Drown is the second film from independent Australian director Dean Francis, who debuted with highway horror Road Train (2010). The film is an adaptation of Stephen Davis' acclaimed play and examines how a drunken night out on the town for three Bondi Beach lifesavers culminates in excessive bullying and homophobia. Francis was drawn to the unique possibilities of translating such hard hitting subjects to the screen.
I realised that bullying and the pack mentality that our culture seems to expect of males has had terrible consequences for a great number of people
“I thought it was very cinematic,” says Francis. “The play expresses the fears and fantasies of the characters in images which intersect the dialogue like jump cuts, so Stephen was using cinematic language in this way even in the play. Although the play takes place entirely on a beach at night with three characters, a rich back-story is hinted at which I was interested in exploring in the film adaptation,” says the filmmaker.
Francis explored similar themes in his 2005 short film Boys Grammar, which concerned the rape of a male student at an exclusive private boys' school. “When I made Boys Grammar I was overwhelmed by the community's response to it,” says the director. “I realised that bullying and the pack mentality that our culture seems to expect of males has had terrible consequences for a great number of people, but I wasn't really able to go into the roots of this in any detail in seven minutes so I always wanted to do this in a longer work.”
Local actor Matt Levett, who starred in Boys Grammar, reunited with Francis to play the central character of Len in Drown. “I knew Matt was as an extremely brave actor who was prepared to go to extreme places to explore the truth of a role and he responded to the subject matter very strongly so it was a natural fit,” says the filmmaker.
British-born actor Harry Cook (Accidents Happen, Caught Inside) was cast in the role of victimised teenager Meat. “Harry actually heard about the film through the crowdfunding campaign and asked if he could read the script,” reveals Francis. “He offered to come back from London to play the part and I was thrilled. I couldn't have imagined better casting.”
A unique Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that focused on the social justice element of the story enabled investors to directly connect with the film project on a personal level.
“People contributed to the campaign knowing that they were helping the issue become a talking point on a much broader level, both during the campaign and ultimately when the film is released,” says Francis. “It also allowed us to raise funds to get started very quickly and build audience engagement very rapidly.”
Executive producer Raymond YH Chan, a former actor and casting agent, says “this kind of story, with a highly significant message today, begs to be told”.
“I have faith in its success because it had already been a success in London's West End as a stage play and because the cast and crew are all experienced.”
Drown will be released in 2014. You can view the trailer for the movie here.