Posts Tagged ‘kim manners’

The X-Files Magazine: Good Manners

Sep-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
Good Manners
Ian Spelling

After joining The X-Files in Season Two, Kim Manners went on to direct over a quarter of the episodes in the whole series. Ian Spelling caught up with the long-time X-Files director/producer, as he was literally and figuratively in the middle of telling ‘The Truth’.

As the official X-Files Magazine speaks to director Kim Manners, he is coming to terms with the fact that he is working on the very last episode of the show. ‘There are days that are really emotional and days where we’re all very stoic,’ says the long-time X-Files director. ‘We’re going through every human emotion. It’s very strange. We’ve fought with each other. We’ve apologized to each other. Everybody is under great pressure. It’s a very, very foreign feeling. It has been a very bittersweet resolution for all of us knowing that, finally, we are doing the last show. For the last four years we wrapped up in April, never knowing whether or not we were coming back for another season. Now we know this is it. Knowing that, I think we’re all savoring ever day, every moment on set, as painful as it may be, as demanding as it may be.’

The Truth, as we all know by now, heralds the return of Fox Mulder He’s captured and put on trial for the murder of Knowle Rohrer, a Super Soldier who cannot die, which makes it clear to all in the know – you, me, millions of other fans, not to mention, Scully, Skinner, Doggett and Reyes – that Mulder is being framed. Much of the show unfolds in a courtroom, as a parade of familiar faces return to provide testimony or, as apparitions, support Mulder. Among those on hand are Marita Covarrubias, Jeffrey Spender and Gibson Praise, as well as the long-dead X and Krycek. Later portions of the two-hour finale find Mulder on the run and encountering yet more familiar visage: the Cigarette Smoking Man and the ghosts of the Lone Gunmen.

“Directing this has been the epitome of the eight years I’ve been on the show,” Manners notes. “It’s been a very difficult shoot. The script is still evolving, and that’s only because every day we want to make it better. It’s always been a challenge. It’s always been last-minute. It’s just spontaneous.”

“That’s one of the reasons the show has worked over the years. We thrive under pressure and we don’t stop trying to make it the best it can be until it’s time to put it on the air. This finale is no different. We’re winging it, buddy! What can I tell you? And we’re getting it done. I knew David would come back. Whatever money he got I don’t even think was that important to him. He wouldn’t miss the end. This show is too much of his life. Now it’s the end and he’s here. And it’s important in terms of the story, the X-Files arc.

So does Manners feel that The Truth is a satisfactory end to the series? “The finale answers a lot of questions and, at the same time, it clears the slate, or some of the slate, for the next feature. If David hadn’t come back for the finale, the movie would have to be very different from whatever it’s going to be now.

“I think the finale does a lot of things,” Manners continues. “It opens up a completely new chapter for Mulder and Scully. The finale sets up a fugitive run, if you will, and that fugitive run will probably be addressed in the next feature. Chris (Carter, series creator) has said that the finale answers a number of the big questions and, in answering the big questions, answers some of the small questions, too. I tend to agree with the boss. The truth is revealed and the storyline of The X-Files is revealed in this courtroom drama, and you have to listen to every word. It brings you back to old episodes. It reminds you of old episodes. And you understand more clearly what this entire mythology story arc was.

“I think it’s a good path to the end. It’s a new beginning for a couple of people who are actually running from the law now. It’s a good way to go because it’s very tough to close out nine years of storytelling in two hours. It’s extremely difficult. That’s why we did it in a courtroom setting, with people testifying about what happened over the last nine years. It’s a clever idea, a clever script. You’ve got the courtroom drama and some very dramatic scenes at the beginning, for the first hour and 10 minutes, and then it becomes a chase at the end. I think Chris and (executive producer and co-writer) Frank Spotnitz have created a strong storyline and set themselves up for a good feature franchise.”

Manners own storyline goes like this: he’d directed episodes of Charlie’s Angels, Hunter, 21 Jump Street, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Adventure of Brisco County, Jr. when he met Carter in the bar at the hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, where those involved with The X-Files usually stayed. Manners was up in Canada at the time – in 1993 – working on Brisco County, which then served as Fox’s lead-in to The X-Files.

Manners told Carter “I really want to do your show,” and Carter, after screening a Manners-directed episode of 21 Jump Street, agreed to hire Manners for the Season Two episode Die Hand Die Verletzt. Bob Goodwin, then an X-Files co-executive producer, informed Manners that much of his footage might be reshot, as that happened often on the show. Those words reinforced Manners’ resolved that no one would reshoot any of his footage. Manners did his thing and two weeks later he was invited to join the show as a producer. And he’s been there ever since, directing episodes from Oubliette and Home to Leonard Betts, Max and Demons to Two Fathers, Requiem to The Gift to This is Not Happening, and from Nothing Important Happened Today, Part 1 to 4-D to The Truth.

The producer-director laughs when asked to pick a few favorites from among the dozens of episodes he helmed over the years. “Home is definitely one of them,” he says. “That’s number one. It was a classic horror story. I was born and raised on Lon Chaney, Jr. and Boris Karloff, and when I read the script that Morgan and Wong wrote I went, ‘This is classic horror,’ and I tried my best to make it that. I think I pulled it off. A lot of fans think it’s the best show. Some fans go with Home and some go with Bad Blood, which my friend Cliff Bole directed. And that’s fine. Home is my personal favorite. I also like one called Release, which was the resolve of the murder of Doggett’s son. That was the last one I did before the finale, actually. Monday was a bank robbery story told four different times. Milagro was the one with an author whose character comes to life in the seduction of Scully. Closure was Mulder finding his dead sister as a ghost. Tunguska was with Mulder and the Black Oil in Russia. I did Audrey Pauley this season, and that was one of my favorite shows, too. There were just so many great, great opportunities for me as a director.”

It should be noted that Manners wasn’t just a director on The X-Files. He also earned a paycheck as a producer. When he wasn’t prepping or shooting or editing his own shows he worked on other people’s shows. “I am really a troubleshooter,” Manners explains. “They rely on me in that way.”

As part of the inner circle, Manners was among the first to learn that Carter had decided to lock the doors and turn off the lights at The X-Files. “Chris made the right decision,” he opines. “The show is over. It ran for nine years. I think it’s time to walk away and move onto other things. I think The X-Files itself ran its course. I was sorry to see that the X-philes didn’t follow our show for the eighth and ninth seasons after Duchovny. Those people, I think, missed a great arc in the odyssey of the adventure. But it’s definitely time to go.”

Some fans believe Carter should have closed up shop with Season Seven, once Duchovny chose to pull back from the series. The more critical longtime viewers argue that The X-Files simply overstayed its welcome by continuing on, first with Duchovny on hand only part-time, then with him off the radar entirely. Manners is typically straightforward in offering his thoughts on the issue. “They shouldn’t have called it a wrap after David left,” he insists. “The X-Files is just that, The X-Files. They’re not ‘Mulder Files.’ They are The X-Files. I thought that Robert and Annabeth with Gillian brought a whole new dimension to the show. You can’t predict how the show would have gone had it been turned over entirely to Doggett and Reyes, to this new X-files team. It could have gone for another year or two, maybe or maybe not. We’ll never know that. The torch was being passed this season from Gillian to Robert and Annabeth, but they never had an opportunity to carry the show themselves. As actors, Annabeth really came into her own this season and Robert was a steely factor in keeping the show alive these past two years.

“If I have one criticism of the show after David left, I think the show made a wrong turn in killing off our villains. We killed off Cigarette Smoking Man. We killed off Krycek. We barely saw Marita Covarrubias again. I think that might have hurt the show (in the eyes of serious X-Files watchers). But other than that I think the show lived as long as it should live. And it’s dying a natural death when it should die a natural death. It has nothing to do with Mulder.”

So why – to pose the biggest question of all – did The X-Files last so long? “We did science fiction, but we did it in different ways,” Manners replies almost instantaneously. “We did it real. We made science fiction, we made the unbelievable believable. We did that through great production, great acting, great directing, great storytelling and great imagination. We made the stupid, the dumb, the impossible, the unbelievable believable. We could get into some ridiculous, outrageous things, but on The X-Files they were all played as real. We got you to believe it would happen and you cared about the characters who were in the middle of it week after week. We’re all very proud of that.” And how would Manners define his contribution to the phenomenon? How big a hand did he have in it all? “I directed 52 hours of the show’s 201 hours,” he notes. “So that’s a pretty big hand. I joined the show in its second year and so did Rob Bowman. Rob Bowman and I did a lot of this together. I’d say that we brought the show a look, a style, a feature quality. We had to bring that in order to translate the science fiction into TV that you could watch and follow and believe. Rob and I had great directors of photography. We had John Bartley, Joel Ransom and Bill Roe, who lit the show beautifully. I think that’s our main contribution.”

