The intimacy and effortless aesthetic in the films of Terrence Malick can easily persuade the viewer into an alternate reality where just the director, DP and actors ferry off to some field and capture magic; in actuality, their productions are just like most others—complicated, crowded entities, full of people both understanding and more opposed to Malick's process. The filmmaker's long-gestating documentary, “Voyage of Time,” inspired the latter camp to flare up this past summer, when investment group Seven Seas Partnership sued the filmmaker over breach of contract, but now Malick's side has fired back, with a lengthy rebuttal reversing the blame.
The initial claim, filed in July, stated that instead of honoring Seven Seas' contract with Malick's Sycamore Pictures and working on “Voyage of Time,” the director "dedicated his energies to four other films in the last five years." The miffed financing company said they wanted their raised amount of $3.3 million back, in addition to intellectual property and compensation for lost profits, but this week Sycamore has come back with a counter-claim, stating that it was in fact Seven Seas who dropped the ball.
In the newly-filed claim (via Deadline), Sycamore asserts that Seven Seas “concocted the story told in its Complaint and asserted its trumped-up claims as a pretext for the fact that it either ran out of, or never had, the funds necessary to meet its financing obligations under the Agreement, or otherwise decided not to continue funding 'VOT' in breach of its contractual obligations.” They also say that the financing company is using its “claims to hold hostage 'VOT'-the films Mr. Malick has been working on for most of his professional life.” Well it's hard to argue Malick's extended relationship to the material, at least.
Originally, Seven Seas teamed up with Sycamore in 2010 to invest $8.5 million into “Voyage of Time,” envisioned as two 45-minute IMAX documentaries and one feature film, and also described in the lawsuit as a “cosmic epic examining the history of time from the very birth of [the] universe to the final collapse back to the universe's original state.” Everything originally seemed peachy for both parties (Seven Seas' completion figure even went up to $9.3 million); but once Malick's schedule for the film was delayed, on top of Seven Seas' $3.3 million coming in well under the proposed sum—well, it's a perfect cocktail of conflict for both parties.
Malick's longtime editor Billy Weber said of the film during our chat in May, “It's all planned, it's got a release, it has a distributor,” but the sad truth is likely that more claims and counter-claims will delay the picture for the near future. Luckily we still have “Knight of Cups” and Malick's Untitled Austin-Set rock film coming up, but hopefully a happy ending awaits one of the director's most prolonged passion projects.