Alien Facebook Live stream Transmission

Here’s what I saw

 

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An encrypted message from Eve Kaspar, Blood on the corridor flood, a dove on the rung of the ladder, something in the window of the transport in the terraforming bay, previews of the colony simulator perhaps, and there’s the date for Alien day but another date beneath it says 5th June. Could that be the date they will announce the next movie?

Creatives: Alex White

Author of the new Alien: The Cold Forge, gives us an interview after the release of his book. Thank you so much for being a part of my Creatives series. Podcast coming soon…

 

Clara Fei-Fei: What was your first encounter with Alien (as in movies books or comics)?
Alex White: When I was in 3rd grade, my parents let me watch Terminator 2 because of the groundbreaking special effects, and I was instantly in love with action movies. One of our family friends had a huge library of movies on tape, including Warlock, Predator, and most importantly, Alien. Seeing that creature for the first time blew my mind. I was instantly in love with the whole franchise, including the oft-maligned Alien 3.

 

CF: What is your favourite Alien/sci-fi movie/book or comic?
AW: My favourite Alien movie is still the original Alien. When I was in talks with Titan to write THE COLD FORGE, my first question to the editor was, “Which do you prefer? Alien or Aliens?” because that would give me a good sense of how to shape my pitch. He told me they were both good for their own reasons, which was fair, but a bit political. I unabashedly prefer the first one, because it lines up with my experience of the corporate world.

If you told a major CEO you could shift their stocks up twenty percent next quarter for the cost of a starship crew, I think most CEOs would be happy to do it. Look at the ones that actively suppressed information about the lethality of smoking in the middle of last century, even created misleading information campaigns that got more people killed. And even if those plans backfire, there’s rarely ever any accountability. Just look at the Union Carbide Bhopal incident. Furthermore, this isn’t just a corporate thing, it can be a governmental thing—Chernobyl was completely preventable, but cost lives and homes. You can trace almost every major set of wrongful deaths to an unfeeling, monolithic entity that decided to enhance their profits and took a risk.

So yeah, when I see those poor space truckers getting eaten on Weyland-Yutani orders, I can’t help but sympathize and say, “I’ve had jobs like that.” It’s still so chillingly relevant even now.

 

 

CF: What authors inspired you to become a writer?
AW: I started out writing screenplays because I used to complain about movies so much that my friends would say, “If you think you can do better, do it, but stop whining.” However, screenplays only allow you to tell a very small portion of any story—you have to leave room for the director and actors to do their jobs. With a novel, you can channel a lot more raw emotion into it, and once I tried writing one, I was hooked. Also, getting a movie made is the most ridiculous process of all time, and that became less appealing to me the older I got.

I will say that I used to love reading tie-in novels in the 90s, and I read everything Dark Horse had to offer about the Xenomorphs. When those ran out, I read everything about Predator, then switched genres to Star Wars and Star Trek. And I’m not too proud to admit that I read every one of the cheesy TekWar series.
What sort of advice do you have for people wanting to do your line of work?
You can’t write for fame. You can’t write for publication, or to catch up to your friends who are popular writers. You can’t even write to be read. Those are all things that are decided by a fickle and ever-changing marketplace. When you set out on your authorial journey, you can’t know when someone will finally take an interest in your work; even when you sell something, that’s no guarantee of future interest from editors and readers.

You can only choose to write or not to write—to put your stories out there or hold them close. You should write because you love telling stories… and because you potentially suffer from a pathological addiction to making them.
How long does it take to write a book generally?
I used to write one book a year, really taking my time. The average time allotted by the publishing industry is eight months. I was given four months to write THE COLD FORGE after my pitch was accepted and cleared through 20th Century Fox. The short deadline was surprisingly fun and kept me moving faster than I’d ever gone. Weirdly, it forced me to only write the critical bits and stay focused up at all times, making for a pacy story. Despite rushing through, THE COLD FORGE is among my favourite things I’ve ever written.

 
CF: Where do you get your ideas from to form a story?
AW: JC Hutchins gave me the best piece of horror writing advice I’ve ever received: “Horror is about weakness. If you’re writing about killer shadows, make your main character nyctophobic. If you’re writing about zombies, make your main character immune-compromised.” I wanted to write about a character who was bedridden, trying to survive a Xenomorph outbreak, and was having a lot of trouble figuring out that angle.

I was at UX Week in San Francisco when Double Robotics debuted a new telepresence robot, and my story coalesced right then and there. I could have a character who is terminally-ill, too weak to stand, but I could get them around their environment through telepresence! That’s how Blue Marsalis came about. The rest of the story pretty much wrote itself once I had that piece.

