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Archive for January, 2002

GAWS: 30 of Gillian's Most Memorable X-Files Moments

30 of Gillian’s Most Memorable X-Files Moments

[Original article here]

Originally posted to the Gillian Anderson Web Site (GAWS) in 2002.

Question: Now that the X-files are ending, Can you tell us what are some of your favorite memories of working on the show?

Answer: Some of my favorite memories of working on the show (and not necessarily in order of importance or weight or much of anything but the order in which I remembered them.)

1. Directing “All Things.”

2. Singing Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog to Mulder in Detour.

3. Shooting “Triangle.”

4. Shooting “Cops.”

5. Shooting the kiss/bee scene in the movie.

6. Shooting the scene where Mulder shows Scully how to hit a baseball in
“The Unnatural.”

7. Shooting “Bad Blood” but especially the autopsy scene.

8. Doing the elephant autopsy in “Fearful Symmetry.”

9. In the first season the crew used to crowd around a t.v. screen on Friday nights and watch the show over lunch. That was fun and exciting for us.

10. I remember when the casting director told me I had the job after the final network audition and I had to drive a fellow auditioning actress that I knew back to her hotel knowing that I had the job and not letting on or being able to talk about it.

11. Shooting the graveside scene in the pilot in forced freezing rain at some ungodly hour in the morning and trying to remember my name let alone whole paragraphs of dialogue.

12. Shooting scenes in the snow in Vancouver wearing a skirt and high heals and trying not to slide down hill.. .or having to use an umbrella so that my hair did not have to be blown out before every take.

13. Telling David in his trailer that I was pregnant and him telling me that he felt his knees buckle. Blue, as a puppy was lying sick on his bed behind him having just been spayed.

14. Watching Jim Rose do his famous genital tricks in his trailer during the shooting of Humbug.

15. In one of the very first episodes, Mulder and Scully are to look at red lights in the sky that may be UFOs and follow their flying path. David and I were standing on a windy hilltop looking out onto the pitch black heavens with the cameras on our faces and being directed where to look in EXACTLY the same place at the same time (up down left right).. .but with NOTHING TO LOOK AT AS A GUIDE! It was absurd.

16. Shooting Scully and Mulder’s final kiss scene at the end of “Existence.”

17. Shooting the dance sequence at the end of “The Post-Modern Prometheus.”

18. I remember sitting at a wooden table with David on the set when Pendrell was shot and David telling me about this date he had with a woman whose name he would not tell me but it was kind of like the tea that you drink.

19. Sitting in a luncheon booth on the North Vancouver lot with David Nutter and for the very first time going over a script with a director beat by beat and how exhilarating that was to be creative that way and have someone care what my feedback and impressions and instincts were. The script was “Beyond The Sea.”

20. Shooting the scene where Scully’s stomach is pumped with air in an abduction sequence and trying not to reveal that it was actually a pregnant belly being shot. I’ll have to show that scene to Piper one of these years.

21. Lying in a hospital bed on set ten days after giving birth to Piper. Hooked up to tubes and wires and drifting in and out of sleep while they shot around me and being wheeled to and from the bed in a wheelchair. Surreal. I’d just been there!

22. Shooting a scene in a rowboat in the middle of a lake all by myself for hours and my lactating breasts getting so swollen that I thought I might explode.

23. Shooting a scene in an episode about cats where Scully has to be attacked in the face by a cat but I am allergic so they built a cat on a stick covered in bunny für whose arms could be operated by some poor special effects guy. So here I am “struggling” with this fake bunny/cat in my face pretending to get scratched and be terrified when the fake fur keeps sticking to my lipstick and going up my nose and Kim Manners and I cannot stop cracking up at the ludicrousness of it all.

24. Lying on the floor eight months pregnant and being pushed by someone across the floor to simulate me “crawling” because I was so big and my belly was in the way and 1 could not do it myself. I think it was “Duane Barry.”

25. Sitting in the back of a jeep on one of the stages pretending to be attacked by imaginary (CGI) green bugs who are going to cocoon us and suck our life out of us… flailing away at them with all my might and then whenever we cut, turning to a big garbage can to my left and throwing up because I had horrible morning sickness.

26. When Chris Carter walked into my hospital room a day or two after Piper was born and was stopped in his tracks by the sight of this living being propped up beside me. We sat in silence for a long time.

27. Talking to Chris on some payphone outside some restaurant a couple nights before I was to go back to Network for the final audition and him giving me notes on how to dress more ‘streamlined’ for the Network Execs… I borrowed a suit.

28. Talking to David for the very first time outside the audition as he chatted up the girls and commenting on the fact that I was from N.Y. and not really meaning FROM FROM but the disappointment which flashed across his face when I qualified that I had only actually lived there a couple years. He moved on to someone else.

29. Experiencing Rob Bowman directing for the first time, setting up elaborate shots and the crew standing around thinking what is this new guy doing spending all this time with these fancy angles.. .cut to.. .the established norm. And thank God.

