Peter Briggs'
independent WWII horror film, Panzer 88 -- which revolves around a five-man German tank crew that encounters a supernatural beastie as they drive across Russia -- has been generating buzz since it first came to light earlier this year. Gary Kurtz, a producer on the first two beloved Star Wars movies is overseeing, which is a pretty big deal. It's being directed by Briggs, who's best known for co-writing the screenplay for Hellboy. Now comes the biggest news of all -- Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop have signed on to handle the film's physical production.

Although this story broke within a Geoff Boucher L.A. Times article covering Kurtz' attendance at the major Star Wars convention in Orlando two weeks ago, I'd received a heads-up email from the director with details of Weta Workshop's involvement ahead of time, and kept it quiet until everything was officially in place. That's now happened, so we can spread the news about this exciting project.

Get the scoop and dig into Briggs' personal story board art after the jump.

What began as a discussion between Briggs and Richard Taylor, Weta's Design and Effects Supervisor, about simply building the full-scale German King Tiger tank for the film, morphed into something much larger once Taylor saw the film's script. Intrigued by the its potential, Taylor made a bold suggestion -- move the whole shoot to Wellington, New Zealand, and have Weta Workshop handle the bulk of the production, in addition to having Peter Jackson's Stone Street Studios and Park Road Post host shooting and post production.

Taylor told The LA Times yesterday: "There's a chance with Panzer to make a visually compelling film with a nimble production. It has been fantastic being involved in the early stages of a project that has already had such a significant body of preparatory production work done. It seems that Gary and Peter have explored all production scenarios and analyzed all and every film-making option in an effort to produce an epic film on a respectable budget."

In the wake of a longer piece solely covering Panzer 88 in the L.A. Times this morning, Briggs told us exclusively today: "From the Film Commissions on down, everyone in New Zealand's bending over backwards to make this movie happen. I can't stress how thankful I am to have had Richard Taylor and the Weta Workshop push this project forward. We were frankly stunned by their response to it. Richard (Taylor) and Peter (Jackson) have an awful lot on their plate right now, obviously, but the level of personal enthusiasm from them in wanting to see this movie get made without getting in the way of their own obviously very pressing commitments is overwhelming to me. I'm as much of a fanboy as the next guy, and greedily consumed all Richard's enthusiastic DVD commentaries for a decade. To have Gary Kurtz and Richard working alongside me on Panzer, is a dream come true. We have financiers chasing us now, which I think is a pretty great turnaround to the way it usually is."

On the subject of legendary producer Kurtz, Briggs waxes enthusiastic: "Unlike any producer I think I've ever worked with before, Gary is very geared towards actual physical hands-on production. Whenever we sit down, he cites current research into lenses and equipment to me, and I have to scramble to keep up! You have to remember Gary originally pieced together I.L.M., and he's still on the cutting edge of FX technology. To be honest, Gary, Richard, and myself are the perfect team, because we all have a bent towards the physical fabrication of scenes, but augmented and extended with just enough digital work to seamlessly and naturalistically pull it off."

While it's unknown at this time what Jackson's personal commitment to Panzer 88 might be, especially given that Jackson may potentially have his hands more than full with The Hobbit, naturally these comments have many speculating that Panzer 88 could be the next District 9 -- another modestly budgeted effects-driven film with Jackson's seal of approval, that went on to become a major hit and earn serious awards buzz.

Do you think the same thing might happen with Panzer 88? Only time will tell, but we should know more when the movie begins shooting later this year.

[Photo credit: Paul Mendoza]