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THE GATHERING DEAD Film Development Fund

Cover art for The Gathering Dead

So I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d have a reveal about The Gathering Dead, and here it is. Try not to get anything on your keyboard… 😉 

After reading some months ago on the blog of the erstwhile David Gaughran where he spoke of crowdfunding his latest novel, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, the idea to try my hand at this kind of financial networking became lodged in what passes for one of my frontal lobes. I didn’t know if I would be scurrying to recreate Gaughran’s success anytime soon, but it seemed like a potentially nifty process for securing some preliminary funding for a future project. I had no idea what project I might tie this into–I mean, I have so many!–but it was definitely something that I would revisit at some point in time. So I put a mental coda on that.

Well, it’s come around again.

But first, a quick bit of semi-recent history. Let’s stumble down Memory Lane together, shall we? 

When The Gathering Dead came out, many folks beyond myself thought it would make a halfway decent film. The comments came mostly in reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and of course I took note of this. Many of the reviews contained actual comparisons with recent films, such as Black Hawk Down, which I felt was more than just slight cool–I mean, my book contrasted favorably with one of Ridley Scott’s best films? Can’t shake a stick at that. 

But while nice, the reviews didn’t exactly motivate me to develop the book into anything more than it was. A book is a book, a movie is a movie, and movies are made from books written by other authors. Not me. 

Then, as things began to heat up and the book circulated around in both print and electronic media, I received some interesting probes from folks over on the Left Coast. Would I be willing to option the book for a potential film? Why, yes…yes I would! 

Unfortunately, Mrs. Knight didn’t raise a dummy for a son.

I asked for contracts with everything spelled out: how long the option would last for, what kind of money was to be doled out and when, renewal rights, script input (actually, I wanted to write the first draft myself), treatment approval, beat sheet review, etc., etc. In short, this wasn’t something I was just going to give up, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to give it up for free. Or even next to free. And I wasn’t going to allow myself to be cut out of any potential revenue streams, either.

Actually knowing what to ask for makes things more difficult. One potential suitor disappeared right off the bat. The second suitor sent me contracts with almost everything I asked for. So I took them to an IP lawyer who is also an entertainment attorney, and after some fairly standard revisions wherein my rights were more clearly spelled out, I sent the revised contracts back for comment. The comment? “Look, you should be happy we’re even coming to you! You’re gouging right off the bat!” 

Gouging? Moi? To be specific, I didn’t ask for a million dollars up front or anything like that. My revisions to the contract were pretty transparent, even to a non-legal eagle like myself. I wanted to ensure I was protected, and that meant not giving up everything right away. Suitor two probably understood, but wasn’t interested in starting things off on a level playing field. So…bye-bye.

Not surprising, and if I was acting from a strictly mercenary point of view, I would have accepted whatever I got. You see, attracting interest in the property isn’t particularly hard in the Hollywood industry. If you hit the right plot points and present things in a fairly professional manner, people will take notice. I’ve been there before, and have profited from it, back in the days when I was just an aspiring screenwriter (a lifetime ago). But options almost always expire, the property is tied up during the contract, and really, almost nothing ever, ever gets done beyond some n00b writing some script coverage. That’s it. Really. The chances of a project receiving the green light is about as high as being struck by lightning, or being bitten on the ass by a shark while sitting on your own toilet. And at least in the United States, that’s a pretty dismal success-to-failure ratio. (Though I will admit there have been times when I’ve hummed the theme to JAWS while evacuating, just to see what happened.) So this ends The Brief History of The Gathering Dead in Hollywood. Now, it’s time for take two: 

Crowdfunding The Gathering Dead!

IndieGoGo Campaign for The Gathering Dead

So here is where Mr. Gaughran’s blog post came into play. Some synapses fired and I thought: Hey, I’m an entreprenuerial kind of guy–maybe this crowdfunding thing could give me a leg up on getting this done! A few days of research led me to IndieGoGo, where after another few days of noodling around and checking out the other projects available for funding helped me to generally get to how this might work. After a while, I was able to convince myself that this might be a good thing to try.

