For nearly four decades, White Mountain Films has covered the globe, working in often remote locations that reach from the plains of Africa to the Antarctic, to present the stories of subjects that range from bodybuilders, to Mars robots, to the Vietnam War.
A pioneer of the theatrical documentary, George Butler, President and creative director of White Mountain Films, believes that true, unscripted stories (written, filmed, edited, and scored with the highest production values) can hold their own aesthetically and dramatically in conventional movie theaters. Honed by Butler's vision, the company's films have been outstandingly well-received for their rare combination of artistic, educational and entertainment value.
Today, as WMF journeys to India, the Congo, and the Florida State gridiron, the company's mission remains as George established it in 1973: to bring unseen worlds into view.
Butler was born in Chester, England in 1943. He was raised in Wales, Somalia, Kenya, and Jamaica. He was educated at Groton, University of North Carolina, and received an M.A. in Creative Writing from Hollins College in Virginia. In 1968, while working as a reporter for Newsweek, he was drafted. Objecting to the war in Vietnam, he joined VISTA (the domestic Peace Corps) and was sent to the inner city of Detroit where he founded a successful community newspaper, The Oakland Lion.
Continuing his activities in the peace movement, in 1971 Butler co-edited, (with David Thorne and US Senator John Kerry) The New Soldier, a highly praised book about the Vietnam Veterans Against War.
In 1972, a photo assignment for Life magazine to cover the Mr. Universe Contest in Baghdad led to the publication of Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding (Simon and Schuster, 1974), a book that proved to be an unlikely bestseller, eventually running through over 15 printings. Butler felt the main character in his book could be a movie star. After an incredibly difficult saga, a movie called Pumping Iron launched Arnold Schwarzenegger, put bodybuilding and the gym business on the map and became a classic film.
In 1985, Butler produced and directed Pumping Iron II: The Women. The film, according to Gloria Steinem, redefined the boundaries of femininity.
In 1990, Butler released In the Blood. This film took the controversial position that hunting is an important part of game conservation and that the countries in Africa with the best hunting programs have the most game. The film was shot on location in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. It played at Sundance, Leningrad, Denver, Toronto and many other film festivals. It was also a finalist in the IDA award as one of the ten best documentaries of 1990.
Between films, Butler has published a number of books and his photographs have appeared in most of the major magazines of the world, a one-man show at the International Center of Photography in New York and other galleries around the country.
In 2000, Butler completed a trilogy of films based on Caroline Alexander's bestselling book, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. The trilogy included an IMAX®, a two-hour TV special and The Endurance, a 92-minute theatrical feature. The latter was selected for over 30 international film festivals and was one of the most commercially successful documentaries ever made.
Recently, Butler completed a feature documentary about longtime friend John Kerry and his experiences with the Vietnam War and Peace Movement. Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry premiered in 2004 at The Toronto Film Festival and was distributed by TH!NK Film. It has earned high praise across the country and is a selection for the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
Butler's latest film, Roving Mars, is an IMAX® that was produced by Frank Marshall and is now being distributed by Disney around the world. The New York Times called it "the best IMAX ever made." Future film projects on Butler's list are: The Lord God Bird (a film made in association with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy), The Good Fight (the Bobby Bowden story), Gorilla (an IMAX® in association with the World Wildlife Fund), and Tiger, Tiger (an IMAX® about Bengal Tigers).
Chris is an accomplished business executive and intrepid film producer. After receiving a BA (Hons) in International Business from Regent's Business School in London, Chris worked in sectors as diverse as land management, corporate law, energy, and film-finance. As Executive Coordinator of UK operations and European Investor Relations Manager for one of London's leading independent energy companies, Chris worked closely with the Executive Directors and investors globally. Following his latest film project, which focused on the children of the Kibarani slums in Mombasa, Kenya, Chris joined our team last year as the Executive and Co-Producer of Tiger, Tiger. He has since led our principal crew on a final film scout, deep into the Sundarbans jungle in May, in order to secure all necessary support and logistics to commence filming tigers on the India/Bangladesh border. His affection for travel and the natural world, and his talent for photography, short films, music, and international collaborations make him an ideal producer for WMF.
A widely published and highly acclaimed writer, Caroline's books include The New York Times bestsellers, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, and The Bounty. The curator of the major exhibition, "Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition," Alexander has written extensively on global travel and adventure in such publications as The New Yorker, Smithsonian, Outside and National Geographic Magazine, where she is a contributing writer. Alexander wrote the narrative for Butler's award-winning films The Endurance and the IMAX® Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure. A Rhodes Scholar, Alexander received her BA from Oxford University in Philosophy and Theology, and her Ph.D. in Classics from Columbia University, where she was also a Mellon Fellow. Her new book, The War That Killed Achilles, about war and Homer's Iliad, was published in October 2009. She is currently working on a new translation of Homer's The Iliad. Alexander's story "Tigerland," about travels in the Indian Sundarbans, was published in The New Yorker (April 21, 2008) and selected for an anthology of the best travel writing of 2008.
National Geographic recently sent Caroline Alexander to all of the major tiger sites in Asia. Her assessment of the state of the tiger in her National Geographic Magazine article, "A Cry for the Tiger," published in the December 2011 issue, has been nominated for an Overseas Press Club Award.
Lia has studied, worked with photographers, filmmakers and musicians in London, Paris, New York, Dakar, Malawi, and throughout India and South America. Schooled in Cambridge, Lia graduated from University College London with a BA in French and Art History. Her time working for photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher on producing their African Ceremonies project introduced Lia to the importance of documenting ancient cultures. Her interests took her all the way to Timbuktu and she revels working in wild locations. Lia's work with documentary film began with programming at the Frontline Club in London; she then worked across South India, producing an environmental media project on the need to preserve traditional agriculture with independent filmmaker, Jason Taylor: The Source Project. This experience and interest has culminated in working closely with George Butler over the last 18 months developing Tiger, Tiger, and with Chris to bring the extraordinary project into production.
Dominic, founder and chairman of Cosmic Picture, conceived, developed and produced the award-winning IMAX® film Journey to Mecca. Dominic has shot and produced documentary films for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Paramount Pictures, Turner Broadcasting, News Corporation, ZDF German Television, RAI Television and Oprah Winfrey. Dominic spent his twenties as a freelance photojournalist for Associated Press and Reuters, covering wars in Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda - where he was first in and received a world press nomination for his work - Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Afghanistan - and as a documentary filmmaker produced and hosted National Geographic's acclaimed Special Diamonds of War about the Blood Diamond trade and the award-winning The War Next Door about the drug war in Colombia. Dominic became passionate about large format film when he joined IMAX® director George Butler on an epic quest to retrace the incredible Antarctic journey of the great British Explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Cosmic Picture is currently producing Jerusalem, filmed in IMAX® 3D and Dominic is reuniting with George Butler to produce the IMAX® 3D film Tiger, Tiger.