Play" Wrestles its Way to #1
by Brian Brooks
for the weekend ending March 15, 2004
1. "Games People Play: New York"
2. "The Passion of the Christ"
James Ronald Whitney's risqué feature "Games
People Play: New York" seduced its way to number
one...grabbing the throne from Mel Gibson's "The
Passion of the Christ," which had reigned for
The reality-esque "Games People Play:
New York," a 'game film' about three men and three women
vying for a $10,000 cash prize by performing provocative stunts,
took its place on the specialty box office crest, opening in
"I was holding a can of Coke, and dropped
it on my shoe because I was in shock," said director James
Ronald Whitney via email to indieWIRE about his reaction to
the film's opening after a producer friend of his called to
wish him congratulations for being number one in the country
based on per-screen average. "I had gotten calls from
people in New York telling me that when they saw the movie,
the theater was packed, and after the very first screening,
the manager of the Clearview chain called to tell me that he
was moving 'Games' to the largest theater at Clearview's Chelsea
9 because the numbers were so strong, but I had no idea we
would be number one for the weekend."
Whitney went on to say aside from winning
an Emmy, it was the best professional news he had ever received. "Now
anyone reading this better get his ass to the theater to see
this unrated, totally twisted little movie that was made in
just 72 hours." According to Whitney, the film will premiere
in Los Angeles tonight and will begin its run there at the
Sunset 5 beginning Friday. Over the next eight weeks, Artistic
License Films & FabiLuce Films will open the film in a
new city, then continuing until it has played the top 10 markets.
Concluding, an obviously elated Whitney told indieWIRE, "My
plan today is to buy new shoes."
May 12th, 2004
"GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK"
IS #1 AT THE BOX OFFICE
LOS ANGELES, PRNewswire - For the second time since it premiered
theatrically in New York City, James Ronald Whitney's controversial new film,
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK, had the highest per screen average in the country
out of all independent films. In fact, even after throwing the big-budget
studio grosses into the mix, only Universal Picture's VAN HELSING beat GAMES.
Together, Fire Island Film's "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" and
Universal's "Van Helsing" moved into that coveted
first and second position topping the box office charts at nearly 15K per screen
each, leaving the other top 7 studio rivals in the dust at averages grossing
less than 3K.
In third place was Paramount's "Mean Girls" followed
by Fox's "Man on Fire," Warner Brother's "New
York Minute," Sony's "13 Going on 30," New
Line's "Laws of Attraction," and Miramax's "Kill
Bill Vol. 2."
As indieWIRE reported, in it's opening weekend, "James Ronald
Whitney's risque' feature, 'GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York' seduced
it's way to #1...grabbing the throne from Mel Gibson's 'The Passion
of the Christ,' which had reigned for two weekends."
"GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" is
being distributed jointly by FabiLuce Films and Artistic License
Films, and it is the first reality film in James Ronald
Whitney's trilogy. Last year, Whitney won
the Emmy Award for another controversial film titled, "Telling
Nicholas," about a 7-year-old boy whose mother
was killed in 9/11. "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" will
be followed by "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood," and "GAMES
PEOPLE PLAY: The Bible Belt."
"GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" received
a "THUMBS UP" when it was featured on Ebert & Roeper,
and after remarking that the film is "Compellingly Watchable!," Ebert further
described it as "...a brilliant experiment in psychological
manipulation (4 STARS)...!"
"GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" has
already opened in 8 of the top 10 U.S. movie markets, and
beginning this weekend it will be playing in Atlanta, Dallas
and Boston. Call 1-866-THE MOVIE for theaters
and showtimes, and for additional information about the
movie or about the soon-to-be-released DVD, visit www.Games
Morgan Spurlock's "Super
Size Me" had a Big Mac of an opener over the weekend … grossing
more than a half million dollars, instantly becoming
a shining star from the
Sundance class of '04; although "GAMES
PEOPLE PLAY: New York" edged it out of the top
spot on our chart based on per-screen average…taking
the top spot (for the second time).
For the weekend ending
May 10, 2004
James Ronald Whitney's reality-show-esque
film "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" went down on Atlanta
over the weekend soliciting some serious cash. The racy feature
debuted in Dixie taking in $14,388…to top our chart!”
