Circle of Lies breaks the mould for Oz films

20 August, 2013 by Don Groves

Teen drama Circle of Lies is breaking new ground for Australian films as it begins a staggered theatrical roll-out in Brisbane this week and will be released on Video-on-Demand platforms and on DVD on September 18.

In another unusual ploy, the producers will sell copies of the DVD at cinemas in rural areas; each screening will feature a Q&A with cast and crew.


Scripted by Adrian Moses and Scott Herford, the film follows high school student Denise (Hilary Caitens) who is bullied and victimised by classmate Kirsty (Anna Lawrence), the leader of a bunch of ultra-cool kids who call themselves “the exclusives.” The cast includes Ryan Harrison, Nikki Webster, Karina Banno, Stephen Multari and Luke Webb.

Directed by first-timer Matt Cerwen, the film was released in North America last December by Warner Bros. on a limited number of cinemas and on VoD. Paramount is distributing in parts of Latin America and Sony bought the rights in some European territories.

Producer Steve Jaggi told IF he expected that, in light of those deals, the Australian arms of the US studios would be willing to handle the film. None made an offer and he was not tempted by the terms offered by smaller distributors.

He showed the film to Seph McKenna, Roadshow Films’ Head of Australian Production, who found much to admire but passed. McKenna told IF there are always multiple choices available for teenagers and it’s proved difficult to attract young Aussies to local films aimed at that audience, citing Wasted on the Young, 2.37 and Blame. McKenna noted the exceptions have been films based on well-known novels such as Tomorrow, When the War Began and Looking for Alibrandi.

After those rejections the producers decided to set up their own distribution company to handle theatrical bookings and they enlisted Accent Entertainment to distribute on DVD and to VoD platforms.

Jaggi said he found independent exhibitors are happy to screen the film on a revenue-sharing basis, despite the short gap between theatrical and home entertainment. Determined to make each screening an event, as well as staging Q&As he plans to hire teen bands to perform at some cinemas.

He's booked the film in 12 cinemas with a further four pending. Urban sites will run multiple sessions in the first week.  Outlining an innovative approach to marketing, Jaggi said, "During production we did a tie-in with, a local NGO that assists teens with issues such as bullying and sexual assault – both of which are touched on in the film. Other release partners include Starnow, the actors' network, and ATOM. The film is being promoted on radio and in mainstream press but 80% of our focus is on social media engagement."

He’s among many producers who believe the traditional 120-day interval between theatrical launch and DVD/VoD is unrealistic. He said a Google search for Circle of Lies will show how easy it is to download the film illegally.

The film was fully financed by private investors, who cash-flowed the 40% producer offset. The Canadian-born Jaggi, who studied film at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, made a number of films, documentaries and TV series in the UK before moving back to Oz in 2010.

He is developing a couple of projects. He’s not sure which will come to fruition first but says, “On my next movie we’ll do VoD before theatrical.”

The film premieres at Brisbane’s Balmoral Cineplex on August 22 and Victoria Point Cineplex on August 23, followed by the Randwick Ritz in Sydney on August 28, Govinda’s in Darlinghurst on September 1 and the Mercury Cinema in Adelaide on September 5.

For more info visit: