Home > Writing > THE GATHERING DEAD Film Update #2


So, things continue to plow ahead on the project. I’d like to show you some concepts here that will go in the fundraising trailer. This is where the Black Hawk carrying McDaniels, Gartrell, the Safires, and the rest of the team from The Gathering Dead crashes in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

First off, we have the storyboard concept art. This is basically just a picture that covers most of the dynamic elements that will be embodied in the fully rendered scene. In other words, it’s a comic book-like drawing, as shown here:

Crash Scene Storyboard

Boom goes the Black Hawk! Not terribly exciting to look at in this incarnation, I know. But this is how it almost always begins: a scene from a script is roughed out in a set of storyboards, usually in a shot-by-shot format. This specific board here actually incorporates three different shots in one, but conceptually, I think it’s easy to get what’s going on: the MH-60M is crashing in NYC.

Now, the sequence has to be rendered for animatics, which will be the first generation CGI effects pass. Obviously, the board above doesn’t look very realistic at all. So what has to happen is that actual images of NYC have to be captured and mapped out. This is thankfully easy to do, since New York actually exists–it’s not an alien city or anything like that, so there are tons of photographs out there to use in mocking up the animatic. (And if need be, I can always take the 4 or 5 trains uptown and take pictures myself.) In this instance though, Our Friend Google Maps comes to the rescue.

Crash Site and Markups

Above are two shots of the intersection of East 79th Street and Lexington Avenue, the location of the building the team takes shelter in. You can see no such structure exists; it will be built in CGI and then composited onto the scene. Additional effects will be added, such as wall-to-wall traffic, smoke, some flames, and yes…zombies. And in the middle of that, comes the stricken MH-60M Black Hawk.

And how will that happen? Am I going to go out and pay the U.S. Army $45,000,000 for a Black Hawk and have them crash it in Manhattan’s Upper East Side? Nope. It’ll be a CGI model, which is already partially rendered:

MH-60M Black Hawk

This model isn’t complete. The pilot doors will have to come off, the gunner doors will have to be opened, and so will the doors to the troop compartment–the 160th flies pretty much without doors on their aircraft in all weather, so those elements will be altered. But in the coming weeks, all of these elements will be brought together using Maya, Mental Ray, Blender, and 3DS Max to provide a fully-formed action element. In other words, you’ll see what happens to a multimillion dollar special operations aviation aircraft after it’s been hit by a window diver. Add in some additional opticals, composites, music, sound effects, and voila! Ten seconds of a trailer is born.

Should be fun.

  1. jpaguirre88
    May 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Mr. Knight,
    My name is Javier, I’m a huge zombie fan and a film student as well. I am pleased to inform you that I have just finished reading your Gathering Dead book and was hooked! I stayed up until 3 am to finish the last five chapters of the book! I was actually thinking to myself “Man, this would make for an awesome movie!” Then I checked out your website. Much to my excitement, I saw the headline “The Gathering Dead film update #2.” As I read this, I let a loud “woop, woop,” sending my girlfriend jumping up into the air!
    I am excited to hear that you are in pre-production for the film. If I may ask one question. Did you write the script as well? What actors are in mind for the roles?
    Well, that was more than one question, but thank you for putting out such awesome and intense works of art! It is safe to say that I’m now hooked on your work and have purchased and downloaded both of the Rising Horde kindle books as well as the Left With The Dead book as well. I’ll be getting started on Left With The Dead today! Thanks!

  2. jpaguirre88
    May 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Dear Mr. Knight,
    I’ve just finished reading The Gathering Book and couldn’t help but think to myself “Man! This would make for an awesome zombie flick!” Then I checked out your website and saw that you were in pre-production for the film! I’m excited! Did you write the script as well? What actors do you have in mind for the roles?

    • May 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Javier. Let me correct one thing, we’re still trying to pull things together from the film perspective. My partners are running the business side of it, and they’re courting directors and the like. The film has been budgeted, and I did write the first draft of the script, but that will doubtless change. Whomever winds up directing the film will certainly want specific changes, and directors usually bring in their favorite writers. So… 🙂

      With regards to casting, that wouldn’t be my area of responsibility, but I have a list of folks my partners will be contacting over the next couple of months.

  3. jpaguirre88
    May 21, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Mr. Knight,

    I really appreciate your response!

    I sincerely apologize for the double posting! I thought my first post hand’t gone through so I posted again. Sorry! I wish you much luck with getting your story to the silver screen!

    I was curious as to what inspired or influenced you to come up with The Gathering Dead?

    • May 25, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      No problem on the double-post…this stuff happens!

      I initially was inspired to write the story by listening to a movie soundtrack, where I envisioned what would become McDaniels and Co. standing on a NYC rooftop and looking out over a sea of dead. That started it.

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