This Town opens today in every cinema in the country, and when it does, writer and lead actor David White has a place too small to be called a town where he says he can hide away.

That's because according to White: "Releasing a film is like asking the whole country on a date and you hope they say yes and have a really good time."

David wrote the film in Whiritoa, edited it in Whangamata and now lives in Onemana - official population less than 200 - where he holidayed as a child at his grandparents' bach.

"Does that make me a local?" he asks.


Dressed in a plaid suit jacket, collared white shirt and pants, he's sipping a long black at a Whangamata cafe prior to his nationwide promotional tour with actress Robyn Malcolm. David does stand out a little.

THEIR TOWN TOO: Robyn Malcom as Pam and Rima Te Wiata as Janice. PHOTO/Supplied.
THEIR TOWN TOO: Robyn Malcom as Pam and Rima Te Wiata as Janice. PHOTO/Supplied.

As if to prove he can blend in: "I have a surfboard, a boogie board, a kayak and a mountain bike."

The successful screenwriter, producer and actor is a self-described "introverted extrovert".

"I'll enjoy coming back and looking at the ocean - or if it does terribly, it's still one of the most beautiful places in the world."

If a sold out early screening in Thames, which was notified by private email, is anything to go by, his first date was a success.

The film was one of 12 selected for Venice Biennale - Cinema, a script development programme which he says was "amazing, humbling and a boost for your creative spirit".

But his ability to write, act, direct and produce doesn't make him invulnerable.

When he sends an all-important script at the start of each process, he admits requesting he's told when it's about to be read.


"I don't mind what the feedback is going to be ... I just need a timeframe for myself and I don't know if it's getting worse or better as I get older."

Life in a usually-quiet Coromandel beach settlement suits his creative needs and sensitivities.

"I'm quite aware that I need my own space and own time by myself and the ability to do whatever I want. But at the same time I also get energy from other people.

"When I moved from Auckland to Wellington, I had a view of the ocean, and when I wanted to be closer to Auckland, where I needed to be for work, it took me a long time and process to work out that I needed to be close to the beach to make all the juices flow properly.

"It just so happened that my friends have a bach in Whiritoa. It's a really amazing place to be and write. I would write in the morning, go for a walk, and at 4 o'clock go to the liquor store and buy a can of beer, then go to the beach and drink said can of beer, then repeat.

"For me this place is so inspiring. It's about trying to find a space that you feel like you can just be in the moment to write the best things."


David is a twin and the youngest of six kids who grew up on a Hawke's Bay farm. He's familiar with hard work and routine, and takes the attitude that 'I guess we can do that'.

"I saw my parents get up every day and go to work. Everyone gets up and goes to work - there's literally no difference from my day to your day, I have to go to work to buy my beer from the liquor store.

"It is a job that I love and care about greatly but it's also a job I have to go to, and sometimes I have days that I don't want to."

He says he doesn't know the formula for creative flow, but the other day he woke at 4am and wrote for eight hours.

"I'm inherently interested in people," he says. "I find it amazing when people aren't interested in everyone's jobs. It's how ideas come for me."

David as character Sean in This Town. PHOTO/Supplied.
David as character Sean in This Town. PHOTO/Supplied.

His brain is wired not only for creativity but for business.


David says he failed high school "by pure laziness" but he passed accounting and photography.

"Business and art ... filmmaking is that, and being able to work with money is so important in a creative job. You're constantly making financial decisions about which part of the process you want to do. Do I want to shoot this scene at night time? and will that create a better atmosphere for this film? you've often got two choices where one will be cheaper."

His beginnings at drama school led him to start his own theatre company when he was 19, which he funded by selling leather belts to skate shops.

In his early 20s David created music videos and "insanely large" shows with a fashion designer friend, convincing companies that aren't usually approached for materials to get onboard, stretching each tiny budget.

When he sold the belt business, he was able to make a television pilot, and although it was rejected by everyone, he gained opportunities as a producer.

A documentary for band Shihad took him to the US with a budget of $1.5 million.


"I have a particularly good practical, money brain and an artistic can-see-things brain, and that's helped me create my career."

He once fired himself from an acting role in his theatre company, but for This Town his farm upbringing made him a practical choice.

"I can shoot guns, drive a tractor and derby, and when we started casting it turned out people can't do these things."

David made the film with just 18 fulltime crew, drawing on his own hometown for locations.

His next film project will be "massive" and he says he'll miss the interpersonal relationships that's built with a very small crew.

"Every time I'm writing I have no clue where it's going. You have to be very open to the process and changing the process otherwise you will end up doing the same thing. I have to deliver, and it's petrifying."


But he's feeling good about This Town, and his Thames audience delivered: "I was so surprised that the average was 65 and they loved it. I popped in and out [of the cinema] but a friend said they were into it. We just hope that people get out and go to the cinema to go see it."

- This Town screens in cinemas nationwide on August 6 and Whangamata has a special screening in the evening on opening weekend.