The Wall Street Journal has a really interesting interview with Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof about the film’s viral campaign. The campaign kicked off with the TED conference video and focused on Weyland Corp., the company funding the trip. WSJ’s interview focuses on the various viral videos put out, including ones featuring the android David and Dr. Shaw. Check out some of the highlights after the break.
How did you come up with the idea for these viral videos?
I was working on the script and the story with Ridley directly and this guy Michael Ellenberg who is a producer on the movie. Ridley was aware of “Lost” but Michael was a watcher of it, not just the show, but a lot of the stuff we did virally between the seasons, and the courtship of the fanbase primarily through events like Comic Con. I was aggressively tweeting by the last season of the show, so he understood the idea of a two-way street. He made it clear that Ridley wouldn’t be engaging in any of that, not for lack of caring what the fans thought. He doesn’t have a Twitter handle or even an email address…but he was open to the idea of engaging with the fan base and so the big question that emerged out of the gate was: What is this movie’s relationship to the original “Alien”? Is it a prequel? How is it a prequel? Is it an entirely original movie?
I thought that instead of us answering questions in mainstream media, was there a way to control the story by releasing content before the movie that just isn’t the trailer. They were like “What do you mean?” I said, “We can do some cool viral stuff.” And the best viral content stars the actors, the stars who are actually in the movie. I thought if we could talk Michael Fassbender into doing this, or Guy Pearce, that would be awesome. But we are going to have to have these ideas figured out by the time we are shooting the movie because that’s when we have those actors.
What was the first one?
Noomi [Rapace] had screen tested to play Shaw. I wrote this page and a half video message that she sends to Peter Weyland that was not going to be in the movie. It was just an audition to sell Noomi to Fox. Ridley shot her in film, and had her in full costume and makeup. When I saw her screen test, I was like “This is great viral content.”
What about the “David 8” commercial with Michael Fassbender?
There had just been a new slew of iPad commercials. I thought, “If there are commercials for iPads, there should be commercials for robots.” And I pitched a couple of ideas. [Michael Ellenberg] brought it to this guy Johnny Hardstaff, a young renegade director, and pitched him the “David 8” idea and he ran with it. Fassbender was incredible and so game for it. I felt like, if there was going to be a breakout character in the movie it was going to be David.
So when he signed up for this, I’m sure he was unaware he was going to have to do this extra content. Did the studio pay him extra to do this—or pay you extra to write this stuff?
I can only answer for myself and presume they didn’t pay Michael anything additional. I looked at it this way: Part of my job, what I get paid for, is promoting the movie and the Writer’s Guild is probably going to get mad at me for saying this, but that’s just the way I looked at it. Since I pitched it, I wanted to do it and Fox said yes, they were putting money out there to make this thing. I looked at it as a couple of extra scenes I was doing for “Prometheus” that would be on a small screen. I do think that in the future my agent will probably negotiate bumps for additional content that are not going to be on the screen. But you have to look at it as a freebie when you are trying to do something new and cool.
Let’s talk about the TED talk, which was delivered at the actual TED conference. How did that idea come about?
The whole origin of the TED talk was, we cast Guy to play Weyland who was a very old man. There was a scene in the movie of Weyland as a young man. That scene got cut, so Ridley never got to shoot it. One of our concerns was: people are going to wonder why we cast Guy Pearce as an old man. Why not just cast an old man? So the audience needs to see him as a young man. That was concern A. And it dovetailed with this idea of introducing Peter Weyland. I am a huge TED aficionado. I am a member of TED. So I said “We should just do a Ted talk from the not too distant future, like 2023, where someone is giving a talk about things that haven’t quite happened yet but won’t feel so far advanced that people think, ‘Oh my God, my brain is leaking out of my ears.’”
Is there a rule with these things, like it can’t be longer than four minutes or you’ll bore people to tears?
I wrote like a 7 or 8 page script. We edited it down to a cleaner compact more viewable piece of viral. I think any viral that goes beyond 3 or 4 minutes, if you can’t watch the whole thing while you’re waiting for your latte at Starbucks, it defeats the purpose.
Check out WSJ for more from the interview, in which Lindelof talks about Twitter and some other aspects of the film. Prometheus is in theaters now.