ABC South West WA
December 4, 2014
The South West landscape will again feature as West Australian novel Jasper Jones is translated to film by Shaun Grant and directed by Rachel Perkins
The book is based on writer Craig Silvey’s own experiences growing up in a rural town.
“A small town murder mystery with elements of coming of age,” is how Craig describes the story.
Charlie and Jasper are strangers who band together to get to the truth of something awful. The boys are confronted with the town’s response to their investigations.
“It’s about appreciating the world as it is. Uncovering the truth of things and sloughing that protective barrier of childhood and coming to terms with it.”
Craig grew up in Dwellingup, about an hour south of Perth, and remembers desperately trying to finish his assignments while riding the bus to school in Mandurah.
“I always had a love of writing,” he says. “It clicked into place fairly early on that I could conjure up my own tales.”
As a teenager, Craig further realised that writing was a viable vocation. He finished school, didn’t bother with university, and got to work on the first novel.
“I was pretty green back then and thought I might be able to knock up a novel in about three months or so.”
Instead, it took three years to get Rhubarb , that first book, on the shelves.
Country life is dualistic in nature: on one hand is space and liberty, on the other is isolation and alienation.
“I wanted some of that to bleed into the book: isolation and some of the dissatisfaction stemming from existing on the fringe of a community.
“I wanted to explore that with Charlie and particularly with Jasper.
“If you don’t see yourself and people like you represented in your community… you can feel very separate.
Cobbling together a sense of your own identity accompanies the physical changes as you step from childhood into pubescence, says Craig. Hometown may feel more ingrained than expansive.
“That’s what coming of age was all about. You’re lusting after all the experiences that a rural community can’t quite cater to. You feel a little suffocated at times and you feel a little starved for new opportunities.”
The production credits for Jasper Jones read like a who’s who of contemporary Australian film making. Director Rachel Perkins has her name against Bran Nue Day andRedfern Now. Producer Vincent Sheehan was associated with smash hit Animal Kingdom which scriptwriter Shaun Grant’s credits include Snowtown.
Small wonder that Craig is leaving the screenplay writing to the experts, instead acting as consultant on the transition from book to script.
“In terms of what people look like and the landscape, I am aware of that fact that it’s going to be very different.”
The film makers are scouting locations at the moment, he says and won’t necessarily film everything within the South West.
However, he adds, “It’s a wonderful thing that the landscape will be committed to film and will be seen all over the world.”
Craig’s fictional country town of Corrigan has a little of everything; farming, a beautiful river, bush, an open pit mine. “I wanted it to be identifiable as a country town for anyone in the country,” he said.
“When you’re conceiving a book, you have a very, very strong relationship with the setting and certainly with the characters. They stem from you, emerge from your thoughts, somewhere dark and murky.
“You have a very, very strong sense of who these people are but you know that it’s an impossibility to cast somebody of your own divination.
“I am going to work very hard to ensure that the tone of the book and the way the characters are presented in terms of their gestures, and the way they read on screen, is going to be very similar to how they appear in the book.
The characters should be given pre-eminence for many reasons, he says, but foremost because it’s the characters readers have responded to so well.
“I think it’s very, very important that we capture their spirit.”