Felix Christian Berner Interview

Posted by Corporal Hicks on April 16, 2015 (Updated: 29-Dec-2017)

In November 2014 a new Alien fan film was announced, Alien: The Adora Files. Set between Alien Isolation and Aliens, Alien: The Adora Files tells the tale of the fate of the starship Adora. I recently had the chance to chat with the enthusiastic man behind the project, German filmmaker Felix Christian Berner.

Logo design by Frans Hattingh. Felix Christian Berner Interview

Logo design by Frans Hattingh.

AvPGalaxy – Welcome, Felix! First off, thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us!  Tell us a little about yourself. When did you first get into film making?

Felix Christian Berner – Thank you for having me! I got into film making at the young age of 10. My father gave me a video camera as present for my birthday. From then on I started filming. Most of the time I was creating little action sequences or films of me and a friend of mine as James Bond –  I was a huge James Bond fan as child.

After school I decided to study design and specialized in making short films. I was ever in love with science fiction, ever since I saw Blade Runner and Alien and Aliens. I loved the dark, dirty and dystopic future visions of Scott and Cameron

I was thinking about studying film but I decided to study design because design (communication design) includes all aspects of making movies but you learn more compared to film study – you learn how to design, to style, to use colors.

Parallel to my passion of making short films, I was extremely interested in designing and creating digital artworks – so it was easy for me to combine both interests in one study.

AvPG – How long have you been a CG artist?

FCB – I  was never a CG artist – it was just something I learned by doing – because it is too expensive to hire real CG Artists. I am lucky to have some friends who specialized in CG and who are kind enough to help me out with some stuff like the spaceships in my current movie – Thanks a lot to Dieter Joppich !

The Adora and the rescue ship Protos as designed by Dieter Joppich. Felix Christian Berner Interview

The Adora and the rescue ship Protos as designed by Dieter Joppich.

A lot of stuff I was learning just by doing – it is phenomenal that if you grow up with techniques and computers and softwares, you are able to learn it without a teacher – like you can see on the young people of our time with smartphones in the hand from beginning of life.

I grew up in film programs and design software…not sure how I learned all that stuff. When I had a vision to create something, I was never thinking about the “how should I realize it?” – I just did it….maybe it is true and there are talents in each one of us which give us the ability to do amazing things.

AvPG – You are not wrong there! Its so wonderful to be able to teach yourself. Let me rephrase the question – when did you first start teaching yourself to create digital artwork and environments?

FCB – I started learning at the age of 13. I was an anime and manga fan and a fan of Dragon Ball Z. I had the impulse to create an anime website and from then on I started creating digital artwork and websites for myself. I started teaching myself all the stuff I need to know to realize my visions.

In the last years, I was owner and webmaster of many websites from anime pages to Counter Strike clan sites to my own online portfolios.

AvPG – That’s fantastic stuff! Let’s start talking a little bit about Alien. When did your love for the Alien franchise first begin?

FCB – I saw Aliens – I think – when I was 8 years. And Alien a bit later…and there is an amazing evidence online for that – please feel free check out the website and go to the picture folders – there you can see and find a lot of drawings I did as child. I was infected by the Alien movies – I have never felt love so intense with a movie franchise.

I was so in love with the Colonial Marines, that I said as a young German child, that I want to be in the US marines when I am old enough. I was impressed [in Aliens] by the guns and the armour and the marine stuff – and for sure, the Alien drones.

This was my first contact with the dark and dystopic sci-fi worlds I talked about before – followed by watching Blade Runner and all the other master pieces of the 80’s.

Felix Berner in his own Colonial Marines armor.  Felix Christian Berner Interview

Felix Berner in his own Colonial Marines armor.

AvPG – So it sounds like Aliens is your favourite out of the series? Did that affect the approach you took with the The Adora Files?

FCB – That’s hard to say because I love Alien exactly as much as the action orientated Aliens – also Alien 3 is a wonderful movie. I love all 3 parts because they treat the Alien universe with a lot of love – but to be honest – my fan film is extremely influenced by Alien: Isolation.  My movie is a kind of link between Isolation and Aliens.

The look of my movie is influenced by Aliens – especially the colors and atmosphere but it was not my intention to create a Colonial Marine movie.  It is sad that there aren’t a lot of Alien fan films but there are lots fan films that are showing just Colonial Marine action. No-one was brave enough to work out an Alien fanfilm.

The marines are just a supporting element in my movie – but the main story is dealing with the incident on the USS Adora – a transport ship of the evil company Tyran Industries – not Weyland-Yutani because I think there are more powerful companies out there in the Alien universe and I wanted to show that Weyland-Yutani has a kind of enemy out there in space, a competitor who is trying to beat them.

AvPG – Can you tell us a little about the genesis of Alien: The Adora Files? Where did the idea to do an Alien fanfilm come from?

FCB – All my ideas in my life come suddenly without a thinking about it – not sure when and where the idea came from but for sure I was walking through my city and was listening to music and BAM – the idea was suddenly there, in my brain. Years before I was working on a feature film called Order 76 and created tons of costumes but I was never able to realize that project.

After playing Alien: Isolation I was on fire again and once again obsessed with Alien – I was also really sad about having all these costumes and props stored in my basement without ever using them in a movie and got the idea to use all that movie stuff in an Alien fanfilm – so we could say that my costumes and props gave me the idea for the fan film.

On set with Alien: The Adora File.  Felix Christian Berner Interview

On set with Alien: The Adora File.

AvPG – As I understand it the film is being filmed against green screen with live action props and characters? Why did you take this approach?

FCB – Over many months I designed and produced the costumes, patches, symbols and the complete universe of my film on my own. Then I switched to the role of set designer and built a complete green screen set in my apartment to work after that as director and camera guy; in the end I’m also the editor and CGI/VFX artist. I’m grading the movie and doing the sound design – only the music is done by someone else.  I am a one-man movie machine. haha.

I used my expertise with the green screen keying technique and built an entire set in my apartment! I had used this amazing technique before in some other sci-fi projects and had thought about how to create an amazing look between real footage and CGI backgrounds. It is far too expensive to build complete sets – but if you are able to use CGI, a green screen is all you need. This is cheap but takes months in the post-production.

It is a dream of mine to someday create a sci-fi movie with real, physical sets – but right now – I am really fine with the green screen.

AvPG – So it was a case of using what you’d got? Your CG skills allowed you to make more of your apartment?

FCB – For 4 months I was living in a green screen because I used my own apartment for shooting. This was the cheapest way –this movie cost me lot of money. I really hope the fans will like what I do because I do it for the fans and I am the guy who is paying all the bills.

AvPG – I believe the Alien is also one of the live action elements in the film? Can you tell us a little about the suit and the actor inside it?

FCB – Everything is live action except for the backgrounds and spaceships. The man inside the Alien costume is a friend of mine who is also in love with Aliens and who is the owner of an amazing Alien suit. However, it was hard to make this costume look real – I used tons of soap and shampoo to create the liquid slimy look of the skin and the dropping spittle out of the mouth. I lit the suit in a way that made it look as realistic as possible

AvPG – Are you happy with the Alien suit and the work you’ve been able to do with it?

FCB – Look at this *picture below* so yes– I am really happy.

felix-berner-interview-06 Felix Christian Berner Interview

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