In a recent interview with The New York Times, Greg Whiteley, the acclaimed director of docuseries such as “Last Chance U” and “Cheer,” spoke about his latest project, “Wrestlers.” Whiteley shared insights into his background and how his past experiences shaped his approach to filmmaking.
Born in Provo, Utah, and raised in Bellevue, Washington, Whiteley embarked on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Mexico after completing his education. As part of his mission, he went door to door, sharing a message about Jesus Christ. Little did he know at the time that this experience would prove invaluable in his future career as a documentary filmmaker.
During his mission, Whiteley observed how people would open up and share their vulnerabilities within minutes of meeting him at their doorsteps. This taught him the importance of building trust and establishing a connection with his subjects—a skill that would later define his approach to storytelling.
Whiteley emphasized that his goal in the documentary series “Wrestlers” was not to create sensationalistic reality TV but to delve into the authentic lives of his subjects. Rather than relying on quick soundbites or prying into their personal struggles, he spent countless hours with the wrestlers, delving deep into their stories and experiences. This commitment to capturing the truth led to a rich irony: a genuine portrayal of a world often dismissed as being staged or false.
Greg Whiteley’s journey from missionary to documentary filmmaker exemplifies the power of personal experiences in shaping artistic vision. By drawing upon his mission’s lessons of empathy and trust-building, Whiteley brings a unique depth and authenticity to his work, capturing the raw essence of human stories.
– The New York Times (link to the full article)