Chris Reading at City Eye Film Network
On May 9, Writer & Director Chris Reading attended our monthly Film Network and delivered a talk exploring the process of concepting for two of his films. ALIEN: Containment, developed for the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise and The Unreason, his next feature, which is currently in post-production. Attendees got to see CAD drawings and concept art, learning just how integral previsualisation is to high-concept filmmaking.
See below to read more about the topics that were covered.
Creating ALIEN: Containment
In 2019, Chris worked with 20th Century Fox to bring this project to life and celebrate 40 years since the release of Alien (Scott, 1979).
Working with such a recognisable brand had its challenges, particularly around complex copyright issues that included seeking approval for the size and shape of spaceship doors and costume designs, all of which had to be carefully planned and agreed months before the two-day shoot in Three Mills Studios, London.
Chris explained the casting process and revealed the willingness from everyone to work on this project because of its connection to the much-beloved franchise.
Network attendees got the chance to see some wonderful CAD drawings of the set built for the film and photographs of its evolution, from initial construction to studio-lit spaceship. Chris also shared some storyboard panels and compared them to the final result on screen, gleefully pointing out the 'obligatory chest-bursting scene.' A must for xenomorph reproduction.
48hr Film Challenge to Feature Film
The inspiration for his latest feature, The Unreason, came from an original short that he entered into a 48hr film challenge a few years ago. Watch it here.
"Best friends Ruth and Megan run a vintage shop in London. One day their lives are changed forever when they stumble across a time machine and embark on trips to the past to ‘borrow’ items to sell in the present."
The main actors in this film, Ruth and Megan, are friends of Chris and really do own a vintage store in Muswell Hill, London. Megan Stevensen has previously worked in wardrobe and production design. Ruth Syratt is co-writing the feature with Chris and has trained as an actor.
A feature-length production of The Unreason is currently in post-production and will star Johnny Vegas, Guy Henry, Tom Lenk, Sophie Thompson and Tony Way.
Chris explained how the idea was born from the constraints of the challenge, something many of our network attendees knew all too well since their entries into DV Mission 48hr Film Challenge.
AI as a Tool
A key aspect of high-concept filmmaking is pre-visualization and Chris has taken to use artificial intelligence such as Midjourney and Dall-E to develop visuals, characters and concept art to inspire their ideas and easily communicate a single vision across multiple fast-moving departments.
AI may be a threat to concept artists but, as Chris points out, 'it's out of the bag now.'
He's not wrong. AI tools have rocketed in popularity since the emergence of Chat GPT, though unsurprisingly it has also sparked fierce debate and a writers' strike in the US.
'I would not use it as a writer but these tools can be incredibly useful, not to mention cost effective when you're an independent filmmaker working against tight budgets.'
The dark side of AI is concerning but if it can be used to support emerging filmmakers and share their vision, as an organisation that does just that, we are inclined to support it.