30. The last day of shooting in Vancouver when the make-up artist had to redo my make-up three and four times before every take cause I was crying so much. I imagine the same will be said in a little over a month. We won’t get anything shot.

The End

tv-now.com: The "X-Files" (John Shiban)

The “X-Files” (John Shiban)
Maelee McBee

“The single hardest thing for us to do after all these years is to find great writers who understand Star Trek. It’s always been a problem.” “Enterprise” Executive producer Rick Berman on the hiring of John Shiban.

The X-Files Co-Executive Producer John Shiban was working as a computer programmer to pay the bills when he landed his writing gig on The X-Files in season three. “I went to film school at AFI. There I met Frank Spotnitz, we became friends and after school I continued writing features. I had no thought of writing for television at the time. I was still writing features and taking meetings and not having much success. Frank got the job on The X-Files and I was going to go pitch to him. He said ‘listen, why don’t you send a feature over. I know Chris is interested in hiring somebody with no TV experience.’ So I showed them one of my specs and I waited and waited. I got a call the last day before they went on hiatus to come down and meet Chris. I met him, we had a great meeting and the next day they hired me on staff. Overnight. Well, it felt like overnight even though it had been years of trying. It was beautiful.”

Shiban went on to give us such memorable episodes as Pine Bluff Variant, SR819,Underneath, which he also directed, and Dreamland I and II, Monday, and Field Trip, which he co-wrote with Vince Gilligan and Frank Spotnitz. One of the episodes he is most proud of is Underneath. The episode was Shiban’s directing debut, and proved to be “one of the hardest things I had to do on The X-Files. The first day of directing was hard but once I got through that, I had a blast. It’s like a giant toy store. You do all kinds of amazing things and you have a talented crew who follow your every whim. It’s a ball.”

Something that wasn’t a ball for Shiban was his last day as Executive Producer on The X-Files. “We had a little get together yesterday at Mark Snow’s house to listen to the music for the finale. We all got a little misty eyed. It’s not just seven years of great TV, it’s seven years of great people. It becomes a family. You can’t help that. They are great people that I worked with. Vince was there, Chris and Frank, David Amann, and Paul Rabwin and others. The way we had done it for years was that we’d all go to Mark’s house for music play back, and that was always the most pleasurable part of my job, because Mark Snow is so great at what he does. It was a nice thing for Mark to suggest we all get together for this one. We had a group hug kind of thing.”

Shiban gives away very little about the finale but does answer some questions about baby William, who we last saw being given up for adoption in the episode William. “We all discussed it and knew we wanted to bring some closure to that story as we were trying to do with everything on the series. There was some debate about what to do and what the best thing to do was. That idea (giving William up for adoption) was from Chris and Frank. It’s a safe place for the baby. I don’t think anybody wanted to continue playing jeopardy for the baby any longer. It started to become for all of us painful. The great thing about this solution is that it was a way to cure the baby in a very satisfying manner because it was a part of this revenge plot of Spender’s. It leaves Mulder and Scully with a huge emotional burden. You see in the finale that they do carry that with them. It’s not just ignored by any means. This is a family issue that must be dealt with. It’s a very, very emotional scene, a touching scene. I think you’ll be happy with the result.” Let’s hope so.

Looking back at the life of the series, Shiban says his two favorite episodes are Leonard Betts, which he co-wrote with Vince Gilligan and Frank Spotnitz, and Existence. “The teaser for Leonard Betts was so outlandish that even the director and writers said ‘how the hell are we going to get out of this? You can’t just cut a man’s head off in the teaser and let him live throughout the episode.’ It was so much fun for me and I think we worked it out pretty well. The science almost made sense. It was really exciting and it made me feel like we had a cool franchise here that Chris has created that can push the envelope like this and yet still be grounded in reality. That’s always stuck in my mind that hey, we can do anything on this show.”

Shiban’s other favorite, Existence, is purely personal. “That was my son’s acting debut. He was Scully’s first baby. So that will always stick in my mind as a high point.”

Shiban has moved on to Enterprise, the next installment in the “Star Trek” franchise. He will serve as Co-Executive Producer on the series, and hopes to eventually do some directing in addition to his writing duties. When asked if he was a Trekkie growing up, Shiban says he was a “fan of the original series, and I’ve seen my share of “Next Generation” and some of the “Voyager”. I haven’t seen much of “Deep Space Nine”, but I’m trying to catch up. I’m doing my homework.” That includes knowing the lingo of the Trek universe. “I’m a fan but I don’t know if I’m a Trekker or Trekkie. I know there’s a difference. I’m learning.”

In case he ever starts to feel homesick for The X-Files, he need only look to the cast of Enterprise. John Billingsley who plays Doctor Phlox, was in an “X-Files” episode Shiban co-wrote with Vince Gilligan titled “Three of a Kind.” By the time Shiban arrived at Enterprise, the cast had already gone on hiatus, but he is “looking forward to working with him.”