-by Brian Brooks
James Ronald Whitney &
- Photo by: Andrew Baker
|MONICA Lewinsky had
a good time at Sunday's unusual wrap party for James
Ronald Whitney's newest film, "GAMES
PEOPLE PLAY: New York." Mimicking the crazy
antics in the movie, the Tribeca Grand waitresses served
drinks wearing nothing but towels. Toilet paper substituted
for napkins, hunky young men served yellow punch in urine-sample
cups, and masseuses performed shiatsu on several of the
uninhibited cast members - many of whom opted to go topless
for their rubdown. Lewinsky kept her shirt on.
"Games People Play" director
James Ronald Whitney
is holding a D.C. casting call.
Are you attractive? In shape? Uninhibited?
Wanna get naked in a movie? Here's your shot at fame -- not
in a porn flick, but in the latest incarnation of the "reality" entertainment
craze. It's a movie relying on hidden cameras and racy competitions,
directed by James Ronald Whitney, an Emmy-winning filmmaker.
He's auditioning performers for the third installment of his "Games
People Play" franchise, which features unknowns vying
for screen roles and a $10,000 prize.
||There are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. casting
calls today and Friday for "Games People Play: The
Bible Belt" at Washington's Flashpoint Theater, 916
G St. NW. (The other two films were set in New York City
and Hollywood.) "There's no sex in these films whatsoever
and ultimately they're comedies," says Whitney, who
rolled into town to promote Friday's opening of "Games
People Play: New York City" at the E Street Cinema. "I
would be scared to death if I sat next to somebody and
they got aroused watching any of the 'Games People Play'
But, said Whitney, "I don't think you
have to sugar-coat nakedness. We're all naked every day when
we take our showers." Which brings us to another of the
qualities the director wants: "It's very hard to get undressed
when you're wearing a hidden camera. So a certain expertise
will be necessary for the actors."
-James A. Parcell
EXTREME REALITY EXPOSED!
Critics of mainstream Reality television say it often exploits
participants in order to titillate viewers and bring ratings.
But imagine a world not governed by federal standards or sponsors.
A world where morals go out the window. Welcome to Extreme
Reality. Buoyed by the success of uncensored videos like Girls
Gone Wild and Backyard Wrestling the no-holds barred...genre
is thriving. Extreme Reality producers are resorting to outrageous
stunts, sometimes witty and funny, often perverse, brutal and
exploitative. VH1 goes inside extreme reality through the eyes
of producers who are testing the limits of the First Amendment,
seeing how far audiences will go satisfy their hunger for shock
reality...VH1 follows a filmmaker whose project aims to show
just how far contestants will go for fortune and fame.
1: "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY"
James Ronald Whitney is a self-confessed "reality whore".
From The Bachelor to Punk’d to Elimidate and American
Idol he tunes in regularly for the raw drama and train wrecks.
But too often, he complains, he is left feeling unsatisfied-
there’s a flatness he can’t quite define. “It’s
all so one-dimensional,” Whitney says. “I just
knew there was a way to add something to the salad.” So
Whitney, a successful documentary filmmaker, invented Games
People Play, an extreme reality game show taped over a 72-hour
period and edited as a film series. Games tests how far ‘actors’ will
go for fortune and fame (or $10,000 and a starring credit
in his film series).
In Las Vegas we watch Whitney cast
his six contestants, individuals who prove to be the most
physically and emotionally uninhibited;
in other words those totally willing to bare their body and
soul. The games include outrageous hidden camera-style challenges:
a female player must get an unwitting pizza delivery man naked
and on the couch and give him a massage; a team of male and
female contestants must solicit a stranger to join them in
a hotel room for a ‘naked trio,’ which turns out
to be a nude dance routine. There are also mind games - players
must tell a close member of their family they are participating
in a pornographic video; contestants are grilled by a resident
psychiatrist about extremely personal issues. The games become
increasingly extreme: contestants must convince a bystander
she is witnessing an attack in progress; Is Whitney going too
far in the name of satire?
How bad have things gotten in post-Janet
Jackson America? Just ask the man forced to jump through
hoops to market his new reality feature Games People Play.
By Richard Horgan
only one vendor has allowed filmmaker James Ronald Whitney
to present his poster artwork for Games People
Play: New York as it was originally intended.