 

 

CF: How do you go about picking a name for your characters?
AW: I always pick something representative of their origin. Dorian Sudler takes his name from THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, by Oscar Wilde. I think it’s a beautiful name, even if I’m a little worried that it’s on the nose. Blue Marsalis takes her last name from one of the great improvisers of our time, Wynton Marsalis.

 

 

CF: What other projects have you worked on in the past?
AW: Too many to count. Though, as published novels go, I’ve got EVERY MOUNTAIN MADE LOW, the story of an autistic woman getting revenge for her only friend’s murder, and The Salvagers space opera series, which kicks off this June 26th with A BIG SHIP AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE. A famous race car driver is framed for the murder of a fellow driver and has to team up with a con artist to clear her name. In the process, they uncover the galaxy’s most extensive conspiracy.

 
CF: Which was your favourite book to write?
AW: That’s like asking who my favourite child is! Sometimes I write to alleviate difficulties in my personal life, and those books can be among the most rewarding. THE COLD FORGE was important to me because I know so many people dealing with chronic illness, including my spouse. I have a friend watching her child suffer through terminal illness. My fears and feelings hit the page pretty hard on this one.

 

 

CF: What other things do you do?
AW: I compose music! I like to write sweeping orchestral scores for my books and give them away as promotions. I also play a ton of Overwatch on PC.

 

 

CF: What is your favourite variation of the Xenomorph?
AW: Honestly, the reintroduction of David’s Xenomorph in Covenant really struck me. By working up through the neomorphs, Ridley Scott was able to remind me why these are the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy. The shot of it riding the cargo lift gives me chills.

 

 

CF: Which Alien character in the movies or comics is your favourite?
AW: I really identify with Gorman, actually! Here’s a guy fresh out of officer candidate training, still wet behind the ears. He’s expected to show leadership, but literally, everyone in the squad is a better leader than he is. He has been taught all of these rigid plans, drilled on doctrine, and when it comes time to adapt, he chokes. I like him so much because you can see how he’s trying, how he doesn’t want to be there, and how Apone keeps throwing him a bone to get the troops to respect him. That dude was under the constant stress of letting everyone down, and it’s so poetic that he gets to be one of the squad at the very end with Vasquez. Like she ribs him in the same way that she teases everyone else, and it’s beautiful.
What sort of robotic enhancement would you get for your body and why?
There are too many good ones to count! I think I’d really like robotic eyes. They could tell me when someone is trying to pretend to be interested in my rambling when they’re actually super-bored.

 

 

CF: Which robot/AI character from any Alien/Scifi movie is your favourite?
AW: I like Ash. For starters, he’s played by Ian Holm, which allows him to do that friendly-to-creepy thing so fast… a talent we’d later see at the beginning of Lord of the Rings when he tries to snatch the ring from Frodo. Secondly, I don’t think Ash wants to do anything he does. If you watch the sequence where they’re begging him to bring in Kane, there’s a huge amount of hesitation, followed by a decisive action with no regret. I feel like the Company told him to acquire that specimen at any cost, and he doesn’t want to hurt the crew.

Consider also that Ash is supposedly an upgrade from David/Walter—two synthetics that are ultra-strong, yet he fights Ripley with a rolled-up magazine. He’s clearly going haywire, and his directive to harm the crew is causing too much emotional strain. I’m 99% sure that he loses that fight on purpose, and the relief on his face in the last moments is absolution. He’s no longer on the hook for what he’s done. He can’t hurt the crew anymore.

 

 

CF: Which human character from any Alien/Scifi movie is your favourite?
AW: My favourite sci-fi character is Spike Spiegel. His incredible violence balanced against his goofy movements always kills onscreen. I love that he spends most of the series failing to collect bounties, but he keeps the mask of a careless joker the entire time. He also has the disturbing potential to walk away from anyone.
Which Alien movies do you like?
Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Covenant. I’m going to go ahead and count Alien: Isolation because holy hell that game was good.

 

CF: What did you think about Prometheus and Alien: Covenant?
AW: On the upside, they’re the most beautiful movies of the series and show the brilliance of their photographer. The way Prometheus wrestles with Mary Shelley’s classic question, “What if we’re unwanted by our creator?” has a lot of potentials, and kept my friends and I talking long after the movie ended. I liked the Covenant crew more than most, and Danny McBride crushed it.

On the downside, I think that the scientists in these movies are extremely unwise in most cases, and I’m disappointed that they didn’t follow quarantine procedures anywhere they went. Prometheus, in particular, suffers from unprofessional science, a point which my scientist friends are unable to let die. Holloway’s willingness to give up after being on the planet for less than a week is frustrating, and Charlize Theron is woefully underused.