Shiban feels that just like The X-Files, the “Star Trek” franchise has been so successful because “the basic paradigm is so brilliant, that you can keep telling stories for years. It’s an honor to be a part of something like this.”

“There was no significance to the white buffalo on the flag or the mobile. It was to set the stage and tell us where we were. People should not read anything symbolic into that. To give credit where credit is due, as I understand it, that was a creative choice by David Duchovny who felt ‘I don’t want to do a legend here. Let’s do something a little more interesting’.” John Shiban to fans on the relevance of the white buffalo in the episode William.

Entertainment Weekly: 'Files' Duty (Writing Intern)

Entertainment Weekly
‘Files’ Duty (Writing Intern)

An intern will guest on ”The X-Files.” After beating out 30 other actors the 22-year assistant got the job by Dan Snierson

Let us review the typical duties of a trainee: faxing, photocopying, fetching. But Jared Poe — a 22-year-old UCLA grad paying his dues in the writers’ offices of ”The X-Files” — added one other task to his list: kickin’ it on screen with Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Doggett (Robert Patrick). Owning no professional acting credits, Poe boldly asked ”Files” exec producer Frank Spotnitz if he could audition for a meaty guest spot in the May 5 episode as a mysteriously brilliant FBI cadet with unusual insight into the unsolved murder of Doggett’s son. ”I honestly didn’t expect for a second that Jared was going to get the part,” says Spotnitz, ”because it’s a huge part and I’d never even seen him act.” Lo and behold, Poe went through the casting process and beat out about 30 others. ”He was the best,” adds Spotnitz. ”He won it fair and square. I mean, he was as surprised as we were that he got the part.” While he’s grateful for this big break, Poe says he’s also focusing on becoming a writer-director. ”Hopefully something will open up,” he notes. ”And if not, I could always just go back to filing.”

Kodak InCamera Web Exclusives: David Nutter: A Director's Perspective

Kodak InCamera Web Exclusives: David Nutter: A Director’s Perspective

[Original article here]


Director David Nutter and script supervisor Kathleen Mulligan go over script with Eric Close (center) who stars in “Without a Trace.” (Photo by Gale Adler/CBS © 2002 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

David Nutter: A Director’s Perspective

David Nutter is a director and producer of compelling television programming who specializes in pilots. He has directed 15 pilots for television series, and all 15 have been picked up for production as series – an unparalleled record of success. Nutter attended high school in Dunedin, Florida, and studied at the University of Miami, where he realized that his dream of being the next Billy Joel might not pan out. He took a film-related class, loved the process, and decided to pursue a career in motion pictures. His first directorial effort, Cease Fire, met with critical acclaim and led to a shot at directing episodic television. Since then he has earned three Emmy® nominations as a director, and shared an Emmy for Best Direction for his chapter of the Band of Brothers miniseries. His credits include episodes of Entourage, The X-Files, The West Wing, ER, Nip/Tuck, The Mentalist, Without a Trace, Millennium and The Sopranos. He also directed the feature film Disturbing Behavior.

Question: How did you become interested in a career in filmmaking?
Nutter: I loved music, and I always wanted to touch the audience’s emotions. I love drawing that out of people, and found that I could do it with my directing style and the way stories and images work together. Music and storytelling with images both require rhythm. In 1981, I was making decisions about what I wanted to do with my life and I saw a movie called Reds, directed by Warren Beatty and photographed by Vittorio Storaro (ASC, AIC). It was such a powerful experience for me, not just because of the story it told, but how the images and the visual style of the storytelling went hand in hand. It was so wonderfully dramatic, powerful and emotional, and the images felt so delicate. I find that when film comes across as a delicate thing, that makes it precious. I am always trying to find the precious part of the story, and trying to expose that as much as possible, because it is what people will want to see.

Question: How did you break in?
Nutter: When I moved to Los Angeles, I couldn’t get arrested directing traffic. I was out here for a year. One day, I played golf with a few friends and a guy happened to join us. His name was Patrick Hasburgh. He had just created a show called 21 Jump Street. I had directed a low budget movie that had received some critical acclaim, but not much else. We played 18 holes, and afterward he called his producer and told him to hire me to direct an episode. I really owe so much – everything – to him, and all because of a golf game. Those are the steps that you make in your life; you go with your gut. I almost didn’t go golfing that day, and it’s taken me to this part of my life. You never know what it’s going to be or when it’s going to happen, but you always have to be prepared to grab onto that ring.

Question: What do you look for in a cinematographer?
Nutter: I look for someone who really understands the story and what is necessary to tell it. It’s all about telling a story where there is no curtain; where we as filmmakers are invisible. I believe the camera should be invisible. The tone should be fitting for the story. The attitude of the camera, and the feeling we’re trying to put across to make that emotional connection with the audience has to be seamless. It’s not always about this or that particular shot. It’s about a series of shots, like a series of notes that builds to the final crescendo. I also need someone who understands that there is so much material one needs to get in a limited amount of time. With the crazy schedules we work under, I need someone who is responsible and pragmatic as well.

