The Legendary Tour Of Ben Hall, Through My Eyes
What an adventure! Following the World Premiere of The Legend Of Ben Hall in Forbes, NSW, Australia on November 12th, the film embarked on a 3-week long travelling road trip offering parts of regional New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland a pre-release opportunity to view this stellar film.
On December 1st, 2016, The Legend Of Ben Hall was officially released in selected cinemas nationally. On December 3rd, the film had its belated Melbourne premiere at the Lido Cinemas in the trendy suburb of Hawthorn for the Monster Fest Film Festival. So eagerly anticipated was it, that a second screening was required and also sold out. All 3 lead actors and actresses were in attendance to not only watch the film but then contribute to the Q&A which took place after it, hosted by the exceptionally talented writer, producer and of course director, Matthew Holmes.
Myself and other members of the cast and crew being acknowledge at the Lido Cinemas Melbourne Premiere:
On December 4th, it was screened at a special screening at the Reading Cinemas in Sunbury. Over 180 tickets to the session were pre-sold, forcing the management to upgrade it to their biggest cinema, which has a capacity of around 280. By the time people started turning up, at least an additional 60 tickets were sold by walk-ins. The result was a virtually full gigantic cinema, attended by all manner of film and history enthusiasts, family of cast and crew and the general public who literally had no idea what to expect from this new Australian Film.
I had the honour of introducing the film to the huge audience and speaking for about 5 minutes on it, followed by hosting a special Q&A after the film that went for about 25 minutes with some key cast members, much to the surprise and delight of the audience. After the Q&A, the number of people who approached me and expressed their absolute delight and congratulations for the film was very overwhelming. Everyone took something different away from the film, some were history buffs, some were firearms collectors, some were ex-medical personnel but everyone applauded the very clear, painstaking effort and attention to authenticity and detail that was achieved.
One person even told me that they’ve lived in the area for most of their life and frequent these cinemas often, but in all their years they’ve never once seen the cinema so full, not even for a major Hollywood blockbuster. This news was naturally music to my ears and I was sure to expedite that message to the director, no doubt feedback like this for an Australian film is most definitely something to be celebrated and nurtured.
Jamie Coffa (aka John Gilbert), William Lee (aka John Dunn) and myself (aka Constable Wiles, Executive Producer and today, MC and hot!) in front of the Sunbury audience.
On December 6th, 2016, The Legend Of Ben Hall officially opened the long-running Made In Melbourne (MIM) Film Festival. It was the first time ever that a feature film opened the entire festival and as there was so much buzz around regarding the film, it had to be moved to the largest cinema at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) at Federation Square in Melbourne, with all 400 seats well and truly sold out. Before the film started, I met with Steve Jager (who plays Constable Bohan) at Transport Bar for a couple of celebratory drinks.
We then made our way towards ACMI and there was a photographer snapping away paparazzi style in front of the red carpet and media wall, which definitely helped create additional buzz before the screening, not to mention the entire foyer area being shoulder-to-shoulder. I even came across a few people who were walking around trying to find some spare tickets to get inside because they were unfortunately late on purchasing tickets online.
Myself, Matthew Holmes (Writer, Producer, Director) and Steve Jager (aka Constable Bohan) at the red carpet media wall of the Made In Melbourne Film Festival.
Once the film was over, there was another Q&A with Matthew Holmes and some key members of the cast on stage. The interest from the audience was evident by the wide range of questions being asked. Once this was complete, the spill-out into the foyer was a wonderful site to behold, with familiar industry faces dotted throughout the crowd, interacting and mingling with the crowd.
On Friday December 9th, 2016 I was on my way home from work and received a message from Matthew Holmes asking if I’d like to be present at the Warburton screening, which started from 7:30pm at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre. How could I possibly say no?! Once I arrived home, there wasn’t much time left on the clock to freshen up, change and get back in the car. For those who don’t know where Warburton is, it’s a small but significant regional town about 1.5 hours away from Melbourne. Thankfully I arrived a little early as peak hour traffic thinned out as I left the gridlock of Melbourne behind. Upon my arrival, I noticed The Legend Of Ben Hall billboard poster proudly on display with a large SOLD OUT sign draped across its middle. It was such a great thing to see.
As I was early I helped Matthew and his wife Nadia setup the merchandise stand inside the old historic town hall, which sits adjacent to the Upper Yarra Arts Centre. Once this was setup I wandered outside and yet again, came across a couple of locals who were making their way back to their cars because they were unable to buy tickets in time. This must have happened to several people because management ended up selling extra tickets and literally had to bring additional chairs inside just to accommodate them. This is a fantastic sign and typical of the kind of fanfare and interest The Legend Of Ben Hall has been generating.
Once the film was finished, Matthew was introduced on stage to speak about the film and answer some questions; he then invited and introduced some key cast members up on stage with him. Admittedly I was a little taken aback when he called me up and introduced me as well to the audience, it was a lovely honour and so typical of Matthew who acknowledges absolutely everyone who had anything to do with the film. After the Q&A was over, there was a small champagne celebration next door in the hall where the merchandise stand was set up. This room too, became very full, very quickly. Lots of people were coming up to us to offer their congratulations on the film and express their surprise at how impressed they were with it. There was also a media wall setup here and we enjoyed not only meeting with the many locals, but also taking photos with them.
