Hollywood money troubles leave Seattle movie-set home a wreck
A Montlake home that was to be the centerpiece of a Hollywood movie, "The Details," has been left damaged when the producers had money troubles, and now the owner is stuck with the results.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Daphne Tomchak's house was going to be a star.
If things had gone well, you'd have seen her four-bedroom Montlake home as the centerpiece of a Hollywood movie, "The Details," next year.
Admittedly, the plot for the dark comedy was a bit strange — a family's home comes under siege by raccoons and things descend into the terribly absurd. But the project was legit: An agency that helps attract filmmakers to Washington was familiar with it, the cast featured big-name talent, including James McAvoy ("Atonement") and Laura Linney ("The Nanny Diaries," "Mystic River").
Variety.com, in an article in early May, said the film was being scripted and directed by Jacob Estes, acclaimed for a 2004 thriller, "Mean Creek."
But a familiar villain — deadlier than a pack of crazed raccoons — intervened: money troubles.
Early this month, after work had already begun on alterations to her home, Tomchak said, she was told an East Coast financier was backing out of the project.
And now, instead of a movie set, Tomchak is looking at ripped-out walls, missing wiring and electrical fixtures, a severed heating duct, assorted nicks and scratches and a backyard with two trees and other plants removed.
"It's a mess," said Tomchak, 56, a Seattle architect who has lived in the four-bedroom home since 1994.
A four-sentence letter, dated June 4, brought Tomchak mixed messages.
Signed by Hagai Shaham, identified as a producer of "Yes, The Details, LLC," the letter said "production has ended ... due to an unexpected financing problem." But the last line said, "We hope to have this problem cleared up and be back in action very soon."
The letter referred inquiries to an office in Los Angeles, where a staffer Friday declined to discuss the situation.
Tomchak said she's heard no indication that the movie would be revived, other than vague speculation that another attempt might be made to shoot later this year, perhaps this winter.
Under the contract she signed, the target date for completion of the work at her home was to be July 14, but the film company would have the right to take longer if delayed by weather, production schedules or other "customary" reasons.
Amy Lillard Dee, executive director of WashingtonFilmWorks, a nonprofit agency that attracts film projects to Washington, said, "This is an unfortunate situation that was both unforeseen and unintentional."
Dee said she has spoken to the production company and is "hopeful that they will resolve this issue to the best of their ability."
Tomchak's involvement with the movie started early last month, when "location scouts" who came to her door said the 1914-vintage house had the qualities they were looking for in the film: large rooms, high ceilings and a big yard.
But various alterations were planned, the largest being transforming a small back bedroom into a large master bedroom with French doors leading out to a deck. In the script, Tomchak said, the McAvoy character looks out the doors toward the increasingly aggressive raccoons.
Work done so far included knocking out walk-in closets in two bedrooms and removing plaster from other sections of wall, taking out some electrical and heating equipment, removing wallpaper, cupboard doors and trim, and removing various plants outside.
Under Tomchak's contract, the home was to be left in good condition and the structural changes made for the movies would remain.
Doug duMas, a Seattle-based film location manager and scout who had helped arrange the use of Tomchak's house for the film, said Friday the film is "in hiatus." He said he's not directly involved in determining its future and couldn't comment on Tomchak's complaints.
Although the film company paid Tomchak $13,000 at the outset, she said that was to cover its use of the home and her costs of being away — not to do the promised repair work and improvements, which she estimates would cost more that three times that much.
She had paid two friends to help her move her belongings into the basement, and has been housesitting for a friend. Now she's moving back into the house, to a bedroom that has gaps in the flooring where a closet used to be.
Tomchak estimates it would cost at least $17,000 to simply repair the demolition done so far at her house, and more than twice that to do the improvements proposed for the film.
Tomchak said Jennifer Roth, the film's executive producer, told her that the financing problem was completely unexpected. Roth could not be reached for comment.
"I feel for them," Tomchak said. "But at the same time, what am I supposed to do?"
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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