For our second Big Tell Filmmaker Profile, we introduce Haley White, a local filmmaker working with Amy Querin of The FresNO Dance COllective!

Corcoran native Haley White is a Valley girl, born and raised. After spending many years living and working in Southern California, Haley moved to Fresno around 2011. From having her family close by in the South Valley, to the close proximity to the coast and mountains, it didn’t take Haley long to fall in love with her new city. In particular, Haley is a huge fan of Fresno’s thriving arts community, especially in the Tower District where she resides.

“I love being able to drive up to see a play at Playhouse Merced, then drive to Cellar Door in Visalia to see a concert. Thrift shopping in Exeter. Ice cream in Hanford. I love that each little town in the Valley has its own character and charm.” – Filmmaker Haley White (Photo Credit: Windsong Productions)

Haley’s background and first love is in theater and stage work, but landing work in film and television early in her career found her behind a camera. She began by creating content for educational videos and planetarium shows, where she learned how to operate a camera and how to edit videos with software like Final Cut. Haley’s work landed her a position at the local production company Windsong Productions, where she serves as a producer and casting director. There, she’s able to combine her background in theater with her expertise in film to produce original works. Haley’s first short was completed in 2013 with an all-female crew of 3; her most recent project had a cast of 35 people and a crew of over a dozen. “It’s been really awesome to go from having to beg for help to being at a point where people approach me and [ask] to be involved [in] my projects,” Haley said.

Haley draws inspiration from many sources. Her work is heavily influenced by her friends and colleagues, as well as big-name directors and creators such as Wes Anderson, Ang Lee, Edgar Wright, and the Coen Brothers. She enjoys learning from others and will re-watch films – even if she didn’t care for them – in order to study details such as the cinematography, set design, and editing. “I’m a big advocate for learning from others and learning from your own mistakes and imperfections as well,” Haley remarked.

The more projects Haley worked on, the more she came to realize that film was just as much fun—and just as cathartic—as being onstage. It doesn’t seem chance, then, that she has come to be working on a film about the healing power of dance for The Big Tell. Haley’s involvement in The Big Tell stems from a meeting five and a half years ago at a Rogue Festival in Fresno. Haley was introduced to Amy Querin, a local dance artist and one of the “People to Know” in the local arts community. As Haley puts it: “[Amy] was making things happen. Impressive, creative, frequent things.”

Amy founded the FresNO Dance COllective (NOCO) in 2010, a nonprofit organization working to expand the culture of dance through performance, education, and outreach in the Fresno community and beyond. NOCO was established not just out of Amy’s love of dance, but also as a way to work through the grief of tragically losing her husband to cancer. In the midst of such horrible loss, she channeled her grief through a creative outlet that is both emotional and physical. Through the power of dance, she was able to heal her own emotional wounds and now works to help others do the same.

In addition to classrooms, after-school programs, and dance studios, Amy’s outreach includes the prison system through the Prison Arts Project. At the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, Amy works with female prisoners to teach them the art of dance. It’s this outreach that Haley and Amy’s film for The Big Tell revolves around. “[When I met Amy] I knew she was involved in teaching the prisoners at the women’s prison in Chowchilla,” Haley began, “[I was] certain I supported the work she was doing there before I even talked to her about it in specific detail. The more I’ve learned about her work there, and the prisoners themselves, the more I realized it presented the perfect opportunity to tie together all of her work with a common theme[.] Amy started NOCO as a way of moving past her own grief [and now] teaches other people to move past their grief by doing the same thing. I think that’s pretty beautiful, and worth being shared.”

Haley hopes that the film’s audience will gain awareness of the work Amy is doing, as well as an understanding of how powerful a tool dance can be. “I want people to see how, despite the personal tragedies she’s endured, she still remains ‘cheerfully ambitious’ and the art she shares with the world has that same energy,” said Haley. “I want people to see that art can be a great conduit for healing and processing grief.”

The Central Valley Community Foundation, in partnership with CMAC, wishes to congratulate Haley White, Amy Querin, and The FresNO Dance Collective for being chosen as winners for The Big Tell, presented by Bank of America. Make sure to mark your calendars for The Big Tell Showcase on October 20, 2017 and come out and support these local creators!