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This Present Darkness: The Film That Almost Was

July 8, 2009 by  
Filed under /W4F Exclusives

by John J. Schafer

 

this present darkness
On June 23, 2009 I updated my Facebook status to read:“John J. Schafer’s dream project… Frank E. Peretti’s “This Present Darkness”. FX dream team… ILM, Stan Winston Studio, Weta Digital and Weta Workshop. Budget… Priceless;)”

I received about a dozen or so comments posted on my wall. I received 43 e-mails on the topic. I decided to dig up an old blog that I had written. The write up was originally posted on July 30, 2006 and has NOT been updated. The original blog was much longer but after being posted on Blogger and on MySpace I had received numerous e-mails which helped filter out rumors, the out-and-out lies, as well as shed some light on new facts and photographs.

If anyone has any additional information, artwork or photographs please let me know. I have not checked to see if all the links below are still active, so be warned they may no longer work.I have no knowledge of what the current status of “This Present Darkness” or anyone’s current involvement if any.
Thanks and enjoy……………………JJS

History of Frank Peretti’s ‘This Present Darkness’ Movie

Originally Published on Blogger (July 30, 2006)
By John J. Schafer
Many of Frank Peretti’s devoted fans of This Present Darkness (TPD) have been eagerly awaiting the feature film adaptation. Over the years there have been numerous confirmed reports, as well as spurious rumors plaguing the internet about the development status of TPD.
Rewind to 1992
book-this present darkness
The associate pastor at my church gave me a copy of TPD. I had only accepted the Lord a month or so before and my pastor knew about my dreams of becoming a director. He also knew how I felt about the state of Christian media in general. I’d only been exposed to Christian films, music videos, and comics for a short time, and what I was seeing was extremely disappointing. The quality of the best productions was poor and the performances of the actors were unbelievably bad. Though some of the concepts and stories were interesting; at least it seemed they had potential when I’d read the back of a VHS boxes, however, I probably should have left it that. The best word to describe what I experienced with the majority of Christian entertainment was, ‘cheesy’.
All that being said, my pastor handed me the Peretti novel and smiled, “One day, John, this will be a breakthrough film on all levels.” Now, I know this sounds cliché, but once I started reading, I could not put this book down.Over the years I heard rumblings of a TPD film in the early stages of development. I started researching to find out who was involved. Not only was I excitedly anticipating the film as an audience member, but truth be told, my secret desire was to be involved in some way with the movie production itself. In those days, the internet was barely out of its infancy. Netscape was the new kid on the block, replacing my good ol’ Mosaic browser. Remember the days when you did a search on Gopher (not Google) and maybe 50 items returned at most? Then there was the promise of different variations of JPEG on the horizon. The viral video of the day was an ACSII based animation of a character in a walk cycle! Needless to say, it was next to impossible to find any specific information about TPD on the web.In the late 90′s, there was only one visual effects house that could take Peretti’s written text and breathe life into Tal (Captain of the Host of Heaven) and Rafar (Prince of Babylon). That studio had three simple letters to it’s name; I–L–M. The geek boy in me flashed back to the final space battle scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Seeing the swarms of Rebel X-Wing fighters engaging Imperial TIE fighters at break neck speeds, I envisioned them transforming into Tal’s army of angelic warriors slaying the demonic minions of the Strongman of Ashton. George Lucas’ arsenal of artisans and technicians, from Industrial Light Magic, were the only ones who could elevate the written text of that final epic battle between good and evil, to cinematic art.There were a few make-up studios that could probably deliver the highly detailed prosthetics, full body suits, and animatronics necessary to bring Peretti’s vision to life. But one stood out among the rest, Stan Winston and his team would be on the ‘A’ list. Both ILM and Stan Winston Studio collaborated and awed audiences world wide with their work on James Cameron’s T2. It was several months later, after I had read TPD, that Jurassic Park premiered and revolutionized both visual and special effects, raising the bar for all films to come.Advancing technology and the high level of cinematic artistry that is pushing the creative envelope today have liberated all storytellers’ imaginations beyond the confines of what was possible in the near past. ILM has now become an option and not necessarily the absolute. There are new players, boundless visionaries, like Weta Digital and Weta Work Shop, who have allowed us to journey with Frodo from his home in the Shire, to the uncharted prehistoric jungles of Skull Island, and into the magical land of Narnia.Over a decade ago I needed to contract several conceptual designers for a production at the studio where I worked. I was reviewing resumes and portfolios in our conference room when I came across a simple bullet point that brought that geek boy bubbling out of me. There, right after that simple black bullet point, was the holy grail of all word-searches I’d ever done – Conceptual Designer for: This Present Darkness. The studio was 20th Century Fox and the director was Charles (Chuck) Russell. As I read on it was like following the dotted lines on a treasure map that takes you to where ‘X’ marks the spot. At the end of the sentence was an internet address to the artist’s on-line portfolio. I don’t even remember how I left the conference room and ended up in my office in front of the computer. I typed in the url and waited breathlessly. On my screen concept art and storyboards came up. They were from well know blockbuster films. You’d think I’d have been impressed… awestruck… but all I cared about was finding even the smallest thumbnail sketch of TPD – to see what could have been. As I scrolled down paintings of angelic warriors and demons began appearing with small text beneath, This Present Darkness.I gathered enough information to use in the search queries which then lead to the mother load. Though, I never found the secret animation tests that have been rumored about over the years, I did come across many more concept illustrations and paintings. At one point in my quest I stumbled on several storyboard layouts and sculptures, or what are known today as maquettes. I saved everything on my computer and burned a CD. As time moved on, the computer eventually died and the CD became a coaster.Fast forward to today

