Inspired by true events.
Peder Bille and Michael Gug Kongshaug
The 20-year-old ice hockey talent Isaac is struggling with the pressure from his father and the club making him lose faith in himself, but through his criminal friends, he finds the support he was missing and embarks on a double life smuggling MDMA from Canada to Detroit.
Isaac (20) is one of the biggest talents in the OHL ice hockey club, Flint Firebirds, and like so many other young players his biggest dream is to play in the NHL. His entire life is about ice hockey. But Isaac is having a hard time dealing with the pressure of his over-ambitious father, Joe, and on the ice, he struggles to cope with his violent temperament and the fact that he is one of few African-Americans in a predominantly white sport.
So when Isaac isn’t drafted to the NHL his whole world falls apart and he begins to hang out with his old friend Marco, who lives a carefree and exciting lifestyle as a drug smuggler for the biggest gangster in town, Kevin. Isaac isolates himself from his parents and is slowly dragged into the criminal underworld of Detroit where he feels free and accepted for who he is. Isaac has a big talent for crime and before he knows it he is living a dangerous double life, smuggling drugs between Canada and Detroit while trying to fulfill his potential on the ice.
Isaac sees an opportunity to smuggle drugs in the team bus when playing matches away in Canada, and after a successful test run, he begins to rise in the hierarchy with Kevin, creating a conflict between Isaac and Marco. Flint Firebirds is playing better than ever and Isaac is the top scorer on his team, but the pressure increases on Isaac as the club, before an important playoff match in Canada, suspends him for taking drugs. Isaac can no longer smuggle drugs on the bus. In desperation, Isaac makes a dangerous choice and tries to smuggle drugs across the border between the United States and Canada on a jet ski.
Isaacs miraculously crosses the border with the drugs, but on the other side, Marco waits for Isaac. Marco feels hustled by Isaac and robs him. Isaac fights back but during the assault Isaac gets two fingers shot off.
After the assault, Isaac is in an existential black hole and he is now forced to fight even harder than he has ever done before to pay Kevin back and fight his way back on the team.
With only eight fingers and against all odds Isaac makes a comeback on the ice and together with Flint Firebirds he wins the OHL. Isaac is subsequently drafted to the NHL, but during a night out, Isaac is caught up with the past when he meets Marco and his friends, and in a second everything changes for Isaac.
Michael Gug Kongshaug
Writer / Director
Michael Kongshaug is a Danish director born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He graduated from the American Film Institute in 2016. Michael’s thesis from the American Film Institute got a nomination for Best Writing for Drama at the EMMY’s College Television Awards among many other honors. The inspiration for “No Way Back” came during a film project he was doing for UNICEF on Syrian refugees living in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
Michael worked as director Nicolai Fuglsig’s Creative Assistant and 3rd Unit Director on “12 Strong” produced by Black Label Media and Jerry Bruckheimer starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon.
After returning to Denmark, Michael immediately started working as a commercial director on big international campaigns.
Peder Bille is born in Copenhagen in 1983 and is a Danish writer and actor. He’s educated as an actor from The Danish National School of Performing Arts in 2010 and as a scriptwriter from The University of Southern Denmark in 2016. Since 2011 Peder Bille has worked as a writer in advertisement, marketing, television, and TV- series. He has been co-writing the award-winning Danish TV-show “Zulu BFF” for TV2 Zulu and co-writing the award-winning children’s TV-series “Vitello” in 2018.
At the moment Peder Bille is developing and writing the feature film “Drifting Ice” with director Michael Gug Kongshaug and the feature movie “Ashes” in collaborations with actor Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones).
As an actor Peder Bille is currently in the Danish award-winning TV-series “30” and in the Danish/Swedish TV-series “The Lawyer”.
“Drifting Ice” is based on true events that happened to Michael’s cousin, who is an African-American/Danish retired hockeyplayer and retired drug smuggler. We used his double life as a drug smuggler and pro hockey player in Denmark as our vantage point. To avoid exposing him to danger we kept the story and the human struggles, but changed the setting to a place that was geographically similar to Copenhagen and Sweden. We chose Michigan and Canada. That’s it.
