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Podcast – Directors Dylan River and Macario De Souza

Mystery Road: Origin director Dylan River talks about moving into longform TV while Macario De Souza makes the shift from documentary features to drama with 6 Festivals.

Macario De Souza and Dylan River

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Directors Dylan River and Macario De Souza were both up for the challenge that their latest projects presented.

For River, it meant moving into directing all six episodes of Mystery Road: Origin, the prequel to the beloved ABC TV series and Ivan Sen films. River is a Kaytetye man based in Mpartnwe (Alice Springs) and previous to Mystery Road: Origin had directed on documentary features including Buckskin and Finke: There and Back, as well as shortform SBS series Robbie Hood

River says he felt the pressure in taking the reins from Sen and season one and two directors Rachel Perkins, Wayne Blair and Warwick Thornton, but that being such a fan was a huge help.

“Six hours of drama is a lot,” he says on the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast. “I was mostly nervous about how I was going to undertake the whole story and how I was going to hold that together, but at the same time, I’m not sure if Mystery Road to me would have been as appealing if I was a block director. I really wanted to be able to take a big challenge like this and to own it.”

In Mystery Road: Origin, Mark Coles Smith stars as a young detective Jay Swan in 1999, whose first outback posting is to the mining town where he grew up – and where a series of strange robberies have been taking place.

River says carrying six hours of story in his mind on set was a huge challenge, but one that he was assisted with thanks to collaborations with DOP Tyson Perkins, script supervisor Benedict Paxton-Crick and 1st AD Mark Boskell.

For director Macario De Souza, who moved from documentary to drama features with 6 Festivals, those collaborations were similarly important. 

“Coming from a documentary background, even when I went in to direct a lot of TV commercials, I come in pretty loosely, because that’s what I was used to. I’m not a fan of overplanning,” he says. “It was really a lot of time spent with my DOP and I, and our 1st AD. It was really about setting up parameters.”

He says there were two rules on 6 Festivals: containment and freedom. 6 Festivals follows the friendship of three teenagers, who bucket list six music festivals when one of them is diagnosed with brain cancer. De Souza, who directed documentaries such as Bra Boys, says anytime they were following the teens at a festival, it was a more documentary approach, with handheld cameras and 50mm lenses. If there were scenes between the teenagers and the police or parents, the shots were static and locked off.

“I think without that [documentary background, with] the time pressure we had at festivals and these pressure cooker moments, it wouldn’t have worked with that typical drama approach,” he says.

De Souza also talks to how his live music background influenced the film, getting a wealth of music acts like Ruby Fields, Dune Rats and G Flip to feature and how he aimed to reach a younger audience.

Hear more from De Souza and Rivers on the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast.

Watch all episodes of Mystery Road: Origin on ABC iview now, while 6 Festivals is playing at select cinemas and Melbourne International Film Festival ahead of a release on Paramount+ later in 2022.

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