That company is NPA, which, in support of the movie’s
opening last weekend in New York and this Friday in Los
Angeles, plastered ads around construction sites in both
cities as part of a marketing practice known as “wild
It seems to have helped: this past
weekend, Games People Play had
the largest per screen totals of any movie in the United
States, $12,346, beating out something called The
Passion of the Christ by nearly $3,000...quite
a triumph for someone who has been repeatedly ordered
to tone down print advertising for his movie.
And surely the nadir of silliness so far
is the insistence of one billboard company that a naked male
torso be covered up before the artwork could be displayed on
university campuses such as UCLA, USC and the University of
“It’s innocent, pseudo-provocative
artwork that is being censored [see image above],” suggests
Whitney. “In the case of actor Josh Coleman, who’s
wearing long swim trunks and no shirt, we literally had to
take the tip of a star [logo] and bring that all the way up
his torso, so that he would not appear bare-chested on the
“I actually emailed [the company] photos
of the poster used in Rocky, where Sylvester Stallone is shirtless,
as well as the Bruce Lee movies, where Bruce Lee is bare-chested,
and Conan the Barbarian, where Schwarzenegger's bare-chest
is shown,” Whitney continues. “But they didn’t
care. They said, ‘No, no, no, we can’t have a half-naked
man.’ So now, it’s out of my control.”
Indeed it is. We’ve all become accustomed
to the daily headlines involving Britney Spears’ revised
music video plans, radio commentator Sandra Tsing Loh’s
dismissal from Los Angeles NPR affiliate KCRW and Howard Stern’s
battles with the FCC, but the fact that it is trickling down
to this level underscores the breadth of these Orwellian times.
Remember that famous 1993 Rolling Stone Magazine
cover showing a topless Janet Jackson strategically covered
up from behind by an unidentified pair of male hands? Well,
a similar image at the center of the Games People
Play poster involving actress Sarah Smith was
another one of the principal elements Whitney was asked to
cut and paste over.
“In one circumstance, Sarah’s
breasts were completely taken out of the picture and they would
only let the very tips of the fingers show, cropped much closer--almost
at her shoulders,” Whitney recalls.
“In another situation,
they wouldn’t allow David to touch Josh’s
belt loop on his swimming trunks. So they covered David's
hand with a censorship star [logo].”
“The irony there is that it
now looks nasty and dirty, you don’t know what’s
going on under that star with his mysterious hand,” he
adds. “Similarly, somebody else did something
with Sarah’s hand on David’s belt. They
wouldn’t allow that interaction, so they blocked
Sarah's hand with another censorship star. In fact,
they cropped her entire forearm, so you don’t
know where her hand even is, it could be inside David's
zipper for all we know.”
Whitney is a proud member of the school of
extreme reality nurtured out of HBO’s New York offices
by Sheila Nevins (promoted last month to President, HBO Documentary
and Family). His 2000 documentary Just Melvin,
premiered on HBO after The Sopranos, while his Emmy-Award
winning follow-up a couple years later, Telling
Nicholas, was slotted right behind of Six
In Games People Play: New York,
which has its official Los Angeles premiere tonight, three
men and three women compete against each other in a variety
of saucy games in order to win a $10,000 cash prize. Whitney
is currently busy editing a sequel, Games People
Play: Hollywood, while open casting calls began
today in Los Angeles for a third episode he plans entitled Games
People Play: The Bible Belt.
“Whether it’s the reality of
my grandfather who molested my whole family (Just
Melvin) or a little boy who lost his mom on 9/11--
a boy whose daddy has to tell him that mommy is dead (Telling
Nicholas) , Sheila Nevins accepts the extreme
and does not attempt to censor it,” says Whitney. “That’s
why I’ve always been in the HBO family and not the NBC
“I love what she has done with Taxicab
Confessions, for example, because it is real,
and it is raw,” he continues. “But I wanted
something that went even further than the excitement and
voyeuristic element of Confessions.
I wanted to see what people would do when challenged with
their inhibitions – both physical and emotional.”
It’s likely that people like Whitney
and the Gantz brothers (Joe and Harry), the creators of Taxicab
Confessions, will have to rely more than ever
on ingenious means to get their “pure reality” products
out there. In the case of Whitney, this means self-funding
the picture in partnership with two executive producers and
relying on the income from his latest Wall Street job at Wachovia
to pay the bills.