 

CF: If there was something you could change in any of the movies?
AW: Just let me rewrite all the science bits of Prometheus and two-thirds of Holloway’s lines. Prometheus has so much potential!

 
CF: What projects are you currently working on? What would you like to work on in future?
AW: I’m writing the second two books in the Salvagers series, and I’m so excited for that book to release on June 26th!

 

You can follow Alex White on Twitter https://twitter.com/alexrwhite and on his website  http://www.alexrwhite.com/

Make sure you read his book ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE which comes out today!

ALIEN: Offworld Colony Simulator

Today Fox announced ANOTHER Alien game to be launched 11:59 PM ET on April 25th. It’s an interactive survival horror called  – the ALIEN: Offworld Colony Simulator – and is exclusively available on Amazon Alexa devices and AlienUniverse.com.

The first-of-its-kind simulation immerses you and up to 2 additional  players in a Weyland-Yutani Space Colony in security lockdown.

Weyland-Yutani is inviting civilians to participate in an open Beta test of “The Offworld Colony Simulator” – an advanced system that simulates security breach scenarios in non-terrestrial colonies. Those that participate in the Open Beta will help teach the system’s AI to accurately simulate human behavior in the face of otherworldly dangers.

 

Weyland-Yutani Career Placement Test

You can get a head start with a multi-question aptitude test to determine if you got what it takes for a role at the interplanetary Weyland-Yutani organization.

More info about it here 🔗 https://www.avpgalaxy.net/2018/04/19/alien-offworld-colony-simulator-an-amazon-alexa-interactive-survival-game/

ALIEN: Descent

The much anticipated Alien-themed virtual reality (VR) experience will be coming to Southern California. “Alien: Descent,” is a 15 minute VR experience for up to 4 players. Fox will be setting up the experience in a mall, at $15 per head. Scheduled to open its doors at The Outlets at Orange, Orange County, California on Alien Day April 26.

More details 🔗 https://www.avpgalaxy.net/2018/04/18/foxnext-announces-alien-based-vr-game-alien-descent/

YUTANI . PODCAST – Episode 7 – Creatives: Dominic Hailstone

My written interview with Dominic Hailstone can be found here.

I finally got to interview Dominic for my Yutani Podcast, he has been very busy lately so it has been difficult to find a time to chat. Thank you so much, Dominic, for granting me the time and effort. I feel we could talk all day about movies and about Alien.

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Please make sure you subscribe to his YouTube channel to show your support and stay up to date with his work.

Here’s just some of his work in 3D as discussed in this podcast

You can also follow him on instagram:

Early Covenant

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Creatives: Ev Shipard

My next instalment of the creatives series features the amazingly talented concept artist Ev Shipard who worked on art concepts for the Engineer city, David’s Lab and the Egg chamber.

Clara Fei-Fei: Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions, could you start by telling me what was your favourite Alien/sci-fi movie?

Ev Shipard: That’s a tough one- if we are talking about creature films then it’s a very close tie between Alien and The Thing- both get a lot of screen time in the studio. The level of tension in both of these has you on the edge of the seat looking into the shadows. Obviously Alien has stunning production design and cinematography which I find myself constantly coming back to for inspiration- a defining moment for Science Fiction. But let’s not forget the original trilogy of Star Wars. I was a kid of the late 70’s/80’s so it was my foray into the world of sci-fi film… and of course the toys!

 

CF: Who’s your favourite character in any alien/sci-fi movie?

ES: I think David’s character arc has been great. Getting my head around his approach with his Lab and Room during the design phase was a unique opportunity. Of course, I do have a soft spot for Private Hudson.

 

CF: Which variation of the xenomorph is your favourite?

ES: I always thought Fincher’s Alien 3 creature was great- it felt more animalistic and I remember moved a little better than the suits in Aliens. The browns and ochres were an interesting departure and Giger created a very cool looking variant initially for that film. I love the look of Fincher’s film and absolutely love the production design. Norman Reynolds interestingly enough also worked on Raiders and the original Star Wars Trilogy. Prior to Fincher, Vincent Ward has a very interesting approach to this film- the story is pretty much unchanged but it’s worth perusing his site for some of the visuals. On our ‘Covenant’ the creature department did an amazing job revisiting the Xenomorph- walking around the studio looking at the sculpts in progress was great inspiration for some of my work on David’s Lab.

DavidsLab_shaw_v01c

CF: If you could enhance any part of your body using robotics, which would it be and what abilities would you choose to give it?