The story we wrote is as personal as it gets. It’s about growing up not having a place you fit in. Always having to explain yourself and your existence to the world while searching for a place to belong. A place to fit in regardless of who you are and what you look like.
“Drifting Ice” is a story about a young African-American ice hockey talent that has a hard time finding his place in the world. As a consequence of his environment, professionally and personally, and with an addiction for adrenaline makes some bad choices that take him on a path of smuggling MDMA from Canada to Detroit.
“Drifting Ice” is an equally weighted combination of two genres; sports and crime. It’s a combination that hasn’t yet been seen and on top of that, it’s a true story. We didn’t make the premise up. This actually happened the way it’s written.
We’ve had the luxury of having the real Isaac as part of the writing process. His insights to understanding how a professional ice hockey player and smuggler thinks and works have been invaluable. Every bit of choreography and techniques used by the smugglers in our script is 1:1 with how it’s done in real life. Likewise with training routines and rituals for a professional player. This has given the script an authenticity and nerve seldom found.
With both writer and director being old hockey players we know how the locker room smells. We know how tense it is in that bus traveling from game to game. We know the pressure during training. We’ve run the bleachers in full gear. We’ve been sharpening our own skates to get them just right before a game. We’ve spent hours waxing our laces and finding the right tape with the right grip. We’ve sat with hairdryers drying our gloves. We know this world into our bones!
When Isaac Williams (20) puts on his ice hockey equipment, he enters a space without time and place. The feeling of the sharp skates that cut across the ice and the cool dry scent, that hits his nostrils, is the wildest drug for Isaac. As a forward in the first chain of the junior OHL team Flint Firebirds, Isaac is struggling to make his dream of playing in the NHL come true. Isaac has always stood out on the ice, partly because of his obvious talent, but especially because he is one of the few African- American players in the league.
His parents divorced when he was nine years old and throughout Isaac’s life, he has felt constantly split between his African-American father and his Caucasian mother. His parents have communicated through Isaac since the divorce, putting him on the spot. Isaac wants to satisfy both of them, but essentially fails them both miserably. He has a hard time watching his mother starting a new family, of which he doesn’t feel as a part of. When his mother tells him to move out of the house and into the garage he feels like a knife in his back is being twisted and the betrayal by his mother is completed.
Most of Isaac’s friends look up to him and the girls love him. He’s tall, strong and has an ability to charm everyone - almost a bit manipulating. Even though Isaac has a successful life and is on the brink of being drafted to the NHL, he has a hard time dealing with the expectations of the club and his father, who is also his agent. A relationship both of them have a hard time separating from family life. He never feels that he is doing well enough and that his father never acknowledges him for his efforts on the ice or just as his son. His father used to be an ice hockey player himself, but he never made it to the NHL.
Since Isaac was young, it has always felt natural to have his father as an agent and closest advisor. His father was his biggest hero. But with every year of Isaac not being drafted, he is slowly losing faith in his father’s abilities as an agent. On one side Isaac feels grown up and independent, but on the other side, Isaac hates himself for not having the courage to cut the ties to his father. He’s afraid of hurting his father and never getting his recognition.
Every time he gets off the ice and the adrenaline has settled, the thoughts make Isaac go crazy. He feels lonely and isolated from a normal youth life. Especially in the summer break, he gets bored. Only the adrenaline can push the dark thoughts away. So when Isaac’s criminal friend, Marco, introduces him to Kevin, one of Detroit’s biggest drug gangsters, Isaac feels seen and acknowledged for the first time. Isaac is suddenly part of a group where he feels valued for who he is and not just for what he can do.
Isaac starts living a double life as an ice hockey player and a drug smuggler. Isaac soon feels like a success both on and off the ice. He’s never had more confidence in himself, but deep down Isaac is still fighting the feeling of not being good enough and not getting his father’s acknowledgment. But when a famous agent approaches him he has to find a way out of the “blood in, blood out” drug world.
Joseph "Joe" Williams - Isaac's father
Growing up African-American in Flint, Michigan Joe’s (46) future looked grim from the beginning. But with a God-given talent for ice hockey, he saw a way out for himself. Both his parents were too busy working to keep a roof over their heads essentially leaving Joe to be raised at Flint Firebirds. He was a rising star and very close to his goal of becoming a superstar NHL player, but even though he was tough on the outside and had the talent he couldn’t handle the pressure and always failed or came up with an excuse for not performing when it counted.
