Best known for helming the hard-hitting drama BAD BOYS, which helped establish Sean Penn’s career, Rick Rosenthal is an award-winning veteran producer/director with a dynamic career spanning over 35 years in both film and television. He is also committed to helping launch new filmmakers, with a focus on mentoring young directors and supporting emerging filmmakers in the micro-budget world of independent filmmaking.
Rosenthal has directed across diverse genres, ranging from comedy (AMERICAN DREAMER), to coming of age (NEARING GRACE), to drama (the post-Vietnam PTSD film DISTANT THUNDER) to YA adventure (RUSSKIES) to horror (HALLOWEEN II – his directing debut – and HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION, one of the franchise’s most successful sequels). While the films seem to have little in common on the surface, Rosenthal says he finds himself most often interested in stories of redemption and in characters who are underdogs.
Working extensively in television as well, Rosenthal directed ABC’s ground-breaking pilot LIFE GOES ON, was nominated for a Directors Guild of Canada award for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and served as a Supervising Producer on Amazon’s Emmy-winning series TRANSPARENT for the first three seasons.
Active in the documentary space as well, Rosenthal has been nominated for 2 Academy Awards – for OPEN HEART and CARTEL LAND – and is an Executive Producer on WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR.
Believing there is a major opportunity for disruption in the production model for digital streaming content (in the same way that making films independently through private equity and debt disrupted the film industry in 1980s and 90s), Rosenthal produced and directed HALFWAY THERE, a half hour single camera pilot. Starring Matthew Lillard, Blythe Danner, Esai Morales and Sarah Shahi, the pilot premiered at Sundance in the Indie Episodic section and won both the Best Dramatic Pilot and the Audience Award at SeriesFest.
Because he never had a filmmaking mentor himself, Rosenthal launched Whitewater Films as a production company committed to helping up-and-coming filmmakers, offering them the assistance and advice he never had. Since 2003, he has produced or executive produced more than 30 films – and productions from Whitewater Films have been invited to Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, Tribeca, Berlin, Deauville and have won numerous major awards, including two Indie Spirit Awards, two Crystal Bears, a Humanitas Prize, the Audience Award at SXSW and a Best Director Award at Sundance as well as Academy Award nominations including CARTEL LAND for Best Feature Documentary and OPEN HEART, for Best Documentary, Short Subject.
The company’s name, Whitewater Films, is derived from Rosenthal’s approach to filmmaking. Much like an expedition down a river, a film rarely goes as planned. No matter how much scouting and how much preparation takes place beforehand, once a film enters the whitewater of production, inevitably the craft ends up in uncharted territory. At that very moment, it is in the company’s DNA to navigate those unforeseen rapids with great aptitude and aplomb so that each film project can achieve the upper limits of what is possible.
Graduating cum laude from Harvard with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies, Rosenthal worked as a cab driver, a tennis pro, a metal sculptor, a carpenter, an assistant to a US Senator and a documentary filmmaker for the New Hampshire Network before traveling west to attend the American Film Institute, where he later became chair of the Directing Program. He has also taught at USC and the Maine Workshops, as well as being on the Advisory Board of Capilano University.
An avid tennis player, Rosenthal won the Connecticut State Doubles title as a junior and taught tennis in Monte Carlo when he was 19, with wins over the #2 and #3 players on the Monaco Davis Cup Team.
Rosenthal currently resides in Los Angeles with his actress-turned-environmental-and-political activist wife Nancy Stephens and three kids, along with a Golden Retriever rescue named Magill.