This Friday, IFC Midnight will be releasing Clay Staub‘s sci-fi creature feature Devil’s Gate in limited theaters and on VOD platforms.
The film is set in a small town where an FBI Agent (Amanda Schull) comes to investigate the missing wife and son of a local rancher (Milo Ventimiglia). It boasts a number of cool practical creature effects, mostly performed by the great Javier Botet (It, Mama, [REC], The Conjuring 2, Alien: Covenant), with X-Men actor Shawn Ashmore also starring.
Before the film went before cameras, Staub created a massive book of concept art in order to find financiers. Here’s what he has to say about the process to go along with a handful of absolutely gorgeous pieces of art from both Alison Dixon and Dan Milligan.
“Back in the early days of development, when Devil’s Gate was not much more than a concept–just an idea I had buried away in my story files–I started to realize that this particular idea was best to look at again. I felt the initial “what if scenario” was looking more relevant today, the deeper I thought about the potential storyline that could be developed.
For me, I need to see the film, feel the story’s pull before I can even entertain the idea of sharing with other creative people. This is where the key frames became my ability to translate the written word or ideas into an unshakable reality for others to view. They truly helped in developing a cohesive vision for all to share.
From the very start, when I introduced my crazy spark of an idea to my incredible writing partner Peter Aperlo, I knew the way to hook his interest was to show him the first key frame painting I had developed. What was so wonderful about these initial visuals was immediately set in motion as we began a dialogue that both Peter and I would build upon in our beat-sheet of story points. As this progressed throughout the screenwriting, I continued to paint frames that added to the story’s layout and provided important creative direction for scenes, too.
Ultimately, with the development of both the screenplay as well as my initial paintings, I was able to get incredible help from two other fantastic artists, Alison Dixon, and Dan Milligan who knew me too well and my never-stop-until-we’re-on-the-screen approach!
The challenging, arduous, and even sometimes frustrating journey that has been Devil’s Gate has nevertheless generated some very rewarding moments during the production. Our key-frames became especially indispensable during preproduction to bring those early imaginings to life. When I walked onto our stage for the first time, I saw stapled to the wall all fifty-plus of the earliest paintings we had developed–long before anyone on the crew even knew what Devil’s Gate would become–and my incredible production designer, Rejean Labrie simply said, “That is the universe we are building and everyone needs to see our goal.
Director / Co-Writer / Devil’s Gate”
DEVIL’S GATE Key Frames
(Early Development) Dark winter clouds gather in the big, oppressive sky as a lone vehicle breaks down on a desolate road. The driver Pearce Bacca (25) looking to find help spots a silhouette on an old farmhouse on the bleak horizon.
Shovel in hand Pritchard walks out back to find Pearce’s mangled remains, killed by one of Pritchard’s traps set on his property.
Agent Francis discovers Maria’s missing vehicle inside Pritchard’s barn.
Agent Francis discovers something human-like and alive caged in Jackson Pritchard’s basement.
Illuminated only by muzzle flashes, Agent Francis faces off against a ferocious intruder intent on releasing the captive from the basement.
In a desperate attempt to save his boy, Pritchard moves into the basement with Deputy Salter close behind. Looking through the locked cage, Pritchard sees his captured beast and brandishes a set of pruning shears as he takes matters into his own hands.
Down in the basement, Jackson Pritchard takes the hostage negotiations into his own hands with the help of a reluctant Deputy Salter.