Bowman, it should be noted, graduated from producer-director of the series to director of The X-Files movie. Manners is coy when addressing the matter of his calling the shots on the next film. “I will direct the next X-Files feature,” he says, “if I’m asked to direct the next X-Files feature.” Manners’ phone rings. The Truth beckons and he’s got to say goodbye in a moment. And so he offers some closing thoughts. “There will be X-Files films and the show will continue, probably forever, in repeats,” Manners says. “But this is really it. For the people involved in making the show, The X-Files experience will never live again. Nobody in the television medium, other than those of us who were here and experienced it, will never get to taste what a great high it’s been, what a great blessing it’s been. We’ve made TV history and that’s the way it is. It’s been painful and it’s been exhilarating at the same time.”

Zap2it: ‘X-Files’ Cast and Crew Say Bittersweet Goodbye

May-16-2002
Zap2it
‘X-Files’ Cast and Crew Say Bittersweet Goodbye
Rick Porter

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) – Gillian Anderson says it won’t hit her for a couple of months.

She’ll take some time off after “The X-Files” ends its season, as she’s done for the past nine years. Then, as TV production starts up again toward the end of the summer, “my body will want to start seeing this other person again. It’s like an old friend.”

Only then, she says, will she likely realize in full that “The X-Files” isn’t coming back to FOX. The conspiracy-laden, extraterrestrials-among-us drama, which grew from cult hit to mainstream success without ever really — pardon the pun — alienating its loyalists, ends its run on Sunday (May 19) with a two-hour finale that promises to answer a lot of the questions it’s posed about aliens and coverups and just what the heck the government is hiding.

“It really is an example of a mixed blessing,” Anderson said as she walked down the alien-green (not red) carpet at the series wrap party a few weeks ago. “I’m really looking forward to the future, and I’m excited about getting out into the world again. On the other hand, I don’t think I really get for one second that it’s over.”

Still, Anderson, series creator Chris Carter and other cast and crew members agree that now is the right time to wrap up the series. Ratings have dipped since David Duchovny left the cast for good this season, and the show faced stiffer competition in NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and ABC’s “Alias.”

“It’s good to go out while we’re still smelling good,” says Kim Manners, a co-executive producer who also directed more than 50 of the show’s 200 episodes. “I’m very proud to have been a part of it.”

Few involved with the show had any idea of how big the show become when it premiered on a Friday night in September 1993. Executive producer Frank Spotnitz joined “The X-Files” in its second season, and he says at the time, few people he know had heard of the show.

“It was like a pleasant dream, where every year we got bigger and bigger,” Spotnitz says. “But we never expected the phenomenon it would become.”

Indeed, the show made a star out of the previously unknown Anderson (whose biggest previous role was a guest shot on FOX’s “Class of ’96” ) and cult figures out of recurring characters like the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and the Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund and Bruce Harwood).

“We didn’t know each other when we got asked to [play the characters],” says Braidwood, who played Gunman Melvin Frohike after starting out as an assistant director on the show. “So we met, and we did the scene. Then we got a call the next year and they said we’d like you to come back and do another gig — it was such a surprise.”

Cast and crew members had a tough time picking out favorite episodes, although more than one, including Mitch Pileggi (FBI Assistant Director Skinner), cited the controversial 1996 episode “Home.”

Pileggi also counts season 1’s “Ice” and season 3’s “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” for which guest star Peter Boyle won an Emmy. “I’m not in any of them,” Pileggi says, laughing. “I don’t know what that says.”

Sunday’s finale is titled “The Truth,” and it features the return of Duchovny’s Fox Mulder, who faces a murder charge at a military tribunal. Carter promises that much of the series’ complicated mythology will be wrapped up. But as the show has done throughout its existence, it will probably some things open to interpretation.

“There’s so much going on” in the episode, says Annabeth Gish, who plays Agent Monica Reyes. “A lot of people return. Things are answered and tied up, but always leaving more.”

DGA Magazine: Directing The X-Files

Feb-??-2002
DGA Magazine
Directing The X-Files

Kim Manners looks into his monitors as yet another take is completed on “Audrey Pauley,” episode 13 of the ninth season of The X-Files. “Cut – Print it! Next!” he yells after doing that little karate move with his hands that everybody around the set imitates. The crew immediately picks up and begins to arrange the next setup, seemingly willing to do anything to ‘Mind Their Manners.’ The director comfortably steps aside for an interview as his crew happily prepares another shot.

It’s a virtual Kim Manners Love fest on Stage 5 at 20th Century-Fox. Actress Annabeth Gish (Agent Monica Reyes) dashes by, eager to put her two cents on tape: “He’s one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with.” The respect goes both ways. “These actors are talented enough; they come in and you believe them,” Manners said. “And when you believe the actors, the audience believes it.”

Manners is shooting his 50th episode of the show this day. The series will end later this year, with the completion of a total of 201 episodes, a quarter of them directed by one man. There have been a number of top-notch directors over the years, and the list continues to grow.

The directors are only part of a team that has endured a change in locale (from Vancouver to Los Angeles), which required replacing the entire crew, as well as major changes to the cast. But the tone and style of the show have remained consistent, under executive producer Chris Carter’s leadership.

The X-Files has a tightly functioning team of producers, writers, directors, UPMs and ADs that is able to turn out one of the more complicated shows on television, all in an 11-day shooting schedule. “We have all the special effects, all the scope, all the production value that you’d have in a feature film, just in a compact period of time,” 1st AD Barry Thomas said. “The difficulty is shooting a one-hour movie in eight main unit days.”

Each episode is shot using one of two alternating director/AD teams, doing principal photography with the main unit for eight days, followed by three days of 2nd unit work. The director follows his episode into the 2nd unit, while the main unit begins work on the next episode with yet another director and AD. The 2nd unit has its own AD and 2nd ADs. “The 2nd unit’s really another main unit,” line producer Harry V. Bring said. “It’s not like we give them all the car crashes and all the stunts. It’s whatever fits the schedule with the actors’ scheduling. They get drama scenes, spooky scenes, monster scenes, just like the 1st unit. We don’t necessarily delineate.”

Planning, of course, is a primary element in keeping The X-Files machine running smoothly, and communication is essential. The process starts with a “concept meeting,” which occurs upon delivery of an episode’s script, seven days before filming is to begin. The concept meeting is run by that episode’s 1st AD, and is attended by the director and the heads of the major departments – production design, props, costume, special effects and visual effects. The AD goes around the table and gives each department head the opportunity to answer any questions they may have about the script as they begin their prep. “Chris Carter is intimately involved,” said UPM/co-producer Tim Silver. “Chris’s ideas and his concepts for the series and for each episode can be seen in each frame. One way or another, it’s there.”

Seven days later, on the day before shooting, a “production meeting” is held, attended, once again, by the director and department heads. In this case, instead of going over the script department-by-department, the group goes through the script from beginning to end. “We go scene by scene through the script, letting anybody jump in with questions,” executive producer Frank Spotnitz explained.

Later that day, a “tone meeting” is held, attended by the director, the script’s writer and one of the senior producers, either Carter, Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan or John Shiban, all of whom are also writers for the show. “Again, we start on page one, and we go to the last page,” Spotnitz said. “We are as specific as we can be about who the characters are, what’s motivating them, what’s working underneath the surface. Everything we can think of to talk about to ensure that the director is successful.” The tone meeting marks “the day before you hit the beach,” according to Chris Carter. “We discuss what we want to make sure that we do and make sure that we don’t do.”

“Those meetings were what created the magic in the storytelling,” recalled Rob Bowman, who directed X-Files for seven seasons, as well as directed The X-Files feature film. “It was there that I could look into the writer’s eyes. I was able to get into their head, and they were able to get into mine. Maybe there’s something I didn’t understand in the script, or maybe I misinterpreted something. You can just walk through those things.” Often, for Bowman, after weeks of shooting 14-hour days, remembering those conversations provided the inspiration to complete a scene, sometimes even making use of a recording made of them. “I might be feeling, ‘I just want to crawl into a hole and die right now, I’m so cold and tired.’ And I play that tape, and I could hear myself and the writer – most often it was Chris – talking enthusiastically, like campfire storytelling. You’re put back in that moment when you weren’t tired, and you say, ‘Oh, that’s right, now I remember.'”

The writer on The X-Files is intimately involved with the look of his episode – even to the point of providing shot direction in the script. “That’s kind of something unusual about this show,” Spotnitz said. “But the truth is, if you didn’t do that on an X-Files show, you’d just never make it.”

