Home is where the heart is. Screenwriter and Kiwi actor Tim Balme takes any excuse to come home to Tauranga, where he gains some of his writing inspiration, finds Rebecca Mauger

Coming home to Tauranga is pure inspiration for actor/screenwriter Tim Balme.

He's a true blue Bay boy, Oats College bred, who happily makes the drive from Auckland to Tauranga when required, for work or play.

Last year he was tasked with the not-so-joyful job of helping his parents to find a resthome in Tauranga.


This was the inspiration behind The Brokenwood Mysteries series four final episode which airs on Prime on Sunday.

"It's a great episode which I am particularly proud of. It's set in a resthome which was inspired by the fact that I had to get my parents into a rest home last year, so I was looking around and figuring things out ... part of me was looking after my parents but another part of me was thinking 'there could be a great story in this'."

The Brokenwood Mysteries follows Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd, an old-school, big-city cop who moves to rural New Zealand where murders keep him and sidekick Detective Kristin Sims busy. Each episode is standalone and 90 minutes long.

"I seem to get these ideas when I come to Tauranga, when I am driving. There was the Lord of the Rings episode last series when I was driving back, and the episode when I went to a funeral here."

The wee town of Brokenwood reminds Tim of what Tauranga was like in the 1980s.

"Tauranga used to be small. You only ate out in Tauranga if it was your birthday.

"Brokenwood has a sleepy coastal element, as a town it has a little bit of everything of the good life of New Zealand, a coast, a harbour river and it's not too big or small, it has farm, industry and everything needed to tell interesting stories."

Tim describes the fictional town as "the best of provincial small-town New Zealand". He says the show is popular overseas (3.5 million people watch it free-to-air in France) as people are familiar with the murder mystery genre "but this is through a different lens".

Eternally positive, Tim has already started writing series five, confident the show will be picked up again for another series. He writes about three out of the four episodes per series. It's a different process from his other projects (800 Words and Almighty Johnsons) as the plots are complex and need to be written by one person, he says.

Tim has done it all in the industry. He was the leading man in Peter Jackson's 1991 film Braindead. He's mostly known for playing bad boy Greg Feeney on Shortland Street, and now is head of development at South Pacific Pictures.

Tim drives home again next week for work - he's co-judge at the International Youth Silent Film Festival at Baycourt on November 22. He's been judging the finalist Kiwi entries.

Filmmakers make a three-minute silent film using one of 10 pre-recorded musical themes to base the film on. Tim says there's been some real stand-outs in the competition and the festival is a great test for potential filmmakers.

"What they demonstrate is technology so advanced now, anyone can do it. The trick is, how creative can you be with that - nothing beats a good story - but these films are technically really proficient as well."

the fine print
What: The International Youth Silent Film Festival will celebrate the top 12 young Kiwi filmmakers at this year's IYSFF New Zealand Regional Awards Final
Where: Baycourt
When: Wednesday, November 22.