Our team at Perception collaborated with directors Joe & Anthony Russo and Netflix to design and construct several storytelling features in their new film, The Gray Man. Starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Regé-Jean Page and more, follows the story of the CIA’s most skilled operative—whose true identity is known to none. When he accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins. Working closely with the Russo brothers and the VFX team at Netflix, our team helped to develop and communicate integral parts of this mysterious and thrilling tale.

The Gray Man Margaret's House Sequence



Our team has collaborated with the Russo brothers on many of their films, starting with Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Based on our work unveiling the secrets of HYDRA and the Winter Soldier, the Russo brothers asked us to create something similar for The Gray Man.

This narrative sequence would be used to pack a large amount of plot and exposition into a small chunk of time. Our challenge is always to fill this short period of time with as much detail and history as possible while also making sure the story is clear and concise. We were brought on early in the film’s development to assist in building and formatting this story.



The sequence we developed for The Gray Man is a big reveal of various pieces of the story coming together to finally make sense to the main characters. This reveal is told through footage, documents and articles being pulled up and sorted through on a desktop computer, with a voice over narration from Alfre Woodard’s character, Margaret Cahill. These documents are accessed through a thumb drive provided by Ryan Gosling’s character, Court Gentry. Our team created these assets and organized and arranged them to best tell the story.



There was a strong collaborative effort between our team and the team at Netflix on this film. We met several times with the Russo brothers and Netflix to exchange storylines and different edits for this narrative. We went through several developmental iterations to land on a defined, correct story. We provided their teams with mock-ups and concepts, each one made up of slightly different assets and visuals to test different methods of telling this story.



Because this is a story-focused sequence, the story can easily shift and change direction depending on what assets are shown, how they are prepared, and the order they appear in. Once a direction was chosen, we began by generating a basic mock-up of how we felt the story should be told through footage and visual assets. This pre-visualization served as a blueprint for additional photography.

To build this sequence, we utilized Adobe Photoshop and After Effects to construct our rough edit. We curated stock footage as a basis for our designs. We created unique newspapers, security layouts, documents and news headlines for this sequence to help reflect the narrative. We then transferred our assets into Adobe Premiere Pro for the final edit.

As we constructed visual assets, the Russo brothers assisted in providing additional photography for the sequence. In one of our rough edits, we edited together sample CCTV footage of Chris Evan’s character, Lloyd Hansen, assassinating another character. This edit was sent to the Russo brothers’ team, and was then filmed on set. This, along with further additional footage and photography, was then integrated into our sequence.



In addition to designing all of the assets that appear during the sequence that plays on Margaret’s computer, we also created Margaret’s desktop background.

Margaret's Laptop Motion Test

Built to be very plain and nonchalant, this desktop simultaneously hints at Margaret’s hidden ability to decode and crack other encryption cases, as she does with Court’s thumb drive.



We also conceptualized the desktop screen of a gaming cafe and the encryption information that appears on screen. This encryption includes agency secrets and data.

Styled after utilitarian and classic digital “hacker” software, these screens and messages are used to be a driving force towards bringing Court to meet with Margaret to discover the footage and documents within the sequence we created.

Our final design draws inspiration from traditional Windows pop-ups, adding a non-discrete layer to help blend in with average desktops and remove potential onlookers’ attention.



Our team conceptualized various glitch effects that would be seen throughout the screens and computers of the film. Each varying glitch studied how individual pixels could be arranged and animated to provide a distorted and warped effect.



It was an honor to work with the Russo brothers and the team at Netflix again for the design and development of various integral storytelling features in The Gray Man. Our team loves crafting crucial narrative devices for films, and you can see this sequence in The Gray Man, now streaming on Netflix!