Producer/financiers Christine Kunewa Walker and Elizabeth Redleaf of Werc Werk Works are busy with Allen Ginsberg project Howl and features from Todd Solondz and Bela Tarr.
What’s in a name? For new production and financing company Werc Werk Works, the moniker represents their edgy but serious ambitions.
“Our tastes are very similar.We like edgy projects.”
Christine Kunewa Walker
“It’s a playful name but it represents what we do a lot — which is work,” says Christine Kunewa Walker, who co-founded the Minneapolis, Minnesota outfit in August 2008 with Elizabeth Redleaf.
The pair certainly have been busy: currently in production are Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl and Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse, while Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime is in post-production.
The pair met in Minneapolis. Redleaf had founded the Walker Art Center Film Society and has worked with IFP Minnesota and the Telluride Film Festival. She met producer Walker when the society programmed Walker’s project Factotum. Redleaf says: “Our tastes are very similar.” Walker, who previously line produced American Splendor, adds: “We like edgy projects.”
Solondz’s Life During Wartime is exactly the kind of fare to which they are drawn — the film is pegged as a “companion piece” to the director’s 1998 Happiness. An ensemble cast including Allison Janney, Ciaran Hinds and Charlotte Rampling star in the intersecting stories of families, friends and lovers. Walker says: “When we started this company, we were discussing the kinds of films we wanted to make and we kept naming Todd’s films like Happiness and Storytelling. We appreciate auteurs and good writing.”
Life During Wartime, shot in Puerto Rico for Florida, is still in post (it was shot on the RED digital camera) so will not be ready for Cannes but could appear at Venice.
Howl follows Allen Ginsberg’s obscenity trial; Werc Werk Works recently finished the three-week New York shoot with actors including James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Daniels. Oscar-winning writer/director/producers Epstein and Friedman are now working on the animated and archival sections of the film.
And Tarr’s rural family drama The Turin Horse (his self-proclaimed final film), now shooting near Budapest, marks the company’s first co-production (with Hungary’s T.T. Filmmühely, France’s Movie Partners in Motion, Switzerland’s Vega and Germany’s Zero Fiction). “We’d like to do more of those. It makes sense if you can work with reliable partners. I think it’s a great opportunity for American producers,” Redleaf explains.
Closer to home, Werc Werk Works has bolstered its staff by hiring chief marketing officer Geoff Sass and vice-president of production Andrew Peterson. They plan to make three to four films per year in the sub-$5m range. After a busy year with these three projects, they are now reading scripts. Because they also finance at least 50% of budgets through private-equity funding, they can act quickly with the right script. “That’s one advantage that we have. When we see something great, we can go for it,” Redleaf says. “Long development sucks up too much time and resources. If you can greenlight, the pieces fall into place more easily.”