ES: I am a traditionalist at heart so I’d steer clear of any mods.

 

CF: What got you interested in being a concept artist? Which concept artists do you admire? What sort of advice do you have for others considering this line of work?

ES: I think I’d have to owe that to Star Wars and Bladerunner- seeing McQuarrie and Mead’s work in books as well as a drive to tell my own stories visually from a young age. I was the kid drawing in all my class books- massive battles starting on the back page. These days as an artist I am always looking for a creative outlet for personal expression which is usually drawing or oil painting.

Being an artist in the entertainment industry in a global market is very competitive and requires a real commitment to study. I think the best advice is to focus on fundamentals and be prepared to be the perpetual student- always willing to learn and grow. Not just with skill and aesthetic but also with the myriad of software packages that allow us to do what we do. An artist perceives the world in a unique way and I believe it isn’t a vocation but a way of life. It’s the curiosity about even the most mundane aspects of what most people take for granted and how to represent this visually often within a story.

 

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CF: What is your favourite piece you ever created?

This is a hard one- most commercial work and even my personal work is only really a favourite till the next one. It’s always a challenge and rarely comes easy but this is all part of the process.

 

CF: What sort of concept art projects have you worked on in the past? What was the major difference between those projects? e.g: Large-scale vs small scale

ES: I’ve worked on a broad range of projects with the majority being period films from 300 to Unbroken. Every project has a unique with vision spearheaded by the Director and Production Designer. I’ve worked with the same crew many times however on both large and smaller budget projects. Sometimes there is more of a focus on design with pure concept art and sometimes it’s more about rendering sets already designed in the context of the story.

 

CF: What’s it like to work on concept art for a movie vs games?

ES: With games projects, I have only really worked with cinematics or live action marketing campaigns, like the Halo and Battlefield spots, so that is very similar to preproduction and postproduction on films.

 

CF: How long does it take to work on a piece? How many hours?

ES: Some artwork is executed in hours, some days, it really depends on the context and requirements of the work. I produced a lot of b/w studies or story beats from the script on Covenant which was used by Ridley Scott and Chris Seagers to work out the expedition from the Lander to the City and what we would see. some of these were done very quickly but for the most part, a rendered frame takes me around 2-3 days. This isn’t including the many iterations based on feedback/comments or script changes that occur throughout the process.

EngWorld_PlazaA_v01c

CF: I became familiar with your work through Alien: Covenant, what sort of concept art did you do for the movie?

ES: My work encompassed many sets and potential locations but my main focus was the Engineers World. I spent the most time working on the Hall of Heads which included digitally painted art, sculpted clay maquettes, digitally sculpted pieces to mill for the set and worked with story points and dressing throughout it. I worked on an early rendition of the plaza and digital sculpts of statues that were also milled from foam full scale for the sets. David’s lab, his room and the egg chamber also took up a major part of my time. A lot of my work focuses on mood and lighting within these environments. I also worked on the Lander in the air and on the ground with Steve Burg’s amazing design. There were lots of location-based pieces of art using photos from various places in Australia and New Zealand- these are contextual paintings with script elements and used to help the production settle in a specific location. This is a big part of what we do on a lot of features.

 

CF: What details could you share about your pieces featured in the art book?
ES: The art book… a point of contention. I am grateful that I had many pieces featured but the lack of image credits for a lot of the art just really gets my blood boiling. Of course by the time the book is produced most of the art department is no longer involved in any of the process, it’s another publisher and marketing team working on it and rights and deals mean there is no requirement for any credit but still some of the best ‘making of’ books out there credit the artists. I’ve been involved in many projects where this is the case and it’s a frustrating aspect of the experience.

EngCity_Build13_v01c

CF: As for the Engineer city and scenes, did you get much of a say in aesthetics? What sort of design brief were you given to adhere to?

ES: Ridley and Chris have accumulated tons of references- beautiful photographs from classical art, architecture, and design to really get the feel across. These were collated on large black foam core boards and posted in the ‘War Room’ which became our go-to place for inspiration. All this was replicated across the servers but it was nice to peruse all this together in the room. Stephane Levallois who is an amazing storyboard artist explored the city early on with some architectural designs in pencil. We also referenced Steve Messing’s earlier work. I was tasked with following this aesthetic and the look and feel of what we designed with the Plaza and interiors bringing it all together. I spent a lot of time designing profiles of buildings and structures to make sure the aesthetic flowed through into post-production. Our pre-production nestled nicely into post with a lot of communication with the VFX supervisor. Chris Seagers (Production Designer) was very savvy and aware of this- he wanted it to flow smoothly.

