Bushranger saga set to shoot

Matthew Homes’ fundraising efforts for The Legend of Ben Hall were so successful the writer-producer-director is preparing a 50-minute version of the bushranger tale, expanded from the originally intended 40 minutes.

Depicting the last six months of Hall’s life, the production is due to start shooting in and around Kyneton in country Victoria on August 18.

The film must be completed by May 5, in time to premiere at that month’s festival in Forbes marking the 150th anniversary of Hall’s death. Holmes then plans a month-long screening tour through towns in country NSW, followed by festival bookings. Hall spent much of his life in and near the NSW town.

He intends to show completed footage to potential investors so he can turn it into an 85-minute feature. The longer-term goal, he says, is to spark sufficient interest in that chapter of Australian history so he can raise the finance for a three-hour opus, which would cover almost four years of Hall’s life.

He describes The Legend of Ben Hall as an “augmented version” of the third act of the film he really wants to make.

Holmes raised $83,000 via crowd-funding site Kickstarter, beating the $75,000 target, and a further $30,000 from a private benefactor. The Forbes Shire Council kicked in $10,000, as did a local businessman. Cast and crew are donating their services so the money is being spent on equipment and accommodation.

Jack Martin is cast as Hall, who led the most notorious bushranger gang in Australia's history in a vengeful personal war against the police after pulling off the largest gold heist in the British Empire.

Joanne Dobbin plays his ex-wife Biddy, Adam Willson is Mick Coneley, who harboured Hall, Jamie Coffa and William Lee are fellow gang members and Angus Pilakui is an Aboriginal tracker. Jordan Fraser-Trumble will portray Inspector Davidson with Gregory Quinn as Sergeant Condell.

The lead DoP is Jonathan Rossiter, who spent years working on TVCs and short films at animation and special effects company Anifex and was named Australian Cinematographer of the Year in 2013.

Peter Szilveszter, who lensed Holmes' short film The Artifice, is assistant cinematographer and digital colourist. The crew includes production designer Leslie Binns, costume designer Michael Chisholm and composer Mario Millo.

The film will screen as the centrepiece of the festival in Forbes, along with a live musical written by Nigel Maclean, the great, great nephew of Ben Hall.

Holmes founded Two Tone Pictures in 2005. He directed the comedy short The Biscuit Effect and a spin-off web series Crooked before making his feature debut with Twin Rivers, which he self-financed and produced over six years. It told of two brothers (played by Matthew and his brother Darren) who set off on foot on an 800km trek across South-Eastern Australia in 1939.

Next year he aims to start on Territorial, a hybrid Western/horror/thriller/action film, co-produced by Wolf Creek’s Greg Mclean and Michael Favelle’s Odin's Eye Productions.