Question: How did you connect with cinematographer Bill Roe (ASC)?
Nutter: I met Bill when I was preparing to direct Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It was the biggest pilot at Warner Bros. at that time, and it was my second project with Jim Cameron’s fingerprints on it. I had previously done Dark Angel. It was very important to work with someone who got it, who was fast, and who understood the scope and integrity of the material. Bill and I had crossed paths many times, but never had a chance to work with each other. He was one of the guys who had survived The X Files for many years in Los Angeles, and had made it so perfect and made it look so wonderful.

Question: Describe your collaboration with Bill.
Nutter: For me, the performance is most important. But I am also a big believer in blocking the actors. I have ideas and suggestions relating to every piece of the puzzle that I need to sell a particular sequence or story. When you’re working with someone fantastic like Bill Roe, you create a shorthand with each other. When we began working on Sarah Connor Chronicles, we watched a lot of different films and talked about still frames from different movies. We talked about every situation, including densities and exposures, layers of the images, everything. Then, we just jumped in and did it. I had seen so much of Bill’s work and respected him so much that I knew he had the ability to make it fantastic. Now, it’s surprising how little we speak. We bring our ideas and collaborate on putting the pieces together.

Question: You’ve done 15 pilots, and every one has been picked up. Also, every one has been originated on film. Why is shooting on film important to you?
Nutter: In the case of Eastwick, Bill and I felt it was important because that story needed to be lush. We were telling a story of beauty with these women, who were going to be right out there for the audience. We wanted to give it a sense of majesty and a mystical feeling. I thought that the best way possible to do that, of course, was film. Warner Bros. recognized the necessity of giving this pilot the pop that it needed. I just don’t feel that video is at that level, where it can be matched one on one with film. Maybe it will happen eventually, but I haven’t experienced it yet. I think with respect to portability, and depth and richness, film might be matched someday, but never improved upon. Today, you can do so much with the latitude and the sense of light you get with film. You have so much flexibility in color correction to make things seamless. It all goes back to evoking that emotional response.

Question: Take us through the post process, and how you extend your storytelling using those tools.
Nutter: I’m there every day for the editing and sound mixing process. Editing and sound, as well shooting, are things that I take very seriously and personally. When it comes to color correction, Bill has used Tony Smith at Riot in Santa Monica going back to The X Files. We talk to Tony about the style and tone of the images. We gave Eastwick, for instance, a real burst of color. Bill comes in and spends time with Tony, and then I come in and we’ll all watch together. There is a tremendous amount of work that gets done in editing. There are so many opinions about the best way of doing something, especially when you are trying to sell a pilot. I’m often fighting to keep it as close as possible to how I originally envisioned it. You are also dealing with the clock – not so much how much time you have to do it, but the amount of time you have to tell the story.

Question: What is your advice to aspiring filmmakers who are just starting out?
Nutter: The world today is so very different with respect to making films. It’s not for just the privileged or the people who have the money to go to film school. You can grab a camera and just shoot stuff and put it on YouTube. So again, I think it’s about content and finding something that is interesting. With respect to technical things and also many creative things, there will always be someone who is better at what they do than you are. But what they don’t have is you. I always tell people to find themselves, and find out what they are most capable of doing – what they like to do the most – and try to tackle that. All the young students want to be directors but they are not all going to become directors. The key is honing in on the specifics of what really turns them on and really attacking that.

Kodak: The Paranormal and Alien Experiences of Bill Roe, ASC

The Paranormal and Alien Experiences of Bill Roe, ASC

Recounting Memories from The X-Files

By Bob Fisher

[Original article here]

Bill Roe, ASC was in the dawn of his career as a cinematographer when The X-Files episodic series moved from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Los Angeles in 1998. He earned his first director of photography credit in 1997 for Detention: The Siege at Johnson High and followed that by photographing the inaugural season of Brooklyn South. The catalyst for Roe on both of those projects was Michael Watkins, ASC, a notably talented cinematographer who changed roles to producer and director mid-career. Roe was his camera operator on Heart and Soul in 1993, and on a couple of other projects.

When The X-Files moved to Los Angeles, Watkins was brought on board as producer-show runner, and he introduced Roe to Chris Carter. Roe subsequently shot some 85 episodes of the sci-fi series that recently concluded a 10-year run on the Fox network. During his first four years on the series, Roe earned four consecutive nominations in the annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Awards competition. He took top honors in 1999 for the episode “Drive” and again in 2000 for “Agua Mala.” He was nominated in 2001 for an episode called “Patience” and the following year for “This Is Not Happening.” Roe also earned Emmy nominations for “This is Not Happening” and “The Unnatural.”

