Seems I was a bit hasty on the blog yesterday when I trumpeted the release of the trailer for "Thin Ice,' the crime caper movie directed by Madison's Jill Sprecher and written by Jill and her sister Karen.
The movie is coming out in February, all right. But it's not a version that the Sprecher sisters are happy with.
According to a November story by Colin Covert in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, after the film premiered at Sundance to good notices (under its original title, "The Convincer,") the film's production company, the Minneapolis-based Werc Werk Works, found a distributor in ATO Pictures. Every filmmaker's dream, right?
Not according to Covert, who says that ATO and Werc Werk Works demanded sweeping changes to the film, and basically shut the Sprechers out of the process. The company "took the reins, shutting her out and replacing the project's Emmy-winning composer, Alex Wurman, and Oscar-winning editor, Stephen Mirrione," Covert wrote. "The film, completely re-cut and titled ‘Thin Ice,' debuted at B-list festivals this fall, to uniformly negative responses."
For legal reasons, Sprecher is currently not allowed to talk to the press about the experience, but did express being "heartbroken and devastated" in Covert's article. She learned about the change in name by reading about it on the Internet, and told Covert that she would have taken her name off the film if her contract had allowed it. "I am stunned," she said in the Star Tribune. "The fact that my name must remain on the finished work, due to the contract I signed, is only a part of the reason. I was ultimately never able to hear the distributor's notes, and thus could not address them."
That's a damned shame. You hear stories all the time about this sort of studio interference in Hollywood (and at heavyweight indie distributors like the Weinstein Co., where head Harvey Weinstein has been dubbed "Harvey Scissorhands" for his heavy touch in re-cutting films). But it's bizarre to read about it happening at such a modest indie level, and even more bizarre when you consider how well-received "The Convincer," which features winning performances and an ingenious screenplay, was at Sundance.
Covert's story, titled "A bumpy takeoff," is a broader look at the tenure of Werc Werk Works head Elizabeth Redleaf, which some colleagues have said have been marred by needless controversy and broken promises.
As far as "Thin Ice," Redleaf said, "I want to be absolutely clear that Jill Sprecher was offered every opportunity to remain a part of the process. Only after she unequivocally refused to make any changes did the production move forward without her."
So whether the film will ever make it to Madison is an open question. But one thing's for sure - the Sprecher sisters won't be there with it.