The Tic Code

The Tic Code

DVD release cover
Directed by Gary Winick
Produced by

Michael Wolff
Karen Tangorra
Midge Sanford
Sarah Pillsbury
Polly Draper
Larry Meistrich

Executive Producers = Bob Van Ronkel - Steve Sherman
Written by Polly Draper
Starring Gregory Hines
Polly Draper
Christopher George Marquette
Music by Michael Wolff (score)
Alex Foster
Cinematography Wolfgang Held
Edited by Bill Pankow
Kate Sanford
Henk Van Eeghen
Distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment
Release dates
  • August 4, 2000 (2000-08-04)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$2 million
Box office US$205,000

The Tic Code (also known as Lessons in the Tic Code[1]) is a drama film directed by Gary Winick and written by Polly Draper. It tells of a single mother, the relationship she forms with a jazz musician who has Tourette syndrome, and her young son—a jazz piano prodigy—also with the disorder. The musician and the boy form a friendship, and the film is loosely based upon the experiences of Draper's jazz musician husband Michael Wolff, who provided the film's score. Draper, star of Thirtysomething, portrays the mother and Gregory Hines plays the musician with Christopher George Marquette as the boy.

Principal photography took place in 1997 in New York City. The Tic Code appeared at several film festivals in 1998 and 1999, where it won a number of awards. It received a limited theatrical release in the United States on August 4, 2000, and a DVD release in February 2001. Critical response to the film was generally favorable.


The film tells the story of a young boy, Miles Caraday (Marquette), a jazz piano prodigy who has Tourette syndrome, and his divorced mother Laura Caraday (Draper).[1] Miles has a school friend, Todd (Desmond Robertson) who seems not to be bothered by Miles' condition. Miles wants to become a jazz pianist against the wishes of his classical-oriented instructor Miss Gimpole (Carol Kane).[2] At a local nightspot, Miles becomes friends with a jazz saxophonist, Tyrone Pike (Hines), who also has Tourette's but has learned ways to cover up his condition.[3]

In the film, Tyrone tells Denny Harley who bullies Miles that the reason they both tic is:
Tyrone: [...] because we both know the code.
Denny: [...] Code, what code?
Tyrone: [...] 'the tic code'.
Denny: So you and Miles made this whole thing up?
Tyrone: No, the C.I.A. did; a lot of people know about it now.


The Tic Code was in development for five years before finally being made.[4] Principal photography took place on location in New York City in 1997, on a budget of US$2 million.[5] The film was directed by Gary Winick, who took over after original director Norman René died during pre-production.[6] It was written by Polly Draper, who also produced alongside Karen Tangorra, Midge Sanford, Sarah Pillsbury and Larry Meistrich.[7] Draper based the screenplay on the experiences of her noted jazz musician husband Michael Wolff, who has Tourette syndrome. Wolff's involvement as co-producer ensured the cooperation of jazz club The Village Vanguard, which granted the production permission to use its name and exterior shots of the building. Herman Leonard loaned his collection of photographs of famous jazz musicians, and the Blue Note jazz club allowed its name to be used on fake fliers. Wolff also provided the film's piano score,[4] to which Alex Foster also contributed by providing the soundtrack for scenes of Hines' playing the saxophone.[6]

Post production

The Tic Code appeared at the first Newport International Film Festival in June 1998.[8] It was subsequently shown at the Wine Country Film Festival in July–August 1998,[9] and at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October 1998.[10] It also appeared at several film festivals in 1999, including the Vancouver Reel to Real Festival on March 3, 1999, the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Giffoni Film Festival. On April 2, 1999, the film aired on the Starz! television network.[6] The distribution rights were subsequently picked up by insurance company-backed film library Chaross Pictures, which buys independent films that have run into financial difficulty. The rights were sold to Lions Gate Entertainment in May 1999.[11] Lions Gate gave The Tic Code a limited theatrical release in the United States, opening on August 4, 2000. It grossed US$205,000 from nine theaters and closed on October 5, 2000.[12]


The film also features Desmond Robertson as Todd, Miles' friend; Carol Kane as Miss Gimpole, Miles' music instructor and teacher; Robert Iler as Denny Harley, a bully; Bill Nunn and Tony Shaloub as bartenders Kingston and Phil; Camryn Manheim as Mrs. Lily Swensrut, one of Laura's customers; and James McCaffrey as Michael Caraday, Laura's ex-husband. Wolff cameos as Sound Engineer #2.

Awards and reception

The Tic Code received generally favorable reviews from film critics.[13] Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of critics gave the film a positive write-up, based upon a sample of 26, with an average score of 6.6/10.[14] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 64, based on 17 reviews.[13]

In 1998, the film won the Audience Award for Most Popular Feature at the Hamptons International Film Festival.[6] It also received a "special recognition" award from the festival jury.[8] Polly Draper won the Bronze Gryphon award for Best Actress at the Giffoni Film Festival, and Christopher George Marquette won the Bronze Gryphon award for Best Actor. In 1999, the film won the Crystal Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival.[15] The film also took the Best Overall Film award at the first Vancouver Reel to Reel Festival.[6]


  1. 1 2 "The Tic Code - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes." The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
  2. The Tic Code (1999) - Plot summary. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
  3. Thomas, Kevin. "The Tic Code - Entertainment, Gregory Hines, Fairfield County". The Baltimore Sun, 2000-08-03. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Marsha Norman (2000-07-30). "Bringing Tourette's Into the Open, With Music". The New York Times. The New York Times Company.
  5. "'Tic' Tacks Trio to Pic". Variety. Reed Business Information. 1997-04-04. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Ken Eisner (1999-03-22). "The Tic Code: Review". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
  7. "The Tic Code – Production Credits". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  8. 1 2 Monica Roman (1998-10-19). "Hamptons on 'Edge'". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  9. David Templeton (1998-07-16). "Movies find love at the Wine Country Film Festival". Metro Newspapers. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  10. Monica Roman (1998-10-16). "Hamptons Film Fest starts". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  11. Benedict Carver (1999-05-06). "Chaross gets distrib for pic library". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
  12. "The Tic Code (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  13. 1 2 "Tic Code, The (2000): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  14. "The Tic Code (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  15. Awards for The Tic Code (1999). Retrieved on 2006-06-10.

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