David A.R. White is the founding partner of Pure Flix Entertainment, the largest indie faith film studio in the world, best known for theatrical releases of God’s Not Dead ($2MM budget that grossed over $60MM at domestic box office), God’s Not Dead 2, Woodlawn and Do You Believe? He has a new book out Between Heaven & Hollywood that shares his often times hilarious journey of obstacles and successes from the wheat fields of a Kansas Mennonite Community (his first film was “Grease”) to becoming the most visible actor/producer of faith films in Hollywood. Home Business Magazine spoke with White about his faith and business journey, his advice for entrepreneurs pursuing a career in the “biz”, and his future business plans.
HBM: Please touch on your personal background. How has living a faith-driven life inspired your career path?
White: “I’m from a little town outside of Dodge City, Kansas. While growing up and working in a wheat field, I had a dream early on to go into the entertainment industry. There’s no doubt that it didn’t make a lot of sense, since I grew up Mennonite. I was very conservative, actually only seeing one movie in a theater the first 18 years of my life. For whatever reason that dream I had of going to Hollywood never went away… But when I got to LA at just 19 years of age, my faith was the foundation that gave me the confidence that I needed to believe that it would all work out and was a reason for the open and closed doors. Today, my faith is the center of my career – the decisions are thought out carefully and prayerfully and it is my faith that guides the direction of Pure Flix and our aspirations and goals.”
HBM: What is your story behind founding Pure Flix Entertainment?
White: “I’m a firm believer that in life we have many ups and downs. I was in LA for 6 months before I landed a reoccurring role for 3 years on Burt Reynold’s show “Evening Shade.” I did a lot of other shows during my early years in LA as well. But then I was fired by Burt in year 3 and my career appeared to be on a never-ending downward spiral. I find that it’s in times when we’re not doing the things we want to do, that we often think most about what we really want to be doing. But I never wavered from my faith and believing God could use me in the industry. This lead me into producing films and ultimately starting Pure Flix in 2005 with just 2 other buddies of mine, Michael Scott and Russell Wolfe. We didn’t really have the experience to start a studio, but that is part of the miracle and example that God can use anybody.”
HBM: Tell us about your new book Between Heaven & Hollywood.
White: “The book is about how you take that writing on your heart and turn it into the writing on the wall and how one can pursue their passion in a day-to-day world. I use examples and humor from my own life and share that with readers to help them understand that God can use anyone, that you are never too young or old to pursue your dreams, that there are lessons to learn when you are waiting on your dream to unfold and that every dream is significant and important.”
HBM: Should aspiring actors view themselves as a “brand” to sell in the market? Does an entrepreneurial outlook on the industry push people toward success?
White: “I think it can help to look at yourself as a brand because that will influence the career choices you and your reps make… especially when you are unsure of the direction of your career. Viewing yourself as a brand can limit the rejection one feels. Then you realize there are other factors involved and the rejection or waiting is not about you; there are other circumstances. I believe every person has unique talents and gifts. An actor should know their craft and business side to the industry. If you have an entrepreneurial outlook, then often you can expand your choices of what you can accomplish and ultimately do, like producing, directing, writing, or casting.”
HBM: How should aspiring actors, writers, producers, directors, etc. pursue the Hollywood dream and persevere?
White: “My first day in LA, I ran into Leslie Nielson at a bank. I asked him what was the secret of his success and he said, “Perseverance, kid. Don’t ever give up.” It’s pretty simple, but also very profound. In the book we talk about that every hardship you endure and every failure you withstand, they could very well be the stepping stone to success and the realization of your God-given dream.”
HBM: How can entrepreneurs maintain longevity in the biz?
White: “You have to be aware of the changes in the industry including trends and audiences and interests. This is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry and you want to keep growing and changing with the times. We have seen that actors who have been in the industry a long time have to adapt to the new trends, including the importance of social media as a way of connecting with their audience. Also we see other options for entertainment including subscription-based channels, streaming, and on-demand. Even Pure Flix had to adapt to those options as we now have become one of the top companies offering inspirational/faith content for on-demand and streaming through Pureflix.com. When my acting career was a little slow, if I hadn’t taken that step and tried producing, I wouldn’t have become the founding partner of one of the largest faith studios in the world.”
HBM: What should entrepreneurs do to expand their reach?
White: “Social media is so important today, in all areas of business. Even if you don’t have a large following, jump into that and try different avenues to expand your reach. I think it’s one of the most important ways to market today. Create more awareness online, social media posts and ads, videos too so that audiences can connect with you and get to know you….you also want to make sure your business is updated and you have a team assisting and are paying them fairly.”
HBM: What are some home businesses to maintain while pursuing a career in the entertainment industry?
White: “There are so many of them. I normally try to encourage people to try to do something in the field they really enjoy. That way, after a year or several years, they won’t be bitter that they have no passion for it. Most people have home businesses that include producing, casting, publicity, marketing and social media… you have to be organized and know what you need to best do your job and be prepared to respond quickly through phone or computer… but you also have to establish boundaries so you are not consumed with work 24/7 or that can impact your personal and family life.”
HBM: How do you balance work and home life?
White: “It’s a bit challenging with three young kids and a wife with the long hours that it takes to accomplish all that we’re working on. But think about what’s really important to you and then go in order of importance. I really enjoy what I do, but my family comes before that on my list of what’s important. So in the mornings, I enjoy time with my kids, and I take my kids to school. That means that my meetings have to just move backward a bit. But that’s a priority. Same with traveling. I don’t like to miss my kids’ games or events, so I really try not to. It’s not always that simple, but I do my best to keep that order of importance. I also make sure when I am traveling that I stay in close touch with my wife and children so they never feel like I am gone too long.”
HBM: What are your future business plans?
White: “The big thing we’re doing now is the expansion of our platform pureflix.com, which is the faith/family version of Netflix. It’s been great growth in the last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing how large it’s footprint can grow to and the impact it will have on lives all over the world. We also have a few new films coming out in 2017 that will be nationally released theatrically.”
HBM: Where do you see yourself in five years?
White: “I’m hoping that pureflix.com is a more robust studio and that it has 20 original series a year. That my faith continues to grow and that I am example to others that you can be a person of faith but still be kind, caring and compassionate. That my wife and family are thankful for our abundant blessings and that my children are learning to pursue their God-given dreams as I did… I also pray that people continue being encouraged all over the world with our films that are available in every form of media.”