At twenty-six he met Sarah and a year after they had Isaac. When Isaac started to show he had inherited his talents on the ice and even broke his own childhood records, he shifted his focus to help Isaac fulfill both their dreams of getting to the NHL. Isaac would never have to fight the way he did. He would give the paternal support he had lacked to make it all the way. He still feels guilty for his own career and therefore he puts extra pressure on Isaac to harden him and make him get used to the pressure. Joe has on many occasions worked Isaac so hard that Isaac has gotten sick. But he doesn’t realize or acknowledge that through this overambitious ideology he causes insecurity to waken in Isaac, which is breaking Isaac down instead of building him up.
When Joe and Sarah divorced it felt like a personal defeat for Joe, for which he has never forgiven Sarah. He finds her new suburban lifestyle a joke, which he doesn’t hold back from Isaac. In reality, he hates himself for not being able to provide the same stability for Isaac and therefore he has devoted his life to create a safe and professional environment around Isaac on the ice to make sure he goes pro.
When Isaac isn’t drafted, Joe has a hard time realizing that it might be time to let go as Isaac’s agent. Instead, Joe intensifies the pressure on Isaac believing that is the right way to make him the best OHL player out there. He feels it’s his responsibility as Isaac’s father, trainer, and agent. Joe’s tunnel vision on pressuring Isaac makes him oblivious to the fact that he is pushing Isaac away. Joe is shocked when Isaac tells him that he has signed with a professional agent. Suddenly he’s excluded from his son’s career and has to find out how to maneuver his life under new circumstances.
Sarah Thompson - Isaac's mother
Sarah, 43, spends most of her day making sure her family is good and everybody is happy. She is the perfect mother and housewife on the outside. She’s good looking and is always happy and smiling. But it bothers her that she never knows where her oldest son, Isaac, is or what he’s doing. She loves him unconditionally, but their relationship was affected negatively when she left Isaac’s father, Joe.
Sarah met Joe when she was seventeen. He was a bit older and it was love at first sight. She was working as a receptionist in Detroit and he was the local hockey star with the promise of a great career as a professional player.
Leaving her son was the toughest thing Sarah ever had to do in her life. Sarah wants the best for Isaac, and when she met Larry, her new husband, she insisted that Isaac live with them as they were in a better neighborhood than Isaac’s father. Here, Isaac could get decent friends and attend a decent school. Everything that Sarah didn’t have herself as a child.
All the time she has to balance between her new family life and her problematic relationship with her ex-husband, Joe, and Isaac, who slides further and further away from her. Sarah is deeply jealous that Isaac and Joe have a common passion for ice hockey together. She struggles with her feelings of envy, and to protect herself, she unconsciously prioritizes her new family over Isaac, even though she won’t acknowledge it.
Sarah has difficulties understanding that Isaac feels more African- American than white. To her, he is the best of two worlds. But it hurts her when she can feel Isaac’s contempt for her new suburban life. When she got a new son with Larry, it pushed him further away. She lost her grip on Isaac’s upbringing, and she no longer feels she can control him. Her bad conscience about having a new family makes it difficult to set boundaries for Isaac. She tries to be the cool mother in the hopes of winning Isaac back. She knows it’s wrong, but she doesn’t have the time and energy to fight with Isaac every time there’s trouble with him. But Sarah won’t face that her family life is as problematic as any other divorce family and that she can’t force Isaac to live the life that she thinks is the right one.
Kevin - Drug lord
When Kevin, (45) looks out over the city of Detroit from his penthouse apartment he can see all the way to the poor neighborhood where he grew up as a child. As a son of a Canadian father and a Danish mother, Kevin always felt a little different from the other children in the neighborhood. At 10 years old his father died in a work accident and his mother was left alone with Kevin and his little brother. The system fails them and there was no one to help them. Slowly Kevin gets involved in drug trafficking between the U.S. and Canada.