Roe points out that the unique visual grammar that characterizes The X-Files was established by veteran cinematographer John Bartley, CSC, who also earned three consecutive ASC nominations. Joel Ransom, CSC, shot the fourth and fifth seasons. “We did a lot of research on how they did it in Canada,” Roe says. “They did great work. Chris (Carter), Frank Spotnitz, Michael (Watkins), Michelle MacLaren and the other producers told me to shoot for feature quality. It was quite a challenge, but it was also a great opportunity. We never had a normal situation. We were doing something different on every episode. We shot in the desert, on the ocean and in a hangar that seemed five miles long. I pushed myself every day. It was like someone was whispering in the back of my mind, ‘Don’t be afraid to make it darker.’ At the end of each episode, I always felt I should have been bolder and made it even darker.”

Roe was raised in the film industry. His father, Jack Roe, was a first assistant director and later a production manager who often worked on independent films with the legendary producer- director Herbert Ross. During his childhood, Roe was a frequent visitor on his father’s sets.

“I liked hanging out with the grips,” he recalls. “When I was 15 years old, I told my dad that’s what I wanted to do. He told me to forget it. He said if I was going to work in the film industry, I was going to be a cameraman. He had a lot of respect for cinematographers.”

Roe came up through the ranks of the camera crew system beginning in 1978 as a loader with Owen Roizman, ASC on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. He earned his first credit as a second assistant cameraman in 1983 on Mr. Mom with Victor Kemper, ASC. Roe also worked on camera crews led by Bill Fraker, ASC, Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, Bill Butler, ASC, Adam Greenberg, ASC, Michael Chapman, ASC, and TV commercial trailblazer Joe Pytka.

“I’ve learned things from everyone I’ve worked with, though sometimes I didn’t realize it until I got into tight situations and started remembering and asking myself how they would handle it,” says Roe. “I remember asking Owen (Roizman) how he dealt with the pressure to go faster, and he told me that even if it takes you an extra fifteen minutes or half an hour, and they’re breathing down your neck, you learn to ignore that a little if you need that time. He said that you have to learn to fight for that time, but to make sure they see the results on the screen at the end.

“I also learned a lot from Michael Chapman, who really knows how to run a set. His lighting was always great, and he knew how to make it simple. That was an important lesson. I’ve found that if you put one light in the right place, it can do a lot of work, but finding exactly the right place can take time. Sometimes, I wish I could be more of a free spirit like Michael Watkins. His spirit and energy lit up the whole set. It was contagious. I worked with Bill Butler on The Thornbirds, and he never treated it like a television program. It was a movie to him. I remember watching Adam (Greenberg) all of a sudden turn a light on. A little streak of light hit a carpet. It made a huge difference, because the carpet was kind of dark and it added a feeling of depth to the scene.”

Roe also recounts experiences with Kemper, who stepped him up to both first assistant and operator. “I’ll never forget the times Victor told me he thought I was ready to step up,” Roe says. “When you’re on a crew, the trick is watching and listening, and sticking that information into the back of your mind. Every once in a while something leaks out and helps.”

Roe usually got X-Files scripts four days to a week in advance. Usually it was the first two acts. That was his first reference for the gist of the story. He’d read it at lunchtime or at night and then call Carter or one of the other writer-producers to talk about it. If it was a new director, usually he would phone him or her too.

Scouting was usually done by the best boys for the riggers, and sometimes second unit director of photography Bob La Bonge. They provided Roe with ideas and digital photographs of locations. On very complex locations, sometimes he sent his gaffer Jono Kouzouyan and key grip Tom Doherty, and they would come back with stills and suggestions.

They usually began shooting each episode on the stages at Fox Studios. Typically, they shot two days on the stages and six on location, though that varied from script to script. Roe used two cameras whenever possible. Maybe one was on a wider over-the-shoulder shot and the other camera was on the same plane but with tighter framing. Other times one camera was low on the hip and the other over a shoulder. Roe always had a Steadicam, crane and a hothead available. He shot off of dollies a lot, but sometimes the story called for the energy characteristic of handheld shots. Sometimes he put a long lens on a softball right on the dolly.

“It’s hard to do a handheld, 200 mm shot,” he explains. “It’s a little too shaky. With the softball, the operators can grab hold of the camera, and it still has some sort of a floating feeling. It’s a little different look than a Steadicam, a regular dolly move or a handheld shot. That was the beauty of working on this show. We didn’t have any limits. We used silhouettes of people sitting in a dark room with a bright light streaming through a window. The trick is creating layers so there’s a sense of depth. Sometimes you do it by taking light away. Other times you add light. It depends on the situation and what’s behind or in front of them.”

Roe notes there is a fine line between not seeing and seeing something. “You want to see their faces and expressions, but you also want to conceal things so the audience puts their imagination to work,” he says. “Sometimes a shadow in the darkness can be more powerful than a close-up of a face. That’s what makes it magic. I think a lot of it has to do with separating characters from backgrounds and foregrounds. Chris (Carter) believes the audience is smart enough to fill in the spaces. Sometimes what they see in their imagination is far scarier than anything we could show them.”

The X-Files was the antithesis of the Dogme ’95 movement. There were no unbendable rules. Every director had their own ideas, but Roe would gently try to steer them toward The X-Files visual vocabulary. There are things they did every week that weren’t necessarily in the script. Part of the look for each episode was discovered at the moment of photography.