As far as the Gantz brothers
are concerned, they have for a number of years now been
trying to create an online clearing house for the rest
of their output at CrushedPlanet.com.
More chillingly perhaps, the Games
People Play censorship whirlwind
has extended well beyond movie theater lobbies
and daily newspaper entertainment sections. The
New York Transit Authority, the Chicago Transit
Authority and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) all
made changes to Whitney’s artwork as well.
However, in order to prevent any
similar concessions with the film's content, Whitney
wisely chose to release Games People Play in
an unrated version, thereby avoiding the stigma of
an NC-17 or the constraints of a compromised R rating
from the good folks at the Motion Picture Association
of America (MPAA).
“I left it unrated because the MPAA
were going to force me to either blur or edit around the three
erections in the film,” Whitney explains. “For
some reason, it's okay to project a 30 foot vagina in your
audience's face, But if you put a penis on the screen, God
forbid. Going into the film, most people have heard that the
twisted mind in charge of GAMES is
an equal opportunist when it comes to the exploitation of uncovered
“But what has happened with the artwork
is very disconcerting for me, because people automatically
assume that the people behind the movie are the ones adding
these stars and these [other] bits of censorship,” adds
Whitney. “The impression they’re going to have
is, Why is the moviemaker or distributor putting stars over
belt loop touching? This makes no sense, that’s kind
Back in the late 1980s, Whitney and his then-wife,
a tightrope walker for the Cirque du Soleil, operated a retail
store at the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson Boulevards
in West Hollywood called Oscar’s Wilde, where shoppers
browsed underneath the couple’s intermittent acrobatics.
The 40-year-old filmmaker’s other careers include that
of professional dancer/cast member of Chippendale’s and
perennial TV game show and variety competition champ, with
numerous wins as an undefeated champion on Body Language, Scrabble,
Dance Fever and Star Search, to name a few.
Judging by the early success of Games
People Play, Whitney appears as likely as
anyone to forge the big screen's first successful reality
franchise, one whose only predecessor was last year’s
putrid The Real Cancun. With
Rex Reed as one of his primary boosters and another imminent
reality feature release, "TheWorkingGirl.com," about
a cyber sex industry single mom, Whitney appears determined
to keep it real.
“In Games People Play,
we deal with very heavy issues – Tourette’s syndrome,
bulimia, molestation, incest,” observes Whitney. “A
lot of people have said to me, ‘You can’t put those
elements into a game and bring that into this genre of reality
entertainment.” “But I just feel that these are
facts of life,” he adds. “Molestation is a fact
of life, eating disorders are a fact of life, and GAMES is
a game of life. So as long as these facts remain, they will
be eligible for entry into the game."
People Play: New York Premiere
Broadway colides with Hollywood
at the premier of Emmy Award winning filmmaker James Ronald
Whitney's critically-acclaimed, boldest, most shocking
and most controversial film yet - GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW
'GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York'
By Ian Mohr
NEW YORK -- Newly launched indie banner
FabiLuce Films has acquired the indie feature "Games People Play: New York" from
production outfit Fire Island Films.
"Play: New York" is the first chapter in a "reality
movie" franchise, in which contestants are filmed by a
hidden camera exercising their acting talent to compete for
a cash prize of $10,000. "Play: New York" features
three men and three women competing by performing risque pranks
and offering shocking confessionals in an attempt to win the
(Director, James Ronald Whitney) also
plans to rollout two sequels, "Games People Play: Hollywood" and "Games
People Play: The Bible Belt."...J. David Luce is the project's
co-executive producer, with Richard Reichgut. Margaret Bastick
served as co-producer.
Said Luce: "Whitney's film has broken
the barrier for the reality-programming genre," Luce said, "and
has set a brand-new standard on reality movies."
The director's credits include HBO's "Telling
Pick for 2004
"Games People Play: New York, Emmy Award
winning director James Ronald Whitney's look at what people
will do for money, will be released in March by FabiLuce Films.
This wild and uninhibited film tells the story of how far actors
will go to win $10,000. Hint: they will go verrrrrrry far."
Warren Beatty and Barry Diller huddled
with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at The Grill
in Beverly Hills. Looking on from another table was Gray
Davis, whom Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated
as governor ...