Even though Kevin is now one of Detroit’s most powerful and infamous gangsters, he has never forgotten where he came from. He lives a life of luxury with parties, ladies, and drugs, yet he has always succeeded in going under the radar of the police. Kevin has the ability to see the bigger picture and solution to any obstacles he might be facing. He makes a point out of meeting everybody, even if it means driving to Flint from Detroit to meet with his local crew up there, nobody should get the feeling that he isn’t watching every corner of his business. He is intelligent without being educated, successful and loving without being nurturing, but behind the charming outside hides a dark and dangerous side. Kevin is a scary combination of warm joviality and psychopathic temperament - lovable and terrifying at the same time.
When Kevin meets Isaac for the first time, he immediately notices that Isaac is made of something special. Isaac is different from the other young men Kevin meets. Kevin senses that Isaac is fearless and has a work ethic that reminds him of his own. Isaac is a professional athlete who could have advantages Kevin could use. But Kevin also senses that Isaac needs recognition and is looking for an older role model. Just like Kevin did himself after he had lost his father. He sees the potential of a new partner in Isaac he can trust. A well-trained athlete that will always obey an order from his coach. Isaac also has leadership potential and could be the man of the future that Kevin needs to survive in the drug trade.
When his connection in Canada gets busted, and his supply line is gone, he knows time is limited before someone tries to move in on him. He needs to find a solution as soon as possible. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as nobody comes up with a better plan than Isaac’s with smuggling drugs on his team bus whenever he has an away game in Canada, he has to go with that one. Kevin knows it is extremely risky, but even though he likes Isaac, he is willing to sacrifice him.
Marco - Isaac's best friend
Marco (20) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up he moved around a lot with his mother. Never staying for more than one year anywhere. When he was thirteen they moved to Flint where they settled down. His mother found a job as a waitress and at school, Marco made a new friend — Isaac. They were each other’s escape from the real world.
Marco also began playing ice hockey to hang out with Isaac, but didn’t have the talent and quickly stopped again before it got serious. Ever since he has been jealous of Isaac. Marco tries to hide it, but it comes to the surface when he is under pressure.
As part of Kevin’s crew, he feels seen and respected, but even more importantly he feels powerful. Marco wants to do everything to impress Kevin so when he recruits Isaac to smuggle drugs it is important for him that Isaac performs so that he can show Kevin that he has leadership
potential. Isaac is his project and it also gives him a chance to outshine Isaac and be in charge. It is also meant to elevate him in Kevin’s organization and get him closer to the big money.
It hits like a punch to his face when he realizes Isaac and Kevin have started an operation without him. Isaac was Marco’s invention. He introduced him to Kevin and he is the one that deserves Kevin’s acknowledgment and respect. He deserved the promotion, not Isaac. He should be the boss of Isaac and not the other way around. Marco feels betrayed and therefore, sees no other way than to get rid of Isaac - even though it’s his best if not only friend - and he starts planning for a high stakes coup d’etat with other neglected members in Kevin’s organisation that also sees that Kevin is vulnerable now that the supply line from Canada is gone.
Isaac dances between three worlds. His family, his pro hockey and his drug smuggling world. The worlds will be characterized by each getting their own color scheme and arena.
The family scenes will all be shot at his parent’s house with warm natural colors.
The ice hockey world will for most parts take place at a stadium or training facilities with cold desaturated colors.
The crime world will be shot in vibrant colors and always on exterior locations where the drug trades will happen, e.g. streets, parks, abandoned or desolate locations.
The idea is to approach this film as realistically as possible while still keeping cinematic aesthetics. Having said that I feel that during specific scenes, e.g. when the Isaac does a drug trade or a border run, the movie should for a short while transition into a “documentary” to make the experience more authentic to the viewer.
The camera should reflect the state of mind Isaac is in. If Isaac is calm the camera will be as well. If Isaac is nervous the camera and editing should move unpredictably making the audience feel the anxiety. The only time the camera is at ease, is towards the end when everything seems to be falling into place for Isaac.
This is a story about a young man trying to find his place in the world, while we get a glimpse into a community and a world you don’t normally get an inside look at. There has never been a sports/crime movie portraying the hardships of growing up in a biracial hybrid family struggling to fight the temptations of crime and drug smuggling.
THIS TRUE STORY IS TOO AMAZING NOT TO TELL!