Creatives: Matthew J Thorne, Director Advent (Alien: Covenant), Set photographer

I found out about Matthew Thorne’s work when his photography of behind the scenes appeared on my twitter feed. He recently completed a photography exhibition in Melbourne, I decided to ask him a few questions about his work.

Clara Fei-Fei/ @muthur9000: To start with, what work did you do for Alien: Covenant?

Matthew Thorne: I was brought onboard by 3AM who work with Ridley on his film to capture photography, and film of the process of making Alien: Covenant,

And then I also ended up Directing the Audi spot, and the short film for the DVD David’s Lab.

Collider’s Matthew Thorne directs Alien: Convenant x Audi lunar quattro via 3AM

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien: Covenant’, Matthew Thorne from Collider, has created a commercial film for Audi in collaboration with 3am featuring the Audi Lunar Quattro. 

The promo for the latest Alien prequel is a smart brand integration as well as a teaser for the upcoming film. Viewers are introduced to the small rover who features throughout the film, which Audi actually plans to send to the Moon. 

The film was shot over one long night on the set of the film, and features Australian actor Uli Latukefu. 

Collider’s Matthew Thorne directs Alien: Convenant x Audi lunar quattro via 3AM

C.F: What sort of sci-fi films do you find fascinating?

M.T: I am fascinated by science fiction when it is less about grandiose set up – and more about examining us. It’s a fable-like lens; we can use it to step back and talk about who or what we really are by presenting these tough questions in a world that is not our own. And so perhaps a world that we can be less dogmatic within. We can see it with fresh eyes, because it is not so attached to our id. There is some element of magic in this.

Your photos are really infused with solemnity, the lighting is so beautiful, and the candid photos you took throughout production were amazing, how long have you been a photographer?

I have been taking photos now for 5 years, but really only working as a photographer for 3.

C.F: How do you select scenes to photograph?

M.T: I try not to select – in a perfect world (with on set photography) I would be there every day. I think that film is a war in many ways, and you have to embed like any documentarian would. You have to be there for the pain, and in the trenches. Thats the only way the images can have any sense of closeness… and I think the only way you can feel what the film wants to be, and then imbue the images with that same feeling.

C.F: How many photos did you take over the course of filming?

M.T: Digital photos? I think close to 5000. And I shot out maybe 200 photos on film stock (for special occasions).

C.F: Do you have any photographers/artists that influence your style?

M.T: Yes – many. Of course Ridley’s own work was a huge influence throughout the project – not only because it was such an influence on me when I grew up, but also because he was there… and his words and ideas were a constant.

In terms of photographers (just to name a few); Araki. Don McCullen. Bill Henson. Tracy Moffat. Max Dupain. Mick Bradley. Joel Meyerowitz. Trent Parke. William Mortensen. Julia Margaret Cameron. Clarence H White. George Henry Seeley. Edward Steichen. Miroslav Tichy. Richard Moss.

C.F: I saw there were a couple of photos from the filming of The Crossing which used to be the prologue, how many scenes were filmed that we didn’t get to see?

M.T: I think as with all films, there are always scenes that are filmed that don’t make the cut. To Ridley’s credit though – he knows he is doing and there wasn’t much fat as compared to what I’ve seen on some other films.

C.F: How did you get the job as director on Advent?

M.T: It was something that was offered to me by 3AM as I’m also a film director, and had shadowed Ridley for the whole production. Just one of those things that fit together.

C.F: Was the aesthetic of filming in first person your choice?

M.T: Yes, absolutely. It felt to me that story had to be told directly – as though it had been recorded in the mind, and to then insert the audience into that space.

C.F: How much of the script was adhered to?

M.T: Pretty much 1:1 as it was written.

C.F: I understand you had Matt Hatton step in for the part of David, why did that happen?

M.T: Matt stepped in as I needed someone who could reliably have a 20kg camera on his head… and to avoid the possibility of injuring Michael.

C.F: What sort of message were you trying to bring across with this short film?

M.T: I think above all we just wanted to be faithful to Ridley’s story – and to do this transitional chapter the justice it deserved. We always kept talking about how to do it in his style. That I think is the role of this kind of second or ‘additional’ unit direction – to be an extension of the style and vision of the Director.

C.F: What do you have to say about some of the audience saying that Advent should have been played after credits?

M.T: I would have loved that. But it is very much its own story. I think it might have drawn away from what Ridley was trying to say with his film, and I think the way it exists now – as something beautiful to find… to reward you for being invested in the Alien universe is actually perfect.

C.F: What are your own theories about what happened to Elizabeth Shaw before directing ADVENT?

M.T: I think that ambiguity is a beautiful part of great art – and especially great filmmaking. 

C.F: What was your favourite scene to watch while filming vs on the release of the movie?

M.T: For me filming the infirmary experience was incredible. Just relentless day after day working that action sequence in the studio. And seeing how Ridley could manage that kind of technical coverage – and highly energetic and complex scene. That was a pleasure to watch come together, and just to see the river of fake blood that was being trailed around the set and studio by the crew… I remember Ridley having this kind of child-like glee about the whole thing, which made it even more sadistic and twisted… in this Sam Peckinpah way….

C.F: What sort of advice do you have for people who’d like to get into your line of work?

M.T: Make art first.

The Sand That Ate The Sea
Solo Exhibition – Matthew Thorne

C.F: Was there anything about the movie you didn’t like? What would you change?

M.T: You know, it’s not my movie – and I really believe in authorship in film. Every Director has a different perspective and experience – and so I think we would all always do things in films differently. But thats the beauty of cinema, that it can belong to this directorial ‘voice’. For me I think that cinema should return to something more spiritual and more critical – but is that kind of cinema what a Hollywood blockbuster should be? Who knows. I think that they explore different methods of communication and come with their own unique limitations. 

C.F: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

M.T: Absolute pleasure!

You can follow Matthew on Instagram or check out his work here

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