Robert Connolly: In the Deep End

August 22, 2018
The acclaimed filmmaker takes charge of his first international production, directing four episodes of Deep State.

With Acute Misfortune premiering at MIFF to great acclaim, and Sari Braithwaite’s documentary Censored doing the festival rounds, Robert Connolly, Producer, has never been busier. But we’re here to talk about his directing career, which he kicked off in 2001 with The Bank, and has never looked back.

More recently, Connolly has moved into television directing, which is where we pick up with him today, discussing the four episodes he’s directed of Deep State, an international co-production, espionage series starring Mark Strong.

“So many of the elements of the project were wonderful”, the filmmaker enthused.

Balibo is how I got the job,” he says, referring to his acclaimed 2009 film starring Anthony LaPaglia and Oscar Isaac. “The producers saw Balibo, and they were definitely looking for something in that style; those grounded politics and thriller elements. And they were very curious and interested in how I achieved everything in Balibo.”

Deep State is firmly set in thriller territory – racing through the Middle East, US, London and France – and was on a much larger scale than anything Connolly worked on before, which was part of the attraction for the filmmaker.

“The scripts were excellent, they had morally complicated characters, the genre elements were fun, the politics of it, the ambition for it to be something set in the Middle East and all the amazing locations, there were really just so many great things about the project.”

Connolly was offered the gig, his first international one, whilst travelling through Europe for a television festival with his last project, Barracuda. He had one week to make a decision about taking it on, but it wasn’t a tough one for the busy filmmaker.

“It was a real gift for me, it had so many elements that I love in my own work. I am very interested in the complexity of what human beings are like. I do gravitate towards stories that actually are about complex elements of the human condition and I think Mark Strong’s character is a really incredible complexly written character; the idea of how the personal and the political sit side-by side.”

One challenge the series presented was being in another country with an international crew, and a significantly larger budget.

“It’s the biggest thing I’ve been involved in as a director. A massive, massive challenge. I think we had 300 crew and stunt guys. It was a great crew, we had David Higgs as cinematographer, who shot Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla. I had some pretty amazing members of the team helping me do it.”

Deep State premieres on Wednesday August 22, 2018 at 9:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand

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