A Los Angeles film director is returning to his Iowa alma mater this week to give students a dose of real life in Hollywood and to share a few nuggets of his successful 30-year career. Iowa Falls native John Whitesell has a host of TV and film credits to his name, including the movie “Deck the Halls” which is due in theaters nationwide on November 22nd. Whitesell graduated from Simpson College in 1976 and is leading a question-and-answer forum on the Indianola campus on Friday.
The 52-year-old Whitesell says “What I’m really trying to do is give them some practical experience about what really goes on in the film and theater world and to try to bring the realities of one, how to market yourself, two, how to protect yourself, and three, how to figure out how to pursue your dreams.”
After graduating from Simpson three decades ago, Whitesell says he set out to achieve his goals. Whitesell says he went to New York as an actor-director and got into the soap opera world as it was the only TV going on there at the time. He found it a fertile training ground and learned a lot through work on soaps like “Another World” and “Guiding Light.” He later moved to L.A. to pursue nighttime episodic work, primetime work and features.
Whitesell says nothing came easy and his victories followed a lot of failures. Whitesell says “The most important part of it is tenacity and willing to pay the prices that come your way and not giving up. There are more talented people than me out there that didn’t have as much success. You have to learn how to deal with all the setbacks and rejections and find a way to fight through it because it’s what you care about doing.”
Whitesell says growing up in Iowa makes people uniquely qualified to succeed anywhere else on the planet. “Paris, London, Los Angeles, New York, anywhere, because everybody’s the same and Iowa provides a really great backbone for people when they go into the other parts of the world. People (from Iowa) are very kind, they’re very conscientious of others, they’re trusting, they’re giving. These are qualities that are imbued basically in people that grow up in Iowa.” Whitesell’s directing credits include: “Law and Order,” “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” “Cosby,” “Big Mamma’s House 2,” and “Roseanne.” His public forum is Friday at 7:30 P.M. at Simpson. It’s free and open to anyone.