VR Narrative

I'm making an animated short story called “P I L O T.” The story is a direct continuation of the 1979 film Alien and a love letter to H.R. Giger’s vision.

I have wanted to make this film since I was a kid. Only now, since VR + Quill has given artist a natural way to 3D model, animate, and sequence am I ready to take on the challenge. I will be posting progress as the short grows and comes to life. I havnt seen a lot of documentation around designing for VR narrative experiences so I hope to shed some light on this new way of telling stories.

The Spark

Alien had a massive impact on me as a kid. Everything about it. The mystery, brutalism, atmosphere, score, editing, and especially the design. It inspired me to become a creative professional and eventually make this short.

The mystery around the Space Jockey has stuck with me over the years. I always wanted to see that unknown character as a terrifying creature. I believe that was its original intent. It could have been as iconic as the alien itself. The design is just as legendary. This short will be a love letter to that direction.

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Story

Synopsis: A crew of five and one synthetic, aboard the Waylan Yutani emerging technology research vehicle ‘Futami 002’, drop down on an alien planet to make contact with Futami 001. As the the crew collects thrilling scientific data they encounter a horrific world beyond their understanding.

This story is a direct continuation of Alien and it's themes. All films made after Alien are ignored (sorry Aliens). The direction Prometheus takes is the reason why im making this short in the first place. In this narrative the Space Jockey (Pilot) is a terrifying creature much like the alien itself. Its a visual reflection of the vast uncaring universe.

I will also be pulling in my favorite bits from other cosmic horror films and books like Annihilation, the Mountains of Madness, the Thing, and others.

Given this short is only a slice of a longer narrative, and I don’t have enough time to flesh out characters just with visual animation, I will use conventional mechanics that enable for efficient story telling. For example monologue can be used to anchor the story around a single character. This will tighten the focus so I can move quickly through character interaction and story beats. Also, I will focus on key scenes that drive the narrative and flavor the world. Im going for a very moody feel so there wont be a lot of hand holding. Viewers will benefit coming in having watched Alien for context.

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Overall Design

Even though this will be heavily influenced by the first Alien film, I will need to explore new territory. The Space Jockey will be alive in this short so I need to design how that would look. Also, there will be two new space ship designs, a new space suite, characters, uniforms, weapons, etc. This will be the hardest part to get right. I need to balance a new direction while maintaining authenticity to Giger’s and Ridley’s work on Alien.

Creature Design

Im taking the Space Jockey into monster territory. I imagine a living Space Jockey would look similar to the Alien itself. It’s black, slimy, has shiny human like teeth, and an exposed jaw with rubber like tendons keeping it together. Most importantly it's a gross mix of flesh and mechanical looking parts. There will even be some lips to sexy it up a bit. To me the unspoken sexual imagery is what makes the Alien so striking. Unlike the Alien, in my short story, the Space Jockey has an exposed skull with eyes. The eyes are empty and black. Almost like space itself. So the general vibe is similar to the Alien. Its hard to connect with it. Which is the overall point…Its alien to us.

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VR and 2D Consumption

Phase 1 of this project will be an immersive VR narrative experience. The style will be similar to Mike Mignola and his Hellboy series. This approach will help make production in VR a lot smoother. I will need to consider changing up the pace and feel of the story given viewer agency in VR. Hopefully this will help the story feel more isolating, quiet, and terrifying. The design process for VR consumption will be a unique challenge and the part im most excited to work on.

Phase 2 will be a 2D movie, drawn and animated in VR with Quill, and rendered in Blender with Eevee. I might even just use this phase to create a sizzle reel of hero shots from the story. This will be my chance to make something I would have wanted to see as a kid.