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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Brigham City, Utah, USA
Died in Provo, Utah, USA  (bone cancer)
Birth NameScott Merrill Whitaker

Mini Bio (1)

Scott Whitaker's contributions to filmmaking were mainly as a story man and script writer, but he also directed some short films in a 22 year tenure with the film studio at Brigham Young University that he helped to establish. His education included English classes at George Washington University and cinema writing courses at the University of Southern California. In the early part of his career he worked as a special effects animator at RKO and as a story artist and writer at Walt Disney Studios.

In 1946 three senior Mormon leaders (Harold B. Lee, Mark E. Peterson, and Mathew Cowley) were taken on a tour of The Walt Disney Studio by Scott's brother, Judge Whitaker, a Disney animator and fellow employee. Viewing morale-building training films made at the studio during the war sparked a discussion about producing church films in a similar fashion. Judge proposed that he and other Mormons in the film industry make a film in their spare time. Two years later this resulted in two films about the LDS welfare program, "Welfare in Action" and "The Lord's Way." Eric Larson directed the first, Judge the second, Scott did some live action direction in The Lord's Way, with Judge and Scott creating the animation sequences. The success of these films would ultimately alter the lives and careers of both brothers.

As children Scott and Judge visited the Schneitter Hot Pots (natural hot springs in the Heber Valley, Utah). Finding it for sale in 1951, four Whitaker brothers acquired the property as a family business and started to create "The Homestead" as a year-round resort. Judge asked for a leave of absence from Disney to help remodel the property. Now relatively close to BYU, Judge became involved with establishing a studio at the university, officially heading the new Department of Motion Picture Production starting in January, 1953. The following year Scott joined as well, splitting his time for a few years by working winters for the studio and summers at the family resort before devoting his time completely at BYU.

Casting was difficult for an early film about a man gone astray until faithful Mormons help lead him back into church activity, and Judge finally asked Scott to play the lead. With the strict ban against smoking among members of the LDS Church, Scott had to overcome his wife's concern that his smoking in the picture would raise eyebrows, especially since he had been a member of a Mormon bishopric. Ultimately Scott's performance in "Come Back, My Son" elicited tears when the film was shown in The Tabernacle in Salt Lake City during the General Conference of October, 1954.

Scott did considerable background research for the historical film Windows of Heaven (1963), finding enough material for a full length feature in the course of writing a shooting script. Ultimately the budget limited it to 50 mins. In 1963 Scott developed a story concerning the negative effects of alcohol within communities of the Navajo people by living briefly among them on the reservation in New Mexico and sleeping in a Hogan. He went on to direct his Bitter Wind (1963) script on location in New Mexico and Arizona. As a director Scott would often look for opportunities to improve upon his scripts. He suggested that he and Robert W. Stum "take our sleeping bags and sleep with the sheep" to get the best possible shot of a flock far away from their hotel, which would only be possible at sunrise.

As Supervising Story Editor for the BYU studio he had the opportunity to mentor young writers such as Carol Lynn Pearson and Claire Whitaker (Judge and Scott's niece), both would have long and successful writing careers following their contributions to BYU short films.

Enjoying location work also made Scott a world traveler, and he directed two film projects he had long advocated in widely separated parts of the globe. He climbed over many archeological sites in Central & South America to film Ancient America Speaks (1974) and arranged to film Where Jesus Walked (1978) in Israel during March to maximize the presence of green grass and flowers. Due to the timing of the production, Scott was able to accept the invitation to give the key Easter sermon upon the Mount of Olives to the local Mormon community in Jerusalem. In the address he expressed gratitude for his family and co-workers, perhaps knowing that his work was almost through. Having been plagued by a persistent backache during the entire trip, and with the film almost complete, he returned to Utah where he was diagnosed with bone cancer that had spread to his liver. He quietly died six weeks later, and this, his final film, carried a formal dedication to him. He was buried in the Midway City Cemetery.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Brian Greenhalgh

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