A year or two ago, award-winning filmmaker Warwick Thornton realised that something had to change, and that to achieve that he needed a break from his life in the fast lane, and the hard drinking that often accompanied it. So he took time out from his hectic schedule to spend a couple of months in a tin shed on an isolated beach on the north-west coast of Western Australia.

Asked if there was any particular moment that triggered the decision, he says not. “It’s just life in general, isn’t it, eh? It doesn’t slap you in the face, it creeps up and chokes you.”

Warwick Thornton in The Beach. All images courtesy of SBS

Accompanied by a small crew, including his cinematographer son Dylan River, Thornton headed for Jilirr on the Dampier Peninsula – a largely undiscovered, unspoiled remote coastal region with a harsh, breathtaking beauty. With help from the local Indigenous community in Lombadina, about half an hour away, Thornton built the tin shed and spent eight weeks there, directing a six-part television documentary called The Beach, which his son filmed.

The documentary follows Thornton as he slows down, develops his hunting and...