Home > Writing > THE GATHERING DEAD Film Update #7


I laugh, I cry...

I laugh, I cry…

So, weird stuff happens during my attempts to get The Gathering Dead made into a film.

Through personal contacts, I managed to get the publicity package in front of the late, great Tony Scott—I actually had it FedExed to his home address in Beverly Hills. A week later, the call came in: “Hi, this is Tony. I read your stuff, and I think you’ve got something here.”

That’s the kind of phone call you want to listen in on, right?

“I’ll hand this off to my development exec, Adam. I’m going to tell you, my brother and I have over 40 projects in the pipeline, so we’re not likely to see to this ourselves…but we’d like to help.”

We would like to help? You mean Ridley saw it too? It turns out that Ridley gets notified of everything that comes in through the doors, be they the doors at Scott Free or the service entrance at Tony’s house. In that moment, I was thunderstruck by the notion that not just one, but both Great Scotts had heard of Stephen Knight.

Two weeks slipped past, during which time I did not pester or cajole. The last thing you want to be is a thorn in someone’s side when they’ve said they’d like to help, and are in the position to do just that. The smart, cool cat waits and bides his time, and when the moment is right—he pounces. I’d delivered a script, books, outlines, breakdowns, everything that was requested, Tony (and Adam Kassan, his development exec) got. I targeted the week of August 20th to start my inquiries, in as gentle a fashion as possible.

On August 19th, Tony Scott killed himself.

Obviously, that was a setback. (Gee, I hope it wasn’t because of my script! I immediately thought.)

Things were thrown in disarray, as you might imagine. It was, for me, like scaling Mount Everest, getting close enough to be able to see the summit through the wind-driven haze of snow and ice and cloud, only to slip and tumble down the entire slope. Tony Scott never got a remarkable amount of respect while he was alive, but his death caused ripples of turmoil, not just for The Gathering Dead, but for several other funded projects, not to mention the body blow everyone at Scott Free had taken. I can’t claim to have the inside track on what went down in the office on Monday, August 20th, but I imagine that the staffers all pretty much looked at Tony’s empty office and released a collective Oh, fuck. And of course, for Ridley, it must have been even worse. Tony was his little brother, and fame, success, and Hollywood doesn’t change that.

Some months later, my ever-persuasive business partner Grant called over to Scott Free, intending to get things rolling again. He found that Adam had resigned, and had moved over to Cross Creek Productions, an investor-led production company that finances several features a year. We took this to be a good sign, and Grant and I called over together to find out where Adam stood on the project—had he read the script?

He hadn’t, but asked us to resend so he could consider it with regards to his current position. We did. Adam declined to pursue it further, and wished us luck.

It should be said here that Hollywood is probably the only place on the planet where you can die from constant encouragement.

Other names came and went…Bill Mechanic, former chief of 20th Century Fox and a film producer in his own right. Michael Ohoven, who runs things at Infinity Media. We had personal connections make warm handoffs to folks like these, and others, and the eventual responses were pretty much the same: You’ve got something here, but it’s just not for us.

Like I haven’t heard that before!

I know how these things work, and it takes a lot of time, persistence, and drive to see something like this through. If this were easy, everybody would be doing it. The world is full of smart, competent people who could take on this type of endeavor, but the obstacles are many, the universal answer is almost always No (tempered by the obligatory “best of luck!”), and the chances at completing the venture approach astronomical. But the only way to succeed is to play the odds, and hope your number comes up. While attending a charitable fundraiser together in New York in late October (days before Sandy arrived) where an internationally renowned artist Grant represents was unveiling his latest, Grant and I decided that it might be in our best interest to position the property as a Regulation D filing and attract funding ourselves. Between the two of us, we know some mighty rich folks, and working to obtain investor capital is something we both know how to do. Of course, the project is totally different, and that leads to another set of obstacles, but we’ll hop those hurdles as they come up.