Myself with some members of the cast and crew as well as some local fans who wanted a snap of us in front of the media wall.
The drive home at that late hour seemed longer than expected but was well worth it. I was also made aware that the Upper Yarra Arts centre had committed to holding additional screenings of the film due to the high demand locally. Again, all great news!
The following day on Saturday December 10th, 2016 was another great day. Sabrina Razzi is the mother of Zane Ciarma who plays Ben Halls son Henry; she had worked tirelessly to organize and promote a special one-off screening of the film at Reading Cinemas in Epping. She asked me to intro the film to the audience and then host a post-screening Q&A So many tickets were pre-sold (again), that it had to be moved to the biggest cinema, which clearly, was an amazing resulting, one which we all hope has sent the strongest message possible to the programming managers of Reading Cinemas Australia.
The foyer was filling up fast and there was a growing buzz in the air. Whilst people were lining up I went into the cinema early to discuss lighting and audio with the manager, who by the way was extremely helpful and supportive of our film and efforts to get it screened.
I brought along another friend of mine with me, I believe he was one of the last friends of mine who was yet to see the film. He is a notorious cinema-sleeper. In the last ten or so years, I think there was only a handful of occasions where he actually stayed up throughout the duration of the film. Given that The Legend Of Ben Hall is quite the lengthy epic that it is, it was a good test to bring him along to see if a repeat performance was on the cards or whether the film would actually keep him awake.
Once the cinema was full (and believe me, it was FULL), I then walked in, down the aisles and made my way to the front of the giant screen. From here, I introduced myself, thanked Sabrina for organizing the screening, thanked Reading Cinemas and of course thanked everyone for coming out to see the film. I then spoke briefly about it, who Ben Hall was and the significance of the story and why the film was made. From there, we all sat and watched the film. It must be noted though that within the first five minutes of the film, I had to duck out to ask them to put the volume louder. Why? Because it was imperative that the audience not only watched the visual masterpiece captured by award-winning cinematographer Peter Szilvester, but they also needed to experience the world come to life by way of the magnificent sounds and score thanks to the masterful composer Ronnie Minder.
By the time I had returned to the cinema, it was already noticeably louder and I could now sit calmly, knowing that the first experience of this film for this audience would be a truly spectacular one. Every now and then I glanced over to my friend, who was to my surprise, still wide-awake! At the end of the film, as the audience spontaneously started to applaud (which had become somewhat of an unofficial tradition with this film by now), I got out of my chair and made my way over to the front corner of the cinema to set up three stools.
Once this was done, I picked the microphone up off the floor, cued the lights to come on and continued to speak to the audience about the film - now that they had a whole new perspective of what it was all about. I called down some of the main cast members onto the stools where we then kicked off the Q&A. Admittedly everyone seemed a little apprehensive initially to ask any questions so I asked some questions of my own to the stars. Once they were answered, I put the call out to the audience and unsurprisingly, many hands went up and so our Q&A went on like this for close to 30 minutes. All in all, this event was an overwhelming success, as they all have been.
This is me speaking as passionately as ever about the film before throwing it out to the audience.
Myself, speaking and taking questions for Joanne Dobbin (aka Biddy Hall), Zane Ciarma (aka Henry Hall) and Nick Barry (aka Jim Taylor).
A few days later, on December 14th, 2016, some absolutely unbelievable news came to hand. Ronnie Minder, who is the ridiculously talented composer of The Legend Of Ben Hall had been officially shortlisted in the esteemed group who are eligible to win an Academy Award in 2017 for Best Original Score in a Feature Film! That’s right, our Australian made film is now officially in the running to win an Oscar!! This was just the most perfect news to receive just before Christmas not only for talented Ronnie, but also for absolutely everyone involved in this film. It’s a great testament to the film and exemplifies just how amazing a production it really is, in every single aspect – including sound!
And if all of the above isn't enough to entice you to see this film (assuming you've not already), the film has already traversed across the vast Pacific Ocean to a land known as Hollywood. That's right, The Legend Of Ben Hall had a special ten day cinema screening schedule at the Laemmle Theatre in Encino, California. There's no stopping this film, it will most definitely grace the shores of the USA again very soon!
This film continues to shine bright as a beacon of hope to the Australian film industry. Many more screenings of the film have taken place apart from those mentioned above and still more are to come in 2016 and continuing in 2017. The incomplete list can be found here.
Thank you for reading all of this and sharing my recent experience and involvement with this spectacular Australian motion picture.
To find out more about this must-see film, please see:
-The Legend Of Ben Hall Website
-The Legend Of Ben Hall Facebook Page
-The Legend Of Ben Hall IMDb page
Myself, my mother and my father captured enjoying the historic and balmy night of The Legend Of Ben Hall World Premiere in Forbes, NSW on November 12, 2016