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"Alien: Ore" (2019) Q & A, Kailey and Sam: Meet the Directors

As part of my ongoing Q & A series on "Alien: Ore" (2019), this interview is with the directors, Kailey and Sam Spear. New interview segments post every Friday at 2 p.m., EST.

"Alien: Ore" Interview, Kailey and Sam: Meet the Directors


Nick: My name is Nicholas van der Waard. I have my MA in English Studies: the Gothic, and run a movie blog centered on Gothic horror, Nick’s Movie Insights. Joining me for this interview are Kailey and Sam Spear, who directed "Alien: Ore."

(to Kailey and Sam): What was your first Alien experience? Can you describe the first time you saw an Alien movie, and which one it was?

Kailey (to the left) and Sam (to the right) on-set (courtesy of Greg Massie). 

K & S: We saw [Alien] first. We missed out on seeing it when it was first released in 1979 (as we were busy with not being alive quite yet). We were in middle school when we finally saw it. At that time, we weren’t interested in horror, but that's because we hadn’t ever really given it a shot. We were the "scared of being scared" types, so we had stayed clear of watching things we thought might scare us. Alien seemed scary! We remember the VHS cover art being intriguing in the movie store, but it was sitting in the horror section and we didn't venture over there. It wasn't until we were around fourteen or fifteen years old when we plucked up the courage to watch it.

We can’t remember how old we were exactly. [We do know] it was after seeing Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), though. After seeing [Fellowship,] we had decided that we wanted to be filmmakers; [but] it was our dad who actually got us to watch Alien. He said, "If you want to be filmmakers you have to see Alien." Our dad is a smart guy, and of course he was right. And we loved it! After watching the original we launched into watching the others.

Nick: Do you have any inspirations, in general?

K & S: You know, it was probably Shakespeare that originally drew us into acting, which drew us into storytelling, which drew us into film. Our dad had read A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1605) to us when we were around five. A few years later, we went and saw the play. We were very shy kids; acting is not something that people may have expected us to want to do. But we saw the play and wanted to be a part of it! [At age seven,] we started doing theater at Tir-na-nOg Theatre School (on Bowen Island). It was there that our love for storytelling grew.

Nick: Do you have a favorite actor or director that made you want to become an actress or a director?

K & S: As we said, Peter Jackson was a huge inspiration for us getting into film. Before Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), we knew that we wanted to take part in film-making through acting. Acting is something that we still love to do, but it was Lord of the Rings that really made us want to be a part of creating films from the ground up. We wanted to be able to choose which stories [to] tell and how to tell them.

Nick: On that note, Team Scott or Team Cameron?

K & S: Aw man! How can we choose!?! They are both great. It was Scott really who started it all though, eh, so he’s gotta win a few more points for that.  But Cameron is an inspiration as well.

Past Work

Nick: How long have you been directing? Can you tell me about some of your past work?

K & S: As you know, we knew that we wanted to go into film since middle school. In high school we found a film class to take. At this time we remember our academic adviser being confused as to why we wanted to take the film class. We told her we wanted to be filmmakers and she was skeptical about that. We remember her saying something that made it clear to us that she thought it was odd that we wanted to take film; she had seen a few young women that year wanting to join the class and expressed that it must be a new fad. That struck us as odd, but at that time we really didn't realize that females in film were a minority! We were quite naive about that part of the industry; we just knew we wanted to make movies!

It was in that high-school class that we started making films. If you can call what we were making films! (Laughs.) We wouldn’t want to show you what we were making then! This class was [one] of those classes that just gave you a little handheld video camera, pointed you at editing equipment and told you to make a film. We remember teaching ourselves how to edit there. We weren't introduced to lenses and lighting until university.

After high school, we went through a four-year film program at Simon Fraser University [where] we directed short films—

Nick: Would those have been a similar length to "Alien: Ore"?

K & S: The short films we did in film school were all about the same length as "Alien: Ore." We are focusing on long form, next.

—After graduating, we directed a [stage] production of Hamlet (1609). Set in a contemporary setting while using the classic dialogue, it featured a young, female Hamlet. This was a step towards a goal of ours—of bringing a female Hamlet to screen. We have been wanting to do [a Hamlet] film for years, and this play [helped] us test out some of the ways we want to take the story and characters. [Hamlet] is a film that we still really want to do!

[editor's note: I had planned a section regarding the Spears' history with Shakespeare, Hamlet and their theater work. To keep things short, I've set aside the material for a future article, which will be available in the coming weeks.]

Paloma Kwiatkowski as Mary Alice Brandon (design by Mackenzie Warner, photograph by Shimon Photo).

Right after [our production of Hamlet] we did a short film for the Twilight Saga called "The Mary Alice Brandon File" (2015). It is a short prequel that gives insight into the dark past of the character Alice Cullen before she was a vampire. ["The Mary Alice Brandon File"] was also inspired by classic gothic horrors.

[editor's note: Through written for young adults, Meyer's 2005 novel (and its cinematic adaptation) contains numerous elements of the Gothic Romance: monsters, an imperiled heroine, and a supernatural love triangle (with a "good" and "demonic" lover). Likewise, the Spears' depiction—of Alice Cullen's treatment as a patient in an asylum—has echoes of Charlotte Bronte's Bertha, from Jane Eyre (1847), but also The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.]

