With the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the movie Alien comes the spawning of six short films that play on aspects of the original space thriller. LMU School of Film and Television alumna Kelsey Taylor was one of only six chosen from 550 submissions to direct a short, Alien: Specimen. All the shorts will be screened on AlienUniverse.com from May 3, 2019.
Taylor graduated from the Honors Program at LMU in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in film production and minors in music and film studies. It seems Taylor was well-prepared for the industry, but even she admits that “since graduation I really struggled to find opportunities to write and direct. I relied on my technical experience from LMU and have done lot of assistant camera work to pay the bills.”
There were occasional directing jobs. “I’ve slowly built up a portfolio of commercial work, as well as creating short films for fun, when financially feasible.” Taylor said her feelings about filmmaking are summed up best by Walt Disney when he said: “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”
“That’s been my mantra, I do a lot of producing and assistant-directing work, all in the pursuit of directing full time. You learn from every experience and understanding how a film is made from every angle has made me a better filmmaker,” she added.
Her experience and understanding obviously stood out in a crowded field and got Taylor into the final six in the Alien 40th Anniversary Project. “It was a competition of sorts and we were awarded the project after some serious vetting and submission of materials. I’m really proud (and still in awe) that our team was chosen for this opportunity. I can’t express my gratitude that I was able to dip my toes into the incredible universe of Alien.”
The script for Alien: Specimen was a collaboration with writer Federico Fracchia, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from his original idea, which Taylor then directed.
“We went into production in early November of last year. We shot toward the end of our dictated shooting window and had to crank a rough cut out the very next week. It was a very stressful time, but we wanted to have as much pre-production as possible.
“We completed several revisions of the script for approval by Fox and then went on to storyboard the entire film. It’s amazing how closely the original storyboards line up with the completed short.”
The biggest production struggle was loading into the location. “It’s an incredible facility, but it does not have water, power or elevators. Every single plant was carried downstairs one at a time, often with three people to a plant. It was a big endeavor getting everything down there with our little crew.”
Production of the six shorts was completed at the end of January, but everyone involved has been on a media and social media lockdown.
“We’ve been impatiently awaiting the day when we’re able to put the stories out into the world. It’s been a little like getting excited for Christmas – I just hope the shorts are well received and the fans enjoy them,” said Taylor.
“This has been an invaluable learning experience for me as a director and a huge opportunity to have my work seen. This is such a big platform, so it’s been really incredible that people are excited about these shorts and are going to watch them! That’s the whole reason we make movies, to share them with other people.”
“I’m really appreciative to have had this chance to work with a franchise like Alien and with Fox and [crowdsourced studio] Tongal, who put a lot of trust in the filmmakers working with this intellectual property. It was such an incredible experience taking this project from concept through post-production. Even now it’s hard to believe it’s really over … It’s been a big part of my life for the last few months.”
What’s next for Kelsey Taylor? “I’m in pre-production on my first feature film and Alien: Specimen absolutely had a big hand in getting the exposure and credibility I needed to get that project off the ground.”
Alien: Specimen crew included some LMU School of Film and Television alums and current students:
Producer – Huan Manton
Producer – Dawson Taylor
Cinematographer – Adam Lee
Production Design – Julianna Collins
Sound Designer – Eric Wegener
Visual Effects Supervisor – Luc Delamare
On Set Sound – Graham Morgan
Key Grip – Devin Wilson
Gaffer – Luc Delamare
G&E Swing – Justin Lee
G&E Swing – Griffin Voth (current student)
G&E Swing – Andy Fronczak
G&E Swing – Thomas George (current student)
Special Thanks – Chris Jones
Special Thanks – Sara Baum
Special Thanks – Keelan Williams
Special Thanks – Steven Jones