Alien: The arrival of Jon Sorensen

leading from


a) Yearnings
Jon Sorensen was not yet 20 when he joined, Alien.
 
He was at photographic school for about a year in Glasgow, Scotland, and during that period he had been inspired by the astonishing model work on a television series called Space 1999 to the extent that he built his own miniature spaceships and shipped them over to his college to photograph them and insert into star and nebulae art that he had done.

He submitted these as an assignment to his bemused tutors who suspected that he had taken leave of his senses

Around this time, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the third kind fired him up to make contact with the luminaries in the film industry. however in the highlands of Scotland he didn't know anyone.

He would go into the local library and lookup the Who's Who and find all the addresses of various people of the industry including Brian Johnson was the visual effects boss behind the effects of Space 1999.

He found that people were very kind and he traveled to many film studios and shoots to introduce himself carrying with him his large folio of work.

Brian soon sent back a letter, it said on the top of the letter headed notepaper "Alien", and Jon didn't pay any attention to it, he thought it was the name of a special effects unit that Brian had set up.

b) Arrival

Jon arrived Saturday the 24th June 1978 at Bray Studio around mid-day wearing a black velvet jacket to impress them as if he were a professional photographer, while carrying a small suitcase and £60.00.

Brian was sufficiently impressed by his selection of photographs, spaceships, landscapes, abstract composites and aerial photographs to say he might be able to use me on a film he was doing.

He was put straight to work, Brian wanted him to do photographic plates for the composites  involving taking photographs of the models and expanding them onto black and white to use them for special effects shots for the poster.

He also said he was building some spacecraft miniatures which he felt Jon could probably help with, as it if were like 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Thus Jon did a fair bit of this work and got into other things and soon got involved with the model department.

Brian at first was talking about Jon being on the film for ten weeks but it turned into a year.

At first he had nowhere to sleep, he approached Brian " Where am I going to sleep? I have to find somewhere to sleep or I have to go now"

Brian replied "no no, there's a dressing room, that you can have and a sleeping back in there"

c) The script and the dressing room
On his first day someone handed him the Alien screenplay "hey do you want to read this?" and the first thing that he did that night was take it up to the dressing room and read it, and he loved it, he was one of the people who hooked onto it immediately, he thought that in the way it was written, there was a magic immediately about the whole thing

The Dressing Room that he slept was the one used by the famous British movie actor Peter Cushing known for his roles such as Baron Victor Frankenstein and vampire hunter Professor Van Helsing in Hammer horror movies and also well known for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars.

He would shower in the one next door used by another famous British movie actor Christopher Lee known for playing Count Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and the Mummy in Hammer movies,  the James Bond villain Scaramanger from "The Man with the Gold Gun", and Count Dooku in the Star Wars film, the Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith

d) Jon and the Nostromo
When Jon had started modeling, the first thing he was that he was given to work on was the whole detachable back section of the large Nostromo model that was approximately ten feet long, the part containing the rocket motors and engines.

The supposed size of the real life Nostromo was 800 feet from nose to rear.
 
With Jon, the group consisting of Simon Deering, John Pakenham, Ron Hone and Bill Pearson worked alongside each other and were given responsibility for various sections, and out of this the whole grew organically.

He would watch the other members of the team with all their different disciplines and doing their various things, he felt that now he had arrived.

e) The wage
He spent almost two weeks on Alien and pay never occurred to him.

He had lived on nothing putting himself through Photographic school,  but soon Brian asked to speak to him in private and asked what would be a fair wage.

Brian mentioned a figure and Jon couldn't speak which it seemed as if Brian interpreted as "I'll offer him a little bit more."

The final wage resulted in Jon saying a weak "Thankyou Brian". It was an enormous sum for Jon and it was typical of Brian to be fair across the board

f) Cooked meal with green peas
John Birkinshaw, (also known as Mother) the flamboyant wardrobe man for Alien would insist on making John a home cooked meal once a week, (always with green peas because he thought that Jon needed the greens), and then they'd watch the late night "horror" movie, (always on Thursday nights), and John would regale him with his own stories of being a film extra in just about EVERY British movie of that period they watched!