"The Mary Alice Brandon File" was made through an initiative by Lionsgate, Women in Film LA, Fickle Fish Productions, Tongal, Facebook and Volvo to find new female writers and directors. Similar to the Alien shorts, it was made through [a] competition format: We pitched as writers and directors, then were awarded the opportunity and budget to make the film. In this case seven films were made; one was chosen as the overall winner. "The Mary Alice Brandon File" [was] the overall winner!

More recently, we did a short film called "CC" (2018), staring Jewel Staite and Sharon Taylor. "CC" is a mystery/thriller that centers around a confrontation between a mother and the AI nanny that she has leased to take care of her daughter. The film is currently finishing up its festival run. It was made through the Crazy8s competition in Vancouver where the winning filmmakers have eight days to make a film: three days to shoot and five for post. That was a craaaaazy experience!

The official "CC" poster (designed by Doug Williams, photography by Shimon Photo).

On Being Twins

Nick: I’m an identical twin, and think it’s pretty awesome to see more twins in the cinematic world...

K & S: You are a twin too!? Awesome! Yeah, we had a few twins on this production. Our cinematographers, Graham and Nelson Talbot, are also twins and our production designer, Cheryl Marion, has twin sons who came out to help with the set [construction].

[editor's note: As mentioned in part one, Cheryl Marion's children not only helped build the elevator set; their childhood photographs were also used to decorate the inside of Mikela Jay's locker, as Lorraine's grandchildren.]

Nick: Has the fact that you are twins affected your experience as filmmakers in any way?

K & S: For us, we think that it has helped. It is nice having two minds on solving problems or tackling story. We are lucky—that we have the same vision of what we want our things to be, but [two] minds working out how to best make it happen.

Another photo of Sam (on the left) and Kailey (on the right) with her longer hair (courtesy of Greg Massie).

Nick: Do casting agents or industry types have trouble telling you apart? Do actors?

K & S: We think, yes, that people probably do have trouble telling us apart. We try to make it easier on them by having Sam have shorter hair. (Laughs.)

[editor's note: My brother and I have a similar approach. He keeps his hair short; I keep mine long.]

Nick: Do you ever pretend to be the other twin?

K & S: We actually don’t use the twin thing as much as I guess we could. Right now, we do background work to help pay the bills. If one of us is booked on a show then gets an audition for the same day, we can quickly sub the other in to cover if needed. That is a nice perk to being identical twins!

Nick: Are there any twins you look to for inspiration: directors, like the Soska sisters; actors, like the Stanton twins or Linda and Leslie Hamilton?

K & S: The Soskas are also from Vancouver! They are lovely lasses. It's great to see them doing so well! We always love to see twins or sibling sets out there getting stuff done. [They're] not twins, [but] we love the vision the Wachowski sisters have been able to bring to screen. The Coens' work is also hugely inspiring for us. We would love to work with them one day as actors.

Nick: Any favorite movies by the Wachowskis and the Coens?

K & S: The creativity and vast scope of The Matrix (1999) stands out for us as well as the pace, characterization and cohesive vision that O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) brought.

Nick: Gothic stories often deal with doubles; though not always twins, there’s often a likeness between them that is confusing and suggestive of a darker side (the "evil" twin). Do characters, like Jeremy Irons, in Dead Ringers (1988), or David and Walter in Alien: Covenant (2017), affect your work in any way?

K & S: That’s very interesting. We hadn’t actually thought of that. The "evil" twin thing is definitely something that we hear a lot about. Generally it comes with the question: "So, which one of you is the evil twin?" [editor's note: I get asked this a lot, too.] We guess it is due to those kinds of stories that people are used to seeing doubles, with that kind of "good/evil" balance.

That duality is intriguing for sure—is interesting to see which one wins out (generally, that seems to be how that theme is used). There is dark and light, and it will switch between which one has the upper hand. We watch to see which one triumphs over the other. In "Ore's" case you could see [that duality with] Lorraine and Hanks: Hanks [puts] corporate interest over the safety of the colony [and] could be seen as the darker side of the story. [With] her desire to protect the colony, [Lorraine] is the lighter [side]. Ultimately we wanted to see the light have its moment of triumph.

Ripley's original demise (courtesy of Horror Freak News).

Nick: Did you ever consider a bad ending? For example, in Alienthe original script had Ripley being killed by the xenomorph, which ate her brain. Afterward, it would have signed off as "Captain Dallas"!

K & S: That's a great question! We always knew this was going to be our end (we did have a couple recommendations to leave out the miners joining Lorraine); we always wanted to preserve that moment. In our society a lot of emphasis is put on the power of the individual. We wanted to remind people of the power that comes when individuals join together into a group. We are strong by ourselves, but stronger together—

[editor's note: Splitting up is the classic "bad idea" in horror movies. Alien is perhaps bit of an exception: The longer it took the crew to ready their escape craft, the more likely it was that they would've been killed (they couldn't kill the monster, according to Ash); so, in that case, the odds of someone making it out alive arguably climbed if they split up!]

—We wanted to leave ["Alien: Ore"] off with hope: Together, these miners might just have a shot at saving the colony. Hope makes us just that bit stronger, that much more capable of facing the problems headed our way and solving them.

[editor's note: The ending is pretty "real," I think. It's not going to be a "clean win," with zero casualties. However, the odds of the "hunters" killing the "lion" seem likely enough to protect the "herd," above. There's hope, but a grounded form of it—no bullshit.]


About me: My name is Nick van der Waard and I'm a Gothic ludologist. I primarily write reviews, Gothic analyses, and interviews. Because my main body of work is relatively vast, I've compiled it into a single compendium where I not only list my favorite works, I also summarize them. Check it out, here!

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