Ben Hall is drawn back into bushranging by the reappearance of his old friend, John Gilbert. Reforming the gang, they soon become the most wanted men in Australian History.
Interview with Director Matthew Holmes and Producer Jessica Pearce
Why are you making The Legend of Ben Hall?
Matt: Quite simply, it's a fascinating historical story with great characters. I've been wanting to make this film since 2007. It's been the realization of a dream for me.
Jess: Before meeting Matthew, I had never come across Ben Hall’s story before. It is a fascinating story that highlights such an integral part of our history that we hear so little about beyond Ned Kelly. Making The Legend of Ben Hall is an opportunity to make a rich and truly Australian Film.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Matt: Movies are about being taken on an emotional and entertaining ride. That's what this film is - a very emotional and human story, and it's quite unlike any Australian film in this genre. And really for the first time in this genre, the history is being presented with great accuracy and with great care.
Jess: It’s our history. It is a part of who we are as a country.
How has your previous work as an animator and actor influenced your role as director?
Matt: Being an animator taught me to pay attention to the smallest detail. It also taught me to know what I want well before I got onto the set. I believe directors should be able to "see" the film in their minds, which animators are able to do. My limited acting experience allowed me understand the challenges all actors face, which helped me when guiding their performance.
How has the script evolved over the course of its development?
Matt: The script changed dramatically as the project went from short to a feature, naturally - but fundamentally the story remained the same because it's all based in history. But it was great to develop those characters deeper as the film expanded.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Matt: People are stunned at the production values we achieved on such a small budget, plus the high standard of performances. People are also very surprised that this is a true story they didn't know if it before. The film seems to make people interested in Bushrangers again.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Matt: Not really, it's exactly the kind of feedback we were hoping to get - so it's very satisfying to hear it.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
Matt: If you mean the theatrical platform; whilst this is very character-driven story, it unfolds on an epic canvas, and the big screen really draws you into their world. The landscapes are a big character in the film, and quite unique - it's not the usual sun-burnt orange desert that people associate with the Australian outback. It's lush, it's green, it's dense. I want people to swept up in the tale of these larger than life characters.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Matt: We already have Australian distribution and an international sales agent. What we need now more than anything is the film to connect with the public when it's released. That's my No. 1 personal goal, more than getting into film festivals or getting awards. To me, connecting with an audience and getting people into the cinema is the most important thing. Because it's audience that matters most. That's who I make movies for.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
Matt: I want this film to help reinvigorate the industry in Australia, to show what can be done even with limited resources. We have many stories in this country that have global appeal and we should not shy away from making films with strong commercial appeal. I want people to demand more films in this style and genre - because I've got many more waiting in the wings.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this film?
Matt: Was Ben Hall a good guy... or was he a bad guy?
Interview: May 2016
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The Legend of Ben Hall
Director: Matthew Holmes
Producer: Greg McLean, Russell Cunningham, Jessica Pearce, Michael Favelle
About the director and producer:
Matthew Holmes - Matthew Holmes is an award-winning filmmaker who has been working in the film and advertising industry for 15 years. He has deep passion for filmmaking and a firm grasp of cinematic storytelling. With a diverse range of skills including screenwriting, producing, photography, editing, storyboarding, sculpture and stop-motion animation Matthew is a director who is at the forefront of every aspect of his productions.
Jessica Pearce - A Victorian producer, Jessica is Director of production company, Running Panda Films. Jessica produced The Legend of Ben Hall and is also known for her work on projects such as Waiting on Sound, Past the Second Stage, Nathan Loves Ricky Martin and Superheroes.
Funders: Film Victoria
Release date: 1 December 2016