X-Files scripts, Manners says, are the tops. The best ones “are the scripts that, when I read them, visually I am excited. When I read the script, I go to the movies.”

The movies Manners saw as a boy were those of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Vincent Price – “This is my niche,” he said. The director recalled one of his X-Files shows, “Home,” written by Glen Morgan and Jim Wong, which featured three mutant brothers and their armless and legless mother, who lived in a cart under a bed, and with whom they had an incestuous relationship. “The picture opened with this woman giving birth on a kitchen table during a thunderstorm. You never saw the baby, but these three brothers carried it outside and buried it alive, because they didn’t want this terrible genealogy to continue. I read it, and I went, ‘Now this is a classic horror script.’ There are episodes that, when you read them – bang! – the images just leap into your head.”

Believability is the key goal for The X-Files, and that, said Manners, is the result of a combination of good scripts, good acting and good directing.

“This is a very difficult show. If you don’t do this show right, it would be the most ridiculous show on television. I mean, I directed an episode, ‘Leonard Betts,’ where a guy had his head cut off in the teaser, and he grew a new one.” If the show is grounded in reality, though, through solid acting performances and quality writing, said Bowman, “we found out that you’ve actually got latitude to do some pretty absurd things. If you can get people at the end of an episode to shake their head and laugh and say, ‘I don’t know – maybe,’ then that is a huge victory.”

Manners himself comes from a showbiz family. His father, Sam, was a production manager on such TV classics as Route 66 and The Wild Wild West. Kim was “a set rat,” he said, both watching and participating, as a child actor, appearing in his first commercial at the age of 3, selling Chevrolets. A year later, on his way home from watching William Beaudine, Sr., whom he called “Gramps,” direct an episode of Rin Tin Tin, the younger Manners told his father, “I want to do what Gramps does when I grow up. He gets to tell the cowboys and Indians what to do.”

A few decades later, Manners found himself climbing his way up the ladder, working as an assistant director and UPM on a number of shows before landing the title of director in 1978 on an episode of Charlie’s Angels. “I’ve been through all of them: the Simon and Simons, the Hardcastle and McCormicks, the Stingrays, the Wiseguys, the 21 Jump Streets.” Manners joined The X-Files during its second season on recommendation from both Bowman, who’d been with the show on its first season, and writers James Wong and Glen Morgan, with whom he had worked on 21 Jump Street.

Manners had worked on and off for years in Vancouver, where The X-Files was filmed for its first five seasons, and eventually was hired “in passing” by Chris Carter, he said, in the lobby of the Sutton Place Hotel. “He brings a wealth and breadth of experience that few television directors have,” Carter said of Manners, “particularly if you consider the hours of TV and amount of film that he has shot. He understands everything about filmmaking.”

Manners’ experience as both a production manager and as an AD is not lost on the crew either. “Having come from a production manager background,” said line producer Harry Bring, “he thinks that way when he’s plotting out his day and moves, very efficiently, through the day to maximize it. His creative eye is wonderful, his storytelling is wonderful, and he does diligent homework.” Manners is renowned on the set for his preparedness. “Kim is the best prepared director I’ve ever worked with,” said 1st AD Barry Thomas. “He’s so prepared that he calls me on the weekends, prior to a week’s shooting, and gives me the number of setups and any special equipment notes I need for the entire week.”

“On Monday morning, I know every shot that I want for the week,” Manners said. “I’ll get with my 1st AD, and I’ll give him the number of shots in each scene, and we’ll talk about how best to organize it. I look for an assistant to help me organize the most efficient way to approach a week’s work. I’ve been working with Barry [Thomas] so long – he knows what I want: To stay ahead of me. Keep feeding me. Keep the crew informed.”

From the crew, the feeling is mutual, according to Thomas. “The crew appreciates his ability to compromise, to shoot efficiently, and to not waste time. It’s so important in episodic television, where you’ve got to be quick on your feet and come up with compromises and solutions quickly.”

The actors love him, as well, both for his compassion and respect for them, and for his directing skill. “He has an extraordinary visual eye,” lead actress Gillian Anderson (Agent Dana Scully) said of the director. “He knows everything about the camera and about what one will see – where to put the camera in a shot in order to move the story forward.” For instance, filming repeated conversations on the set of FBI Assistant Director Skinner’s office could easily become run-of-the-mill. “But it’s never tired, it’s never just ‘another episode of television’ to him,” Spotnitz added. “He kills himself every time out, puts his heart and soul into it. And everybody sees it.”

Manners rarely rehearses his actors, except, perhaps, for the camera crew for a difficult move. “We’ll normally shoot the rehearsal,” he said. “I like the spontaneity of it. And most of the actors would rather shoot it first time.” He is also intimately involved with post-production. “What airs is most often my cut.” And because he is a co-executive producer, and “because I’ve been here so long,” his word counts when going over the other producers’ notes in the editing room. “I must say, they’re very willing to cut their dialogue and preserve some of the shots that we worked so hard to get. So it’s a very satisfying environment in that regard.”

Bowman has an equal respect for his former directing partner, with whom he would alternate each week (along with director R.W. Goodwin, who was with the show for its first five years) until his departure after season seven. “I’ve seen Kim tired, well beyond what’s good for him, and still right on his toes.” Bowman, currently completing Spyglass Entertainment/Disney’s summer fantasy, Reign of Fire, became attracted to X-Files after seeing a commercial for the series’ pilot. Raised on such shows as The Night Stalker and Night Gallery, he was hooked by the trailer, and eventually got on board, directing his first episode in the first season, “Gender Bender.” “I thought the whole process and the way the team worked and the way Chris [Carter] was aiming the show was something I wanted to be a part of badly. So I asked to come back as much as possible.”

He directed again in the show’s second season, after which Carter asked him to stay on full time as a producer/director. “It took me about a second and a half to make that decision,” he recalled.

According to Manners, he and Bowman set the tone for the series. “Robby and I set a real different look for the show. It’s a much different look in seasons two and three than in season one. Our styles are similar but not exact.”

“Rob is very precise, very aware of everything going on in the scene,” said Spotnitz. He’s “always looking for the detail that’s going to distinguish that moment from any other moment ever done.” Bowman has great respect for actors – going as far as studying acting himself in order to better understand their craft. “It completely changed my point of view about where my paint brush should go on the canvas, since the actor was going to be the one telling my story,” he said.

While Manners is “very good at the monster episodes,” Bowman said, his own preference was for the “conspiracy” stories. “At one point, I told Chris, ‘Please don’t give me those monster episodes.’ I just have such a tough time looking at the man in a rubber suit and taking it seriously.” The balance between the two was “a perfect marriage,” he said.

After Bowman left the show, he was replaced by several directors, among them Tony Wharmby, who recently had to leave to attend to personal matters, though not before leaving his own mark on the show. “Tony is a wonderful director of actors,” Carter said. “He doesn’t sit at the monitor like the rest of us do. He will stay right there with the actors and direct them from inside the room or next to the camera. And while he makes beautiful pictures, the performance is what matters to him.”

Interestingly, Carter himself has directed a number of episodes over the years (typically one or two per year). That number will increase, as he steps in to take up the slack caused by Wharmby’s absence, increasing the workload on the show’s creator, executive producer, chief writer and overall mastermind. He first took on the job in the series’ second year, when director Bryan Spicer was unable to do a scheduled episode. “I gave myself the job,” Carter said. “I was director by day, a writer by night – rewriting episodes coming up, planning the direction of the show, trying to produce other episodes. It was something that required a tremendous focus, I learned.”

Directing by cast and crew is something The X-Files regularly affords its family members, and, in fact, encourages. After seeing her cast-mate, David Duchovny, direct an episode, Gillian Anderson finally answered the call two years ago, not only directing but writing the script herself. Her show, “All Things,” focused on her own character’s personal life and relationships.

The experience was a great learning experience for Anderson, in all facets of filmmaking. With regard to directing other actors, “I’m actually surprised I hadn’t thought about this,” she admits. “Being an actor, I kind of assumed that I would know what to say to the actors. But that wasn’t the case.” Anderson involved herself in everything, from casting to post-production.

“I think that was a turning point in Gillian’s career,” commented her boss, Chris Carter. “I can see it now, especially directing her as an actress, that she understands camera direction in a way that she might not have before.” Anderson plans on continuing her directing career after the show ends, having optioned a book, Speed of Light, which she is currently adapting and plans to direct.

