One of Australia’s most infamous convicts is the subject of a new Tassie-based production, which started filming yesterday.
Docu-drama First Fagin, about the dramatic, turbulent career and adventures of English-born criminal Ikey Solomon, is a co-production from Brisbane’s Wild Fury and Hobart’s Roar Film.
Solomon was a notorious criminal, regarded for his crimes (receiving stolen goods) and capture and is rumoured to be the inspiration behind Charles Dickens’ Fagin character in novel Oliver Twist (although that's still disputed).
After his wife was found guilty of receiving stolen goods and transported to Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land), Solomon travelled to the Apple Isle to be by her side. He was later sentenced to prison and died in 1850.
“It’s a marvellous story, it’s a surprising romance and I just think it’s one of those Australian and Tasmanian stories, one of those colonial stories, that people just don’t know about and I think it’s really going to get some notice,” Roar Film’s Steve Thomas told IF.
The docu-drama will be directed by freelance drama and documentary-maker Helen Gaynor (drama sequences) and international filmmaker Alan Rosenthal (interview sequences). The two directors initially discussed the project a few years ago at a documentary conference and it came to fruition again at this year’s MIPTV.
Arts Minister Lara Giddings said the Wild Fury/Roar Film collaboration was a direct result of the recent Screen Tasmania strategic review and new funding guidelines that encouraged non-Tasmanian companies to partner with locals to secure production investment from the Tasmanian government.
“First Fagin is one of the first productions approved under the new guidelines and this partnership is a ringing endorsement of the capabilities of Roar Film,” Giddings said in a statement.
Produced by Thomas, Wild Fury's Veronica Fury and Rosenthal, it will be shot for the next three weeks in southern-Tasmania (and small pickups in the UK) including Kempton and near Pontville. The cast is completely Tasmanian with Ryk Goddard playing Solomon and Carrie McLean playing his wife Ann.
Fury said it was important that the feature captured the "uniqueness of Tasmania".
Thomas said the docu-drama, shot by cinematographer James Grant, had a theatrical deal in Australia and it would premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival next year. Discussions with Australian broadcasters will take place at a later date.
Screen Tasmania injected $110,000 into the project, while further finance was provided by German broadcaster ZDF, French channel Arte and Screen Queensland.
It's an exciting project for the state which is still buzzing from feature film The Hunter, starring Willem Dafoe. A production of that scale reinforced the state's industry and filming locations.
First Fagin won't be the first Australian production on the infamous figure. A four-hour miniseries on Solomon, entitled The Potato Factory (based on the Bryce Courtenay book of the same name) screened in Australia in 2000. It starred Ben Cross and Lisa McCune in the main roles and was produced by Screentime.
For more on Isaac 'Ikey' Solomon, click here.