Butler in March 2004
|Born||1943 (age 75–76)|
George Tyssen Butler is a British-American filmmaker and photographer, and a pioneer of the theatrical documentary. Some of his most popular films include Pumping Iron, which introduced moviegoers to the then anonymous Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Endurance film trilogy, retelling Sir Ernest Shackleton’s saga of Antarctic survival, and Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, about his friend John Kerry’s leadership in the peace movement. Butler’s films are known for their combination of high artistic, educational and entertainment values, as he believes well-crafted documentaries can hold their own against dramatic features. In addition to his feature-length documentary classics, Butler has also produced acclaimed IMAX® features, such as the award-winning Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure and Roving Mars.
Born in England in 1943, Butler grew up in Somalia, Kenya, and Jamaica. He was educated at De Carteret College in Jamaica, Groton School, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
His father is a British Army officer, who grew up in the 'most romantic house in Ireland,’ Ballynatry, and received military training at Sandringham. Butler’s mother was a Boston Brahmin socialite. She traveled to Kenya to marry his father during WW II, and due to war secrecy she didn't know where exactly she would be meeting him (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 3, 1940).
Butler was born in Chester, then traveled to Kenya and Somalia with his father. There, he grew up with animals, such as the gazelle he thought was his sister, accompanied by Askari warriors. The family then moved to Jamaica, where among other things his father worked to support Jamaican veterans of the Second World War. Butler came to Groton from Jamaica with an English accent, dark tan and exotic ways at odds with the staid conservatism of that school.
After earning an M.A. in Creative Writing from Hollins College in Virginia, Butler worked as a reporter for Newsweek. Objecting to the Vietnam War, he joined VISTA (the domestic Peace Corps) as a volunteer, working in the inner city of Detroit’s North End, where he established a successful community newspaper, The Oakland Lion. The author of a number of books, Butler collaborated with David Thorne and former Secretary of State John Kerry on The New Soldier (1971), a highly praised book about the Vietnam Veterans Against War.
In 1972, a photo assignment for Life magazine to cover the Mr. Universe Championship inspired Butler to make a theatrical documentary on the subject of body-building; this proved to be a challenging undertaking, as he had difficulty convincing potential investors that bodybuilders and their Austrian-accented star performer could hold the screen. The eventual movie Pumping Iron launched Arnold Schwarzenegger, put bodybuilding and the gym business on the map, and became a film classic. With Pumping Iron, George Butler established White Mountain Films, named for the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he makes his home.
White Mountain Films has gone on to create some of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed documentaries made. Butler’s films have screened at festivals such as Sundance, Telluride, Toronto, Leningrad and Full Frame, and won honors ranging from National Board of Review Best Documentary of the Year (2001, The Endurance), IDA Best Documentary finalist (1990, In the Blood), the Whitney Biennial (2006, Going Upriver), to National Academy of Science Best Science Film of the Year (2008, Roving Mars).
Butler’s photographs have appeared in many major publications including TIME, Smithsonian, Vogue, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair and The New York Times. His work has been showcased in a one-man show at the International Center of Photography in New York, and exhibited in the Detroit collection, among other galleries around the country. Additionally, Butler is known for his life-size portraits of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A lifelong conservationist (The Lord God Bird, In the Blood), Butler is working on a two-film project—a feature documentary and an IMAX film—about the imperiled tiger. Both films follow world-renowned big cat biologist Dr. Alan Rabinowitz as he travels deep into the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, searching for its legendary royal Bengal tigers—one of the world’s largest remaining tiger populations, and last hopes for the species’ survival. The IMAX film is scheduled for release in early 2020.
Reportedly, White Mountain Films is also developing a medical thriller probing the mystery of how “shell shock” affects the brains of soldiers and veterans. The project is based on author Caroline Alexander’s National Geographic cover story.
- Pumping Iron (1977)
- Pumping Iron II: The Women (1985)
- In the Blood (1989)
- The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (2000)
- Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (2001)
- Going Upriver (2004)
- Roving Mars (2006)
- The Lord God Bird (2008)
- The Good Fight (2010)
- Tiger, Tiger (2015)
- Tiger, Tiger: The IMAX Experience
- Robinson, Joanna. "Pumping Iron: Rarely Seen Photos and Stories of the Film That Built Arnold Schwarzenegger". HWD. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "NOVA | NOVA Giant Screen Films| PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "Giant Screen Cinema Association > Films > Film Database > FilmDatabaseDetailView". www.giantscreencinema.com. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- Finn, Robin (2003-12-05). "PUBLIC LIVES; Filmmaker Who Gravitates Toward Rising Stars". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "George Butler". Hollins. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- Whitworth, Melissa (2004-05-23). "Film-makers on film: George Butler". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "12 Solid Facts About Pumping Iron". mentalfloss.com. 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "'Generation Iron' movie review". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- Hansen, John. "The 40th Anniversary of "Pumping Iron"". Body Building Legends. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "Whitney Biennial 2006 :: Day for Night". www.whitney.org. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "Schwarzenegger: Photographs by George Butler". International Center of Photography. 2016-02-23. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- Scott, A. O. (2001-10-19). "FILM REVIEW; Virtue Defeated Adversity Across a Frozen Wasteland". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "The Lord God Bird: The Enduring Quest for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker | Big Sky Documentary Film Festival". www.bigskyfilmfest.org. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "The Good Fight". Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- Tiger, Tiger Film
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