Actors are not the only X-Files’ family members to direct. 1st AD Barry Thomas directed an episode last year, as did executive producer Frank Spotnitz, who also took another turn in the current season. “This is my eighth year on the show, so I was very late to attempt it,” he admits. He was reluctant about the idea of directing, but eventually warmed to the idea. “It’s a very difficult show, because performance is really important to make something that’s kind of unbelievable seem believable. There are also very specific visual requirements. And when you’re trying to scare people or create suspense, if the camera’s not in the right place by even a few degrees, it makes a huge difference.” Having written the two scripts he shot helped to give him an edge. “When you’ve written the material yourself, it’s already in your own head, you understand all of the dramatic objectives.”

Co-executive producer Michelle MacLaren also took a shot this year, skillfully directing writer Vince Gilligan’s “John Doe.” MacLaren had wanted to direct for some time, taking directing courses to prepare her. Carter and Spotnitz agreed, scheduling MacLaren in early in the season, avoiding having the director’s duties interfere with her already heavy workload as a producer. Like the others, Michelle sought guidance from Manners, who went over breaking down the script, doing homework and preparing shot lists. “The most powerful thing he said to me was that he imagines it all cut together, and he sees the movie in his head, really visualizes it.” Chris Carter gave her some important advice, as well: “Make sure that the camera is always telling the story.”

“It’s a very, very supportive, creative atmosphere here,” she said. “And Chris is really generous in giving first-time directors a shot. To direct for your first time on a show like this is pretty incredible.”

It’s not always easy bringing in new directors on an established show, Carter said. “You step onto a moving platform here. You really need to understand the characters, and you need to be able to understand the mood.” Carter is always willing to give a new director a chance, though, “Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. And when you find a hit, you try to keep that person in the camp.”

In the last few years, the X-Files’ team has had to deal with two major changes – the introduction of new lead characters and a major move from Canada to Los Angeles. Following the announcement of David Duchovny’s departure two years ago (though his character has returned occasionally after being brought back to life, X-Files style), Anderson, who had played his partner, decided she, too, would be moving on after this season. Though the series is to come to an end this year, Anderson’s character’s role had been scaled back, first with the introduction of actor Robert Patrick’s Agent John Doggett character and, more recently, Annabeth Gish’s Agent Monica Reyes.

The changes have been both a challenge and an opportunity. “We wanted to preserve the Mulder/Scully relationships after David Duchovny left the show,” explained Spotnitz. “We knew all along that we were going to introduce another pair of characters,” Patrick’s Doggett at the beginning of the eighth season to replace Duchovny, and then Gish for a few episodes at the end of that season and all of the ninth. “Very consciously, you know you need the skeptic and believer characters. But we didn’t want to undermine or tarnish the Mulder/Scully relationship by having Scully have a new partner.”

And how have the directors handled the change? “It was very exciting for me when Robert Patrick came on,” Manners said. “After being on the show for seven seasons, suddenly I’ve got rebirth, creatively, because I’ve got a new guy to play with. All new options. Then Annabeth came in. So for me, I’ve got a whole new reason to get out of bed in the morning.” And, as with the directors, Manners assisted the new lead actors in fitting into their roles. “He sort of grandfathered me in,” Gish said. “He was kind of my umbilical cord, pulling me in and welcoming me. He sat down with me, wanting to find out how I work, and also to communicate the way the show works. He was like my ‘sponsor.'”

The move from shooting in Vancouver (based at North Shore Studios) to sunny California was similarly both a challenge and a nice change. “The obvious difference is the climate,” explained Bowman. Manners added that, “You realize that rain should be appreciated through a window.”

The change was brought on at David Duchovny’s suggestion, who wanted to return south. “After I was done kissing David,” Manners joked, “we moved to Los Angeles, and I was the happiest guy on the freeway.”

The change in locale allowed changes in story, as well, as new types of locations could be utilized. “More often than not, in Vancouver, we got moody clouds and fog and rain. In Los Angeles, you’ve got chipper yellow sun, Mexican restaurants and palm trees,” explained Bowman.

“One of our editors made a joke the first season in Los Angeles: ‘The show used to be dark and wet, and now it’s dark and dry,'” Spotnitz said.

The move to Los Angeles also allowed the writing and producing team, who were always based in Los Angeles, to be near the camera, which rarely occurred in Vancouver, save for a three-day trip north to prep each episode. “We ended up being insulated from an awful lot of day-to-day decisions,” said Spotnitz, “and now that’s not true.”

The difficulties came in having to give up a well-loved crew/family in Vancouver and quickly build a new one in Los Angeles, which, Spotnitz said, was partly accomplished by bringing in a number of people from the 1998 X-Files theatrical feature. “Leaving those people behind, who had basically helped make life for the show, was the hardest for me,” said Rob Bowman.

However, moving to Los Angeles meant building a team out of the world’s best crewmembers. “We were in a very enviable position moving here in that we were already a top show. We got here, and we kind of had our pick of the town,” Spotnitz said.

Here’s a crew that’s basically got to take a show that’s already become semi-legendary, and take the baton and try to cross the finish line and not lose the lead,” added Bowman. “Quickly, deftly, and with great dexterity, the L.A. crew just jumped right in and found equally as strong a visual vocabulary.”

So how will The X-Files end when filming wraps later this year? A two-parter – both parts to be directed by Manners – will bring the series to a close, though that’s not the end of the story. “The plan, hopefully, is that X-Files will become a movie series,” Carter said. “But that’s a fantasy, and we’ve got to still do them one at a time.” In the meantime, he and Spotnitz are developing an untitled feature project for Miramax/Dimension, and, Carter said, he still owes Fox another pilot.

And what of Kim Manners? “I’m hoping to move into long forms. I’d love to do films for theatrical release. But leaving the X-Files family will not be easy. This is a very difficult show. And we each help each other get through it. It’ll never be that way again. I’m savoring these last episodes that I have to direct. And they’re memories that I’ll never forget.”

The X-Files Magazine: Risky Business

??-??-2001
The X-Files Magazine [US]
Risky Business
Chandra Palermo

[typed by Donna]

Nestled conveniently out of the way of bustling crew members, a small machine noiselessly churns thin streams of smoke through a confined police station set’s cramped hallways. The severe light emanating from the set’s interrogation room cuts through the diaphanous haze, giving the busy corner of Stage Eight on the Twentieth Century Fox lot a spooky, surreal air that smacks of The X-Files. In fact, the hustle can indeed be attributed to production on the 14th episode of The X-Files’ eighth season, “This Is Not Happening.”

Suddenly, the hustle comes to a stop and the typical behind-the-scenes din fades to silence, as Kim Manners strolls into the interrogation room, his face tense with deep concentration. Taking a seat at the tiny room’s table, the director watches Gillian Anderson rehearse the upcoming scene. Anderson runs through her lines several times, stopping now and then to discuss her character’s demeanor through the weighty sequence. An easy dialogue springs up between the actress and the veteran helmer–who have worked together countless times throughout the past several years–concerning Scully’s fragile state of mind as she questions a man who may know Mulder’s whereabouts.

“This Is Not Happening” opens with the reappearance of abductee Theresa Hoese, who was taken around the same time as Mulder in the Season Seven finale “Requiem.” Other abductees have been turning up, many barely alive like Hoese, but many others dead. The man being interrogated, Absalom, has been seen at the sites of these discoveries but claims he’s only concerned with helping Jeremiah Smith [the shapeshifting alien healer from Season Three’s “Talitha Cumi” and Season Four’s “Herrenvolk”] nurse the abductees back to health. “And whereas Scully’s approaching it as there may be something to it, Doggett is approaching it strictly as a cop and wants to know why [Absalom] tortured Theresa Hoese,” Manners explains. “It’s kind of an interesting scene to see the different dynamic between Scully and Doggett.”

Yet the cause for concern over perfecting Scully’s every nuance lies not in her developing relationship with Doggett, but rather in her vulnerability as she prepares for a possible resolution to her search for Mulder. The cameras won’t roll until Manners and Anderson devise what seems most apt for the character.

“It’s an emotional story for Scully,” Manners says. “I mean, we’ve been looking for Mulder and we now have hope, seeing as Therea Hoese’s been returned, that we may indeed find Mulder. It’s an emotional roller coaster for Scully’s character, so I have to concentrate on what we’re doing with Gillian and her side of the story. [Plus], Doggett is a non-believer, but he doesn’t want to see Scully hurt, so I have to concentrate on what Robert’s doing. And Skinner’s got an investment in this, as well. At the same time, we’re also introducing a new character. So, I have my work cut out for me here, a lot of bases to cover. It’s tricky.”

