral aspect of culture as they are so much more than amusement and a way to pass the time, but rather, a common thread that brings us together as a people.

Director Chris White

A man passionate about the art of stories and film is Chris White, a Greenville, SC native who handles every part of his film productions from start to finish. When asked what his favorite part of working on and creating films was he replied, “Every phase is my favorite job and I’m not just saying that! I’m constantly writing, meeting with actors, creating the sets, editing, promoting and marketing, fundraising, and booking screenings. The hardest thing to do is to fundraise, but even that is fun and exciting- it just feels like I’m doing something right. Perhaps the best part of it all though, is when we sit down to edit for the first time and we see the gaps…it’s really neat to see how a film will come from it.” White graduated from Furman with a degree in Theatre and has been a professor of cinema, a high school drama teacher, comedian, creative director for an ad agency, and perhaps most importantly, a father. The Whites live in Greenville where they raise their three children: Gibson who is 14, Whitaker who is 13, and Harriet who is 11 years old. White and his wife, Emily, often collaborate on the writing for the films and Harriet, the youngest daughter, starred in the short feature, GOOD LIFE – a very poignant look at a father and daughter celebrating her tenth birthday. Visible are the characteristics and trappings of a typical birthday complete with cake, candles, song, and presents. Perhaps the best present comes not from the father figure, but the daughter as she ends up, for lack of a better or more accurate phrase, paying it forward. This film is one that White cites as one of the most fulfilling projects he’s worked on, if for no other reason, for the way it has impacted many of its viewers.

Among his other accomplishments, he has produced several films including the documentary BRAGGING RITES which focuses on the hallowed rivalry between Clemson and USC. White states that, “on the DVD for BRAGGING RITES there is an extra feature. It is a complete game film from the 1943 Clemson/PC game in Clemson, SC. We found the old film deep in a closet at Clemson, and we believe it to be the earliest film of a football game played in South Carolina. Again, it’s the entire game…in a silent black and white film. That also happens to be the very last time PC beat Clemson. They won 13-12. Clemson had lost its entire junior and senior classes to the World War II effort that year and started all freshmen in the game.” His most recent release TAKEN IN is a film about a father and daughter trying to make amends with the wrongs they’ve committed against each other in the past and ultimately about how they fit into each other’s lives as they move forward into the future. Sometimes it is the boldness of a single image, phrase, or song that strikes and moves White to create the plot for a film. In the case of TAKEN IN, it was a combination of the singular image of the clasping of hands and the song “I and Love and You” by the Avett Brothers. The cast of TAKEN IN highlights the talents of Spartanburg, SC native Madelaine Hoptry as Brooklyn, Traysie Amick as Dawn, Tim Brosnan as Simon, and Ronnie Gunter as Dillon (Amick will also star as the protagonist in Chris and Emily White’s upcoming release, GET BETTER). Rather than setting up elaborate and intimidating casting calls, White prefers to create films with people he knows and has worked with before, stating, “I just kind of go with people I know. For instance, I acted in a play with so and so and I taught this person when they took my drama class, etc.” White stated of Hoptry, “I knew the kind of girl I was looking for for the part and she turned out to be perfect…really with the big roles, I just kind of want to be around people that I would also like to hang out with in real life.” By creating this community or fellowship, rather, of friends and actors, it seems to make the process that much more enjoyable, something clearly apparent when hearing them discuss the shooting of the film.

Bronsan and Hoptry

So, in closing, what is in a story?! Are stories and films merely in existence to interest and delight the audience? I think not. During my interview with White, he reflected on the way that most people, including himself, grew up with the magical realm of visual storytelling. Being able to be a part of something that meant so much to him as a child, reminds him of how lucky he is to be a filmmaker today. Perhaps it is put best when White states, “You’re not even close to arriving when you’re in your twenties because you’re so busy trying to get somewhere. It’s more about the journey.