Daniel Feuerriegel (Spartacus: Blood and Sand) is attached to play the lead in Mayday Hill, an Australian horror/thriller inspired by true events.

The film will be shot at the former Beechworth Lunatic Asylum in Victoria, a notorious institution known as Mayday Hills to the locals. The asylum, which was the site of deaths, abuse and gruesome medical treatment, closed in 1995 after operating for 128 years.

The screenplay by Matthew Barker centres on a couple (Daniel and an actress who is now in negotiation) who visit the location and are confronted by the horrors of the past.

Director Dean Francis, who made his feature debut with 2010’s Road Train, told IF the film melds true events with demonology and medical malpractice.  "It ties in with the gentrification of institutions into apartments, which hide a dark history," he said.

The producers are Janice Eymann (executive producer of Jon Amiel’s Creation), who brought the project to Francis, and Faith Martin. Francis aims to start shooting later this year and says it could be a co-production with the UK, using Eymann’s connections.

He’s in post-production on Drown, a drama about three lifesavers whose big night out is marked by jealousy, homophobic fears, unrequited lust and violence. Matt Levett, Jack Matthews and Harry Crook play the leads, with Sam Anderson, Heather Mitchell, Anthony Phelan and Maya Stange.

Stephen Davis wrote the screenplay adapted from his play which prompted walk outs when it was staged by the Queensland Theatre Company. The film was produced by JJ Splice Films, co-owned by Francis and two partners.

The producers raised nearly $20,000 from crowd funding site Indiegogo, which triggered further investment from private individuals and caught the attention of London-based High Point Films & TV, which signed on as international sales agent.

“We shot the film in documentary style which relied a lot on improvisation,” he said. “We filmed some scenes at night in Kings Cross when we had bottles thrown at us by drunks. We had to hire a couple of martial arts guys for protection.”

He aims to complete the film in June then seek an Australian distribution deal. High Point plans to launch it in Europe in August, possibly at one of the major festivals.

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