Monday, August 25, 2003

shark net

Thought The Shark Net was fabulous TV. Everything came together - writing, direction, casting. The universality of the story worked because of the authenticity and complexity of the local. It was so clearly Perth early 60's - an otherness of geography, light, social scale - but there were resonances everywhere in the layered imagery and dialogue.
In this long (46 min) but lively ABC Perth radio interview, the book's author Robert Drewe claims that the story of the serial killings that terrorized the city has become one of Western Australia's Central myths - almost like Kelly. Drewe joins Producer Sue Taylor, and Tony Cooke - son of the convicted killer, Eric Cooke - for a discussion that looks at both the techie questions of the series and also the social context - and the talk back callers confirm this sense of parochial myth - everyone has a story, and the story as a cultural catalyst.

Maxine McKew Lunch with Robert Drewe
what makes The Shark Net such a singular effort is Drewe's marriage of the ordinary and the positively gothic

The novel was adapted by Ian David. (Police crop, Blue Murder) Interesting transcript here of an earlier talk - mainly discussing the docu-drama form, but containing some good general observations on writing...
Since after-dinner chat became de rigeur in the odd cave in the South of France, those who peddle ideas and words, even pictures and music, have a contract with society, I believe. They're given a licence to journey into strange territories, and they're expected to be honest in their dealings and report back with due care and reverence to their experiences. They represent all of us in that collective dreaming pool, the human condition. If a writer can't, or won't take responsibility for being a diligent scout, then I believe society should strip him or her of their prizemoney and keyboard, and ignore their protestations until they day they pass on...
As a writer with this form of drama I am obsessed with irony. Apart from structure, it's the main creative contribution I make, it's my fingerprint. I try to suffuse my stories with irony like waves through marble cake. I try to look at things as though there is another opinion and another impression to be gained...

...Irony is a way to make comment while sticking to the facts. People always say what they don't mean. Intentionally or unintentionally, irony is revealing. Corporations and governments have elevated irony to an art-form, and to what they say is always what they don't mean...
Irony is everywhere

Comments: shark net

Damn - I missed it. Will have to keep a list of 'things to watch' somewhere obvious & stop falling asleep at ridiculous times.

Met Robert Drewe (briefly) a few years ago at a talk he gave here - asked him a really, really stupid question which ( thankfully) has been completely excised from my memory-zone, & which he very politely - er - was unable to answer.

The Ian David talk interesting - would have to agree that fiction easier, but not quite sure what he's saying about irony. Suffusing your stories with irony like waves through a marble cake is a rather yummy image though!
Posted by wen at August 26, 2003 08:56 AM

Stories like the Shark Net are what David Marr is missing or misunderstanding or ignoring when he calls on Aust. writers not to write about the "ordinary". Finding the extra-ordinary in the ordinary can be far more compelling (and instructive, if that's your thing). What if Alice Munro moved into the 'big world' - unthinkable!

Thankyou Miss Boynton for this opportunity to vent.
Posted by wen at August 26, 2003 09:02 AM

As an former Perthian, I agree the visuals were very reminiscent of Perth in an earlier age, but strangely I'd never heard of the serial killer myth.
Posted by Tony.T at August 26, 2003 10:15 AM

wen - sometimes dumb questions are good in such forums - better than the dreaded 'what does (the novel/play/poem) mean?'
I think David is talking about using irony in the political doco-drama context - as a way to expose the gap. It's a greatly abused and appropriated word, and it's prob less ironic than moronic for me to have put those 2 links together. But I think the Shark Net was really helped by having this gritty edge. Too often the tendency has been to go into whimsical overdrive with the surreal moments of a novel - gothic becomes grotesque, or worse, 'suburban quirky' - but David's restraint meant the ordinary did indeed become extra-ordinary. And as with that line of comedy and camp, I think it helps to play 'weird' as straight as possible - to keep the magic credible - lest it turn EZ lazy quirky.

Tony - there were things that were also reminiscent of "bygone" melb - (or even "present in certain pockets" melb). My nostalgic rush at the retro was tempered though by the story.
The light seemed different, very WA.
Interesting that you had not heard of the 'episode'- perhaps sometimes like the Beaumonts it's always there under the surface, and it takes a novel or a film to get people talking.

Posted by boynton at August 26, 2003 12:06 PM

If you or any of your readers want to learn the full story of our serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, read my book Broken Lives, published by Hardie Grant. It tells it all - and succeeded in exonerating John Button who was convicted of one of Cooke's murders, and a second one is going through the appeal court in Perth now.
Posted by estelle blackburn at September 4, 2003 05:44 PM

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