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The Shark Net: view from behind the scenes

March 31st, 2003

The film was shot on 35mm film over 8 weeks, mainly in Western Australia from 28th October 2002 through to 20th December 2002, although some of the stunts were shot some months later in Sydney.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the shoot was trying to find locations that could convincingly pass as Perth in the 1950’s and 60’s. Perth does not have a great track record when it comes to preserving buildings and we were constantly having to frame shots to avoid any evidence of a modern city. Even when we found a house that was suitable chances were there was a sign or a structure that was out of place. The Drewe house remained elusive right up until the last weeks of pre-production, and we were always having to make do with angles and camera moves that were less than we’d like.

Access to cars of the period was reasonably straightforward because there are always lots of enthusiasts and car clubs only too eager to help out. However, the problem came when we wanted to crash one of the old cars, because most owners aren’t too keen to see their pride and joy wrecked for the cameras. We ended up buying one from someone living in the Blue Mountains in NSW and had to film the scene in a dirt road in the outskirts of Sydney. Hopefully the owner never saw the show.

The lion scenes were also a bit tricky. Blue screens for keying are relatively easy to use in studio, but less so on location where light sources are moodier and more difficult to control. Night scenes are particularly problematic. It didn’t help having to film the lion (yes, there was only one) in Sydney, some months after the original shooting. You end up having to rely pretty heavily on the accuracy of the notes on the camera sheets.

But none of the technical issues were anywhere near as demanding as the development of the script. Adapting a drama from a book is hard enough, but adapting it from a memoir is even tougher. All the more so when so many of the events that took place impacted so directly on people alive today. The Cooke murders had such a profound psychological effect on the city of Perth that great efforts were taken to ensure historical accuracy. But in the end, it had to be Robert Drewe’s story (and not the story of Eric Cooke) that drove the narrative