‘Spotswood’ Puts White In Spotlight

With Timothy White’s eighth picture “Spotswood” looking at mainstream release in the U.S. later this year, this Melbourne-based producer has emerged as one of Australia’s busiest and most successful operators.

By the end of 1991, he’ll have produced directly or co-produced five films within two years, no mean feat in Australia’s compact film industry.

Next up is his largest undertaking to date: co-producing “Map Of The Human Heart,” a four country co-prod helmed by acclaimed Kiwi director Vincent Ward. Prior offering, “Death In Brunswick,” meanwhile opened with a 20-25 screen spread in Oz last week via Village Roadshow.

White knew Ward when they were at film school in New Zealand, and much of his work has come via such relationships. That’s the case with filmmaking duo Nadia Tass (currently helming “Pure Luck” for Universal) and David Parker; White co-produced their 1990 feature “The Big Steal,” which garnered good domestic biz, and their prior film “Rikky & Pete.”

Despite such volume White says he intends keeping his Meridian Films – partnered with entertainment attorney Bryce Menzies – a small affair.

“I like being able to keep a sense of independence and not have to work within a large corporate structure,” he says. “I like the security of knowing I can wind down the operation if I’m in a long period of development.”

White’s also one of Australia’s better examples of a script-literate/deal-wise producer, a rare breed not that long ago. “A lot of the deadwood has dropped out,” he says. “I think there’s a greater level of sophistication and understanding in Australia now of that complex and mercurial market out there, and we’re understanding better the complete and utter importance of the story and script.”

He sees Aussie films increasingly polarizing into the medium-sized ($A3 million and less) offerings he’s concentrated on and the bigger titles, often major co-productions. And these smaller films, he says, will be hard to justify unless “you’re talking marquee names.”

White has such a name for “S p o t s w o o d” – Anthony Hopkins. He admits it was “very fortuitous” its release coincided with Hopkins’ ascendancy via “The Silence Of The Lambs” (Miramax bought the film at AFM for the U.S. in one of the best deals yet seen for an Oz pic).

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