The new character Manners mentions is Monica Reyes, an FBI special agent from the New Orleans field office who specializes in ritualistic crimes. Doggett, who worked with Reyes on a prior case, calls upon her expertise to help explain the source of the returned abductees’ horrific wounds. Scully resists Reyes’ help at first but soon begins to appreciate her open-mindedness. Partly created to, according to executive producer Frank Spotnitz, balance the believer/skeptic dynamic and prevent Doggett from becoming a third wheel once Mulder returns, Reyes is very much unlike the show’s other characters.

“I think she’s going to bring a lightheartedness [to the show],” Manners says. “Whereas Scully and Mulder have always been so guarded in their true feelings, this is a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve. She speaks the truth maybe sometimes too freely, too easily. She’s a free spirit. She’s not flaky, but she’s kind of by the cuff. She works spur of the moment. Maybe she and Doggett can find something interesting together.” Thrilled to sink her teeth into such a meaty, important role, the actress chosen to portray Reyes, Annabeth Gish (Buying the Cow, Beautiful Girls, Mystic Pizza), is counting on this enthusiasm to help her adjust to the series’ notoriously long days and nights of shooting. “My first night of shooting was on location in Simi Valley, sort of out in the middle of no man’s land,” Gish says. “And as I was driving up, I saw that little gathering of generators and the big crane that’s the false moonlight, and [I felt] all of the energy on the set. It kind of reminds you of why you’re an actor on movies or television. There’s such an energy to it that, no matter how many hours you’re working, there’s still that magical little excitement that we’re telling a story and we’re pretending. It’s really cool, and it’s kind of eerie and surreal.” Although Gish has so far signed on for only a three-episode arc, there is a good chance Reyes may become a recurring character. With this in mind, Manners has been paying close attention to how he handles her introductory scenes.

“I’m taking it slow and, with each performance, weighing every line,” he explains. “When I yell ‘action’ I literally try to concentrate on every line of dialogue and every expression and make sure that it’s right for the character–after talking to Chris [Carter] and Frank and Annabeth about who the character is. And we’re just trying to discover it together You can’t rush it.” Manners is not the only one to struggle with the episode’s many competing interests. Spotnitz, who co-wrote the episode with Carter, describes s number of concerns they wrestled with in crafting the compelling tale.

“We knew that everybody knew Mulder was coming back, so we didn’t want his return to be what you’d expect,” Spotnitz explains. “How do you make that unpredictable, despite the fact that everybody knows it’s happening? And aside from the desire to make it as suspenseful and surprising as we could, there’s the fact that we were cognizant we were reopening the mythology of the show and creating a new chapter with what the aliens are up to, and so we had a lot of long term thinking to do about that. It was a very complicated puzzle.”

Several tall lamps with large, circular heads shine brightly behind an immense backdrop, illuminating its Giegeresque design and bringing to life the alien spacecraft where we last saw Mulder-strapped to a demonic-looking chair and subjected to a host of tragic tortures. David Duchovny’s stunt double, Mike Smith, removes his robe and slippers and settles into the imposing chair, as Manners and stunt coordinator Danny Weselis discuss the camera movement for the next shot. Luckily for the X-Files’ crew members, Mulder’s story picks up right where it left off, so the so-called “limbo” set they toiled on for the season’s opening two-parter, “Within”/”Without,” gets to see at least one more episode of action before being indefinitely packed away in storage.

“[The limbo set] was a huge undertaking.” general foreman Billy Spires says. “It’s an intricate set that really involved everybody–special effects, company grips, construction, a lot of different crafts. That was probably our most intricate set so far this season.” Even though “This Is Not Happening” ranks as one of the toughest episodes this season from a writing/directing standpoint, it’s a relatively laid back one for the rest of the show’s team. Despite the enormity of the storyline, the series’ department heads insist it’s a fairly light, straightforward episode from their individual standpoints.

“Its not light in reference to the amount of work that needs to be done, it’s that there’s nothing outlandish,” property master Tom Day explains. “I’m not trying to figure out how to get 500 rats to all go from one jail cell to an other one on cue. That type of challenge isn’t there. But to be perfectly honest with you, after some of the stuff we’ve done on stand-alones, we don’t mind a little bit of a break on this stuff. We’ve had some bizarre things.” Of course, as with any episode, there’s still the occasional bump or two in the road. For instance, stage space has become an endangered species this year, and the only place to create the dilapidated cabin where Absalom gathers and cares for the unfortunate abductees is inside an already existing set originally created to house the nuclear reactor structure featured in Season Seven’s opening two-parter “The Sixth Extinction”/”The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati.”

“It’s been 30 to 40 sets since then, but we’ve always left it standing,” Spires says. “It’s our only huge, permanent set that we always turn into something else, whether it’s a basement laundry room, the hull of a ship or a Plexiglass prison cell. But this time we’re filling the entire set with an other set.”

“This compound is a really tricky thing,” set decorator Tim Stepeck adds. “We’ve got to put 60 people inside that one little space and try to make it look bigger than it really is, so we’re doing a lot of trick stuff with the set and hanging plastic and giving it depth.” Also tricky was staging the episode’s teaser, which features a high-speed chase between a beat-up old car and a UFO. Weselis worked with an aerial coordinator to make a helicopter and its bright “night sun” light double for the saucer–until it can be added later via CGI by the show’s visual effects wizards. “We had the helicopter pilot shining the night sun back and a stunt double for [UFO-obsessed character] Ritchie chasing it,” Weselis explains. “He was going about 70 to 80 mph down this dirt road chasing a helicopter that’s probably six feet above the ground. And we did close run-bys at high speed and numerous shots coming over rises.” Ambitious stunt sequences and set construction aside, what crew members really want to talk about–what they’re most excited about–is the return of Mulder and the show’s continuing storyline. After a string of stand-alones, everyone seems to relish the chance to create another installment of the X-Files’ mythology. And this episode’s shocking revelations and jaw-dropping cliffhanger had most of them feeling like X-Philes glued to the edges of their seats on a Sunday night. The consensus is clear: “This Is Not Happening” is an instant crew favorite.

“It is, in my humble opinion, a great episode,” Day says. “And that character Jeremiah Smith-cool character. As a matter of fact, one of the coolest things about episode 14 for me is that, when we do an episode like this, I need to research characters like that. So, I’ll get a hold of the tape from the office from the first time we saw this Jeremiah Smith character, and I’ll take it home and watch it in case there’s any personal props or any little insight I can gather. It’s a great episode, and my wife and I were watching it and got hooked 100 percent. But it gets to the end and says, ‘to be continued.’ And I don’t have part two! So every night when I get home from work now, my wife says, ‘Honey did you happen to get the tape of part two?'” Outside the protective confines of Stage Eight, a torrential downpour rages as the temperature steadily drops. Constant requests for umbrellas and parkas dominate CB discourse, but a drastic shortage of the desired items plagues hair, makeup and wardrobe technicians. Now adorned in soaking wet attire, the crew expresses shock and dismay over the nasty weather change.

When the show was filmed in Vancouver, cold rainy conditions were the norm. Certainly, there would have been no lack of umbrellas back then. But The X-Files has now been in Los Angeles for almost three seasons and, pampered by the land of sun and fun, cast and crew were caught unawares. The series has traveled a long and winding road since that move took place. Many of its successful conventions remain intact, but a great deal has changed–mostly during Season Eight alone. And “This Is Not Happening” marks a definite turning point in this transformation. Although the return of Jeremiah Smith links the episode to previous events in The X-Files’ mythology, its story takes the arc to the next level, opening new horizons to be explored. Obviously the addition of the Reyes character speaks volumes to the writers’ willingness to experiment with the show’s successful formula. Of course, it did help that the introduction of Doggett had already proven the fans to be open to new cast members.

“I thought that our fanbase would take a little while to warm up to Robert, but they didn’t,” Manners says. “I guess I shouldn’t be [surprised by that] because Robert really brings a lot to the character of Doggett. He’s a very likable character, he’s a hell of an actor, and I think he brings a really refreshing dynamic to the series. I know that he’s inspired myself and Gillian and all of us to reinvigorate our work, and it’s been exciting. I look forward to the same kind of thing with Annabeth.”

But the changes don’t solely involve new characters. As they did in Season Eight’s opening two-parter, Scully and Skinner again demonstrate a conversion, cementing the fact that they now, like Mulder, accept alien abduction as a possibility – automatically assuming this to be the cause of the episode’s strange events.

“It’s kind of a relief because for so many years we had to work so hard to maintain Scully’s skepticism,” Spotnitz says. “Once we let Doggett into the show, it gave us the latitude to relax that. And for Skinner, I think it’s just absolutely liberating for the character because he had been in the middle for seven years and finally gets to be on one side. And I think for Mitch [Pileggi] it’s been very gratifying to be able to play that.