As John would try to spend some time reading a book Jon would ask him question after question

John would respond "You're so intense! It's very disarming!"

(See John Birkinshaw aka Mother)

Jon Sorensen working on a smaller 'half scale' version of the Nostromo


g) That glorious summer in 1978
That glorious summer in 1978, and Jon slept with the windows always open and hearing the party boats going up and down the idyllic stretch of the river Thames which Bray studios overlooked. (Next door and adjoining the studio is Oakley Hall, often used by Hammer in their Dracula and Frankenstein movies.

He would sit and walk by the river during the weekends. His memories would peace, kingfishers, dragonflies, happiness, and if it rained a small black-and-white television he was loaned by Roy, the security guy at the studio, on which, as if fated, Jon saw Ken Russell's two dramas on the Lakeland Romantic Poets set in the English Lake District where he moved later and and would come to make his own films using that same landscape.

And then looking forward to the guys coming back in Monday morning for more really fun and creative work on the models.

The sheer generosity of Brian Johnson and Nick Allder, who were almost like "fathers" to young members of the team would be unforgettable.

Brian not only got Jon the dressing room, but when Bray were getting anxious about him staying there forever, Brian heard about it, and without telling Jon called up the studio admin and said down the phone "Is he in your way? No. Well he stays, okay?"

Eventually Jon managed to afford a lease on a house in Windsor and Brian got Bray to sign as Guarantors. Jon was so very pleased.

h) The legend of Number 6
Jon would wear a large lapel bad with the "Number Six" penny-farthing logo associated with The Prisoner TV series from the later 1960s on his Rousseau black velvet jacket.

He had been "laying waste" to the women of the neighbourhood (who should have had more sense, and then he'd come into the model workshop at Bray Studios the next morning worse for wear, and someone kept a beautiful pin-up calendar over the workshop telephone.

On those mornings would appear mysteriously a "Number 6" in the bikini area saying "6... Was He Here?"

The Number 6 Penny Farthing badge for The Prisoner TV series
And the legend would continue, Number Six, it is written, in later times was a guest of Brian Eke, where Six liveth for a period of three moons in a castle (trailer) behind Sir Eke's baronial seat, and lo, was Mr Eke aghast at the lewd slaying of ladies by Six in the Land Of Maidenhead.

It was rumoured that Six then moved for a period to the land of The Beatles wherein did he continue his unchaste behaviour (up) against the ladies of that fabled land. (What context these words have been uttered under remains a mystery for ever)

i) Four foot long Nostromo

j) Finishing touches to the Nostromo


Source Quotes
  1. See article "Jon Sorensen: Alien Miniatures Experience" at alienseries.wordpress.com
  2. Jon Sorensen: I was at photographic school for about a year, so Star Wars had just appeared, I thought, how can I do it from the highlands of Scotland, because I didn't know anyone, and i would go into the er, into the local library and lookup the who's who and find all the addresses of  people, like I found Brian Johnson, and Brian sent this letter, on the letter, it said on the top Alien, and I thought, I didn't pay it any attention, I thought that was a unit of special effects he set up or something, and so I blow in this you know, highlander, you know, the black velvet, your jacket looking like a photographer, you know, like Rousseau or somebody, he wanted me to do some still photographs of the models and expand them on to black and white to use them for the special effects shots for the poster, so its like you know the 2001 thing, like. And we did a fair bit of that and er, and some of the slides I was taking, various other things and then I got into the model bit, it was just a wonderful time, and that's what's started it, and so so, I had nowhere to live, so er, i said "Brian, where am I going to sleep?" Or, er "I have to find somewhere to sleep or I have to go now", and he said "no no, he said there's a dressing room", erm "that you can have and a sleeping bag in there" and I stayed in that dressing room for about three months, and watching you guys all with the different disciplines and doing stuff, it was wonderful, I thought, you know, I've arrived, in a sense that er, this is it and then, of course I'd read the screenplay of Alien,  and they gave me one of these when I arrived, they said hey do you want to read this, and the first thing I did that night when I went up to the dressing room, and er, read the screenplay, and I , I loved it, I was one of the people who really hooked onto it, I thought the way it was written in, it was just a magic immediately about the whole thing, (Alien Makers documentary)
  3. Jon talks about his first day on 'Alien'


    Jon Sorenson: Thank you, Dennis again! Yes, it's all true.

