Alumni Spotlight: Trevor White ’07 Produces Hollywood Blockbuster King Richard

Undergrad Barron Brown ’22 interviews former Sage Trevor White ’07 after the release of his major film, starring Will Smith.

Congrats on your latest movie, King Richard. Could you tell the brothers of Sigma Pi a little bit about how you went from being an undergrad, just like everyone else, to being a successful film director and producer?

When I was in school, I always knew I wanted to get into the film business. So for me, I moved to LA right away. I graduated in 2007 and came out to LA, and my brother Tim was already here. We had talked for years at this point about starting the company together, and the truth is, we didn’t really know what we were doing; like anything, you just learn as you go.

But, we learned about the business, and we learned about how certain kind of movies come together, and at that time, we were just really hungry to tell good stories. Like anything, I think, when you start, its about building momentum. Making your first film helps to get your second one made, and having two under your belt helps with your next, and so on. With each one, you learn the different ways you can package a film and put it together.

Fast forward ten years, and here we are. We have two movies coming out in November on back-to-back weekends around the holidays, and both of these films are in a lot of ways the culmination of all the work we’ve done up to this point. The thing I can say, especially for any of the guys who are looking to get into this business, is don’t be don’t be afraid of failure, especially in the early part of your career. Often times, those failures provide lessons that are more impactful than anything else.

What advice do you wish you were given before you started your career as a creative and especially a producer.

I was always told to follow my passion. As a filmmaker, it’s an incredibly important lesson. When you’re creative, it’s very easy to be told, “That type of story won’t work, and this idea already exists in the world, and that’s going to be impossible to get made.”

I think ultimately, when you start trying to write something or to develop something into a box, it’s when that idea loses all of its creative momentum. So, the best advice I can give is, if you want to write, write stuff that actually interests you, not because you think it’s what’s going to sell. Sometimes being naive about the business is the best asset you have as someone starting out in it.

How has Sigma Pi helped you in your work, and where have you seen its effects come into play?

I think about it often. I think my experience at Sigma Pi was super instrumental in creating a foundation for me as a business owner. I chose to have various leadership roles in the fraternity, from rush chair to alumni secretary to president. I think a lot of the qualities that have helped me run a movie set and run a business came from my time in Sigma Pi. The truth is, it’s very hard to get leadership opportunities like that when you’re 20 years old. They taught me about organization and time management and all that stuff that trickles into what I do now.

Trevor and Tim White with Reinaldo Marcus Green
on the set of King Richard.

Where did the concept come about to make a movie about the story of Venus and Serena?

This actually came from my brother, maybe seven or eight years ago. Tim was a competitive tennis player and was aware of Richard’s larger-than-life personality from an early age. Years later, Tim said we should look into doing a movie about Richard Williams.

This is a man who came from nothing and had never picked up a tennis racket in his life. He had a vision for these girls that seemed crazy, but everything he envisioned ultimately came true. We were excited by the idea of telling one of the greatest coaching stories in sports history. Beyond that, Richard and Oracene not only made them great champions, but he made them even better people. It’s about their perseverance, about their determination. It’s about their love. And, I think all those things excited us. Telling the story of these women and their amazing family through a lens that very few people are actually aware of.

What’s it like being so heavily involved with your brother, especially from the very beginning. You think that’s a huge factor to why you guys are both where you are: because you guys had each other?

Neither of us would be where we are today without each other. Having that built-in trust is everything. It can be challenging at times, because we really keep each other in check. And, it’s important to have a partner with whom there is a freedom to take chances.

How does it feel to be at a point where you’re working with Will Smith?

We’ve been fortunate to work with many great actors over the course of the last nine years. But working with Will has been a dream. He’s everything you hope he would be and much much more. When you’re in the process of making a film, it can be hard to step back from it and appreciate all the steps it took to get to this point. Now that the film is out in the world and getting the responses it has been getting, it certainly feels incredibly rewarding. We poured ourselves into making the film and had to overcome many challenges, including getting shutdown due to COVID three weeks into a three-month shoot. So, we certainly feel lucky being where we are today.

I got some rapid fire questions:

  • Favorite movie you’ve made: Impossible to name a favorite, but it certainly feels like King Richard is my proudest.
  • Favorite actor/actress you’ve worked with: I definitely can’t answer this one!
  • Favorite non-Trevor White movie: The Godfather or LA Confidential.
  • Guilty pleasure movie or TV show: I love Ted Lasso, but Succession is my favorite show on TV right now.
  • What are some things about movies or TV that only a film producer would notice and other people just kind of wouldn’t catch or see?: I can always see the “movie magic.” So, I can tell when something wasn’t shot on location but was shot against a green screen. If a movie is great, knowing that there was a visual effect involved never bothers me.

What are your goals in the future, people who you want to work with, or stuff like that?

The main goal will always be to continue to make content that we are passionate about. We want to make things across all different kinds of genres and really stretch ourselves to take big swings. As you can tell from the kinds of films we’ve already made, we have a wide scope in the kinds of stories that interest us. Ingrid Goes West is certainly a different kind of story from King Richard or The Post. In fact, we have another movie out on HBO Max right now called 8-Bit Christmas. We love this movie so much. It’s a film for the entire family and just has a ton of laughs and heart. Other than that, we’ve got a few projects we start production on at the top of the new year, and we’re also beginning to dive into television as well. But again, the main goal is to find stories and characters that excite us and to find ways to shape those into films!



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