Spear Sisters dig into ‘Alien’ lore with short film
Kailey and Sam Spear were still in middle school when they first rented Alien from the Bowen Island video store.
The twins were coming to Alien later than most, recalls Kailey in a recent phone interview – “before the age of 11, we were really scared of everything” – but their movie appetites had changed after they’d screened the first of The Lord of the Rings films.
That particular fantasy epic had inspired the sisters to dream of writing and directing their own films, and their father advised them that, if they were truly serious about this dream, they needed to begin their education in earnest and watch as many seminal works as possible.
Which is how they ended up in the Bowen Island video store, renting Alien for the very first time.
“You want to be filmmakers, you have to see Alien, and we fell in love with it,” says Sam. “I remember being aware of how special it was to see a female in the lead.”
Fast-forward a few years, and the Spear Sisters – now living their dream as award-winning filmmakers – have contributed their own breathtaking, female-driven story to the official Alien universe: Alien Ore, one of six films created in association with 20th Century Fox and Tongal to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Alien.
Alien Ore is, in fact, the Spears’ third film to be created via a highly competitive contest: they made Twilight Storytellers: The Mary Alice Brandon File in 2015 via the #TwilightStories competition, and 2018’s CC through Crazy8s.
“We did Twilight three years ago now and CC through Crazy8s and then after that, we were like, ‘We’re done with competitions,’” says Sam, laughing. “We were right in the middle of writing something else when I hopped onto Twitter for a moment and there was this video that caught my eye. It was of Ripley in Alien and I stopped scrolling for a moment to enjoy Ripley being cool, and then I saw what was written above it and it was that they were opening up the Alien universe to filmmakers to pitch original stories. We were like, ‘Oh no! We have to apply!’”
And apply they did, and the result of their successful pitch is Alien Ore, which hit the ’net on April 19.
Alien Ore follows the exploits of a small contingent of miners – led by a woman Kailey describes as a “badass grandma” (portrayed by Mikela Jay) – who make a terrifying discovery, and the above-ground contact (played by Tara Pratt) who doesn’t have their best interests at heart.
The 10-minute film takes place “around the time when Ripley is falling asleep in her space pod,” says Kailey – albeit it in a different part of that universe.
Says Sam: “In the original film, the crew were space truckers, and they were towing this load of mineral ore from some planet back to Earth, so that got us thinking, ‘Who are the miners mining the ore that these truckers like Ripley and the crew would be towing?’ We wanted to hop onto a mining colony planet and meet the miners.”
Alien Ore went to camera in October 2018. The bulk of filming took place in Britannia Mine outside of the museum’s operating hours.
“We were bringing together things on a shoestring,” recalls Kailey. “We were pulling together wardrobe pieces from Bowen Island and looking through the thrift shop for $2 jackets.”
The process of making the film “reminded us to be ambitious with our stuff,” says Sam. “We were given the advice by one of our producers [visual effects legend Warren Franklin] to write big and then just make it happen” – which they did, with a solid production team and their most ambitious visual effects elements to date.
Earlier this month, Kailey and Sam won the Leo Award for Best Screenwriting in a Short Drama for CC, and actress Jewel Staite (Firefly) won the Leo Award for Best Performance by a Female in a Short Drama for playing the title character, an over-protective android nanny (the film also stars Bad Blood actress Sharon Taylor as the nanny’s employer).
“We have our eyes on so many different types of films, but they all seem to be dark with heart,” says Sam. “People struggle, but ultimately we want that heart to be at the centre of our stories. That’s not to say that all of our films will be dark, but that’s what our previous films have had going for them.”
Top image by Liz Rosa