Focus On – Deborah Peart on “The Straits”
There is a mix of family drama, high octane illegal business, humour in various guises, the Papua belief system and Christianity. How did you balance it in the middle block of The Straits?
There's a significant event at the end of episode 3, which has a huge effect on all our characters and turns the show on its head, so in some respects it was like hitting the reset button for episode 4 onwards. However, as we weren't dealing with stand alone episodes with contained story threads there was a lot of communication between the three editors to ensure character continuity and story points stayed on track. Everything is moving towards the climax and the middle episodes focus heavily on character development, the action side of things takes a step back to allow this development to take place, particularly amongst the siblings. For me, it was nice to step away from the action side of things, I've come to find there is often more of a challenge in bringing the best out of a performance as opposed to creating a great action sequence.
How did you and director Rachel Ward work while she was in the Straits?
Rachel and I would speak or email regularly during shoot and talk pickups and any ideas she had for the edit. I'd send discs up to her occasionally of cut scenes too so we were shaping things even before the fine cut.
How did rushes coming back from the Straits affect the edit process?
It really just meant we were a couple of days behind due to the travel time. There was a period were all the directors were sharing shoot days so we all had several pockets of days with no incoming footage or maybe just a couple of scenes per day. This meant we had the luxury of trying alternatives to scenes and structure. Rachel also spent a week with me in Sydney in the middle of shoot, which gave us a chance not only to discuss what was left to shoot, but to also get a vibe on how we'd work together through fine cut. A luxury not often afforded with TV turnarounds.
What was your involvement in creating the title sequence?
I had cut the title sequence to another production for producers Penny and Helen a few years back (R.A.N.) so they asked me to give it a stab. I had David Bridie's music already, which was a great help in propelling ideas & tone. Penny and Helen wanted the themes of the show to be the drive of the sequence. These themes included the sense of journey through the different locales of the series (Far North Queensland, the Torres Straits & PNG), the forces of nature and the idea of order and chaos. Originally we were not going to feature images of our cast but as we worked through it, peppering images of them throughout the sequence seemed to further help with this notion of family and the darker world of their crimes (all the main cast are in there, except their faces are not always visible!) I spent a day or so compiling images from all the episodes and then started playing with structure and putting forward versions (another couple of days). Clusters of shots would start to work and then it would build from there. Once we locked the picture bed, it was handed over to the whizzes at Frame, Set & Match as well as Lisa Stonham to treat the images and design suitable typography.
What was your favourite experience on the film?
One of my favourite all time jobs had me living on an island in the Torres Straits for two months in a tent. This was when I was the assistant editor on R.A.N. a few years back. Having an opportunity to once again explore and help tell a story about that wonderful region is most certainly a highlight. The ethos of "island time" is certainly something I see in The Straits, this story isn't told in a "wham bam" manner, its almost casual in it's approach (albeit deadly serious at times) and it was great to work in that space again.