Why Ridley Scott Makes Mysterious Alien Short Films Between His Alien Movies

Michael Fassbender Walter Alien Covenant

While Ridley Scott is unquestionably a Hollywood icon for his innovative silver screen work, he has also become a trailblazer in the realm of movie promotion, as well. His Alien franchise utilizes incredibly unique marketing campaigns for each of its installments, and the viral short films that he produces to generate buzz are just as impressive as the films themselves. I recently had the chance to ask Scott why he goes through the effort to make these fascinating shorts ahead of the release of Alien: Covenant, and he explained that it stems from a combination of frustration with traditional trailers and the explosion of social media, saying:

I personally did at least two thousand commercials in my time. So that's your film school. Then, and I'm trying not to be critical, but I was constantly frustrated by, sometimes -- not the person right now marketing us, because we're doing very well -- trying to bring to bear. I was suddenly very aware of social media. Social media you begin by actually talking about something, such as 'Hello, I'm David.' Prometheus [Michael Fassbender] says 'Hello, I'm David.' Then they were gonna use the name of the film. And I say 'No, do not use the name of the film. Jesus.' Let people go, 'What was that?' Then use that silly thing called Twitter, and they're all talking to each other over cups of cocoa going 'Did you see that? What was that?' And suddenly you've got voice telegraph, and that's advertising.

If you have seen any of the Alien viral videos that have come out over the course of the last few years (such as the Peter Weyland TED Talk from Prometheus, or the "Last Supper" prologue to Alien: Covenant), then this should make plenty of sense. Ridley Scott has years of experience in the advertising industry, and that has taught him the sheer value of viral marketing. Without using the name of a film, and without showing much (if any) footage from the actual movie, he can get fans talking in a way that feels natural and organic. It's like inception; you want to plant a seed in the audience's head and get them talking without ever actually saying the name of your film.

For the sake of context, check out the David-centric short film referenced by Ridley Scott to get a better sense of what the director tries to accomplish with these viral videos.

This seems like a mentality shared by Alien star Michael Fassbender, who similarly chimed in with his hatred of modern trailers during the interview. Fassbender has become a central facet of Ridley Scott's Alien viral campaigns, and his ability to utter a simple phrase such as "Hello, I'm David" in such a chilling way has served the franchise well ever since Scott retook control of the Alien continuity with Prometheus back in 2012.

These techniques pioneered by Ridley Scott on the recent films in the Alien continuity could go a long way towards improving how movies are marketed if other studios and filmmakers decide to adopt them. One of the most annoying problems with contemporary trailers is the fact that they often spoil major Act 3 reveals, or simply show far too much of a given movie's story. Ridley Scott sidesteps that issue by shooting entirely new footage that teases the essence of a film's story and characters without showing too much of the real narrative. For those of us who in a constant state of vigilance over spoilers, that's a very enticing prospect. Here's Ridley Scott, talking about his unique Alien short films:

With Ridley Scott currently gearing up to bring us even more Alien adventures over the next few years, it seems highly likely that we can expect to see even more off-kilter short films to accompany these terrifying stories. Alien: Covenant will debut in theaters this weekend on May 19.

Conner Schwerdtfeger

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.