‘Encircled’ concept art.

In a reversal of the traditional production process, the creative team behind supernatural thriller/horror Encircled today started creating the VFX.

That will be followed by casting, script readings and detailed pre-visualisation, all conducted remotely.

“We were scheduled to start pre-production in late April. Despite the COVID-19 shutdown, we are moving ahead with some of the non studio-based elements of the movie,” says producer Ross Howden. “Almost like making the film in reverse, we will start with visual effects.”

VFX guru Christian Debney of Stage 23 is making his feature directing debut on the film scripted by Shayne Armstrong and S.P. Krause.

The plot revolves around six strangers who are caught within a protective circle in the aftermath of an occult ritual gone wrong. With no memory of who they are or how they got there, they quickly discover the only way out is hell.”

ScreenLaunch’s Howden is producing with Michael Robertson, Tribal Ape’s Lawrence Lim, Spectrum Films’ Josh Pomeranz and LA-based Epic Pictures’ Patrick Ewald.

Armstrong and Krause wrote the first draft in 2016, inspired by a still from the 1968 classic Hammer Films movie The Devil Rides Out, which starred Christopher Lee.

The duo came up with the basic idea of a story set in one room where the characters are mostly confined to a magic circle, and then conjured up some big plot twists.

They were developing a couple of projects with Robertson and he put them in touch with Howden, who was looking for a high-concept idea for a low budget VR movie.

‘Encircled’ concept art.

Howden said: “COVID-19 is challenging the industry to rethink many of the boxes that traditionally had to be ticked before film production commenced. It’s a new world and, post-pandemic, all content creators will have to think creatively.

“As Australians we have all the resources and interest available to make great local content; we just need the government to quickly adapt to assist new ideas being financed. We will be calling out for cast and crew over the next few months.”

If restrictions are not lifted to allow all cast on the one set, the plan is to capture the performance of each actor using 3D VR methodology. Howden says the film could be shot with a director and two other crew if restrictions are eased.

The production initially is being cash-flowed by each of the parties involved and will be eligible for the Producer Offset. The producers are seeking additional funding to replace what was lost due the pandemic.

Debney, who was the VFX supervisor on Antaine Furlong’s Rising Wolf and Owen Trevor’s GO!, said: “Supernatural thrillers and elevated horror have really stepped up lately with audiences and visual quality.

“With Encircled, it’s firstly a great story and it’s going to look great with unique visual effects and strong theatrical-like performances, with the movie essentially running in real time.”

Epic Pictures will distribute in the US and sell the international rights and ScreenLaunch will release in Australia.

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