Husband and wife producing team, former Film Finance Corporation chief Brian Rosen and Su Armstrong, are in their first week of filming Around The Block, starring Christina Ricci.

Debut feature writer/director Sarah Spillane’s story focuses on an indigenous teenager, played by Hunter Page (The Sapphires), and his influential American drama teacher (Ricci). While playing Hamlet in a school play, he has to decide whether to follow his father and brother into a life of crime and violence or take control of his life.

“She and her agent loved the screenplay,” said Rosen of Ricci. He describes the project as a tale of rejuvenation and this is reflected in the setting: a lot of the action occurs within the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern in an area known as “the block”, which is about to be bulldozed and redeveloped for the indigenous residents that have lived there for decades.

Veteran Jack Thompson, who is also executive producer, Matthew Nable, Damian Walshe-Howling and Daniel Henshall, who played the serial killer in Snowtown, are also among the cast.

Arclight Films is handling international sales and Rosen and Armstrong’s Tree Productions is producing alongside Spillane’s Kick Pictures.

“I am very disappointed at how many local distributors have not embraced the story,” said Rosen, who is underwriting the costs. There is no direct government funding in Around The Block so it was not necessary to have a local distributor attached.

Other films on the Tree slate include The Make-up Girl, a romcom based on Andrea Semple’s UK novel, and Enemy Alien, based on aspects of the life of Vienna-trained violinist Richard Goldner who founded an entrepreneurial chamber music group in 1945 that is today known as Musica Viva Australia.

Also in development at Tree is 33 Liberty Lane, to be directed by Peter Hewitt in Winnipeg, Canada, and starring Emily Watson, Sandra Oh, Melora Hardin and Nia Vardalos.

“It is a younger version of Calendar Girls meeting an older version of Bridesmaids,” Rosen quipped.