    Ray Harryhausen said in an interview I did with him for Union magazine at the time,

    "SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO REACH FOR THE STARS...YOU MIGHT JUST GET HALFWAY THERE".

    For all you guys here, it is amazing the generosity of people in the business if they can see your enthusiasm and have done a little creative work they can respond to.

    The sheer generosity of Brian Johnson and Nick Allder, who were almost like "fathers" to us newbies is unforgettable. Brian not only got me the dressing room, but when Bray were getting anxious about me staying there forever, Brian heard about it, and without telling me called up the studio admin and said, "Is he in your way? No. Well he stays, okay?" Finally I managed to afford a lease on a house in Windsor and Brian got Bray to sign as Guarantors for me. Just a wonderful guy.

    A lot of people responded to and encouraged my enthusiasm. I was not yet 20 when I joined ALIEN, and many top technicians had invited me to film sets and studios in London which led to many trips hiking from Scotland and the odd bus trip when I had the money.

    And speaking of money, I was on ALIEN for almost 2 weeks and pay NEVER occurred to me. (I had been living on nothing putting myself through Photographic school). Brian asked to speak to me in private and asked what would be a fair wage. He mentioned a figure and I could'nt speak, which Brian interpreted as "I'll offer him a wee bit more". The final wage resulted in my saying a weak "Thank you, Brian". It was an enormous sum to me and typical of Brian being fair across the board.

    The REAL AND IMPORTANT point I wish to make here, arising from all this "alien resurrection", is that, without sounding like a missionary, it is important to me/us to share this stuff to enthusiasts such as are on this Site and hope to "inspire" you guys to follow your dreams.

    Ray Harryhausen is STILL out there spouting this message. Whilst his body of work is incredible and mine nominal in comparison, I would like to keep following HIS example, and that all the other incredible people who gave me the time of day.

    And this was all started by Dennis Lowe's generosity, in a totally similar spirit, I'm in no doubt.

    One of you guys on here could turn out to be, in the years ahead, the new Ridley Scott.

    Keep asking those questions. Keep reaching. Keep working.

    (www.alienexperience.com/ RE: ALIEN MAKERS DOCUMENTARY  July 09, 2009, 02:33:25 PM)

    Xeno_Alpha_07: Cant believe Jon used to get locked in the studio, and sleep in the same Dressing room the Christopher Lee used.  How lucky is that!  Wonder if Jon did any 'Exploreing' while being locked in?

    John Sorenson: Of course I did.

    I slept in the Dressing Room used by Peter Cushing and showered in the one next door used by Christopher Lee.

    It was a glorious summer in 1978, and I recall sleeping with the windows always open and hearing the party boats going up and down the idyllic stretch of the river Thames which Bray studios overlooks. (Next door and adjoining the studio is Oakley Hall, often used by Hammer in their Dracula and Frankenstein movies.

    I used to sit and walk by the river weekends. My memories are of peace, kingfishers, dragonflies, happiness, and if it rained a small black-and-white television I was loaned by Roy, the security guy at the studio, on which, as if fated, I saw Ken Russell's two dramas on the Lakeland Romantic Poets set in the Engliah Lake District where I moved later and then made my own films using that same landscape.

    And then looking forward to the guys coming back in Monday morning for more really fun and creative work on the models.

    What more can you ask?
    And the wonderful John Birkinshaw, (now passed on and bless you John wherever you are), who used to insist on making me a home cooked meal once a week, (always with green peas because he thought I needed the greens), and then we'd watch the late night "horror" movie, (always on Thursday nights), and John would regale me with his own stories of being a film extra in just about EVERY British movie of that period we watched! John was a wardrobe guy on ALIEN by the way.

