Sci-Fi Shorts: E.T.A. Examines The Most Boring Job In The Aliens Universe

Not everybody gets to be a glamorous xenomorph killer like Ripley.

By David Wharton | Updated

Welcome back to GFR’s Sci-Fi Shorts! With each installment, we highlight a new science fiction short film, and include a Q&A with some of the creative minds behind them. This time we’ve got an homage to the Aliens universe, proving that not everybody gets to be a badass xenomorph killer like Ripley. Some folks just have to hold down a day job so they can pay for their kid’s braces back on Earth. It’s a bite-sized bit of awesome with several sneaky sci-fi references and a great twist. Be sure to stick around for our Q&A with director Henrik Bjerregaard Clausen after the vid!

Obviously part of the fun of the short is it being set in the Alien universe, and that’s crucial to the twist at the end. Was the Alien angle part of it from the very beginning, or was it an unrelated idea that you then decided would be funnier within the Alien universe?

Søren [Andersen], who wrote the story, had the coffee dispenser shaped somewhat like an Alien from the beginning. But with the coffee coming out of a compartment in its chest. I can’t remember who got the idea for using the mouth instead, but a few months after the initial pitch, we ran with it and all the other homage details sort of trailed after it — along with some references to other franchises as well. We are definitely fans.

What was the development process for the short? Since there’s no dialogue per se, was there actually a script? Or was it just storyboarded out and then animated? And as a director, how do you decide the ideal length for something like this? Was it always intended to be around four minutes long, or did you consider making it longer/shorter earlier on?

Everything started with Søren’s storyboard, which had the story written onto it like little footnotes. Later Michael did a more detailed version with the new robot and finally I started making my own boards, in crude detail, to try out ideas and different setups. The challenge was always to instill some suspense in the film, and it didn’t work in the first cuts that clocked in at less than two minutes. Søren and Michael had already begun building the ship and the characters, so I used the models for setting up a previz to get a better sense of pacing when editing than my storyboard animatics could provide. At one point the film was almost six minutes long, with a subplot about Marvin (the pilot) and a Flight Academy rejection letter. I’m glad we cut that — but I’m also glad that we tried it out — in the previz. Experience trumps theory.

As a filmmaker, what do you enjoy about working within the genre of science fiction?

I love working with film because it allows me to create entire new worlds with their own rules, aesthetics and characters. Sci-fi as a genre is simply engorged with these possibilites.

Finally, is there any science fiction dream project that you would love to make some day?

Right now I am editing a sci-fi live action short film that I directed and shot with a small crew late in 2012. I would love to expand on that world and some day turn it into a feature — with proper financial backing.

You can see more of Henrik’s work at his Vimeo page.