American actress Peyton List, who starred in the Disney Channel series Jessie and the spin-off Bunk’d, is playing the protagonist in young adult feature film Swimming for Gold.
Now shooting in Brisbane, the narrative follows List’s Claire Carpenter, a 17-year-old elite swimmer who is reluctantly sent to Australia to coach a boys’ swimming team after a jet ski accident left her with a fear of water.
Lauren Esposito (The Five: Earth, Love Child) co-stars as Mikayla Michaels, Claire’s rival and sworn enemy with whom she is forced to share a room at the swimming camp.
Daniel Needs is Liam, the captain of the boys’ team who challenges Claire, explaining that if they don’t win, the camp will be forced to close.
The director Hayley MacFarlane is making her feature film debut after directing several shorts and spending several years in the UK directing reality shows Big Brother, Love Island UK, Survival of the Fittest and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
Olympic Gold medallist Susie O’Neill, Ariarne Titmus, a member of the Australian Dolphins swim team, and Australian Paralympic swimmer Ellie Cole are appearing in cameos.
The Steve Jaggi Company’s Steve Jaggi, who is producing with Spencer McLaren, embarked on the project after the international sales agent MarVista Entertainment sent him the screenplay by American Eric Bergemann.
Jaggi was introduced to MacFarlane several years ago and when he asked several colleagues to recommend directors, she was top of their lists. The producers sent the screenplay and the director’s show reel to List’s reps. In Jaggi’s words, they were “pleasantly shocked” when she accepted the offer. MacFarlane and List chatted via Skype several times.
The 21-year-old List played Emma Ross, the eldest of four siblings who are cared for by a young nanny in Jessie. Her credits include the Hulu supernatural thriller Light as a Feather and The Karate Kid spin-off series Cobra Kai for YouTube Premium.
“My character Claire goes on a journey of self-discovery to overcome her fears. I’m looking forward to sharing this heart-warming and inspiring story with young audiences,” she said.
Jaggi raised the funds from Screen Queensland, private investors, the Producer Offset, a minimum guarantee from MarVista Entertainment, cash-flows from Head Gear Films and gap financing from London-based Liquid Noise Films.
Angela Little, the composer on two of Jaggi’s previous films, will compose the score.
Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieira said the production will employ more than 65 local crew and cast throughout the four week shoot and inject more than $2 million into the local economy
“This feature will also provide key training opportunities through industry attachments in hair and makeup as well assistant director roles demonstrating how our investments continue to grow the local capability and upskill the next wave of screen industry crew,” she said
“It’s also a clear demonstration of our commitment to gender parity in the screen industry giving the talented Hayley MacFarlane her first feature film directing credit, a step closer to redressing the imbalance of women in this key creative role, which currently sits at a mere 16 per cent for Australian feature films.”
This is Jaggi’s third young adult feature following Rhiannon Bannenberg’s Rip Tide, which Netflix bought for the world outside Australasia, and Louise Alston’s Back of the Net, for which the Disney Channel acquired US rights.
Rejecting the traditional distribution structures, he intends to self-distribute Swimming for Gold and has an exclusive arrangement with Event Cinemas (which was Umbrella Entertainment’s exclusive exhibition partner on Rip Tide).
The film is aimed primarily at 12-to-15 year-olds. “In my experience, the narrower the target audience, the better it is for the film,” he reasons.
“There is a voracious appetite for teenage and young adult content globally, especially among platforms like Disney, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.”