A young boy journeys to manhood during the reign of one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers.
When Robert Drewe, aged six, moves from Melbourne to Perth his new home seems like paradise.
It’s a world of simple coastal pleasures, clear skies, trusting faces and nothing to threaten an abundance of small town friendliness and tranquility.
Then, as a teenager, a man he knows murders a boy he also knows. The murderer, Eric Cooke, holds the city in fear, killing a total of eight times, variously shooting, strangling, and hacking his victims to death.
In court, several years later, Robert shares a knowing wink with the condemned man. It’s a wink that will haunt the young writer for most of his adult life, forcing him to confront his own demons and feelings of guilt.
The Shark Net is a compelling coming of age story that revolves around the events leading up to the execution of Eric Cooke, the last man hanged in Western Australia.
“The Shark Net screens at the New York Film Festival” find out more
September 1st, 2003
September 1st, 2003
The Shark Net screened last night at the prestigous New York Film Festival, to great success.
- 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
“This is the best television I have seen in years” Government of Western Australia
August 24th, 2003
- Sydney Morning Herald
“Robert Drewe’s account of growing up in Perth under the shadow of a serial killer, comes to the small screen. ” Sydney Morning Herald
August 7th, 2003