Alien Resurrection: Sylvain Despretz sticks to his guns

Leading from

a) Sylvain was a big fan of the universe of Alien when he was growing up and so he had so many ideas of his own and projections as to what he would like to see in it, and joining the art team meant that he would be able to contribute a little bit of that.

The art department would work months before any visual effects would be debated. The ideas had to be drawn and worked out first, before anyone could disucss how to execute them. The visual effects were more concerned with the Shoot and Post-Production that they were with "First Unit" Pre-Production which was the art department.

However, it was not unusual for the Visual Effects Team to bring their own art crew to do more artwork in Post Production phase. Jean-Pierre's idea also was that it was never a good idea to allow people whose role it would be to make something affect a design because the risk is too great and they will always favour a solution which makes things easier for themselves. He felt it was better to let the designers design and let another department worry about how to carry it out. Alien Resurrection would become an example of this
  1. Sylvain Despretz: There was no distinction as to who did what, it was a little bit like the ....ski brothers, you know, nobody's actually stopped the clock to say who did what. For a long time, a lot of people were talking about Powell Pressberger, knowing for sure how much Pressberger intervened, and I think erm, and I think Caro and Jeunet were a little bit like that, it was, it was um, sort of erm, two headed entity, and I got the sense that at the time Jean-Pierre was offered the job, basically they were both offered the job, but I think Caro turned it down. (Alien resurrection documentary)
  2. Propimage: Do you ever closely work with any of the SFX guys?
    
Sylvain Despretz: Not Really. On any film of that size, the Art Department begins work months before any Visual Effects issue has been debated; in a way, the ideas have to be drawn and worked out first, before people can discuss how to execute them. The Visual Effects are more concerned with the Shoot and Post Production than they are with "First Unit" Pre-Production (that's us). Nowadays, it's not unusual to see a VFX team bring in their own art crew, to do more artwork in the Post Production phase. At any rate, Jean Pierre Jeunet once told me he felt it was never a good idea to allow people whose role it will be to "make something work" affect a design because the risk is too great that they will always favor a solution which makes things easier for themselves. He felt it was better to let designer's design, then let another department worry about how to carry it out. This was at least the case with Alien Resurrection. (http://www.popimage.com/industrial/080800sylint.html)
  3. Sylvain Despretz: I love the ALIEN world. I was a big fan of it growing up, so I had many of my own ideas and projections as to what I would like to see in it, and to some extent, I was able to contribute a little bit of that (Starlog 252, p37)
  4. Sylvain Despretz: Being hired by the production designer means something different from being hired by the director, and ALIEN Resurrection was a case in point. (Starlog 252, p36) 
  5. Sylvain Despretz: I got along fine with Nigel and did my best to sail through it as gracefully as possible. I never intended to threaten his authority. I ran every choice by him before presenting it and forced myself to operate under his guidance. Politically, it was a very interesting experience, because the tensions were really high sometimes. Who was going to design the ship, who was going to do this and that? It was very competitive."(Starlog 252, p36) 

b) Into The Art Department 
While the Alien Resurrection art department all respected Alien, they wanted to do something different this time around, which meant eschewing H.R.Giger's biomechanical influence for most part and looking for different kinds of textures and details.

Nigel Phelps ran the department, Sylvain got on well with Nigel and would would do his best to sail through the situations present as gracefully as possible. Nigel would never threaten him with his authority , and Sylvain would run every choice by him before presenting it and his forced himself to operate under Nigel's guidance. He found it a politically interesting experience because tensions would rise high sometimes. They were throwing around questions about who was going to design the ship, who was going to do this and that. It became a competitive scene.
 

Source Quotes
  1. While the Resurrection art department all respected ALIEN,they wanted to do something different this time around, which meant eschewing H.R. Giger's biomechanical influence for the most part and looking for different kinds of textures and detail.(Starlog 252, p37)
  2. It was while working on The Fifth Element that Despretz first met Jean-Pierre Jeunet who was negotiating with Fox at the time to direct ALIEN Resurrection. Once Jeunet was officially on the film, he hired Despretz as a storyboard and conceptual artist which could have meant a potential conflict with production designer Nigel (Judge Dredd) Phelps.(Starlog 252, p36)

c) Beginning with storyboards
Despretz started doing the storyboards early in the year, but after a while, he got pulled further and further into designing weapons which played a big part in the movie.

Motorised wheelchair (source: http://www.metaprogram.net/)

d) Guns and wheelchairs
Weapons were connected to a wheelchair that one of the characters  wheels himself around the ship on. It was actually a moving arsenal, and the idea was to conceal weapons in plain sight, so they created the wheelchair, and then found ways to conceal the weapons.


Source Quotes
  1. Sylvain Despretz: I started doing the storyboards early in the year, but after a while, I got pulled more and more towards designing weapons, which played a big part in the movie. They were connected to a wheelchair that one of the characters wheels himself around the ship on. It's actually a moving arsenal, and the idea was to conceal weapons in plain sight so we created the wheelchair and then found ways to conceal weapons in it. (Starlog 252, p36)
Hand gun (source: http://www.metaprogram.net/)

e) Just Guns

He also designed guns. There was a gun made that actually followed his work closely enough. He went over to the  set on night and Sigourney Weaver  was perhaps waiting to do a take as Ripley 8 and she was walking around, she had a gun strapped on and he had designed it. He recalled the afternoon when he designed that gun, it was a quick design, just a quick little sketch and, seeing Sigourney dressed up as the Ripley character with his gun, he was very very happy about it, it was a satisfying moment.



Rifle with grenade launcher (http://www.metaprogram.net)
The final Lacrima 99 Shockrifle



Source Quotes
  1. Mr Flibble whispered his first question to Andrew, who passed it on to Sylvain: Which movie that you've worked on has come closest to mimicking your concept art?
    Sylvain Despretz: Off the top of my head, I would say ALIEN: RESURRECTION. There's a few things that I think closely mimic [my work]. I had this moment on the set when I went over one night, and Ellen Ripley [Sigourney Weaver] - who was waiting for a take or something - was walking around and she had a gun strapped on that I'd designed. And I remembered the afternoon when I'd designed that gun; it was a quick design, just a quick little sketch. I stood on the set and I looked at Ellen Ripley, and there she was with my gun - and I was very, very happy about it. It was just a nice moment.(http://www.reddwarf.co.uk/features/interviews/sylvain-despretz/)

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