“Chris Carter was there every day, not necessarily on the set, but he was always involved,” Roe says. “Chris wrote a lot of the scripts and approved the others. One of the main reasons why this show was so successful was the writing and, of course, the directors and actors. The producers were always willing to fight with the studio for what they wanted. We had scripts calling for very large sets, and I would say 90 percent of the time we got them.”

Roe’s second season opened with two episodes filmed in the Southern California desert in Borrego Springs. They shot for 10 days in 120-degree heat. It was 100 degrees at night. Roe says it was like shooting on the surface of the moon in a vast, desolate setting, with cliffs 50 to 60 feet high and beautiful valleys and canyons.

He reminisces, “Usually the camera was moving, partially to show the audience the sets, because we were on different locations every episode, but also to help build tension. We had a lot of high and wide and low and wide moving shots with 10 mm and 14 mm lenses. Mainly, we used Eastman EXR 5298 film, and occasionally when I really needed some extra stop, I used the 800-speed (Kodak Vision 5289). We used Panaflex cameras and a lot of prime lenses, as well as short zooms and 11:1s. We used close-focus shots a lot, because we were always in somebody’s face. We always had Technocranes and insert cars. We literally had everything we needed available, even a Spacecam. The audience expected this from us.”

Roe says he stretched the latitude of the film, partially because it rendered an “edgier” look, knowing they could pull details off the negative in the telecine suite, if necessary.

“We lit through windows a lot,” he says. “It’s a more natural look. I never turn any practicals on anywhere. I’d rather have a dark room with hot windows. The more extreme the better. I loved hot kicks in the windows. I also never used a light inside a car during the day. It looks kind of phony. I’d let the background go. We filmed driving shots in the desert with just a nice glow on the horizon, which comes from just one light in the right spot.”

“Agua Mala” is one of many episodes etched in his memory. In the story, there were giant squids coming out of the ocean up through drains and they were eating people. Roe mainly motivated light with flashlights, candles, lanterns and moonlight in that episode. He also has fond memories of a “John Doe” episode filmed during the last season. It was the first one that executive producer Michelle MacLaren directed. The story was set in Mexico. Roe overexposed the exteriors by three and a half stops, because he visualized a hot, grainy, saturated look with dark and hot interiors.

“We did do a lot of testing,” Roe says. “Somebody would come up with an idea and we’d try doing it different ways. We used Xenon flashlights to penetrate the darkness and little bounce cards covered with foil to create a feeling of ambient fill. One of my favorite shows was “Triangle.” It was a Bermuda Triangle theme. The story goes back in time to the Nazis. It takes place on a boat. Every shot was on a Steadicam, because everything was supposed to be happening in real-time. Dave Luckenbach operated the Steadicam for ten straight days. He did an awesome job. It seems like every shot was four minutes long. Chris Carter directed that episode. It was our first experience together with him directing. We were just talking about it the other day, and how we wished we could do it again drawing on what we’ve learned. We’ve all grown on this show. I’ve only been a cameraman for five years, and that was my second year of shooting. I think now we would do it not so much differently, but probably better.”

Cinematographers must earn the trust of the actors. “I always looked out for the actors, because that’s part of your job as a cinematographer,” he says. “Usually, we’d make the light a little softer on actresses’ faces, so it sort of wrapped around them, and maybe we’d use a little heavier filter on them, or double the paper up. They would look towards me to see if they needed to tilt their heads to catch a light or shadow.”

The final two-hour episode was filmed in 26 days. The story opens in a military facility where Mulder is supposed to have murdered someone. That part was filmed in an underground power plant carved about a mile deep into the side of a mountain at Shaver Lake near Fresno, California. They shot there for four or five days. There were about 30 sodium-vapor lamps hanging from the ceiling of the power plant. It was flat, ugly top light. Roe, his gaffer Jono Kouzouyan and key grip Tom Doherty did some testing by borrowing one of the lights from the plant and shipping it to the studio, where they hung it on a stage. Based on the test, they made a large round saucer-shaped card that was hung on the bottom of the lamp so the light bounced up to the ceiling.

“We did that with all of those sodium-vapor lights in the plant, so we got bounce off the ceiling and we lit the plant the way we wanted with Pars,” Roe says. “The whole interior surface was made of granite rock that had a great texture. It was a great look for that scene.”

They also returned to Borrego Springs for the climatic sequence, which was supposed to take place in an ancient Indian ruin in a mountainside. They built the interior sets on the side of the mountain. It took them three weeks to build and four days to shoot. On the last day they had all of the buildings rigged and blew up the set. It was a huge shot, with the helicopters in foreground shooting rockets at the ruins.

Asked why the sequence was done in camera rather than in a computer, Roe replied, “I’m not saying that you should never shoot greenscreen scenes or never use computer images, but I do think actors sometimes respond better in real places,” he replies. “The sets are part of the story. I think the fact that we shot on realistic sets affected their acting. The audience also senses that the explosions are real.”