Ex-prez Bill Clinton,
Sen. Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley, Mario Cuomo,
Harold Ickes and Maurice Tempelsman were among those spilling
out into the hallways at the funeral for William Bettridge,
husband of former Clinton aide Susan Thomases, at Frank E.
Campbell's Thursday ...
Britney Spears likes
her wardrobe to be ready as fast as she can say, "I do." The
ditzy divorcee had a shoemaker named Uriel on W. 26th St. make
her a pair of black boots within a few hours, a job that usually
takes a month. Gossipy customers at Zocalo Restaurant on E.
82nd St. said Spears gave him the design herself, and paid
$1,000 for the job ... Demi Moore spent part
of the holidays at Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos with ex-husband
Bruce Willis and current beau Ashton Kutcher ...
Alan Cumming, actor
Archie Kao and director James Ronald Whitney partied
till 4:30 a.m. at Keith Collins' "Shhh" party
PEOPLE PLAY: New York" SELLS OUT!
for James Ronald Whitney's latest film, "GAMES
PEOPLE PLAY : New York," an extreme-reality
film that made it's premiere at the CineVegas
International Film Festival 2003 as part of the
Jackpot World Premiere line-up in Las Vegas,
resulted in sell-out crowds. "Hundreds
of people were turned away, but a bunch of us
got in anyway and just sat in the aisles. The
movie was awesome, but my ass hurts like hell!" said
one thrilled movie-goer. "Games People
Play" entered the festival with quite a
buzz--VH1 has been profiling the director's work
as part of an extreme-reality piece slated for
August. In addition to VH1, Whitney did
radio and network television spots, segments
with Starz/Encore, and a red carpet interview
LOS ANGELES, CA
FabiLuce Films gets reality
movie for US distribution
New York-based Fire Island
Films' Games People Play: New York has been picked up for distribution
by the new production and distribution house FabiLuce Films
and is scheduled for US release in March 2004.
Games People Play: New York
is the first instalment in a reality movie franchise conceived,
produced, edited and directed by Fire Island founder and president
James Ronald Whitney.
The series follows three
men and three women as they take part in an uninhibited acting
contest involving pranks and risque challenges for a $10,000
Subsequent episodes are entitled
Games People Play: Hollywood and Games People Play: The Bible
Belt. FabiLuce Films will finance distribution for the entire
Whitney and Neil Stephens
produced the film, with FabiLuce Films president J David Luce
and Richard Reichgut serving as executive producers. Luce’s
partner Margaret Bastick served as co-producer.
“Whitney is an ingenious,
passionate and prolific film-maker. We are thrilled to be working
with him and look forward to bringing the critically acclaimed
Games People Play: New York to the theatres,” Luce said
in a statement.
has broken the barrier for the reality programming genre and
has set a brand new standard on reality movies.”
Whitney started making films
in 2000 and has completed five features in three years – the
award-winning documentaries Just, Melvin and Telling Nicholas,
as well as TheWorkingGirl.com.
Luce and Bastick will also
co-produce Whitney’s first narrative feature.
NOT all models want to
be movie stars. Wilhelmina beauty Margaret Bastick has become
a co-producer. "Games People Play," directed by
James Ronald Whitney, premieres Tuesday at Chelsea Clearview
Cinema. It shows six actors competing for $10,000 in "Candid
Camera"-type stunts, including one that involves trying
to entice a total stranger into a threesome. Full-frontal
nudity is the least outrageous part of the picture, which
Rex Reed calls "fresh, moving, outrageous, smart, and
unlike anything you've seen before."
TALK ABOUT SECRECY!
Randy (Randy Jones, the cowboy from "The
attended the top secret non-premier of Ron's newest film,
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York.
A smash party at the SoHo Grande
was attended by everyone from Rex Reed to Monica Lewinsky,
who did not wish to be photographed while eating or
As usual, we were publicly sworn
to secrecy about the film "Games People
Play: New York." We can probably tell
you that the film showcases America's Most Uninhibited
Game Show, and when they're not nude, everyone in the
film is completely and totally naked. Sounds like Oscar
Randy Jones of The
Penn grad willing to show
all for 'Games'?
Joshua Coleman calls himself a "hyper-competitive" person.
At the University of Pennsylvania, he was
on the track team and competed in the Penn Relays as a decathlete
and pole vaulter. He also took up bodybuilding and won the
Mr. Penn competition.
