Jack Martin as Ben Hall.
When writer-director Matthew Holmes raised $78,000 on Kickstarter last year to fund a short film on Ben Hall, his ultimate aim was to use the short as a stepping stone to a feature about the notorious bushranger and his gang.
Holmes is getting his wish as The Legend of Ben Hall is due to start principal photography in regional Victoria on March 23.
Wolf Creek creator Greg Mclean has joined the project as executive producer and mentor to Holmes, whose debut feature Twin Rivers, which he self-financed and produced over six years, told of two brothers (played by Matthew and his brother Darren) who set off on an 800 km trek across South-Eastern Australia in 1939.
Most of the cast and crew of the Ben Hall short will work in the feature, led by newcomer Jack Martin as Hall, who led the most notorious bushranger gang in Australia's history after pulling off the largest gold heist in the British Empire.
Joanne Dobbin plays his ex-wife Biddy with Adam Willson as Mick Coneley, who harboured Hall, Jamie Coffa and William Lee as fellow gang members, Angus Pilakui as an Aboriginal tracker, Jordan Fraser-Trumble as Inspector Davidson and Gregory Quinn as Sergeant Condell.
The plot will follow the last six turbulent months of his life and the circumstances surrounding his controversial execution by police in 1865.
The producers are Odin’s Eye Entertainment’s Michael Favelle and Russell Cunningham and emerging Victorian producer Jessica Pearce. Favelle is selling international rights and will release the film in Australia, probably in league with a larger distributor.
Asked what had attracted him to the project, Favelle said, “It’s a true story which has not been told in modern times. (The ABC screened a Ben Hall TV series in 1975, co-produced with the BBC and 20th Century Fox.)
“It’s a very relatable story, which shows why Hall was pushed into doing the things he did, and that he had a strong moral code. And I believe in Matt as a writer-director.”
Some of the 25 minutes of footage in the short will be incorporated in the feature and several new characters are being added. The film is being funded by private equity, pre-sales and the producer offset.
The DoP is Peter Szilveszter, who lensed Holmes' short film The Artifice, and the crew includes production designer Leslie Binns, costume designer Michael Chisholm and composer Mario Millo.
Next year Holmes aims to start shooting Territorial, a hybrid Western/horror/thriller/action film, co-produced by Mclean's Emu Creek Pictures and Odin's Eye.