Alumni Profile: Harold White- Kickin’ It Old School

Harold White

If you knew nothing else about Harold White, you’d have fair reason to assume that a man with his savvy and effortless knack for networking was a product of being raised in a big metropolis like LA or New York. The smoothness with which he handles business, the unflappablity in his demeanor, the ease in how he has pivoted – all of it intimates the finely-honed skill set of a seasoned city slicker that has carefully crafted a public face essential to surviving, if not thriving, in an environment long known for its callous indifference towards wide-eyed wearers of hearts on sleeves. But the fascinating curiosity and charm of White’s modus operandi is its old-fashioned, uncalculated authenticity – a genuine throwback to the approach of bygone eras.

Born in small-town Flint, Michigan, the 2013 Film program alum was just a college student on an entirely different career path, when by chance, he was invited by a Los Angeles Film School representative to visit the campus and tour its facilities. Residing in Nashville back then, White responded that he could not afford a plane ticket to California at the time, which naturally made it sound unlikely that any enrollment conversations would progress forward. So it was to the representative’s pleasant surprise when White reached out again months later and confirmed plans to visit LA during his college spring break. More astonishing, however, was the manner in how White earned enough money to finance the trip: by mowing as many lawns as he could get hired to cut. The unique nature of White’s endearingly yesteryear, blue-collar methods and determination represented a signature bellwether for White’s journey ahead.

A Life-Changing Decision

Despite no previous calling towards working in the entertainment industry, once White finished touring the school, his gut told him that something just felt right about enrolling at L.A. Film School. White was grateful that he discovered having an uncle who resided in LA-adjacent Perris, CA and offered him a spare room – a vast improvement over the previous three months where he lived in and out of his car.

Undeterred by either financial adversity or long commutes, White never once deviated from his personable, happy-to-be-here attitude. Somehow managing to juggle a part-time job at Costco with school and the long drives, White also dabbled in background acting on the side, as it provided him an opportunity to watch, learn, and mingle with professionals in the industry. It was during one of his background gigs that White’s sunny disposition and natural gregariousness helped him connect with that production’s cable wrangler, who offered White a chance to shadow and help him out on set. On brand with classic Hollywood foot-in-the-door stories of yore, White’s uncanny penchant for networking and can-do attitude quickly led to his invitation onto more production crews, including a promotion from set PA to 2nd AD on the non union Black sitcom “Grown Folks.” Additional PA and AD work on fellow comedy series “In the Cut” and “Black-ish” eventually helped White’s resume catch the attention of the production team on acclaimed HBO series “Westworld,” which brought White aboard to dayplay for a handful episodes in its inaugural season before extending him for the entire second season. 

In addition to the industry credibility earned by working on a project of such prestige, Westworld also helped give White some of his first professional validation as a storyteller. While on set one day, executive producer Jonathan Nolan randomly overheard a story idea that White had, and was so impressed, that he invited the L.A. Film School alum for further discussion within the series’ writer’s room. With the increased confidence as a creative, White was able to secure a position as assistant director on the Steven Soderbergh Netflix feature “The Laundromat,” and later was even asked by Ron Howard’s assistant to present a feature film treatment that he wrote back in school to Netflix and Howard for optioning – both opportunities afforded simply from White’s genial loquaciousness and anachronistic, aw-shucks charm. 

Beyond Westworld

Perhaps even more seminal, Westworld introduced White to creative partner and frequent collaborator, Alex Henderson, an independent horror director. White produced a Santa horror short shot by Henderson that was set to release during the 2019 holiday season and took it upon himself to help market its premiere on YouTube. True to his M.O., White eschewed staging publicity stunts or using modern digital promotion techniques in favor of a guerilla-marketing strategy so antiquated, it almost sounds satirical: he stood in front of a Costco and handed out flyers for the film, marketing the project to one person at a time. Incredibly, Henderson’s film became a YouTube sensation with nearly six million views as of today, not to mention the most ironic origin story of how it went viral. 

The Santa short’s resounding success attracted notice from a digital creative at Paramount, who saw what White was able accomplish online with just a shoestring budget. Paramount offered him a job to help run the studio’s fledgling Awesomenessafterdark TikTok channel, which at the time had only about 400K subscribers. Grateful for the opportunity, White assembled a team of collaborators, including producing partner and then-fiancé (now wife) Katelyn Chunn, to produce enough content for a “31 Days of Halloween” October programming stunt in only two days. Demonstrating that the viewership numbers for the Santa short were no fluke, White helped Awesomenessafterdark’s subscriber count rocket to over 700K from just that one month alone and claim celebrity followers including Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman. The channel’s growth prompted Paramount to commission White with the ultimate prize he’s been aiming for since he uprooted his life to Los Angeles – the opportunity to produce his own feature length film for the studio. 

Call him retro. Call him throwback. Call him old-school. Just don’t mistake White’s old-fashioned tendencies for being contemporarily inept. As he’s clearly showcased, White does not need to live and breathe social media like a Gen Zer to masterfully harness its potency like a genius influencer. Nor does he need to put on faces and schmooze like your typical operator to draw industry players into his orbit. No. White’s style and greatest strength has always been simply being himself; genuine and authentic, affable without an agenda, basic and classic. No need to add anything more. Because White’s style is the one that never goes out of style. 

Read more about our Distinguished Alumni