“But I think Scully’s a believer in her own way still,” he continues. “We’re cognizant all the time as we’re writing these scenes of how she would say it. If you notice, when she talks about aliens like Jeremiah Smith, there’s still some qualification there. She believes, but she doesn’t but it wholesale. She doesn’t leap into things like Mulder does. So, it still feels like her character, even though she’s come a long way.” And of course, the manner in which Mulder is reintroduced will have a significant ramifications for the show. But that secret may not yet be revealed and so surely won’t be spoiled here. Suffice to say, it should defy any expectations.

“I think it’s a big surprise,” Spotnitz says. “There’s twists and turns about how he’s returned and what happens when he gets back. The show will not be the same old show once he gets back. I think it’ll be more interesting than it’s been in a long time because everything is up for grabs.”

Mothership.com: As X-Files enters its eighth season it now must contend with being partially Mulder-less and the introduction of a new partner (Robert Patrick) for Scully – yet the cast and crew affirm that it’s still business as usual for Fox’s popular sci-fi show

Nov-03-2000
Mothership.com
As X-Files enters its eighth season it now must contend with being partially Mulder-less and the introduction of a new partner (Robert Patrick) for Scully – yet the cast and crew affirm that it’s still business as usual for Fox’s popular sci-fi show
Anthony C. Ferrante

[typed by Alfornos]

As the end of Season 7 of X-FILES was drawing near, it looked like the doors were finally closing on FOX’s venerable series. David Duchovny was getting increasingly impatient with not being able to move forward in his movie career and the increasing reliance on humor on the show was taking some of the dark edges off its once truly creepy stories.

At the 11th hour, though – after the season finale was shot where it was revealed Scully is pregnant and Mulder abducted by aliens – Duchovny worked out an agreement with FOX. He would appear partially in a handful of episodes (around five or six) and full time in the last six of the season. Hence, the show was back from the dead, but the question was: how do you cope with a Mulder-less show for most of the season?

“David is still a regular,” admits the show’s creator Chris Carter. “Even when he’s there he’s going to be ‘not’ there – he’s going to be an absent presence and an absent center. And so, his involvement in the show, even though it’s in an abbreviated fashion, is going to be very important.”

Naturally, this meant bringing in a new character to fill the void in Mulder’s wake. With FBI agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), and now her and Mulder’s boss Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), being firm believers based on what they’ve seen, bringing in another skeptic was almost a requirement.

Enter John Doggett (Robert Patrick) – a former New York cop thrown into the mix who will be working alongside Scully during her investigations throughout the season.

“Doggett is an FBI agent and he was a cop and that’s actually not atypical for FBI agents,” says Carter. “He is not assigned to the X-Files to begin with. He is not Scully’s partner to begin with. There is a gradual, hopefully realistic integration of the character into the series.”

While at the premiere of the Season 8 two-parter in North Hollywood last weekend, the cast and crew of X-FILES were obviously relishing in these changes, and Patrick’s chumminess with Carter and others looked like he’s been welcomed into this sci-fi staple’s fold with open arms.

“It’s nice to have a really fine new actor to write for,” says Carter. “It’s interesting to be doing some of the shows without David. He’s always a big presence on the show, even when he’s not there, because this is the search for Mulder this year.”

Patrick, who is best known for playing the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (and more recently for a multi-episode arc on HBO’s The Sopranos) was thrilled to join the show calling it a “no brainer.”

“It’s a win-win situation,” says Patrick. “It’s a brand new character. They wanted to write a brand new character, and I think Chris is a great writer. I’m having a ball working with Gillian and I’m looking forward to working with David. It’s all about the work for me.”

For the new dynamic with Scully, Patrick confirms his character’s “skeptic” status.

“I don’t buy any of it and think it’s all bullshit,” says Patrick. “I just go for the facts and try to solve everything with facts only. He’s a very street-smart guy and that’s how he goes about it. He has a really strong work ethic and he tackles each case with those abilities and traits.”

Though one of the appeals of the show has always been Mulder’s dry sense of humor, Patrick says there isn’t a lot of levity with his character – as of yet — but he says there is definitely a chemistry all its own going on between his and Scully’s characters.

“My chemistry with Gillian is my chemistry and David’s chemistry with Gillian is David’s” says Patrick. “I think Doggett really enjoys Scully and admires her craft. He enjoys working with her and bringing his abilities to work in tandem with hers. It’s thrown his reality a bit for a loop – that these things are kind of otherworldly — but he’s keeping his feet on the ground.”

Coming back to a show without your familiar partner might be a bit jarring, but for Anderson she says the presence of David is felt in every episode they’ve done so far this season, despite him being holed up on the spaceship by his lonesome.

“Even though David wasn’t here, he was the focus of the episodes, so I feel like he’s there,” says Anderson. “We’re always talking about him. We’re looking for him. It’s not as if Mulder is completely gone. It doesn’t feel like he’s not there.”

The quality of the writing continues to remain high, Anderson also notes.

“It’s going really well,” she says. “I think they’ve written some amazing episodes. Everybody is really enthusiastic the way things are going. The new character of Doggett is interesting and Robert is great to work with. I think there won’t be as much lightness and back more to the old flavor of X-FILES. You’ll like them – they’re good.”

However, one thing that executive producer and writer Frank Spotnitz actually misses this year, so far, is the way Mulder’s character was able to explain even the strangest scenarios – which the writers haven’t been able to fall back on as readily.

“You realize how much having Mulder around helps tell these stories because he can come out with the big theory and take the big leap,” reveals Spotnitz. “There’s nobody to do that now so it has put us in more than one quandary on how to tell a story.”

While the mystery of Scully’s pregnancy will be an ongoing arc throughout the season, one of the show’s mainstay directors Kim Manners notes that a February sweeps episode will deal specifically with this new revelation.

“We just finished up that episode and it’s a bit of a new conspiracy,” teases Manners. “Her pregnancy is going to be a conspiracy.” Another character going through a major change during Season 8 is Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) who watched as Mulder was abducted during last year’s season finale. He will now finally get a chance to get up from behind his desk and actually be an active part in the rescuing of Mulder. “Skinner has changed enormously since the end of last season because he saw a spaceship so he’s no longer the man in the middle,” says Spotnitz. “He’s firmly in Mulder and Scully’s camp. That’s really changed the role he plays on the show. He plays a bigger role this year than he’s ever played. He’s out of the office and clearly an ally of Scully and Doggett – and one episode in particular we have Doggett and Skinner together in an investigation.” For Pileggi, this rethinking of his character has been a breath of fresh air, too, and he says whole-heartedly that this season he’s been able to do “the best work of my career.”

“The episodes I’m in I definitely have a lot more involvement,” says Pileggi. “He is now a firm believer and it has really impacted him and how he feels about what Scully and Mulder have been doing.”

The show will be getting more dramatic according to Pileggi but for Skinner at least his character’s awakening has definitely provided more shadings for him as an actor to work with.

“It’s not so negative,” he admits. “That skeptical aspect of Skinner is gone and he can be a little more active. It’s really a nice new avenue for this character to go down.”

While it may seem like Season 8 could very well be one very long mythology episode, Spotnitz notes there will be the regular mix of stand-alones and mythology episodes.

“It’s mostly broken down in the way it has been in the past,” says Spotnitz. “Most of the episodes are still stand-alone investigations, but it’s the relationship between Scully and Doggett in each of those stand-alones which makes it more serial than it used to be. There is the search for Mulder that keeps coming back and it, along with Scully’s pregnancy, those are the big mysteries that drive the season.”

Of the stand-alones, Spotnitz notes an episode about a man “who seems to kill like a bat” will be particularly startling as are a handful of others.

“One has Scully getting stranded in this community that’s nowhere on any map and the people are really creepy and have a very scary secret, so it’s up to Doggett to find her and rescue her from this small town,” says Spotnitz. “There’s another where a boy who has disappeared ten years ago returns and looks exactly the same – he hasn’t aged a day. That’s a very scary one, too.”

According to Carter, he confirms like others on the show that it’s going to be a good scary season like the first year and there will also be some high concept stories thrown into the mix as well.

“Joe Morton guest stars in the episode where time goes backwards and Joe finds himself convicted of a crime that he doesn’t know he committed,” says Carter. “Then he starts living his days in reverse.”

In the end though, the big questions are about where Mulder is and where he will be when the season comes to an end and Manners is excited to see what happens when the actor comes back to the show full time.

“It’s going to be exciting when David returns and does the last six episodes of the season because it will be an interesting challenge for the writers,” says Manners. “It will be interesting weaving new stories and how we’re going to create the whole dynamic when Fox Mulder comes back from space.”

