Now living in New York City, Emmy Award winning director, James Ronald Whitney (JamesRonaldWhitney.com) was born in Las Vegas. In his formative years, James (also known as Ron) was a competitive wrestler, golfer, racquetball player and gymnast; an instructor of martial arts and dance; and an avid skydiver who raised three monkeys as he backpacked through more than 80 countries. During Whitney's travels, he learned to speak Indonesian, German, Esperanto, and bits of other languages, and he is presently creating his own universal language, alphabet and numerical system.
At a young age, Whitney began his first career as a professional dancer which later included shows such as the popular "Fame," the campy "Dance Fever" and "Star Search," and the unforgettable "Chippendales," where he danced for a number of years during the '80s. At 17, Whitney was awarded an appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where, as a cadet, he joined both the cheerleading squad and the gymnastics team. He left the Academy for Arizona State University with a full scholarship in economics, 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 CBS game show contestant, he earned tens of thousands of dollars, while writing two game show treatments—one of them is the subject of his last film, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York."
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 then opened the largest store in Hollywood called "Oscar's Wilde," where, as his customers shopped, he and his wife walked the tightrope over the patrons' heads, and performed routines on a trapeze he had mounted 20 feet in the air. Eight years later, they divorced.
Throughout the 90's, 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 The New York Times’ Business Day, and has been featured and on the cover of (to name a few) Wall Street rags including Research Magazine, Registered Representative and On Wall Street. Additionally, he has served on the Goldman Sachs Fund’s Blue Chip Council, Munder Fund’s Millenium Advisory Council, and Oppenheimer Fund’s Executive Council, where he has received countless Awards. During this time, in that Whitney is also an accomplished musician (saxophone, percussion, cello, piano) he wrote and scored two musicals, "Yesterday's Tear" and "Hoods," wrote and orchestrated dozens of songs, and scored two of his films, "Just, Melvin" and "TheWorkingGirl.com." Additionally, he wrote the theme song to his film, "Telling Nicholas," and the lyrics for his last two movies, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" and "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood."
"Just, Melvin" (JustMelvin.com) was Whitney's directorial debut, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival 2000. His film won the "Best Documentary Award" at numerous film festivals across the country and was nominated for the 'Independent Spirit Award' in 2001. After playing theatrically in New York City and Los Angeles, HBO purchased the US broadcast rights for "Just, Melvin." April, 2001, the world broadcast premiere of Whitney's first film aired following HBO's "The Sopranos," and his movie was broadcast into the living rooms of nearly 10 million homes. "Just, Melvin" continues to air on HBO, and it continues to debut on television and in theaters around the world from Australia, Sweden and Israel to Canada, Holland and England, where it was one of only ten films chosen by the British Film Institute to tour the United Kingdom after premiering at the National Theatre in London. Whitney qualified for Academy Award consideration in 2001, and Emmy Award consideration in 2002.
James now lives in Tribeca, a neighborhood in Manhattan, only a few blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood. When the World Trade Center was attacked, he filmed in horror as he watched more than two dozen 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. In May, 2002, only days 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 world premiere of "Telling Nicholas" (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 San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles where it was part of the Academy Award's Special Presentation Series. In 2002, Whitney once again qualified for Academy Award consideration, and in 2003, he won the Emmy Award.
James is currently completing production on another film, "TheWorkingGirl.com," about his friend, Sharon, who is the mother of 5-year-old Jake. Struggling and single, in order to make ends meet, Sharon decided to enter the cyber-sex industry. The movie and its Web site, TheWorkingGirl.com, chronicle Whitney's journey through this world of cyber-sex in an attempt to help his friend make her business venture a success, while simultaneously addressing the issue of moms doing porn. 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."
Whitney's latest film (part two of a planned feature-film trilogy) "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood" is currently in post-production. In 2003, Whitney completed part one of this series called, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY New York," (GamesPeoplePlayNewYork.com) which premiered in Las Vegas last June to sold out audiences at the CineVegas International Film Festival 2003. Whitney then had a special screening on the 20th Century FOX studio lot in July, where it ultimately got picked up for distribution. March ‘04 marked the theatrical premiere of "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York." That 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 top10 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 the film "Compulsively watchable!" and 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!"
As a filmmaker, Whitney has been featured on every major network, including (to name a few) "Oprah," "The Howard Stern Show, NBC’s "Celebrity Justice," "VH1," "Starz/Encore," "HBO," "CNN's Anderson Cooper," "Inside Edition," "CNN's Showbiz," "MSNBC," "NY1," "Fox & Friends," "The Jenny Jones Show," "CNNfn," and ABC's "The View." And on April 7, 2001, Roger Ebert featured "Just, Melvin" on "Ebert & Roeper And The Movies," 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... THUMBS UP!" Additionally he has been featured in (to name a few) Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, Premiere Magazine, New York Magazine, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time Out Magazine, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Post, Details Magazine, Newsday, Village Voice, TV Guide, Daily News, and TIME Magazine.
After winning the Emmy, Whitney was selected by the National Television Academy to join their Blue Ribbon Panel of judges for the 2004 Emmy Awards. He is currently in pre-production with the third film in his "GAMES" trilogy, "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: The Bible Belt.”
Six months after the first film in the GAMES PEOPLE PLAY trilogy hit theaters nationally, VH1 contracted Whitney to turn GAMES PEOPLE PLAY into a one-hour, weekly series.Ü The first installment of that potential series was written, directed, executive produced, and hosted by Whitney in 2005.Ü Whether it ultimately finds a home at VH1, or elsewhere, many are calling this potential new series, "The most twisted game that will ever get broadcast on national television!