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"Games People 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 two weekends.


For the weekend ending
March 15, 2004 -
full chart


Top Ten Indies





"Games People Play: New York"



"The Passion of the Christ"

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 Gotham...

"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


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 PeoplePlayNewYork.com.

indiewire logo

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


Top Ten Indies



Per Screen Gross


"Games People Play:
New York"



"Super Size Me"


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

Yellow Punch

James Ronald Whitney &
Monica Lewinsky

- 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' series."

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

VH1 News


About the Episode

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.


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?

Censorship Games

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

So far, 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 posting.”

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 Pennsylvania.

“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 poster.”

“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 Feet Under.

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 family.”

“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 genitalia.”

“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 of stupid.”

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."

Linda Lenzi

Games 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 YORK. (more...)


FabiLuce playing '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 prize money.

(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 Nicholas."

Hot 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."


Side Dish

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 at Nocturne...


Both screenings 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 with ET.
  For festival photos, visit



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 cash prize.

Subsequent episodes are entitled Games People Play: Hollywood and Games People Play: The Bible Belt. FabiLuce Films will finance distribution for the entire franchise.

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.

“Whitney’s film 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.

--Jeremy Kay



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."

Randy (Randy Jones, the cowboy from "The Village People")
attended the top secret non-premier of Ron's newest film,

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 drinking.

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 material already!

Randy Jones of The Village People



Howard Gensler

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 ever did.

"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 to go.

"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. (PT).

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 reviews.

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.


Missouri Screen Scene

Director James Ronald Whitney challenges religion in his new film!

One 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.

But director 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


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 Andy Culpepper.





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