    Other times, he'd try to read a book only to have me interrupt with another question.

    He'd say, "You're so intense! It's very disarming!" (AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, July 09, 2009, 01:59:19 PM »)
  4. That's right, Dennis. They well knew. Especially, Ivor, and that "vibe" prevailed throughout and showed in how good the movie was finally. I think everyone here is getting that.

    It was a real "Summer Of Love".

    In more ways than one.

    I used to always wear a large lapel badge with the "Number Six" penny-farthing logo on my Rousseau black velvet jacket. The one from the television series THE PRISONER.

    When I had been out laying waste to the women in the neighbourhood, (who should have had more sense), I'd come into the model workshop at Bray the next morning the worse for wear and someone kept a beautiful pin-up calendar over the workshp telephone. On those mornings would appear mysteriously a "Number 6" in the bikini area saying "6...Was He Here?".

    And yes, the shot of Guy strung up in the dustbin is mine. He was up there for at least a half hour getting his ass toasted. I think the breakfast trolley was late arriving that morning and  the look on Nick's face is saying "barbeque". We ate anything in those days. We were tough. 

    (Alien Experience.com/Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28th 2009) 
  5. Simon Deering: Come on John , Dennis ? Will the real number 6 please stand up ? (AlienExperience.com/Re: ALIEN Makers DocumentaryJune 28th 2009)
  6. Jon Sorenson:That was the problem...he stood up too often, Simon.

    Number Six, it is written, in later times was a guest of Brian Eke, where Six liveth for a period of three moons in a castle (trailer) behind Sir Eke's baronial seat, and lo, was Mr Eke aghast at the lewd slaying of ladies by Six in the Land Of Maidenhead.

    It was rumoured that Six then moved for a period to the land of The Beatles wherein did he continue his unchaste behaviour (up) against the ladies of that fabled land.

    (AlienExperience.com/Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary June 28th 2009) 
    Dennis Lowe wearing the No 6 badge
  7. Simon Deering: Forsooth, then there were many , who is that wearing the badge of authority in the above etching ? (Alienexperience.comRe: ALIEN Makers Documentary,  June 28, 2009, 12:39:11 PM) (
  8. Jon Sorensen: Methinks a lady wearing a belt of chastity. Or not. (Alienexperience.comRe: ALIEN Makers Documentary June 28, 2009, )
  9. Simon Deering: Look again Sorenson, she has a beard ..  ( AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary June 28, 2009, )
  10. Jon Sorensen:Yes, yes, I know, I know. It be Mistress Lowe and there I was trying protect his reputation as a man of morals. X...That's for you, Dennis. What are you doing Saturday night, Simon? X ( AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28, 2009)
  11. Dennis Lowe: Did I hear my name taken in vain? I am not a number....I am a MAIDEN!!!! ( AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary)
  12. Simon Deering: Maidin England .. And colour corrected !  (AlienExperience.comRe: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28, 2009)
  13. Dennis Lowe: It's in my blood............sorry can't help it. (AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28, 2009)
  14. Jon Sorensen: You Hussy!  Now you have told them we are members of the badge of Six tendency, you may as well go the whole hog and tell them about our "Women In Love" wrestling scene...that one in the outtakes from ALIEN MAKERS. You said you'd get me in the movies! You did! I just don't care ANYMORE!! (AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary
    June 28, 2009)
  15. Dennis Lowe: Now let's keep our heads guys, we're all meant to be professional.
    We don't want to wash our dirty linen in pubic, sorry public. Let's just calm down and breeth deeply........ Not too deeply or the public will start thinking again. Now Jon, I did say I'd get you into the movies BUT I didn't say how. The main thing is your in the movies now. Deal with it !!
    (AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers DocumentaryJune 28, 2009)
  16. Jon Sorensen: You can expect a call from my Agent in the morning. And my psychiatrist.(AlienExperience.com Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary June 28, 2009)  

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