In "Games People Play: New York," the
2001 Penn grad competes for a starring role and $10,000 in
prize money (which we're not going to tell you if he gets).
Calling from New York, Coleman said that
the ad for "Games People Play," seeking attractive,
uninhibited actors, "was in the first Backstage I'd bought."
With an Emmy-winning director, James Ronald
Whitney, at the helm, he decided to go for it.
"We all went in knowing that we were
at least going to get publicity," he said. "But I
wouldn't just drop trou for anybody."
And drop trou he does. Suffice it to say
you'll see as much of Coleman as any of his track teammates
"You really forget about the nudity
and the money once you're involved," he said. "It's
about testing yourself."
Coleman was surprised how far he was willing
to push himself - in the audition process he told about his
painful childhood for the very first time - but he was more
surprised how far the game's so-called "victims" (the
nonplayers the actors were required to recruit) were willing
"It's so shocking that these people
were doing the things we were asking them to do," he said. "People
will do whatever."
Coleman said that when his team actually
enticed a man up to their hotel room to perform in their naked
trio ("The man came up with his own conclusion as to what
the naked trio actually was," Coleman said), he was sure
they'd won that segment of the game.
"When I saw a crew member in the hall,
he told me the other two [teams] already had people in their
rooms. I was shocked."
Next up for Coleman is a role as a judge
in "Games People Play: Hollywood."
Games People Play:
New York Star Doing Young & The Curious
By: Frank Meyer
Actress and reality film player Elisha Imani
Wilson will guest on Jason Sechrest’s KSEXradio.com show,
The Young & the Curious, on Friday, March 26, at 6:00 p.m.
Wilson will discuss her latest role in the
new reality film Games People Play: New York with host Sechrest.
Director James Ronald Whitney’s sexy
reality-based indie film, Games People Play: New York, was
released in theaters nationwide nearly two weeks ago to strong
Also appearing on this week’s show
is Kira Reed, reporter for Playboy TV’s Sexcetera, who
in the past two years has also worked as a supporting actress
on such mainstream television series as ER, NYPD Blue, and
Madison Heights; and Anthony Holloway, one of the year’s
hottest gay porn sensations.
Fans can hear the live broadcast free, while
members of KSEX or the gay/straight JasonCurious.com can view
all of the hot action on the in-studio cams as well. The show
will be rebroadcast every six hours throughout the weekend.
Mr. Blackwell, of the "Best/Worst Dressed" fame,
was taken aback at Dr. Gilda Carle's midriff-baring pantsuit
at the L.A. premiere of the independent movie, "Games
People Play." Carle, the former shrink-in-residence on "Sally
Jessy Raphael," didn't know what all the fuss was about. "I
was so respectable-looking in the film, I wanted to look different
for the premiere," she said. "Games," rated
NC-17 for nudity, features Carle as a judge and counselor,
and is described as a hybrid reality/game movie.
CASTING NEW LIGHT ON GOD
Director James Ronald Whitney challenges religion in his new
only needs to look at movie listings and Blockbuster’s
shelves to see the prevalence of movies such as Saved! and
Life of Brian, which question the rigidity
of organized religion.
James Ronald Whitney plans to take the trend one step further
by using the topic as a springboard for his
new reality movie, Games People Play: Bible Belt, and he gave
Columbia actors the opportunity to try out for the movie.
“You can’t hurt me anymore, only I can hurt myself,” yells
Kendra Henderson, a Columbia resident, before slapping herself
in the face. The sound creates an echo that makes passersby
stare at the 20-year-old. She quietly continues reciting the
lines Whitney gave her during an open casting call held June
9 at Ragtag Cinemacafé.
Unknowing spectators’ reactions
are exactly what Whitney hopes to extract in his Games People
Play trilogy. The films
involve six actors, three male and three female, who perform
practical jokes on unsuspecting people. They compete for a
chance to win $10,000.
Games People Play: New York, the first in the series, became
popular because of its location and the games involved, such
as collecting urine samples from strangers and coaxing men
off the street to join two actors in a naked singing trio.
The second film in the series, titled Games People Play: Hollywood,
was shot in two weeks while Whitney, his crew and the six actors
participating in the film traveled from Hollywood to New York
and back again. The movie, which includes scenes filmed in
jail, is currently in postproduction and set to come out either
later this year or the beginning of next year.
