Creatives: Kelsey Taylor, Director of Alien: Specimen

Alien Specimen by Director Kelsey Taylor and Writer Federico Fracchia.

KELSEY TAYLOR is a director and producer with a team of talented friends she loves to collaborate with. She strives to tell stories that are important to her and have a lasting impact on the way we view and treat people.

Tongal

I got in touch with Kelsey Taylor to speak about making Specimen and ask her a few things about her history with the franchise as a fan and now contributor.

Paul Ripp/@wormriderlv223: What drew you to this project with Tongal/20th Century Fox?

Kelsey Taylor: I was so excited to see the Alien pitch on Tongal, not only because Alien is an incredible universe to be able to play in, but also because it’s pretty rare to see narrative projects come on the platform. I knew immediately I had to apply even if it seemed like it was a long shot!

PR: What is your history with the Alien franchise?

KT: I’m one of those sad people who saw Prometheus first in theatres with a group of friends and was left wondering, “what is this all about??” Going back to the beginning was then such an incredible treat! The original Alien is one of those movies that is so clearly an instant classic the first time you see it. I fell in love, and here we are.

PR: What was your creative angle going into this project? Was there something new you wanted to bring to the table?

KT: In the brief for this project it was emphasized that Fox/Tongal really wanted people to draw inspiration from the original film. That was exactly in line with what I hoped to do with the project.  The slow building of suspense was really important to me and only hinting at the creature until the big reveal at the end. I also wanted to include some kind of character development along the way— not just have our protagonist be Alien bait. We really didn’t want this to feel like a repeat of a scene that had already been done in the Alien universe. The goal was to create tension and suspense and also surprise fans along the way. The synthetic dog twist is one of those things

PR: Where do you see the future of the Alien franchise going? What avenues would you like to see explored?

KT: This is a big question that has come up a lot with the release of these shorts. There’s a lot of speculation about what’s going to happen next but I think the only thing that’s certain is that there will be more Alien content… As much as I enjoy digging into the origins with Prometheus and Covenant I think the franchise is due for a main character audiences can root for and follow through on a journey of their own over multiple instalments. Ripley is such an iconic part of the franchise and I think audiences are beginning missing that character development.

PR: What were the biggest challenges you faced with this short?

KT: Our biggest challenge was time. Our budget and location requirements limited how many people we could have— our small crew of 15 accomplished a lot with what we had. But we needed another day! Another fun wrench in our plans was that the only way to access our location was by stairs— no elevators so everything had to be carried in by hand. You can see for yourself— we spent a lot of time hauling the plants down stairs! Budget of course was another tricky aspect of the project for all the filmmakers. It seems like so much money when you start but it goes quite quickly when you’re making a sci-fi film! But you get creative because you have to and Fox and Tongal really gave us a lot of creative freedom to bring our projects to life!

PR: Can you tell us a bit more about the development process for this story?

KT: Our development process was a bit unique (I say “our” because there have been so many people involved in this from the get go). The pitch came to my attention when there was very little time to apply and I was working on another shoot. I immediately reached out to a number of people on the Tongal forum who expressed interest in writing scripts— several of them were international folks and unable to participate because the project required producers with US citizenship. I reached out to four people and they all delivered awesome scripts and of the pitches I submitted the greenhouse concept by Federico Fracchia was chosen. From there I worked with Federico to develop the script over the next month and went through a series of revisions with Fox/Tongal. Once they signed off on the script we began pre-production. Although our overall concept did not change much you’d be shocked by some of the things that did change through the writing process!

PR: What is the most important aspect of filmmaking for you? What is your main goal as an artist?

KT: I want to tell stories that change people’s minds, that open them to a different way of thinking whether that be big or small. I think films are an incredible way of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. It allows a glimpse into others’ perspectives and that is oh so important I think in being able to empathize and understand other people. We’ve told stories for so long to explain why things are the way they are, our purpose… Film making is just an extension of that need to tell stories in a way that is so visceral. I want to tell stories whether they be on alien planets or in my backyard that people can take something away from.

PR: What’s your favorite Alien film?

KT: I love the original Alien. I love films that don’t fall into one genre and I think not only is Alien such a unique world— the craftsmanship is impeccable. The slow building of suspense and dread— the reveal of the creature… It’s all very tense! And of course I really love the behind the scenes footage. As a filmmaker that’s as much fun as the movie itself! That all being said, I also have a great fondness for Alien 3, yessss I’m sure everyone is groaning. But I can’t help but have an appreciation for that one which raises so many questions about the Alien universe. It’s such a cool setting. I’m sure it’s also easier for me to digest not having lived the release of the original and sequels in real time. I think Alien 3 is a film that ages well.

PR: What’s your favorite iteration/life cycle of the beast?

KT: I love the facehugger. Maybe that’s a given based on my short but I find the idea of the facehugger just absolutely horrifying. I’m not super keen on spiders to begin with and this is basically a giant spider that jumps and aims to implant an embryo via your throat…. It’s disturbing. Especially knowing that once it’s latched on there’s nothing you can do about it. My skin always crawls during the scene where Ash and Dallas examine the facehugger on Kane’s face. You just know it’s not going to end well…

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions Kelsey!

You can find Kelsey Taylor on Twitter and see her work on her website
http://www.kelseytaylor.me/