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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

The Dry

by writer/director Robert Connolly

I grew up in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, a childhood surrounded by the Australian bush, an adventurous playground for a young child with huge freedoms and an underlying danger that taught an incredible respect for this natural world. It was a very different life to the urban world I inhabit now with my family in Melbourne, an extraordinary city ringed by the bush on its outskirts, the very present threat in summer of bush fires a constant reminder of global warming and its impact.

When Australian producer Bruna Papandrea, known in the U.S. for her exceptional producing work on “Big Little Lies,” brought me Jane Harper’s at-that-stage unpublished manuscript for her debut novel The Dry, I read it in one sitting that very day. I was immediately absorbed by the world of the book and the compelling detective mystery that unfolded with such tension. It was my own childhood, though, that pushed to the front of my response to the read, the way Jane Harper had explored the push and pull of the past on us all, and the conflict in this instance between the urban and country worlds of our protagonist’s life. Harper’s portrait of this regional world, the locations and character landscape too, were as compelling as any I had ever read about this part of Australia, evoking immediately a world that was familiar to me and a perfect environment for a cinematic adaptation.

Back in 2007, I had produced a feature film Romulus, My Father with my close friend Eric Bana, also set outside of Melbourne, and we had been searching over many years for another film to collaborate on. The adaptation of The Dry would need an actor who could create a complex portrait of detective Aaron Falk, caught as he is between these city and country worlds, between the past and present. Eric also read the manuscript quickly, responding immediately to the role and joining us on this journey to adapt the work for the screen.

In our very first discussions, we explored ideas about how best to make this adaptation for the screen truly cinematic, a compelling work made at a scale that demands to be seen on the big screen. There are many great works for the small screen that are adaptations of detective mysteries, plotted carefully with a television narrative aesthetic. Instead, we set about making decisions from the start to adapt the film for the big screen. Cinematographer Stefan Duscio joined us, known in the U.S. for his excellent work on The Invisible Man, and we built a screen language around large format lenses and an epic visual scale. Composer Peter Raeburn also brought an epic emotional scale to his work, recording his work in the U.K. at Abbey Road and reaching for an emotionally impactful scale to elevate the work. The narrative too provided a complex trajectory heading to its powerful conclusion, entwining two crimes, past and present and an ensemble of characters played by some of Australia’s most gifted actors both established and emerging. We are all excited that you will have the opportunity now to see the film on the big screen as it was intended.

Ultimately though, The Dry is a very human story that takes our central character Aaron Falk on an emotionally charged journey into his past, both the events that happened back when he was a teenager and also the physical world he had been driven from back then. The story’s big universal themes entwine with an enthralling detective mystery that throws down the challenge to the audience to see if they can solve the crimes before the hero of our story manages to, if in fact he can.

Posted May 14, 2021

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