These unique elements
made some doubt that Whitney would be able to recreate the
same twists elsewhere, but the director
says he’s ready for the challenge. “I thought it
was ridiculous,” Whitney says, “because there are
so many ways to play games (on the audience). The idea of using
religion felt so wrong that it was right.”
With the Bible Belt edition,
Whitney wanted to step away from focusing the film on a big
city: “When it comes to cities
in the U.S., all the cities feel small in relation to New York
and Los Angeles, so the idea of the third (film) being in a
city made no sense.” Whitney says his goal with the third
film is “to get people to think about the dangers of
religion when things written a long time ago are taken literally.” The
film will incorporate the concepts of temptation and confession
into the acting assignments the stars will perform.
Whitney uses his first
documentary, Just, Melvin: Just Evil, as an example of how
religion can be misused. The film examines
his grandfather Melvin’s sexual abuse of his mother and
his aunts. “My grandfather told his daughters to ‘Obey
thy father in all things for this pleases the Lord,’” Whitney
says, “and they obeyed him right into his bedroom where
they were told to have sex with him.” Whitney uses his
directorial skills along with his desire to challenge others
in his ability to serve as a cinevangelist, a term he coined.
His casting calls are
a first step in his service. Outside on the streets of Columbia,
Brad White, a 20-year-old communication
major at MU, steps in front of the camera, ready to deliver
his lines, but he still can’t cry on cue. “Have
you ever had a girl break up with you?” Whitney says
encouragingly. “Think about the time that happened.” White
holds his head down for a few minutes, his brows furrowed with
concentration, while Whitney waits patiently, and clutches
a black notebook against his left side.
Columbia is the only small
town where Whitney held a casting call, and although he says
the actors may not be able to cry
on cue, they have no problem “slapping the hell out of
themselves” as part of the audition.
Whitney gave the actors
a disclaimer on the last film of the trilogy and encouraged
them to see Ragtag’s Friday showing
of Games People Play: New York...Henderson attended the Ragtag
premiere and, though she found it risqué, thought “the
whole concept was hilarious.” She says she is not concerned
about the religious aspect of the Bible Belt movie but the
possibility of doing nude scenes. “It scares me from
a social standpoint because my mom might see it, and my boyfriend
might not be too keen on it,” she says. “Still,
I’d like to be a part of something like that because
it is so over-the-top.”
White, who’s Jewish, doesn’t know if he’s
comfortable challenging someone else’s religion. “As
long as they respect what I believe, I respect what they believe,” he
says, “as long as they’re not hurting anyone.”
Counting all his major city stops, more than 4,000 people
from across the country have auditioned for the new movie.
Actors will be notified at the end of July if they have been
chosen to participate. Out of the six chosen, Whitney hopes
to get actors from a variety of religious backgrounds. Although
the New York version took only three days to shoot, Whitney
predicts the Bible Belt film, which will begin production in
the fall, will take two weeks to shoot because of travel. The
film will span the Bible Belt region, including South Carolina,
Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
— Chrissy Minor
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK" (1:52)
CNN--Andy Culpepper with "On Screen"
It's somewhat risque, it's real, and it's often revealing
-- in more ways than one. "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York" is
the latest work and the brainchild of filmmaker James Ronald
Whitney, the director who brought audiences the much-heralded
documentaries, "Just, Melvin" and "Telling
Nicholas." Whitney's gone 180 degrees here. "GAMES
PEOPLE PLAY" is more like a big screen game show, a
film version of reality TV. Six contestants -- male and female
-- compete in sometimes zany scenarios -- some of which involve
full frontal nudity -- for a top prize of 10 thousand dollars.
People think that being physcially naked is the scariest thing
they could do on camera. None of the performers had ever
been naked on film before--that was a prerequisite; but also,
they had never before been emotionally naked on film or in
front of a live audience either, and I had them audition
in front of hundreds of their peers - well, 249 other actors
and actresses. So they were stripped down to their souls.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood" will be next in Whitney's
trilogy, followed by "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: The Bible Belt." "GAMES
PEOPLE PLAY: New York" is unrated, and it's opening in
selected major markets this Friday. With CNN's "On Screen," I'm