Before Whitney Sudler-Smith found himself in the midst of some major drama on Southern Charm, he was creating some of the fictional variety for film and TV. But Whitney had some unlikely inspiration to become a filmmaker many years ago. "I had been studying French literature at the time in Paris, and had an ill-informed revelation that I should combine my love of writing with film," he explained to The Daily Dish via email. "I ended up in L.A. taking screenwriting classes, luckily got an agent, and found work re-writing bad action scripts. Die Hard was a great teacher."
Whitney got his start directing the short films Going for Baroque and Afternoon Delight before spearheading "the redneck buddy comedy" Bubba and Ike, which made its way to the Austin Film Festival, according to his show bio. He also created the TV pilot Torture TV, which starred Danny Huston, who the Charmer is still friends with today.
But Whitney's best-known work came in 2010 with the release of Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston, a documentary about the eponymous fashion designer. "I was always fascinated by New York City in the late '70s, this incredible time in American history dominated by fashion, music and art — and pure crime and decadence," Whitney told The Daily Dish about his inspiration for the film. "Other than Warhol, nobody embodied that time more than Halston at Studio 54."
If you check out Ultrasuede, you'll notice that it's not your average style doc. "Most fashion documentaries take themselves way too seriously, so I wanted to do something unconventional and surreal — and slightly Borat," Whitney explained. "I play this bumbling interviewer who decides to do a documentary about this hallowed, iconic fashion designer, of whom he has little idea about."
The film premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival in New York before having a limited distribution internationally. It was also featured on Showtime for three years. "I think the results were slightly mixed, but overall I think it's a fun, solid film," Whitney looked back on the movie. "For a wacky, Monty Python-esque documentary, it got more attention than I ever could've dreamed of. And I think I honestly — and accurately, captured Halston's amazing story."
Whitney at a screening of Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston at The Curzon Mayfair in London on September 24, 2011.
These days, we're used to seeing Whitney in front of the camera, but he still has some more new film and TV projects in the works. Whitney is currently working on an anti-poaching documentary that follows a 100-strong army as it wards off poachers of endangered black rhinoceroses on his friend's 70,000-acre ranch just outside of Nairobi, Kenya. "It's my purpose to bring some exposure to this heartbreaking struggle," Whitney said.
He's also working on a scripted film about Keith Moon, the late drummer of The Who, and his "lost weekend" with English actor Oliver Reed. "This has been my labor of love and one I am very much looking forward to direct," Whitney gushed.
The Charmer also has two unscripted TV "ensemble cast shows in various stages of development with networks," he described. He's even discussed working on a film treatment about the well-known occultist Aleister Crowley with his famous friend Marilyn Manson.
Whitney certainly has his plate full — but lucky for us, he still makes time to hang out with the Southern Charm gang. Catch them on the next episode, Mondays at 9/8c.