Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gracie Otto's Michael White film 'Chalky' by Thom Kerr

We have never seen a project more worthy of crowdfunding than ChalkyGracie Otto's film about legendary British producer Michael White,  and we don't say that lightly. Here, Black's Australian Editor Thom Kerr profiles the project and interviews Gracie, exclusively for Blacklog. We have one only word: Donate.

Michael now


Australian filmmaker Gracie Otto has been globe trotting for the last two years collecting interviews to piece together the life story of Michael White - a notorious British impresario and film producer. Although well known in private theatre and art circles, his incredible legacy has largely remained anonymous to the general public. After a chance encounter, Gracie Otto became fascinated by Michael and set on a personal quest to make sure his accomplishments would be shared with a world wide audience via her documentary 'CHALKY'. And now Gracie needs your help to bring this fascinating story to the big screen! Interview follows...all images stills from the trailer

Michael with Kate

Thom Kerr: How did you first discover Michael White?

Gracie Otto: I had just arrived at the Cannes Film Festival for meetings and was lucky to score an invitation to the opening night party. I kept noticing all these big name celebrities gravitating to this elegant old man with a walking stick sitting in the middle of the room. I offered to get him a drink and he asked for my number which I thought was hilarious! And the next night he invited me to a dinner with his friends – who turned out to be Mick Jagger, Johnny Depp, Naomi Watts, Naomi Campbell, etc etc. I was gobsmacked! Who was this man who knew everyone and who everybody seemed to love hanging out with???

Mick and Jade

What attracted you to his story?

I discovered that he had been a very famous impresario – he produced 100s of shows including Rocky Horror and Monty Python and A Chorus Line – but there wasn’t a lot on Google about Michael because so much of his illustrious career had been before the internet! Greta Scacchi, a family friend, lent me his autobiography Empty Seats written in the early 80s. But what intrigued me more than his great career was just Michael himself – the strength of his personality and the fact that at 75, despite impaired health and bankruptcy, he still lives an incredible life – attending every opening night, party, festival or Royal Ascot race meetings with his close celebrity friends. People say he has the best little black book in the world. I always say Michael was Facebook before Facebook.

Michael interview '68

What do you hope to accomplish by sharing it?

Michael’s story is totally inspirational. I want my generation to know about this incredible man who was Zelig-like in always being at the cutting edge of cultural change – in theatre, film and dance. In the 60s he produced the “happenings” and Yoko Ono’s first show when she met John Lennon; he was instrumental in the early careers of almost all the great British comedians from John Cleese to Spike Milligan to The Comic Strip; he first brought the Pina Bausch company to London; he presented Barry Humphries first Housewife Superstar show in the West End and Broadway; he produced the first production and film of Rocky Horror which still has a cult following! He was always prepared to take risks when someone came to him with a new idea - and he practically invented the celebrity party! I want to honour Michael’s legacy in his lifetime – and I want audiences to be inspired by his incredible life.

Michelle and Heath

How did making this film effect the way you looked at your own life?

I have learnt so much from Michael – his philosophy on life is completely optimistic. He has so much energy and he devotes himself to making the most of every day – in work and play. Michael was very generous not only with funding projects – but also with introducing people who he thought would benefit from meeting each other which is something that I love to do too.

John & Yoko

How will you celebrate once the film is fully funded?

I won’t have time to celebrate! I will be working day and night on finishing the film – editing and procuring the archive footage and music that will enable this film to do justice to his extraordinary life. I will truly celebrate when we finish the film and screen it at a major festival – hopefully Cannes which Michael has attended for 45 years! It could be Chalky’s greatest party yet! And you will be invited if you pledge your support to help finish this incredible film.

Michael today

Please help me to finish Chalky! Every dollar will help to bring this story to an international audience! Donate at