Producer Steve Jaggi is convinced audiences are hankering for films with positive, joyful themes, an antidote to the dark subjects often favoured by filmmakers.
Putting his money where his mouth is, Jaggi launched The Incubator last year through his Indefatigable Pictures banner to develop and produce life-affirming films.
The first three projects to benefit from that initiative are either completed or in post. All are from first-time filmmakers, part of Jaggi’s plan to help foster the international careers of Australian creatives.
Based on a true story, Skin Deep is the saga of a young woman who is diagnosed with terminal melanoma and meets a stranger who gives her the courage to embrace life. The screenplay is by Monica Zanetti, who had melanoma. Rosie Lourde is the producer and the director is Jonnie Leahy. Zara Zoe plays the protagonist and Zanetti portrays the stranger.
Ambrosia is from 24-year-old writer/ director/producer/editor/cinematographer/composer Rhiannon Bannenberg, the tale of four friends who graduate from university and head to a cabin where their lives are changed by a stranger.
Chris Herd directed and co-wrote with Adam Saunders the drama Million Dollar Mate, which focuses on a young Maori who goes back to New Zealand to find his roots after winning the lottery. Saunders plays the lead and Keisha Castle-Hughes is his love interest.
Jaggi tells IF he first got the idea of focussing on uplifting films two years ago but when he pitched projects to distributors at MIFF not a single distributor was interested.
The producer is sure the market has since changed with the US B.O. success of faith-based films such as Heaven Is for Real, Son of God and Noah, and in Australia with titles like The Way, which grossed $2.1 million handled by Umbrella Entertainment.
Skin Deep, which will screen in competition at the Austin Film Festival next month, will be released in Australia during Melanoma March next year by ScreenLaunch.
ScreenLaunch has set up a theatrical distribution company to complement its international sales operations. “We moved into local distribution because producers asked us to,” CEO Ross Howden tells IF.
Howden will pitch Skin Deep at the American Film Market in November and is confident its “US indie feel” will appeal to buyers. ScreenLaunch is also distributing Touch, a mystery starring Leeanna Walsman, Matt Day and Onor Nottle, which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival. Christopher Houghton directs and the producer is Julie Byrne of Triptych Pictures.
Indefatigable Pictures has a second production strand: Director-driven titles which, Jaggi says, aim to challenge audiences and force them to question their lives and the world around them.
In that vein he produced Embedded, an erotic thriller that marks the directing debut of screenwriter and playwright Stephen Sewell. The plot follows a battle-weary Australian war correspondent named Frank, who meets a darkly fascinating woman on his way home. The two retire to his hotel suite where Frank finds his match in a frightening and erotic game of truth or dare that takes both to the edge, and over.
Playing the couple are Los Angeles-based Aussies Nick Barkla (Blind Company, TV’s Rush) and Laura Gordon (Saw V, TV’s Twentysomething).
Jaggi is in the process of hammering out distribution deals for Embedded.