this present darkness
Very few images of the work done for TPD remain on-line. Most of the conceptual designers and illustrators have moved on to various studios and their resumes have been updated accordingly. Please bear in mind, these few images I’m sharing date back to the mid-to-late 90′s and may not have anything to do with the recent re-activation of the project at 20th Century Fox.Read the resumes thoroughly and you will see what role these people played during the early development stages of TPD. I did not provide IMDB info on these artists only because the information posted on IMDB are productions completed or in current development. I subscribe to IMDBpro.com , which gives much more detailed information about professionals in the industry. However, there is still no mention of TPD. It doesn’t mean that there is no further development going on, but rather that the reference lists on IMDB may not have been updated.I used to get frustrated with all the false starts and rumors of TPD’s development. Like all things I have come to learn, its God timing. Look at the advancement of technology and what was achieved in the 90′s. Studios today are seeking more faith-based properties, simply because they realize after the success of The Passion and Narnia that Christians have a voice and they have buying power. There are very successful Christians in the industry who have professed their faith and have great favor and influence with key decision makers in the industry. With everything going on in the world today, people are searching – seeking for media that provides direction; in films, books, internet, television, and believe it or not, in Asia, even on mobile phones!It seems like this would be a great time and opportunity for TPD to make its big screen debut. We need to continue to keep this production in prayer. We need to believe that the right people can and will be assembled to retain the integrity of the story and characters. And most of all we need to voice our desire that that the message contained in the brilliant vision that is This Present Darkness, not be compromised.Here are some materials currently available on the internet regarding the early development of TPD.

CONCEPTUAL ARTISTS

Miles Teves
Cannom Creations (Owned by Greg Cannom)
This Present Darkness – Art Director/Character Designer (1997)

Profile: Miles Teves
http://www.milesteves.com/resume.php

Conceptual painting of Lucius by Miles Teves
Head Sculpture of Lucius by Miles Teves
Head sculpture of Lucius by Miles Teves
Spiritual Warefare painting by Miles Teves
Spiritual Warfare painting by Miles Teves
Rafar or The Strongman by Miles Teves
Conceptual painting of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman
(Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) by Miles Teves
Conceptual painting of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman  (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) by Miles Teves
UPDATED on July 3, 2009
Conceptual painting of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman
(Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) by Miles Teves
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
UPDATED on July 3, 2009
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
Demon of either Rafar (Prince of Babylon) or The Strongman (Overall coordinator of the Seige of Ashton) created at Cannom Creations designed by Miles Teves
Miles Teves posing with one of his creations
Miles Teves posing with one of his creations
UPDATED on
July 3, 2009

Stephan Martiniere
20th Century Fox
This Present Darkness – Conceptual Designer

Profile: Stephen Martiniere
http://www.martiniere.com/resume.html

Conceptual painting of an Archangel by  Stephen Martiniere
Conceptual painting of an Archangel by
Stephen Martiniere

Marc Vena
20th Century Fox
This Present Darkness – Storyboard Artist

Storyboard panel 1 by Marc Vena
Storyboard panel 1 by Marc Vena
Storyboard panel 2 by Marc Vena
Storyboard panel 2 by Marc Vena
Storyboard panel 3 by Marc Vena
TyRuben Ellingson
Industrial Light + Magic
This Present Darkness (Test) – Conceptual Designer (1998)Excerpt of ILMfan.com’s 1998 interview with TyRuben

STZ: Are you still working at ILM?

TY: My position at ILM is what they call “Casual Status”. I still have an phone there, but what it really boils down to is I’m a free agent. ILM can call me in at any time, which they most recently did on Chuck Russell’s new movie “This Present Darkness”.

