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Migration Writer Mike White's Storied Career Explained

The White Lotus and School of Rock writer penned the latest film from Illumination, Migration.

By Shameika Rhymes

‘Tis the season for feel-good animated movies. This holiday season is no different, as some family ducks are looking for warmer weather. Opening in theaters everywhere this December, the movie Migration is about a family who convinces their overprotective father to go on the vacation of a lifetime as they attempt to migrate from New England, through New York City, landing in the Bahamas. 

Screenwriter, director, and producer Mike White is the mind behind the film Migration. He's a person whose work you may have enjoyed in the past and whose name may sound familiar to you. To help prepare you to see the new animated feature this holiday season, here’s more about his storied career. 

Who is Mike White?

Mike White holds his two Emmy awards up

Mike White is the son of the Reverend Dr. Mel White, a pastor who became a gay rights activist and documentarian after coming out in 1994. A movie devotee from an early age, White developed a fascination for dark-themed material like the films of Ingmar Bergman or Terrence Malick's Badlands, which helped to form his unique cinematic vision. 

RELATED: The Funniest Characters from Illumination Movies Before The Premiere of Migration

After graduating from the Polytechnic School, White completed his education at Wesleyan University, where he met and befriended future collaborators Miguel Arteta, Matthew Greenfield and Paul Weitz. His goal was to become a playwright in New York, but an alum offered him a job in Hollywood. There, he began a collaboration with fellow future screenwriter Zak Penn - who would go on to write 2012’s The Avengers - before landing a job as a writer and producer on the teen-oriented drama, Dawson's Creek in 1998. That same year, White shared co-writing credit on the college comedy, Dead Man on Campus, about a pair of self-serving collegians who exploit an obscure rule that grants the roommates of dead students’ perfect grades. He then joined the staff of NBC’s 1999 television series Freaks and Geeks as a producer and staff writer. He brought his unique perspective of adolescent trauma to the episodes. While working on that show, he wrote and starred in Chuck & Buck in 2000. It earned him a top acting honor at the Deauville Film Festival, Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Debut Performance and Best Screenplay, the ISA trophy for Best Feature Under $500,000, and the New American Cinema Award for Best Writer at the Seattle International Film Festival. 

He returned to television with Pasadena, a primetime soap opera on Fox in 2001, but it was short-lived. He rebounded with the feature film Orange County in 2002 starring Jack Black, who he would work with again soon after. He reunited with director Miguel Arteta for the indie dramedy The Good Girl starring Jennifer Aniston. His biggest feature success came with School of Rock, a comedy that saw him reunite with Black. White also co-starred in the film. White wrote Black's follow-up film, Nacho Libre. 

He wrote and produced the HBO series Enlightened. Most recently, he is acknowledged for his Primetime Emmy Award-winning HBO series The White Lotus, which has run for two seasons.

What has Mike White directed?

Mike White speaks on a panel

While Mike White was busy producing, writing, and occasionally acting, he finally made the transition to director. He made his directorial debut with Year of the Dog in 2007.

Mike White’s acting and reality television career

Mike White speaks at a panel discussion

White’s career as an actor blossomed with the ABC series Pushing Daisies and in films like Smother and Zombieland. One of his most unusual television appearances was as a contestant on the 14th season of The Amazing Race which paired him with his father, Reverend Mel White. They appeared again on The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business. He then went on to appear on the show Survivor: David vs. Goliath. He finished in second place behind the winner. 

Now, he's back in the writing chair for another family-friendly comedy with Migration

Migration officially hits theaters on Friday, Dec. 22, 2023.