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Tim White


Tim White was born in the South Island town of Fairlie. His long producing career began in Christchurch, while attending Ilam School Of Fine Arts. Vincent Ward was a fellow student at the Ilam film department established a few years earlier, by ex-Granada TV designer Maurice Askew.

With Ward directing, and White producing, the pair persuaded author Janet Frame to let them adapt one of her novels. White later described it as "a landmark moment for me". The moody, 50-minute long A State of Siege (1978) would put them both on the map. Afterwards White took a print to Europe and, travelling with a Eurail pass, made a number of sales. Then he won a producing fellowship to train at 20th Century Fox in Hollywood.

On his return home, White spent time with a commercial production company run by top advertising director, Tony Williams. This led him to producing Williams' second feature, Australian-shot gothic horror Next Of Kin (1982). White had begun writing the film with Michael Heath when it was a very different tale about a family of murderous caterers. He also returned to New Zealand to work as a first assistant director on Vincent Ward's feature debut Vigil.

During the next decade White established himself as a successful independent producer in Australia, and a man whose filmmaking choices were often both shrewd and passionate.

An association with the writer/directing team of Nadia Tass and David Parker was particularly fruitful. The quirky Malcolm (1986) was a big hit. Ricky and Pete (1988), and The Big Steal (1990) followed.

Collaborations with other ex-pat Kiwis also proved rewarding. The marvelously black Death In Brunswick (1991) was written by John Clarke and featured both Clarke and Sam Neill in fine form. Spotswood featured Russell Crowe and Welsh A-lister Anthony Hopkins.

White's attempts to step up to a bigger scale of production met mixed results. Vincent Ward's decade-spanning romance Map of The Human Heart (1993) and Gillian Armstrong's Oscar & Lucinda (1997) were both ambitious epics which failed to find a large scale audience. Map saw White working with a multi-national team of cast and crew, and shooting everywhere from the Arctic to Europe.

In 1996, soon after working on Kiwi romance Broken English, White became head of Fox-Icon, a co-production venture between Fox and actor Mel Gibson. Unfortunately, the venture folded three years later after failing to agree on any productions (going it alone, Icon would later produce Gibson's hit The Passion of the Christ). During that time, White executive-produced two Australian films — Two Hands and Strange Fits of Passion. Two Hands was a modest hit, and consolidated Heath Ledger as a star to watch.

White then took over a similar position for successful English company Working Title Productions, when they set up a producing arm in Australia. Ned Kelly and Gettin' Square emerged in 2003. Although both were high profile award winners, Working Title Australia was rolled up shortly afterwards.

White has consistently had more luck with smaller, character driven pictures directed by auteur film-makers. He continues to play to his strengths today as an independent working on both sides of the Tasman.

In New Zealand he was invited by co-producer Steven O'Meagher to work on Out of the Blue, the acclaimed film of the Aramoana massacre, and also helped produce the awardwinning No. 2 (2006), which marked the directorial debut of Kiwi playwright Toa Fraser. White and O'Meagher later worked together on TV drama thriller This is Not My Life. He was also part of the multi-national producing team on locally-shot western The Warrior's Way.

Since then White's slew of Kiwi projects has included producing southern bogan caper Two Little Boys (re-teaming with Out of the Blue director Rob Sarkies), and executive producing Sarkies telemovie Consent:The Louise Nicholas Story, acclamed Cliff Curtis drama The Dark Horse and the movie of Mr Pip. Starring Hugh Laurie, the Andrew Adamson-directed adaptation of the Lloyd Jones novel arrived in Kiwi cinemas in October 2013.

Also on White's list is Western Australia-set gold mine heist Son of a Gun (starring Ewan McGregor), the feature debut of Australian award-winning director Julius Avery.

Tim White is sometimes credited as Timothy White.

Profile written and researched by Costa Botes


Sources include
'Michael Heath: Vampires, mad scientists and forgotten artists..' (Video Interview), NZ On Screen website. Director Ian Pryor. Loaded 1 October 2013. Accessed 29 November 2013
Tracey McCaw, 'Tim White' (broken link). Canterbury University website. Accessed 8 September 2014
'Tim White' (broken link) artschool125.co.nz website. Accessed 8 September 2014