Eric Bana as Aaron Falk in 'The Dry' (2020) Courtesy Made Up Stories, Arenamedia, Pick Up Truck Pictures
Courtesy Made Up Stories, Arenamedia, Pick Up Truck Pictures
Stories & Ideas

Thu 21 Apr 2022

Immense intellect and preparation: Robert Connolly on Eric Bana in The Dry

Australia Craft Film Interview Meet the makers
ACMI author icon


Your museum of screen culture

The writer and director of The Dry spoke to us about making his hit 2020 Australian film, working with Eric Bana and adapting Jane Harper's novel for the screen.


Robert Connolly: As soon as I read The Dry, I realised what a gift this would be to make into a film. It's an Australian landscape I love, regional Australia. It's got a great landscape of characters and these deep themes about living on the land, and time too, the way the past and present are kind of hand in glove in all our lives. So for me, it was an immediate response. I read the book and I went "I have to make this as a film".

I'm Robert Connolly. I'm the writer and director of The Dry, adapted from Jane Harper's novel.

Eric Bana is one of Australia's greatest actors and working with Eric was working with someone who brought an immense intellect, rigor about his work, and preparation. And with Eric, I think it's a combination of all of those great qualities he has, and our friendship, that allowed us to really explore that character. And so Eric and I talked a lot about plotting that character's journey. How do we take a man from here to this moment of great catharsis at the end when he walks down that river?

It's the trickiest screen adaptation I've ever been involved in. It's a detective mystery, you've got this ensemble of suspects, you've got two different timeframes. Past and present entwine differently in the book to the film.

The cinematographer and I, Stefan Duscio, spent a lot of time in pre-production working out how to distinguish the past from the present. We wanted the audience to know clearly where they were. But I've always thought that a screenplay in film is written three times: on the page, during the shoot and in post-production. And definitely in post-production, we really had to get our hands dirty to kind of make the plotting work. Audiences are also so massively educated about this genre from TV. Some of the best television in the world is crime drama. So audiences kind of know what the formulas are, what the tricks are, what the tropes are, and expect a lot. And so with a lot of help, we fine tuned the plotting. Challenging for me because I'd never done a detective mystery before. It's not a genre Australian cinema actually does. And I was learning, I was learning how to do it, and some of the mistakes I made during the shoot, we were able to reconcile in post-production on this journey to trying to fine tune the film.

[Film footage]

Eric Bana as Aaron Falk: Very nice bit of land you've got out here. Very impressive.

Genevieve O'Reilly as Gretchen: [cocks gun] Thanks.

RC: I was really lucky to work with a young emerging production designer, Ruby Mathers. And I think often people think production design is about big set pieces but the camera really explores detail. So Ellie's diary, which Ruby wrote herself, put pictures in, did drawing, I mean, you flick through the pages of that and you can see the detail and little poems and things that this young woman had written but for the actor and their performance, when they turn up on set, it helps unlock their performance. The props that Ruby and her team created were truly, truly extraordinary, and tell a massive part of the story.

Eric Bana as Aaron Falk: Look, there's nothing to worry about, honestly.

Miranda Tapsell as Rita Raco: Promise?

Eric Bana as Aaron Falk: I give you my word.

Miranda Tapsell as Rita Raco: Good.

RC: The fact that so many people, millions of Australians went to the cinema to see the film is something as a filmmaker that you just hope and dream could happen. I think people went to see it because it was Australian. It was profoundly affectionate and humanist about the people that lived in this tough landscape. And that comes from Jane Harper's writing, and brought together an amazing ensemble of talent. And so I guess for me, its success hopefully shows other people and shows the people choosing the films to be made and the films we get to see just how much Australians love our national cinema.

Objects from The Dry on display at ACMI

You might also like