Roe says that another factor in each episode’s look was the work done by Tony Smith at Hollywood Digital. “We had some great dailies guys on the show who came and went,” he says, “but Tony Smith was the colorist since the middle of season six. We became very close friends. He would send me a final cut, and then I would write notes for how every scene should look. If there was a problem, he knew what needed to be done.”

Roe concludes that the most difficult part of shooting The X-Files was finding time to think. “There were many times when I would have loved to have a day to think about some set or scene, or watch a rehearsal,” he says. “That never happened. Sometimes, I would lay out a scene, and then walk to the office or grab a snack. You have to walk away and think. I’d guess about 75 percent of the time, then I would come back and change something.”

He gives a lot of the credit for what he achieved on The X-Files to his crew. “No one can do it alone,” he says. “The Steadicam work by La Bonge (who also headed the second unit) was great, but I also relied on our A and B camera operators, Jim Etheridge and Stephen Collins, who never failed to get the right framing, and also the rest of the crew: assistants Jack Ellingwood, Trevor Loomis, Tim Roe, Christopher Garcia and Neil Toussaint. We were always moving, and often pulling critical focuses in the dark. They never missed and never complained. Our camera loader was James Jermyn, and the second unit operators were Buzz Feitshans and Todd McMullen, with assistants Mike Fauntleroy, Danny Teaze, Mike Fauntleroy, Jr. and Jacqueline Nivens, and Brandon Margulies loading the cameras.”

Roe is currently shooting a new series, R.H.D./LA for Michael Mann.

DreamWatch: Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy
Jenny Cooney Carillo

After nine seasons and more than 200 episodes, series creator Chris Carter says an emotional farewell to The X-Files, the SF TV phenomenon of recent years.

Chris Carter had mixed feelings when he recently sat down to tell Dreamwatch about the demise of his drama series, The X Files. The creator and producer of the SF TV phenomenon announced earlier this year that the current ninth season would be the last for the show, but as he talked during a break in filming on the Fox lot in Los Angeles, with David Duchovny (aka Fox Mulder) in the sound stage across the street directing one of the final episodes, he couldn’t make up his mind if he was in mourning or celebration.

Dreamwatch: Whose decision was it to finally call it day and how was the decision made?

Carter: It was mine. I thought about it over the Christmas vacation. We had premiered the show in its ninth season in November and we were up against all kinds of stiff competition. We were counter-programmed very effectively – including our season premiere, which was against Saving Private Ryan – and so our numbers were down. They were respectable numbers and we were still head to head with the competition, but they weren’t the numbers that we had been getting in year eight.

After six episodes of the show, the ratings had levelled off at a respectable level but they had not come up. I felt that some of the audience had left and I didn’t know where they had gone because I thought we were doing good work and I thought that the addition of Annabeth [Gish, Agent Reyes] and Robert [Patrick, Agent Doggett] to the show was a good and effective one. But I didn’t want to see any analysis that they were somehow responsible for the lower ratings, so I decided that I would rather call it a day than see someone trash the show, trash them and trash me when I thought we were still doing excellent work. We’ve really created a new franchise and I thought it was time to go out strong and to look forward to the series of The X Files movies.

You sound very disappointed.

Well, I created the show, so for me it’s been 10 years now; it’s been on the air for nearly nine years when we complete this year and it took me a year to get it off the ground, so I’ve been involved for 200 episodes’ worth. So it’s something I’ve been doing for quite a long time and I just thought we were doing such good work this year.

And what was the reaction of the cast when you told them?

It was very difficult to tell Robert and Annabeth because I think they feel responsible and they’re not. They worked hard, they’re terrific actors and they gave their everything to it. If there’s any blame, it’s really on some mysterious X factor.

What about the end of the show? How can you wrap it up while keeping enough of a hook to lure viewers in for the movies?

You know me well enough to know that I’ve always got a trick up my sleeve, but we really look to the movies as an opportunity to do stand-alone movies, not mythology movies. It’s not like what we had to do with the first movie, which I thought was worthwhile, but it was really a movie where you couldn’t have a beginning, middle and end; you could have a beginning and middle, but the end was going to come with the rest of the series so it prevented us from really making it as big and blockbusterish as we might have. So I’m looking forward to just doing what we call stand-alone stories but doing them as a movie franchise.

What will David Duchovny’s involvement be?

He’s actually back directing right now. So he’s warming his feet by the fire and he’ll be back in action as Mulder in [the show’s closing two episodes, The Truth]. They’re going to air as a two-hour episode, which is something we’ve never done before.

Were you surprised David agreed to return?

I wasn’t surprised because we’ve been in contact all year long and any differences that we had seem to have been something we’ve both gotten past. He and Gillian [Anderson, Scully] are both very anxious to do the movies. We’ve got to do them one at a time, so I’m only fantasizing about more than one. And so he realized it was important to the future to participate in the present.

Do you hope for a happy ending between Scully and Mulder?