 So what do I need to do?
The path for putting together a film is a byzantine one, full of land mines, dead ends, and pretty much every kind of pitfall imaginable. While it’s billed as being a “collaborative” art, filmmaking is generally anything but: it’s one of those scenarios where the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, or the one. Basically, it’s a film producer’s world, and those folks help themselves to all the money up front, in the middle, and on the back end. Doesn’t sound very collaborative to me.
But still…what do I need to get done here?
Script is complete. I could stand to generate a beat sheet and a treatment as well, even though those usually come before the script–but not always, they’re tools to sell the product more than anything else. I’ll need to get the product budgeted, which will mean hiring a line producer who knows his or her way around this kind of furball. I’ll need to develop some rudimentary production designs as well–sets, props, visual effects, special makeup effects, all in the form of drawings, line art, or actual prototypes that people can look at (but not touch!). All of which will go quite a way toward securing some additional seed monies to move the project from initial development to full-scale development, or what could be described as “pre-pre-production.” Lots of steps. Lots of complicated steps. Lots of expensive steps, since I can’t do a lot of this on my own. Which means I have to hire folks to do it for me.
Thankfully, I know a lot of folks in the business, but they won’t work for free. This is labor-intensive stuff, and everyone deserves to get paid, or at least compensated in some way for their hard work. And since the casting couch isn’t an option unless someone has a thing for middle-aged writers with a bad attitude, then the transactions have to be secured with cold green cash. And how much, you might ask?
I’ll need a little over $100,000 (gasp!) to get this done right. I’ll pony up about half, but the rest has to come from elsewhere. And once I get it and the goods are delivered to me, I can start hunting down venture capital in earnest.
So there you have it…the ballad of The Gathering Dead‘s film development fund. Coming soon to a theatre near you…well, give or take three or four years.
Do I sound crazy? I don’t think so. I’m a deliberate sort of individual, and I recognize the only way this thing will get done is if I make it happen, one way or the other. But I’ll keep you all updated on this as things progress. It does promise to be a mammoth undertaking, a true multi-year project, but if it works out, then The Gathering Dead will be one hell of a kickass movie, much like it’s one hell of a kickass book.
For those who are interested, check out The Gathering Dead Film Development Fund on IndieGoGo. Feel free to contribute, or if not that, then pass on the word to those who might be interested. And I’ll be adding a video introduction where I’ll outline the project directly, in my own words. Don’t worry, I’ll actually shower and shave beforehand. I promise.
And of course, as things develop and I get more tangibles in hand, I’ll share those as well, both on IndieGoGo and here.
Wish me luck, gang. I suspect I’ll need it. (Along with a hundred grand.)
  1. February 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    That will be SO FREAKIN COOL Steve. I would definitely go see that. I hope it works out good for you. Try not to give away too much.

    If I can’t be there financially, know that I am 100+% with you in spirit.

    • February 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      Not a problem, Paul! This is going to be a long-term process I think, so if you can get the word out to anyone who might be interested…please do!

  2. Red
    February 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Best of luck. I shall watch with great interest.

    • February 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      So will I. If nothing else, I have lots of chutzpah. And best of all, I can tell the difference between a static shot and a tracking shot.

  3. February 14, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Awesome. Good luck making this happen. Maybe it could be the next cult Zombie flick – like Hard Rock zombies, but not terrible.

    • February 14, 2012 at 9:21 am

      The product I have in mind is much higher profile, like the remake of Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later. This is going to cost millions by the time it’s all done. No schlock, just good, competent film entertainment.

  4. February 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    This is great stuff, with the vision you have created this sounds like it will be material with real quality! I look forward to its development.

  5. Jonathan Edwarsd
    February 14, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    how long would it take to receive the books ? would they be in epub, mobi format?

    • February 15, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Well, The Rising Horde isn’t available yet, but the others are. Your choice of format!

  6. joseph larosa
    February 15, 2012 at 11:33 am

    steve that is great news,if there ever was a book of this type to be made into a movie the gathering dead is it! i really hope this works out for you.

    • February 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      Thank you sir! It promises to be a long and treacherous road. But possiby well worth it, in the end!

  7. February 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    That’s an ambition goal and a really awesome development! Wish you all the best in this project. My film school (and screenwriting) days were a while ago but my indie-film aspirations haven’t completely died yet. Would love to see something like this happen.


    Writing Trip

    • February 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      Yeah, I went through the film school bit too back in the early 80s. Might as well see if any of it can work for me. Not that I really need to, I just have to hire the right folks.

  8. February 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Let me know if you need a grip! 🙂

  9. February 18, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Ha. Should have just taken your $5K (typicalish) 18 month option and run knowing nothing ever happens in Hollywood. Now you’re in deep. 😛

  10. Dungeondan
    February 19, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    This is great news Stephen. The whole time I was reading the book I thought it would be a great film! Keep us in the loop please. I’m sure you know plenty of make up fx artists but I would like to offer myself as a sounding board in this area should you need it. I did this work for 20 years, a few “A” list movies, some “B” movies, several direct to video, a few television shows, and plenty of fun projects that I have no idea what had become of them.

    • February 22, 2012 at 9:18 am

      Oh yeah? That’s cool, are you still in the biz? One of my boyhood friends is the principal at CCE in Ventura.

  11. Dungeondan
    February 25, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I’m not in the industry any more. I do an occasional project but for the most part I concider myself retired from the field.

    • February 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      It’s a dog-eat-dog business, man. Consider yourself lucky to have retired! It looks like if you were to continue, you’d have to become a Maya and ZBrush expert, and that stuff ain’t easy!

  12. Dungeondan
    February 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    While I have played with Maya I really didn’t do any of the CG stuff. I did the hands on physical effects, prosthetics, body suits, mechanical stuff. These days I tinker around with building websites, graphic arts, and teaching myself to build iPhone/android apps. I’m concidering starting my own “Zombie” blog but haven’t determined if I can dedicate the time to keep it up to date with new content. If I do decide to do the blog I would love to feature your books in it.

  13. March 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I haven’t been this excited to hear about a movie in years – if ever! You are an amazing author, and The Gathering Dead is the best. Good luck and I will make sure to get the word out this way!!!

    • March 4, 2012 at 7:46 am

      Thank you ma’am, and I appreciate the assist!

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