Mostly White has worked in documentary, or in a doco style. His is one of those names pops up a few times a year in various announcements – often from prestigious festival or market events.
Back in 2012 when Richard Driver sold the Documentary Channel, White was one of five filmmakers selected to make shorts for the new brand, BBC Knowledge. Coincidentally, when we spoke to White this December, he’d just completed work on one of the second season episodes for Decades in Colour, which screens on Prime, for Greenstone – of which Driver is now Managing Director.
Shortly after the selection for the NFTS course, White’s short The Cleanest Pig went to Sundance.
After completing the 2013 NFTS course in the UK, White headed to the Hawkes Bay and hung out for a while. “I made a film by pressing record, running in front of the camera and acting. Then I edited it – it was all me.” The result was Killer?, which early in 2015 played in the Lab Competition at the world’s most prestigious shorts festival, Clermont-Ferrand. “I thought it could be a larger project,” White said, and he began to develop the idea further.
White continued developing his feature based on Killer?, and when it was selected for the VBC he had 40 pages of script. “I had quite a clear idea about Killer? going into VBC. Having gone through Doc Connect with Meat, I had a process from pre to delivery.”
One of the things White liked about the VBC was that he not only got to receive input from some very skilled people, but that everybody got to learn quite a bit about everybody else’s projects – seeing a treatment and a step outline before the College began.
“They push,” White said. “They’re quite serious people. They ask questions constantly.”
“You have to remember that nobody’s there trying to make your film worse,” he said. “But at some points you have to make decisions. Overall they wanted you to think and make those decisions yourself, to explore your voice and how you create the best story you can.”
One exercise White found particularly useful was the Lego session, where filmmakers had to build aspects of their story and answers to questions with Lego.
White built a very large Lego model of one character, someone who was not really present in the script but who exerted significant influence on a key character. “We never realised he was so important to you,” his producer said, which forced White to re-exaimine how the script was (or wasn’t) conveying the importance of that influence to an audience.
“As a writer I’d lived with it for a long time, and I’d got some stuff that was clear in my head that wasn’t clear on the page. I had to change it, to keep it or adapt it. In the end I did make some quite drastic changes.
“There’s a lot on the line and you want to make them happy… but you have to make the best thing for you.”
The relationship with the Venice Biennale College doesn’t end with the news that other projects will be supported. The makers of the nine projects not supported are offered an online follow-up. In 2017 they’ll have opportunities to find co-producers in collaboration with Italy’s Torino FilmLab, the US-based Independent Filmmaker Project, and other initiatives and markets with which the Venice Biennale has relationships.
For the record, the titles selected for the Venice Biennale College were as follows. Those marked *** were selected for production support.
The Anthill, Hanna van Niekerk (director, Netherlands), Maarten Kuit (producer, Netherlands)
Clementine, Lara Jean Gallagher (director, U.S.), Karina Ripper (producer, U.S.)
*** Film di Confine, Giorgio Ferrero (director, Italy), Federico Biasin (producer, Italy)
Inaccessible, Loran Bonnardot (director, France), Jean des Forêts (producer, France)
In the Making, Kristoffer Borgli (director, Norway), Riina Zachariassen (producer, Denmark)
Killer?, David White (director, New Zealand), James Ashcroft (producer, New Zealand)
Lala, Ludovica Fales (director, Italy), Igor Princic (producer, Italy)
*** Lightning Ridge, Alena Lodkina (director, Australia), Kate Laurie (producer, Australia)
*** Martyr, Mazen Khaled (director, Lebanon), Diala Kachmar (producer, Lebanon)
Mirny Mining Town, Saverio Pesapane (director, Italy), Costanza Julia Bani (producer, Italy), Fabian Martin Diering (producer, Germany)
Night/vision, Eva Weber (director, Germany), Nicole Stott (producer, UK)
Voice of Silence, EuiJeong Hong (director, South Korea), Afolabi Kuti (producer, UK)
Keith is the editor of SCREENZ, and the co-creator and founding editor of CREWED.