Joined Up Films take tonal approach in ‘Claremont: A Killer Among Us’

Network 10 reporter Claire Dearle.

When Joined Up Films engaged with the assault victims of convicted Claremont serial killer Bradley Robert Edwards for Anthony Barwell’s two-part documentary Claremont: A Killer Among Us, they interviewed them twice with varying results.

The initial sit down with Wendy Davis and Liz Kirkby was part of a sizzle reel for broadcaster Network 10, with another conducted during production.

According to executive producer and Joined Up Films creative director Dan Brown, the difference in demeanor between the two exchanges confirmed that getting them involved was the right decision.

“There was so much anger in the first interview and there was less in the second because they hadn’t had their story told and now someone was listening to them,” he said.

“It was important to them and also important to us to get that balance right.”

Davis and Kirkby are among 14 participants in the project, which aims to shed new light on Australia’s longest-running, biggest, and most expensive manhunt.

The story begins in the early hours of 27 January 1996, when 18-year-old Sarah Spiers disappeared while waiting for a taxi near a popular bar in Perth’s busy nightlife strip in the upmarket suburb of Claremont.

Five months later another young woman, 23-year-old Jane Rimmer, went missing from Claremont in eerily similar circumstances, and by March the following year a third woman, 27-year-old Ciara Glennon, had disappeared.

A serial killer was preying on young, innocent women and Claremont was his hunting ground.

The filmmakers conducted interviews with not only surviving victims, but also former police detectives, journalists, criminologists, and the officers who cracked the case, leading to the arrest of Edwards, who was found guilty of murdering Rimmer and Glennon in 2019.

Jacqueline Willinge and Steve Bibb executive produced the Screenwest-supported project alongside Brown and Network 10 executive producer Ciaran Flannery, with Lisa Dupenois serving as producer.

Dan Brown and Sarah Thornton.

The creative team, which also includes editor Chris Trappe, began developing the series with Network 10 towards the end of 2020, with production starting in October 2021.

Brown said getting the tone right led them to spend a “long, long time” in the edit suite, even delaying sending a rough cut to 10.

“One of the problems we had was in deciding whether to tell the story chronologically or to drip feed Wendy and Liz’s cases into the first part,” he said.

“That didn’t work, so we just did it chronologically and when their story became crucial to solving the case, we stepped back.”

For Paramount ANZ head of popular factual, Sarah Thornton, the final verdict scene in the second part of the documentary spoke to the strength of the project as a whole.

“It’s this amazing meeting of procedure and humanity, which I think is what the whole film is really.

“It’s an incredibly forensic film that manages to have so much humanity in it, which is what pulls you along as a viewer.”

Brown and Thornton had previously collaborated on the 2020 documentary Coronavirus Australia: Our Story, a project for which Joined Up Films had a timeline of just 18 days from pitch to launch.

Thornton said the broadcaster “didn’t enter into documentary commissions lightly”, adding the network’s younger skewed audience had meant there was an “expectation of premium factual”.

“When we commission a documentary, we definitely want whatever we bring to 10 to feel premium and for people to feel they’re getting access to something that’s been curated and cared for,” she said.

“In general, it’s worked for us when we did Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story and Todd Sampson’s Mirror Mirror as well, and then this is our next offering.”

Claremont: A Killer Among Us was produced by Joined Up Films in association with Barking Mad Productions for Network 10. It will premiere Wednesday, 23 November, and conclude Thursday, 24 November at 7.30pm.