Brisbane filmmaker snags Disney talent
Brisbane producer Steve Jaggi is kicking major international goals with his brand of aspiring and entertaining local films.
His latest, Back of the Net, about an underdog all-female soccer team and featuring Disney star Sofia Wylie, has already secured a major Hollywood studio deal for an American cinema release.
"I'm really proud, as a producer and business owner, that we make films that do travel well internationally,'' he says.
"Audiences in America love Australian content when it's accessible, fun and uplifting. For a film like Back of the Net, we wanted to provide young girls with positive female role models.''
Steve, 38, of New Farm, is determined to create multi-layered works, which is why lead character Cory Bailey (Wylie) is a talented young scientist who is able to use her knowledge to create a winning formula for soccer.
"Cory is a young scientist who thinks she is going to an international science camp but accidentally finds herself in a soccer academy,'' Steve says.
"The film is not about her becoming a great soccer player but her using her skills in science and technology to develop winning strategies to help her soccer team win against a team of jocks and champions.''
The ensemble cast is led by Wylie - who stars as Buffy Driscoll in the Disney Channel television series Andi Mack, and as Gina in Disney's revamped High School Musical: The Musical - The Series, launching this year - and former Gold Coast student Trae Robin, who plays love interest Oliver, in his debut role.
"Sofia is a joy, she's so passionate and driven. She loved being in Australia,'' Steve says.
"To have someone of Sofia's calibre helps to elevate everyone who can see how hard she works.''
Canadian-born Steve, who moved to Brisbane as a 20-year-old to study filmmaking at Griffith University, became a fan of Brisbane director Louise Alston's trailblazing film All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane (2007). He says Louise was the natural choice to direct Back of the Net.
"Louise is a very open and honest person. You can tell the cast are having fun making this film. She puts everyone at ease and generates positive energy,'' he says.
After finishing an anthropology degree in Canada, Steve sought a warmer climate to pursue filmmaking - his first passion.
"A lot of exciting young filmmakers were coming out of QCA, now called Griffith, such as the Spierig brothers (Winchester),'' he says.
"Brisbane was especially attractive, having grown up in Calgary, which was so cold, we didn't close schools until it was minus 40C.''
After graduating, Steve spent eight years in London, then moved to Sydney to start his own film company in 2010. He returned to Brisbane in January this year.
"It is booming here in Brisbane. Once we built the company up in Sydney and had a brand, I was able to move back this year,'' he says.
He received support for Back of the Net after his film Rip Tide (2017) - about a young girl who is into surfing and fashion - became one of Netflix's most-watched Australian films in the US.
While Back of the Net was made in Sydney, Steve's next project, about a young swimming champion, will be shot in Brisbane this winter.
He is now casting and scouting for locations and hopes to release it around next year's Tokyo Olympics.
"I love creating films that inspire people,'' he says.
Back of the Net is in cinemas.