Full Interview:
http://www.ilmfan.com/articles/1998/interview_tyruben_ellingson

David J. Stephen
Industrial Light + Magic
This Present Darkness (Test) – Senior Technical Director

Profile: David J. Stephen
http://www.thescratchpost.com/artists/oct00/dave/dave_bio.shtml

William Stout
Charles Russell
This Present Darkness – Presentation art and designs (1992)

Profile: William Stout
http://www.dinosaur.org/dinodel/dinodelstout.htm

VARIOUS PRODUCERS INVOLVED AT ONE POINT

Chuck Russell
Chuck Russell
Charles Russell (Chuck Russell)
20th Century Fox
This Present Darkness – DirectorProfile: Chuck Russell
http://www.showbizdata.com/pcredits.cfm?nameid=26847
Howard Kazanjian
Howard Kazanjian
Howard Kazanjian
(Producer: Return of the Jedi / Executive Producer: Raiders of the Lost Ark)
20th Century Fox
This Present Darkness – ProducerOriginal producer involved for This Present Darkness. Not sure of Howard Kazanjian’s participation with the re-activated development.Profile: Howard Kazanjian
http://www.showbizdata.com/pcredits.cfm?nameid=86469
Michael De Luca
Michael De Luca
Michael De Luca
20th Century Fox
This Present Darkness – ProducerNot officially confirmed, briefly mentioned in The Dove Foundation interview with Frank Peretti (Famous Author Peretti Tries To Keep It Simple)Full Interview:
http://www.dove.org/news/interviews/peretti.htmProfile: Michael De Luca
http://www.showbizdata.com/pcredits.cfm?nameid=1040362John Fornof
Focus on the Family
This Present Darkness – Screenplay WriterNot officially confirmed, briefly mentioned in 2005 exclusive on Infuze.com. You will need to register to read the article.Full Interview:
http://www.infuzemag.com/news/archives/2005/08/this_present_da.html
_________________________________________________________________________GRAPHIC NOVEL PITCH
By Adam Meyer (a.k.a. Shard)

By Adam Meyer (a.k.a. Shard)
By Adam Meyer (a.k.a. Shard)
If you want to see the very cool novel by Frank Peretti “This Present Darkness” made into a comic book/graphic novel. Then this is the group for you. Here you’ll find concept sketches of some of the characters in the book that I will present to Frank and his manager early next year. But to help this happen I need supporters. Our voice must be heard. And as always feedback is appreciated. Invite your friends. Let’s start a revolution! I really hope you all like the direction I am going with this so far. PEACE! – Shard
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
This Present Darkness Comic Book
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic

“Present Darkness Comic” on MySpace.com
http://groups.myspace.com/presentdarknesscomic
_________________________________________________________________________

Frank Peretti and John Schafer
Author Frank E. Peretti (left), and John J. Schafer (right) at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention CenterBack on February 20, 2006 I had the opportunity to meet with Frank E. Peretti, author of This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, The Oath and The Visitation.
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John J. Schafer

John J. Schafer

John Schafer has an ear to the ground in production circles all over the world.  He is a regular contributor to Wired4Film.com and currently lives in Virginia Beach, VA where his many cool hats at CBN include CG Supervisor and 3D animator.
He can be reached at: grafxboy68@gmail.com
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Comments

3 Responses to “This Present Darkness: The Film That Almost Was”
  1. cherylw323 says:

    I have read these books and I would love to see a movie made from these, I have seen other films made with awesome characters made for demons and other spiritual characters, I think this would be and awesome film to portray what happens from the spiritual side of our christian battle and make it more real to people.

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  1. [...] Pre-Production Artwork For This Present Darkness Film My buddy Vic Medina of Collectoramashow.com reminded me the other day that he had ran across artwork done by some guy who was hired by director Chuck Russell back in the 90′s to draw up concepts for the angels and demons from Frank Peretti’s novel This Present Darkness. He said the stuff looked really cool but he couldn’t remember where he saw it. I hit up Google and found not only one or two pieces of concept art, but quite a few from different artists that were hired at different times to come up with ideas for a film based on the book. There’s been three or four artists hired at one time or another to draw up the characters. There’s been several different big names attached to the 20th Century Fox project as well over the years. There was Chuck Russell, who was to direct it. Return of the Jedi producer Howard Kazanjian was supposed to produce. Then at some point Michael DeLuca (Ghost Rider, Blade II, Rush Hour 2, The Mask) got involved as a producer. Apparently, nothing has really ever gotten out of the concept phase, so all we can do is hope and pray that one day someone will do the source material justice while making a really legitimately good movie version. We’ve posted some of the concept art right here for you to check out. You can check out tons of other info on the project and more artwork right here. [...]

  2. [...] 1. This Present Darkness: The Film That Almost Was [...]



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