Yes, we’re going to end it in a big way. I mean, we’ve never known we’re ending before. I’ve had to create provisional endings for the last two seasons not knowing whether or not the show is coming back, but the show has always done so well with its ratings and I guess it was always irreplaceable as far as Fox was concerned [that it was renewed]. This is the real ending, so, as you can imagine, we’re trying to give it all we’ve got.

Will you tie up a lot of the loose ends? Will the mythology be resolved so that the movie can be a stand-alone?

Yes, but I’m not saying we’re going to answer every single question because there’s just too many questions to answer. But many of the questions we don’t answer specifically will be resolved by a lot of the bigger threads being tied up.

Can you give us an example?

No! [Laughs] But I will say that we’re really trying to make [The Truth] a reward to people who’ve watched The X Files for the last nine years.

Why do you think The X Files work so well all over the world?

Because people are scared of the same things. I think ‘scared’ travels across borders very well. I want to knock some wood right now because I’m very fortunate for having created something that everyone seems to like. And I get to write what I’m interested in and people like it, so it’s one of those miracles.

Which episodes have you been most pleased with in season nine and why?

I’ve been happy with the whole year and I’m trying to think of a specific episode that stands out for me and the one I’m thinking of right now is [Improbable], which is also the Burt Reynolds one. I have to say that I think that’s going to be a standout because it does what the best X-Files episodes do which is to expand the storytelling possibilities of the show, meaning that I’m telling a story that we’ve never told before. And I think that’s the beauty of the show.

If you were asking why I seem disappointed [about the X Files’ demise], it’s because the show’s format and storytelling structure was so incredibly elastic. It was a comedy, it was an intense drama, it was a melodrama, it was a horror show, it was a thriller. It could be so many different things and so that’s what I’ll miss.

How important do you think the Mulder and Scully partnership has been to the show’s success?

It is The X Files. It was The X Files for eight years so I think you can’t discount it.

What sort of reactions have there been from fans about the series ending? Do they protest?

Online, people are sorry to see it go now and that’s kind of the way I hoped they’d look at it; that it was something they enjoyed and now of course they’ll be able to enjoy it for a good long while in [US TV] syndication. So it’s not like it’s going away really, it’s just going away ‘originally’.

How quickly can we expect to see a new X Files movie?

It depends on how long I take for my vacation. I hope to write it over the summer and I hope to prep it over the fall and spring and to shoot it maybe late spring and summer. So I think you would end up seeing it in 2004.

Do you know the story in your head already?

I have rough ideas and I’m sort of deciding what to do. Frank Spotnitz and I will just sit down one day and we will throw out a lot of things and put in a lot of things. It’s a process rather than an idea that is in my head. It sort of takes shape.

How aware are you of the impact the show has had over the nine years? It gave birth to a whole new genre.

As far as what it’s done on television, when I watch shows now, particularly shows that are FBI shows, CIA shows, espionage shows, even CSI – you see a lot of Millennium in CSI – I see that our attention to detail, our lighting, our production design, all the things that go into making these little movies we make each week I think have affected the standard of good television.

How important was it to get David back?

Very important. I mean, it was important for the series because you want to end it in a sort of symmetrical way, ending where we began in a way. And it’s important I think to the movie franchise.

Are the Lone Gunmen going to feature more towards the end of the show?

Yes, the Lone Gunmen feature in the series in a very interesting way and you can all look forward to it.

Do you know who the father of Scully’s baby is?

I think everyone kind of knows now who the father is because we’ve sort of said it’s Mulder. But still, Scully was barren, so how does a barren woman give birth to a child regardless of who the father is? I think that it’s pretty clear now that there was some hanky panky.

The X-Files final season makes its UK debut on Sky One from 20 June.

The Truth!

Chris Carter spills the beans on Robert Patrick (Agent John Doggett):
“I always had Robert in mind to play Agent Doggett, but initially he was attached to another project. But I have a hard time taking no for an answer and I knew I wanted to work with him, so I was determined to make it happen and eventually I did. He was perfect for the character we wrote.”

Gillian Anderson (Agent Dana Scully):
“Gillian has been a dream to work with. I just finished directing an episode and she called me up at the end and thanked me for the work and said it was a joy.”

David Duchovny and ‘that’ lawsuit:
“We’ve had several meals at several different times since the settlement of the suit and since we’ve gone back to work. I still blame vertical integration as the big problem and this is the beginning of something that you are going to see a lot more because what happens is that when the buyer and the seller are the same person, it pits everybody against everybody and it’s not good for working relationships. But I think we’ve buried the hatchet.”

Harsh Realm’s cancellation:
“I’m still a little bitter about it, but it’s water under the bridge now. The truth is that the guy who I hold responsible for the quick demise of that show has been cancelled himself, so that relieves some of the bad feeling. I actually have an idea about how I may be able to resurrect the show, but I have to be secretive about it, so I’m not going to tell you any more just yet.”

The Cigarette Smoking Man:
“We don’t know whether he’s dead or not! We left him lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs and he was looking in pretty bad shape, but this is The X-Files.”