Posted Online: April 22, 2012, 8:12 pm

Q-C film 'Troll' to be pitched at Cannes

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By Jonathan Turner,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener
'Troll' production manager Jim O'Melia, left, and co-author Kristian Kamp stand in the Rock Island home of Great River Productions. Behind them are designs for characters and scenes from the $15-million animated film.
Representatives of the Quad-Cities-based animated film "Troll" will be at the world-famous Cannes Film Festival next month. They won't be screening the flick, which is scheduled for completion in 2014, but they will be making sales pitches to secure distribution around the world.

The 3-D computer-animated "Troll: The Tale of a Tail" is being made by Rock Island-based Great River Productions, and its global distributor is the independent London-based Timeless Films, headed by Ralph Kamp, a 30-year industry veteran whose producing credits include the movie musical "Phantom of the Opera." He's also worked in sales on "Driving Miss Daisy, ""Henry V," and "Dances With Wolves," as well as with Monty Python.

He and other Timeless executives will take the "Troll" script, which has been finalized after 18 drafts, and a brochure with visual designs to Cannes. They'll be seeking deals to have the movie shown in North America and larger markets in Europe, said Mr. Kamp's cousin, Kristian, co-director and co-writer of "Troll."

"It's already pre-sold to more than100 countries," said Kristian Kamp, a Norwegian who's been working for the past two months in Rock Island. "Ralph is surprised how much interest he's had just based on the script. He's very pleased."

"Storywise, 'Troll' is already a brand," said Mr. Kamp, who came up with the film concept in 2003. "People all over the globe have heard of trolls. They've seen it in 'Harry Potter,' in 'The Lord of the Rings.' They've been these background characters -- big, ugly things. And no one's really told the true story of trolls and what they are. In Norway and Scandinavia, we have a long tradition of troll mythology."

Influenced by the stories he and his cousin grew up with, Mr. Kamp and his writing partners created their own unique characters, and brought the mythical trolls into the current human world. "That's the big quest for the troll prince Trym -- he has to find his father's lost tail to bring him back to life," he said.

"It's universal," Mr. Kamp said, noting the film likely will be dubbed into several languages, depending on where it's shown. "It's a zero-to-hero type story. It works because you have that story in every culture."

In the tale, the Troll Kingdom of Ervod (the actual central Norway town of Dovre, the "home of trolls," spelled backwards) is where the hero Trym must undertake the adventure of a lifetime to save his father, King Grom, who has been turned into stone. The film is being co-directed by Frenchman David Dulac, who was key to the visual effects of the animated film "Happy Feet" and its sequel.

The international nature of the production is augmented by German producer Rainer Soehnlein, who has produced the animated film "Happily N'Ever After" and the animated TV series "Spaceballs" for film comedy legend Mel Brooks. Mr. Soehnlein brought "Troll" to the Quad-Cities through his association with Great River principal Doug Miller of Davenport, who has known him since 1994.

"The way Doug, Rainer and Ralph put together the whole financing package has made it attractive to come here," Mr. Kamp said of incentives offered by the Illinois Film Office. "There's a great talent pool here. The U.S. is a lot larger than Norway, with 5 million. It's a fact that America has a much stronger film history."

"We definitely have very good talent on board. The interest is huge," he said, noting more than 200 people have inquired about jobs with the production. The plan is to employ up to 90, with the vast majority being Illinois residents.

"Troll" can receive tax credits equal to 30 percent of the budget spent on goods, services and workers who live in Illinois, as well as 15 percent of spending by employing residents who make more than $1,000 and live in areas of high poverty or unemployment.

Part of the delay in work on the film, which was first publicly announced in October 2010, has been caused by waiting for the Illinois House to approve a bill (OK'd last April in the state Senate) to permit animated films to receive tax credits over the course of production, rather than waiting until its end.

Under the new law, an animated production can take 25 percent of the total tax credits at four points during the production process -- necessary because computer-generated films take much longer to make than live-action films, Mr. Miller said. Delays also occurred because Great River had to install digital infrastructure for its initial computers, he said.

In addition to finishing the script, a staff of about 25 has worked on designing each character, putting together sample pictures, and storyboarding scenes. Jim O'Melia of Bettendorf, the production manager, has been working on fleshing out characters on computers and giving them 3-D life, as well as designing the layout for Great River's new home in downtown Rock Island.

Great River will move from the former Rock Island Argus building at 1724 4th Ave. to the planned Stern Center, the former Hyman's Furniture Store at 1713 3rd Ave., by late summer. Great River will occupy the entire top floor, about 12,000 square feet.

The motion-capture process will be used to bring the action in "Troll" to life. "The motion-capture for a movie like this is almost like a base. We take that base back to the studio; animators animate on top of it, fix what they want to fix," Mr. O'Melia said. "Part of the great thing about animation is that it's not limited by physics. You can make it do more fun, interesting things."

An Augustana College graduate, Mr. O'Melia finished a two-year program in 3-D digital animation at the Vancouver Film School in 2009.

"I'm really excited, especially getting so much closer to production," he said of "Troll." "I think this is going to turn out great."

To apply for jobs

 Great River Productions is hiring for the following positions on "Troll":

-- Character designers
-- Storyboard artists
-- 3-D modelers
-- Rigging artists
-- 3-D layout artists
-- Texture artists
-- Shading artists
-- Systems administrators
-- Production assistants

To apply, send resumes and show reels to