Released this December, Episode 1 of the animated series Alien Skies is a good example of how the pandemic changed the course for many filmmakers. Meet Jeff Kirkland!
In a future where humanity has spread to the stars but other alien cultures are gone and long forgotten, Kira is a Xenoarcheologist who, together with hired muscle, Maxx, roams the edge of civilised space, trading in illegal alien artefacts while keeping one step ahead of the underworld syndicate that’s trying to find her.
The 15-minute Episode 1 of Alien Skies is a pure science fiction story that will leave you waiting for more. It’s probably not going to win any major prizes, but it’s an interesting open episode for what the author hopes will be a series. This first episode is a proof of concept episode of Alien Skies, an animated web series that Jeff Kirkland hopes will help him find “an outlet for the show so I can move forward with producing the rest of the story.”
Jeff Kirkland is ONE/18 FILMS, a, he says, “small production company based in Hobart, Tasmania where we work on varied projects including short films, documentaries, music videos and television comercials”. Besides his commercial work, Kirkland has a passion for science fiction, and Pursuant – A Sci-Fi Short Film was his first attempt, in 2019. The filmmaker says, about Pursuant, that “after working on many short films for other people, I decided to make one of my own. It was my first attempt at writing and directing anything narrative so I decided to keep everything simple. One actor. Not much dialogue. Minimal crew.”
All The Dark Things
That was the original idea, but then, as Kirkland says, “I complicated everything by setting it outdoors in a forest at night, and scheduled the shoot for mid Winter, on a day with an 80% plus chance of heavy rain.” The result is a short film – little over 5 minutes – that Kirkland says, “For a first effort, I’m pleased with the way it turned out and will be eternally grateful to the cast and crew who volunteered their time and braved the Winter weather to help me get this made.”
All The Dark Things a sizzle/mood reel, from mid-2019, reveals another theme Kirkland is keen to explore: the occult. “I got the idea for an occult web series”, he says, adding ”I was looking for something to screen as part of my showcase presentation for Wide Angle Tasmania’s End Game initiative and decided to shoot a sizzle/mood reel for the show.”
As so many other projects, All The Dark Things (ATDT) was only possible due to the cooperation of people around Kirkland. The filmmaker says: “once again, I’m indebted to a whole bunch of very talented people who gave up their weekend so I could wander around waving a storyboard and pointing at things, while they acted out scenes in a series that didn’t exist.”
Two months turn into two years
Then, as the pandemic gave place to a lockdown Jeff Kirkland imagined a way to keep working on projects. He says “during lockdown in 2020, I started thinking about how to make a film without access to actors and decided an animated web series might be a good idea. I mean, how hard could it be? I was expecting to be finished in three or four months.”
Animation being a new area for the author, the project took a little longer. Kirkland reveals that “almost two years, and a lot of learning about animation later, I’m ready to bring the web series to life and thanks to the generosity of some fantastic voice actors from across the globe, the pilot episode is currently in post-production.”
The announcement was made when the trailer for Alien Skies, Episode 1 was launched, last November. Then, mid-December, the episode was released, and it was then that, browsing the Internet for interesting videos to watch, I found the link to Alien Skies. Some say it has influences from The Expanse, which is a seminal sci-fi TV series.
Next episodes will come faster
Replying to a comment online, Kirkland says that “the project team consists of me (writer/director/animator) and the four actors. This is the first animation I’ve ever done so it took a year to put together. The next episodes will come faster but I’m going to spend a few weeks trying to find some investors before I start paying for everything myself.”
So, there you are. Take 15-minutes of your time to watch the fist episode of Alien Skies and then go and check the other things Jeff Kirkland has created. And remember, that ONE/18 FILMS is “always keen to talk with people about potential projects so if you have a project you think we may be able to help with, give Jeff Kirkland a call”. You’ll find more information on the company’s website, where you can also watch Kirkland’s cinematography showreel.