The whole absence of Duchovny may seem like a big deal for a show like X-Files, but it’s not the only controversy the show has faced both behind the scenes and from fans. When Duchovny wanted to be closer to his wife Tea Leoni, the show moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles two seasons ago with many fans thinking it would lose its look and feel. However, that has become a non-issue now and Spotnitz feels the show being Duchovny-less will be a non-issue as this year progresses as well.

“Nothing went wrong once we came to L.A. though one of our editors said before we were ‘wet and dark’ and now we’re ‘dry and dark,'” says Spotnitz. “For us, the big change that came with L.A. is it costs more than it did in Vancouver so we have to be a lot more clever in how we tell our stories and have to manage to hide the fact we can’t do the things we did before. We used to have huge locations. One two-part episode had moving trains and train cars blowing up – stuff on bridges. It’s stuff like that which is huge to do on a TV schedule and budget and even though the budget of the show has increased quite a bit since we moved to L.A., it’s still not enough to allow us to do the same epic things we did in Vancouver frequently.”

Spotnitz also wants fans to know that the behind-the-scenes talent are still firmly entrenched in delivering a show that won’t disappoint in Duchovny’s absence.

“I think the fans should know we love the show as much as they do,” notes Spotnitz. “We love the character of Agent Mulder as much as they do. This wasn’t our choice to do the show this way. This is something between David and the studio. The only thing Ten Thirteen had to say about it is that ‘we will not go forward unless you make David Duchovny happen. Give him what he wants.’ Our audience hopefully understands we’re telling the best stories we know how and keeping the X-FILES as good as we know how. We’re on the same side as they are.”

While the whole season has been mapped out, whether the show will return for a ninth year is still up in the air and Carter reveals that it will likely stay that way until it comes time to renew contracts in the Spring.

“Last season was the first where it was up in the air and while I anticipate every season would be like that I don’t think it will be quite as 11th hour as last year was,” adds Carter.

One thing is for certain – Patrick’s contract extends beyond this year if the show continues.

“I’m committed for the full season this year and then some,” says Patrick. “I think I can say I’m contracted for another year.” And now that he’s tied up with a show, Patrick might also have problems scheduling in Terminator 3 if he were asked back but he says no one has approached him about it yet – “I’m not aware of it.”

Whether the creative team in place may still be around for another X-Files season is entirely a big question mark too, but Spotnitz thinks it may be time to move on.

“I suspect this will be the last year for us – for this creative team,” he admits. “I never say never. I never thought we would last this long. I don’t know what will happen beyond this year. We definitely have a plan of what will get us to end of this season and where the characters will be. It can certainly go beyond this year. Whether it will or not, I don’t know. ”

Some of the team’s energies might actually be funneled into The Lone Gunmen spin-off which is scheduled for mid-season with a 13-episode commitment.

“It will be much lighter than X-Files,” says Carter. “The characters actually get to develop in ways we’ve never seen them before on X-Files. They aren’t in service to Mulder and Scully. They’re working on their own beat.” As countless shows past and present continue to appear and disappear on FOX all hoping to fill in that void likely to be left once X-Files finally leaves the airwaves, Carter reflects on how lucky he’s been to keep the show on half as long as it has.

“With reality programming, there’s hardly room for anything on TV, so it’s a miracle that everything worked with X-Files,” says Carter. “There’s just a million ways to fail in television. And when you have something like this that hits, I know how lucky I am that I had the Gods in my favor. Everybody can be lined up, but you’d better make really good choices and hire really good people every step of the way or else there’s a good chance you’ll fail. A lot of people would like to be popular and successful – however it’s mostly hard work, but it’s a lot of luck too.”

Fangoria: His Darkest X Files

May-??-2000
Fangoria
His Darkest X Files
Sarah Kendzior

Transcribed by pam. All [] are mine; the original article’s brackets are denoted by {}.

X-FILES veteran Kim Manners has directed some of the series’ spookiest — and funniest — entries

[still of Roberts & the well-meaning shrink. Caption]: This year may prove to be X-Files’ last, but director Kim Manners hopes he left viewers “Hungry” for more

[photo of Scully standing in a morgue by a burnt body. Caption]: There were plenty of horrible sights in “Leonard Betts,” but a record number of viewers tuned in to see them.

[behind-the-scenes photo of KM pointing off-camera, with DD looking in the same direction. Caption]: Manners (directing Duchovny in “Theef”) brought two decades of experience with him when he joined the X-Files team.

[photo of Chickenwire!Mulder. Caption]: Best known for his stand-alone episodes, Manners has also guided mythology stories like “Tunguska”

[photo of child holding doll. Caption]: Stephen King’s original “Chinga” script needed some toying with, according to Manners.

[photo of gasping Goopy!Mulder. Caption]: When he went on a “Field Trip,” Manners delivered the sixth season’s best episode. [Keep in mind, this is FANGORIA. ;-]

[photo of writhing-on-the-floor Snake-covered!Mulder. Caption]: “Signs & Wonders” literally had Mulder’s skin crawling.

[body of article]:

His work was the first to receive a parental advisory warning in the history of The X-Files. Opening with a hideously malformed newborn found buried in a shallow grave and featuring the decapitation of a police officer by a clan of murderous inbreeds, the episode, cannily titled “Home,” was also the first to be banned. Following complaints about the episode’s incestuous themes and graphic violence, Fox vowed in 1997 never to replay the program (it was finally repeated for the first time this past season).

“Home” quickly became one of the most controversial and popular entries in the series’ history, and was voted the greatest episode of all time in an FX poll a mere two months after being stripped from network airwaves. For veteran director Kim Manners, who counts “Home” as one of over 30 X-Files credits, the passionate response was hardly surprising.

“When I read the script, I knew that we had a Very Special Episode of The X-Files on our hands,” Manners recalls. “It was the first X-Files script that I thought was truly in the classic horror vein, and I tried to direct it with that in mind. I thought back to the Vincent Price movie The House On Haunted Hill and some of the images in that, and just tried to deliver as much of a horror classic as I could. However, I didn’t have any idea that it would probably prove to be one of the fans’ favorite episodes of all time, and I certainly had no idea that it would see the controversial welcome that it did when it originally aired. I didn’t think I’d offended so many people,” he adds with a laugh. “But there is something to be said in that. At least we got people’s attention, and I’m proud of the episode. I think today it’s one of my best efforts.”

Manners has long grown accustomed to attracting attention. A list of his credits reads like a scorecard of The X-Files’ most memorable and controversial moments: its initial foray into comedy (“Humbug”), its highest-rated episode ever (“Leonard Betts”), its sole Stephen King contribution (“Chinga”). His sharp, visceral style has left its mark on standalones (“Hungry,” “War of the Coprophages”) and sections of the mythology (“Redux II,” “Closure”), and while the director claims his assignments are “strictly luck of the draw,” he does admit his work shares one recurring theme.

“The fans have got me pegged as the king of gore and the king of scary,” the director says. “I like to do scary. I cut my teeth as a kid on horror movies. I loved the Frankenstein series, I loved the Wolf Man series — Lon Chaney Jr. was my hero growing up. I just thought the Wolf Man was the greatest character. And I believe I have a lot of strength in delivering something that’s very scary and riveting on the screen. I don’t know, maybe I have a dark side that I wasn’t aware of.”

Manner’s history with The X-Files began in 1994, when he was first brought to the attention of series creator Chris Carter by seminal X-Files scribes Glen Morgan and James Wong. “I tried very hard to get on The X-Files during the first season, and for a lot of reasons I found it impossible to crack,” he recalls. “And in the second season, {producer} Bob Goodwin and Chris Carter agreed to look at a piece of film I directed that Jim and Glen wrote for 21 Jump Street called ‘2245,’ which was about the execution of a youthful offender on Death Row.”

Manners was soon hired to helm the Morgan and Wong-penned classic “Die Hand Die Verletzt.” “About two weeks after I finished directing it,” he says, “I was in Los Angeles and the phone rang and they made me a producer. I’ve been here ever since.”

The director sees himself as the final component integral to building the original creative team behind the series. “At the time I joined the show, it was just becoming a bona fide hit, and there wasn’t any proprietorship,” he notes. “It wasn’t like a family unit where outsiders weren’t welcome. The series was still in its growing stages. David Nutter was their producer/director in the first season, and then he moved on, and Robbie Bowman did two or three shows. I was the final guy they brought in, and they had their little team. We did a guest director here and a guest director there, but we had our core group of people, and I was the last guy to join that. And from there, the series kind of snowballed because we all felt so comfortable together.”

