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Whiteout: The making of a filmmaker

By Tom Durkin
Special to The Union

Growing up in Grass Valley, Spencer White, now 26, dreamed of making movies, and when he grew up, he did.

Now legally known as Spencer Whiteout, his first feature-length film, “Space Waves,” was released this summer.

Skateboarding is not a crime, but, “The police in Grass Valley and Auburn don’t like skateboarders,” Whiteout recalled with a wry smile.



Growing up as a student at Forest Lake Christian School, where his father still is a teacher, Whiteout remembers “good times and good friends.”

Although drugs, alcohol and delinquent behavior are often associated with the skateboarding culture, “Me and my friends were never a part of the ‘in crowd,’” he said.



“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, you’re a skateboarder, you must be a scumbag,’” Whiteout said. “Well, no, there are a lot of different kinds of skateboarders.”

Nevertheless, Whiteout (his skateboarding nickname) and his friends did spend a lot of time getting kicked out of places, leaving before the police got there. “We were pretty good sports about it because we didn’t want trouble.”

Many scenes in “Space Waves” were shot in and around Grass Valley. Spencer Whiteout — center, white shirt — directs a scene shot near a swimming hole on the Yuba River.
Submitted to The Union

He said most of the hostility came from property owners with attractive nuisances like stairs, railings and other “obstacles” that challenge skateboarders’ prowess. “’Don’t skate here! You’ll break your head and sue us,’” Whiteout laughed.

INJURED

Injuries, of course, are inevitable. In junior high, he broke both bones in his right forearm.

“That was terrible. It took forever to heal. My right arm is still weaker than my left arm,” he remembered with a wince.

“It really takes a toll on your body,” he admitted. “You don’t really realize it until it catches up with you.” His knees aren’t what they used to be.

“I don’t skate nearly as hard as I used to. Back in the day, I was trying to push my physical abilities to the top. Now, I just skate for fun,” he said.

FISHEYED

Early in his skateboarding career, Whiteout was captivated by “mind-blowing” films like “Fully Flared,” which not only had spectacular stunts but also pyrotechnic special effects.

Another influential film was “Pretty Sweet,” which featured comedy and girl skateboarders. “It was just guys” in his skateboarding crew.

In junior high school, Whiteout borrowed his mom’s little digital camera to shoot “terrible” videos. By high school, he had acquired a Canon T3i that would record high-definition video. “That was really a big deal,” he said.

“Then I got this sweet fisheye lens, because that’s what skateboarding is filmed with,” he said.

“My parents were very supportive, seeing that is a big passion of mine, and they wanted to help me out with that,” Whiteout said, adding, “My dad is definitely a hero and a mentor. He’s a really great guy.”

“We’re proud of him. He has a lot of drive and ambition,” his father Keith White said. “We feel blessed.”

Whiteout’s older sister Tiffany White Dawson recalled, “Spencer always made everyone laugh. He was a jokester.”

ORIENTED

After high school, Whiteout took a “gap year” before college. He found another hero and mentor in Shaun Hover, founder of the international Christian ministry called Calling All Skaters.

“Space Waves” writer-director Spencer Whiteout donned safety gear before climbing a microwave tower that is featured in the opening and closing scenes of the film.
Submitted to The Union

“He’s just a very loving and generous guy. He had a real vision for what he wanted Calling All Skaters to be, and that was inspiring because I’m that kind of leadership personality as well.”

After training with Hover, Whiteout and a half dozen other accomplished skateboarders went to China. “We would put on skateboarding demos,” he said. Crowds of people would gather to watch, because, “In China, it’s still a super new thing. That was really cool.”

Already an accomplished videographer and editor, Whiteout would record videos and add some Gospel.

They toured China for three months. “It was a really good time, definitely like a big test of endurance, but I made it through.”

RELEASED

In 2015, Whiteout went to Biola University near Los Angeles. A nondenominational Christian college, Biola is considered one of the best film schools in North America.

Three and a half years later, he graduated with a bachelor’s in cinema and media arts – and a narrative film still in post-production. Five years and only $50,000 later, “Space Waves” was released this summer.

The movie is available for rent or sale on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play and YouTube Movies. “You can go buy it or rent it on those platforms,” he said.

Perhaps surprisingly, the movie is not about skateboarding (although there is skateboarding). It’s a coming-of-age story about podcasting, a fading bromance, and a budding romance.

“I’ve got a long way to go,” Whiteout said. “I’m looking forward to the next film project. Hopefully, ‘Space Waves’ launches our careers and becomes a good stepping-stone for meeting new investors.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer in Nevada County. He may be contacted at tjdurkin3@gmail.com or http://www.tomdurkin-media.net

TWO-PART SERIES

In Part One of this two-part series, we learn what it takes to become a filmmaker. In Part Two, which will appear in Thursday’s edition of Prospector, we’ll look at what it takes to make a film.

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