For the past five months, I’ve been learning how to use Epic Games’s Unreal Engine to create an animated version of my short story, “Diary of the Cryonic Pharaoh.” The story was first published in September 2022 by Autonomous Press in the anthology Spoon Knife 6: Rest Stop.
In “The Cryonic Pharaoh,” a man wakes up in an underground bunker after a 10,000-year cryostasis in an effort to bypass the effects of a chemical war. He discovers he murdered his fellow cryonauts — except he has no memory of doing so due to short-term amnesia. Time runs out as the bunker might be haunted or harbor a survivor who wants revenge — or both.
I hope to premiere the film in 2024, but that’s optimistic as I’m doing everything myself: all the acting, all the animating, all the film editing — and if I’m feeling really ambitious, all the music as well. It helps that I don’t have to do all the 3D sculpting, though. Between Quixel Bridge, Unreal Marketplace, and other such websites, I have literally tens of thousands of pre-fabricated, photo-realistic assets to choose from to create my sets, props, and costumes. Nevertheless, this is a long-term learning process, and at every turn I’m having to take time out for online courses and deep research dives. No white belt ever became a black belt in five months.
Why am I making my own animated film by myself? Because it’s fun and takes me down new avenues of learning. Six months ago, I wouldn’t have known an inverse-kinematics rig from a Swiss army knife, but now I’m using them to retarget my own motion-capture animations onto Metahuman control rigs. And with all the incredible things coming down the pipe with Unreal Engine 5.2, I expect the tools to get better and better. (This is a far cry from last year’s obsession with Meta’s Horizon Worlds.)
Long-term distribution plans for this project include showing it to you for free on YouTube and possibly submitting it to film festivals. Who knows; I’m still very early in the process.
Keep an eye here for production updates as things move along!