And the most immediate of those obstacles is that I need this trailer I’ve been waiting for. I chose folks who know how to do this kind of stuff, but it was supposed to have been completed in July; it’s now December, and I’ve got less than 25% of the product in my hands. I’ve already spent a couple of thousand bucks on it, so firing the team and starting anew leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Just the same, I’ve told them in no uncertain terms to get things pulled together and get back on a regular schedule, or I’m going to pull the plug and start over. Enough is enough, and I’m not the kind of guy who can sit back and tell people everything’s fine when I’m spending that much money on something so far past due.

So the long and the short of it is, there’s been precious little progress with this, and due to the holidays and the like which are fast approaching, I don’t see a breakthrough occurring any time soon. But at least we’ve ruled out working with the establishment, and that means we’re free to charge ahead without worries that we’re leaving any pending opportunities behind us.

Happier news: I’m about done with Earthfall, and it goes to the editor on 12/31. Will post some chapters over the coming week for you folks to read and roll your eyes over.

Knight, out.

  1. December 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Wow. I was just thinking of your work today while watching a zombie movie..thinking..Stephen’s book is so much better than this. I remember when Tony killed himself that you said he had helped.you. Wow. Heartbreaking..not only for the loss of Tony but for all the hope lost that day. So much of it is getting your screenplay in the right hands. A lot of it is a gamble, a poker game and the stars have to be aligned just right. You’ve been so close and I feel like you’re still close. Glad you’re pushing to get that trailer completed that is long overdue. They need to hurry the hell up but there may be a reason for that. When it is finally done, that may be the magic moment when someone takes notice. Hang in there!

  2. MarcW
    December 17, 2012 at 5:36 am


    Wow, I can appreciate how much of your heart has been into making a movie version of the Gathering Dead. So much politics, so many false starts, let alone the time-consuming and expensive efforts you have made just to get into the door… and all that effort just for the slightest of consideration and dare I say a consideration from folks less talented than you just so you can find yourself that much further up the food chain in that particular game of “no promises.”

    As a reader, all I can say is that NO movie would do justice to the Gathering Dead. That’s not to say there might be a cool movie inspired by it. But what us readers love about Stephen Knight is his books and no matter what, no movie would ever touch the quality of those books.

    I’m not saying to give up the efforts to make the movie happen. It is a nobel effort as the story is that good. But maybe all I am saying is to keep your eye on the ball since it is so easy to get caught up in the various steps of another genre’s game. You ARE a master of storytelling in books, you are a MASTER of the written word. All I am saying is that maybe not to get too caught up in that “movie” genre which is too full of untalented hacks which seem to plague the bottom level of the game which you are fighting through at this time. You have to mud through them with much time and expense before you even get to more talented/understanding people up higher in that particular food chain.

    All the while, again, it is arguable that the written word is superior to the limitations of film.

    Guess bottom line is that us READERS love you. Us readers would probably value another Knight book (whatever the series/genre) more than any movie that tries to resemble one of your written works. I guess I’m just saying us readers would value the books you might write during the time you’re spending with the studios about a possible movie. You have total control over your writing and the time it takes. And the time you take with that is certain as far as results. But those same efforts are less likely to produce if dealing with string of people you have to coax or coordinate in just getting a movie started at the pre-productions stages…. an effort that can fall apart at anytime beyond your control.

    Obviously a Gathering Dead movie is a dream of yours (and us readers too). That is nothing to be discouraged. It is an awesome story that should be made into a movie. But Hollywood is unpredictable and seldom logical. I guess I’m just saying that I would hate to see you miss out on time to write more great books while you’re chasing them, step by lengthy step. Your written word is that good and that’s where I humbly say most of the time should go.

    Hope not to come off as a preachy asshole… just saying your books are great. Movies can’t touch them. Therefore, speaking as a reader, more books from you rather than movies are preferable.

    Oh, shit! So much for not leaving another long post. Sorry! 🙂

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