David White makes things. And his makes them well. He looks something like a cross between the nutty professor and a Los Angeles Silverlake local when you meet him. But his outward appearance is just the first most interesting aspect about this hungry young film director, who calls Wellington home, and is launching forward with his latest offering, the cunningly titled ‘Meat’. Meat is a behind the scenes look into the hidden world behind supermarket shelves. Following four key characters, a hunter and three farmers, the fifth hidden character is film maker David, who wrote, directed and produced the film.
Through the hour or so that we talk, David stresses that he doesn’t see himself as a film guru as such. “I just like to make things – like my sauce” he explains (yes, he also has a hot sauce brand), gesticulating around him as we are perched on a couch up the top of the Lighthouse Cinema Cuba. Due to busy lives we didn’t get to meet up at his home, a former church in Melrose (shout out to the residents of Melrose!). I certainly can understand why meeting at his home base would appeal to him. Already, 'Meat' is taking David around the world. But it is clear that wherever his legs carry him (wrapped in skinny denim and sealed with red Chuck Taylor kicks), whether it be through the wild rugged south of New Zealand or to the glamour of Sundance Film Festival, David calls Wellington Home. “There’s something about when you drive around the harbour, coming off Ngauranga gorge, and you catch that first glimpse of the city” he says. “There really is nothing like catching that first glimpse of Wellington.”
In a nutshell...
WHO IS DAVID WHITE?
Film Director, Producer and lover of red wine and ‘making things’ David White is the director you need to know about, right now.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
If you care about where your food comes from, you should care about David’s latest film ‘Meat’. Also, the first Wellington screening at the Lighthouse Cinema Cuba Street sold out - so other people are going wild for it! *pun intended*
IS HE HUGE?
While David has worked on several big budget films, he is one Kiwi film director on the rise. You might not have heard of him yet, but it is safe to say that this producer and film maker will be known in the same circles as Taika and Pete one day. Don’t expect him to bend to the pre-conceived mould however. “You have to keep very true to your own artistic process. As soon as you try and make a project for everyone else, you won’t make money. I used to worry about what other people thought. Now I don’t.” David says.
WHAT IS HIS THIRTY SECOND PITCH FOR 'MEAT'?
“I felt that people want to know where there meat came from – but there are only two places where you can get your information from. Activists who say everything is evil and farmers who say everything is great and happy. Neither of these are true but this film hits right down the middle – the reality of where your meat comes from. It lets you make your mind up.” David says.
WHAT DOES HE LIKE?
Eating meat, drinking red wine and his own hot sauce range, while curled up in his own former-church-home in Melrose, probably talking with friends.
HOW DID HE GET HERE?
Born in Hastings with his twin brother, David grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Takapau. Now his brother and sister-in-law have taken the farm over, as fourth generation farmers.
"I used to worry about what other people thought. Now I don’t.” David says"
He went to school first at Takapau Primary. At Central Hawkes Bay College, David only pass two exams in his 7th form year – photography and accounting, giving a clue to his future career as a director and producer.
After leaving high school, David wanted to become an actor. He moved from the Hawkes Bay to Wellington and studied at the Wellington Performing Arts centre (now Whitirea) before leaving to start a theatre company after a year and then starting a company which made t-shirts and leather belts. The money he earnt from the latter enterprise was used to fund the former. “I was creating things so I could make Art” he explains. After three or four shows, David was clear he wanted to produce something for TV. “I thought it wasn’t that hard, at the time. We made a pilot and sent it to TV Production companies who rightly thought it was a dog. We got rejected and I was so disheartened that I moved to Australia with all my mates” David laughs.
“My concern is that eventually, because people no longer have this help, that only the middle class who live at home in big cities will be able to make an impact in the Arts”
All the while, David lived through PACE (Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment) which was a support benefit the Government used to provide to people striving in the arts. “For me, it was basically like the Dole. I was working incredibly hard and working one day a week at a bakery. I earnt $251 a week, net, before rent. You need time as an artist to work things out. If you’re wanting to live off that amount a week, its hard. Now, however, we don’t have it and it takes people much longer to make an impact on the world” David explains. He was on this benefit from 19 to 24, with times in between when he was working on films, doing advertisements and working on The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. “My concern is that eventually, because people no longer have this help, that only the middle class who live at home in big cities will be able to make an impact in the Arts” David says. “If people are making drama and all come from the same background, how is that good for the artistic world?”
Eventually, after returning to Wellington, David produced his first feature film ‘The Last Great Snail Chase’ in 2007. “It was incredible challenging but a baptism by fire. It was set in Wellington. We made it in a year” David says. David then directed his first film from BBC Knowledge ‘Lex’ about a man who makes giant catapults in 2011. After this, David was brought on first as a crew member and then later to produce the $1.2 Million Dollar Shihad Movie ‘Beautiful Machine’ in 2012. He explains it was one of the only times he was hired as frequently he tends to work for his own production company. “I suspect people forget to ask about whether they might hire me because they assume I’m on my own wave length, just because I took this very organic path to production and film making” he laughs.
After, Shihad, there was a TV Movie Documentary called ‘Who is Lee Harris?’ (Wellingtonian’s will find this particularly amusing, after the graffiti over the Ngauranga Gorge – sadly I didn’t get a chance to ask David about this particular project). After, David produced a short film called ‘I Kill’, one of his most successful films, which was nominated for a ‘Cinema I’ Award in 2013. “By then, I was a director. I arrived” David says. “Being a produced first helped people to trust me with money to deliver the films.”
In 2016, David was travelling non-stop. “I started driving back from Auckland to Wellington and wondered whether I REALLY needed to live in Wellington. Maybe it’s just the place you went to when you left home. And what’s fucking amazing is when you drive the same route from when I first arrived in Wellington for the first time ever. You drive around the Paekakariki coast and around the harbour. There is something about Wellington which brings out an emotional reaction to me. I have an office at Shelley Bay and a woodwork shop. I don’t think I could find a place like that in Auckland. NZ Film Commission are here and NZ on Air are here – which is great for work. I also have all my friends here" David admits.
“People should go see my film. It’s important to support New Zealand documentaries. It just got a four star review from Flick, it has been sold to and American distribution company and I think people will be very entertained by it” David smiles, before throwing on his jacket and heading back out onto Cuba Street,