CathedralInterior_floor_v02VarAc

CF: For the hall of heads did you use the elder Engineers from the initial Sacrificial Engineer scene cut from Prometheus as a reference?

ES: They were part of the reference library but more specifically we tried to create an original look and feel for this culture that tied back to what we had seen in the previous film. Ridley had these great photos of elder indigenous people from all over the world and aspects of these were sculpted into all the 7 heads. The heads started life as ZBrush sculpts, clay maquettes and later milled foam sections from the digital file. These were reproduced in detail for the epic heads we see on the set. Each one is individual, however with the final lighting and framing that is a little hard to register. We built a bit of a hypothetical back story here with the heads being effigies of the elders of the society- this place was a meeting room where decisions were made. Initially there were specific seats, a fire pit in the middle and of course the large table which was a variation of the table in David’s Lab. 7 heads with 7 a prime number and perhaps they used a base 7 system- so a kind of history and culture was sketched out to give it all a foundation. I guess with many early Earth cultures tied into this we can hypothesise about the Engineers and our planet, seeding life etc- I’m making presumptions here as Ridley and Chris didn’t specifically explain this. The concept art room was a fun melting pot of ancient alien ramblings and conspiracy theories, to much of the Art Department’s entertainment. I’m not sure how serious we were considering this though, with this project I guess it comes with the territory.

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CF: What sort of things did you have to consider when creating concept art for David’s lab?

ES: Initially the space for the lab was supposed to resemble the egg chamber- we had this favourite reference of a bunker and the ceiling would have a stone spine with arches that we could utilise across the two sets. This changed as many things invariably do within the context of the story and the idea. Often Ridley would sketch out in pen a rough idea, we called these Ridleygrams, and this would become the basic idea of our direction. Sometimes they would be very simple but all the information was there for a visual starting place. Ridley had an affinity for a photo reference of a catacomb in Malta and It was my job to take this aesthetic and shape language and bring it into David’s Lab and also his room. David was repurposing the space for his own work so the Lab would have aspects of its previous history plus all his experimentation and failed attempts at biology. We see again the ampules and canisters which were recreated for this film. One of the striking features were the drawings that Dane Hallett and Matt Hatton produced hanging from the walls and ceiling. These were originally supposed to be drawn on stretched flesh and mounted on frames above. I scattered these around as compositional elements in my paintings and used them to refract light and create interest- when the camera moves you would have nice overlapping elements and parallax. I built this set in 3d after the initial sketches and handed this over to the set designers to refine, create plans and accurate dimensions to build. The table was also a 3d model which started out life in ZBrush. My take on it was a large obsidian slab but with a fine blood channel through the centre and on the ground small drains. The idea was that it could have been a sacrificial chamber below the cathedral- David had repurposed this as his workbench. All this is my hypothesis rather than direction from above but these little things all become part of the bigger picture and it’s great to put your stamp on aspects that you consider have merit within the overarching narrative.

ev-shipard-lab-tablecu-a.jpg

 

CF: What was it like creating your version of Giger’s Li?

ES: For me, this was a fun diversion. It plugged into David’s lab but the script was constantly moving with this and I wanted to create something early on- a tribute to Giger. It became a bit of a talking point then we moved on still not knowing what was happening with Shaw even up to the shoot (from the perspective of the Art Department). Then I started to see some of the work Creatures were doing and I ended up producing a painting later with Shaw on the Slab and David and Oram looking over her. The interesting thing I found with the Li painting was how much Noomi started to resemble Sigourney as I worked the face in. There were a number of variations done of this with more or less biomechanoid features and elements.

ShawBiomechanoid_v02c

CF: What did you think about Alien: Covenant? if there was something you could change, what would it be?

I think our work in the Art Department was showcased well. I’m proud of how the Engineer’s world was resolved ultimately. Personally, I would like to have seen more of our city and spent the time to delve into the culture and most people I have spoken to loved this aspect of the film and wanted to know more. Perhaps this will be dealt with in other avenues- audio books, comics, novels etc but I guess the test screenings wanted more aliens in space and we ended up with what we got. There was a lot more of the culture designed(loosely)- gardens, the graves, a tree of life etc that was ultimately cut. Ridley always produces a stunning looking well-designed piece of entertainment and it was a pleasure to work as part of his team.

Thank you for reaching out and the opportunity to talk about this project that I consider a career highlight. I can be found at http://evshipardentertainmentart.com/ and for those that are interested in behind-the-scenes and my sketches… https://www.instagram.com/evshipard/

What was your first Alien cinema experience?