The cinematographer’s credits include Thank You for Smoking; Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck; and Perpetual Grace, LTD.
James Whitaker, ASC grew up in the Midwest, where he shot Super 8 short films with his friends as a childhood pastime. But it was a chance meeting with filmmaker John Hughes, the cinematographer says, that sparked his attraction to cinematography. His hobby with friends soon became a “full-time passion studying still photography and film production.”
He attended Denison University in Ohio and studied at the Maine Media Workshops before relocating to Los Angeles, where he worked as a film loader and still photographer, working his way up the ranks of the camera department.
Whitaker began his career as director of photography shooting commercials, and he has since shot hundreds of spots for clients including Nike, Google, Mercedes-Benz, Amazon, Sony and AT&T, among many others. He has also photographed a number of music videos for artists including Jay-Z, Radiohead, Black Eyed Peas, Aphex Twin, The Crystal Method and Carlos Santana. For his work on a Télépopmusik music video, Whitaker was honored with a D&AD Pencil award in cinematography.
He segued into photographing features with the indie hit The Cooler, which earned him a Best Cinematography nomination at the Sundance Film Festival. He followed with the short film Everything in This Country Must, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, and the segment “Jonathan” — directed by Jordan and Ridley Scott — in All the Invisible Children, produced by UNICEF.
Since then, Whitaker has photographed the features Thank You for Smoking, Running Scared, King of California and Crossing Over, among others; pilots for Breakout Kings and Hostage; and both seasons of the Amazon Prime original series Patriot.
For his work on the HBO documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Whitaker was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming. His work on the EPIX series Perpetual Grace, LTD earned him a Camerimage nomination for First Look — TV Pilots.
His recent credits include the feature Troop Zero.