Less comfortable for Manners was the second-season episode “Humbug,” a tale of circus freaks whose darkly comedic tone was a bold departure for the heretofore stolid series. “As a new member of the producerial staff, I was very, very nervous to be handed the first comedy ever,” he says. “We were all swimming in uncharted waters. It was my second episode ever, and it was Darin Morgan’s first {scripting} effort.”

On the plus side, “Humbug” was also the first Files to prominently feature a body-mutilating contortionist who hammers nails through his nose and his tattoo-covered, insect-swallowing companion. “I had a lot of fun working with Jim Rose,” says Manners, referring to the legendary circus showman who appears in the episode as Dr. Blockhead. “Jimmy was terrific; he and the Enigma were just fabulous. That was a totally crazy set. Jimmy, on several different occasions and without too much prompting, was very readily there to show you his organ origami. It was really quite something.”

The successful “Humbug was not only a turning point for Manners, but for the series itself. “When I saw how well that show was received, I knew that we were suddenly given the license to go anywhere we wanted,” he says. “This is a really exciting series for the fans, because we can do so many different things and go in so many different directions that it’s really boundless. We can get dark, but we also have a tendency to make fun of ourselves — we’ve certainly poked fun at Mulder. But dark humor is like terror or horror itself; there’s something exciting and edgy about it. And that edge is really what is keeping the show on the air.”

By 1996, The X-Files had transformed from mild cult favorite to a full-fledged hit, and Manners, by then an established set presence, found himself the target of the show’s penchant for self-mockery. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,'” a third-season episode penned by Darin Morgan and directed by Bowman, featured a profanity-spewing character named Detective Manners, a tribute to the director’s distinctive pattern of speech. “Yes, I do have a foul mouth,” Manners laughs. “I try to keep it clean when I’m talking to people I don’t know. But you wouldn’t want to be around me when I’m on the set and things aren’t going well!

“I was actually supposed to play Detective Manners,” he reveals. “I used to be an actor, but I quit when I was 19 years old. I told Robbie I’d do it, but it was toward the end of the season and I was dog-tired. I felt if I got on the set, forgot my lines and buried Rob Bowman in terms of his schedule, I’d feel real bad. So I didn’t play the part. After I saw ‘Jose Chung’ come together, I kicked myself right in the ass because I thought, ‘Man, I could have done such a better job than that guy.’

“I liked the show very much,” Manners hastens to explain. “But even though the actor had to say, ‘Sure enough is a blankety-blank dead alien if I ever seen one,’ he didn’t do it with any attitude. When a man is cussing or swearing, he does it with attitude. I don’t cuss or swear because I’m a mean man or because I’m angry, I cuss or swear because I’ve been on sets since I was 3 years old, and I’ve been raised by grips and electricians, and all they do is cuss and swear.”

The director is the son of Sam Manners, a television producer whose credits include Rin Tin Tin, Wild Wild West and Naked City. His father’s choice of profession resulted in a somewhat unusual upbringing. “I grew up literally on the set,” he recalls. “I started acting when I was 3. In the early ’60s, I traveled with my mom and dad and several other families and their children on a television series called Route 66, and we had a tutor. We had school for three hours, and then we would go to the set and hang out with the crew for the whole day. I was kind of a set rugrat.”

Manners finds it difficult to imagine life outside the industry. “I was born and raised in it. It’s all I know,” confides the director, who has worked on 23 series, including Charlie’s Angels, Simon And Simon and 21 Jump Street. “I’ve been directing a little over 20 years, so I’ve probably done about 260 hours of television. I’ve had a very, very fruitful career, knock wood. But if I wasn’t a successful director, I’d be holding a sign on the corner going ‘Will Work For Food.’ This business is all I know.”

Despite his numerous television credits, Manners remains the only regular X-Files director never to have helmed a motion picture, a fact which confounds many of his avid fans. “I would love to do a feature film,” he explains. “I’ve been reading scripts for the last three years, and I haven’t read a good one yet. There’s a lot of very poor, poor material out there. As I’ve told my agent, ‘If you can bring me a script that’s better than an X-Files script, I’ll consider leaving.’ But until that time, I’m just going to stay here and do good work every week.”

Manners dismisses the idea of attempting to write his own screenplay, claiming, “I can’t write a check, let alone a script! My energy is way beyond the boundaries of being a writer.

I need to be on the set, I need to be up and running.” Although an admitted horror fan, his choice in material extends well beyond the genre. “I’ve always been keen to do a Western,” he says enthusiastically. “Or just a good human interest story. I’d have cut my arm off to be able to direct The Green Mile.

Did you see that movie? Truly amazing. And American Beauty. I would have loved to have done that. Simple stories — those human interest pieces really appeal to me. That’s why I enjoyed doing ‘Milagro,’ because ‘Milagro’ was a character study.”

A sixth-season entry written by Carter, “Milagro” is one of many that Manners cites as his favorite experiences directing the series. “There’s that, and there’s ‘Home,’ certainly,” he says. “We also had a lot of fun doing ‘The Rain King.’ That was a ball. It was such a different episode of The X-Files, strictly a fantasy. I felt like we were telling a fairy tale. I loved ‘Monday,’ I thought ‘Monday’ was just great. On a recent one I did, ‘Signs & Wonders,’ which is about the Church of the Holy Ghost, we had a great actor named Michael Childress who did a fabulous job. If he doesn’t get an Emmy nomination, I’ll be shocked. I also loved ‘Kaddish.’ Gosh, what else did I really love working on … I loved working on them all.”

Well, almost all. “The worst one I ever did was a little thing called ‘Teso dos Bichos,'” he admits. “Best three acts of television I ever directed, and act four came along and everything went to hell in a handbasket. ‘Sanguinarium’ was kind of on the bubble for me, because it was sort of a gratuitous thing. But I’ve been pretty damn happy with my product, by and large. I’ve been very lucky;

I’ve gotten one good script after another.”

One teleplay that proved particularly memorable was “Chinga,” initially written by King but later reworked by Carter. “We read Stephen King’s script, which was terrific, but probably unproduceable for an hour of network television,” Manners recalls. “Chris rewrote it. It was fun to do, and I think it translated well. People either really liked ‘Chinga’ or really hated it. That was another episode where it got a strong response, either positive or negative, but no one walked away and said, ‘Oh, just another episode.'”

Manners views the notoriously vocal X-Files viewership with a mixture of frustration and awe. “Here is a fan base that has an absolute, total and personal investment in a TV series,” he notes. “I used to get on the Internet and look in the chat rooms, but then I got upset, because they think it’s their TV show. And we can’t make everybody happy. But I do think that one day, 10 or 15 years from now, people are going to look back on The X-Files as they would look back on I Love Lucy or The Twilight Zone, as one of the more important series that has ever been on TV.”

Essential to the show’s success are stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, with whom Manners has recently been linked in unexpected ways. As the series nears the end of its seventh, and likely final, season, Anderson and Duchovny have become active behind the scenes, each writing and directing an installment to air this spring. It is a situation over which Manners initially expressed concern: “Years ago, I used to feel that if an actor wanted to direct, he should go out and compete with other directors, and not just direct on his own TV series because it does take food out of another director’s mouth.

“But now that I’ve been involved in this series as long as I have, I see what David’s and Gillian’s investment is in this series — their human investment,” he continues. “They have given so much of their own personal lives toward the success of this show that they’ve earned the right to direct. They’ve done Mulder and Scully so long that they’re growing, and part of that growth is wanting to do other things. Since their lives center around this series, the only thing fresh for them to do is direct, so it makes sense.”

While relations with the series’ stars have not always run smooth (“David and I butted heads in the beginning”), Manners expresses nothing but affection for the two actors, and confidence in their ability to work behind the camera. “I was very proud of David,” he says. “He did a bang-up job on his ‘Unnatural,’ and I’m quite certain that Gillian is going to do a great job on her episode. These are both very intelligent people. They pay attention. I have worked on a lot of TV series over the years and I have never, especially in the seventh year of a series, worked with two nicer or sweeter people. They get a little moody now and then, but all and all they’re probably the best star cast members I’ve ever worked with.”

With his sixth year on The X-Files coming to a close, Manners has no plans to depart from its parent company, Ten Thirteen Productions. “Chris is doing a new pilot,” he reveals. “If it sells and gets off the ground, I’ll stay with Chris and do that series. If X-Files goes on, I’ll stay with X-Files. If Chris doesn’t do anything, I’ll be moving on. But I’d bet on Chris Carter any day.” Manners expresses no regret over his time spent with the series, and reserves a special fondness for episodes such as “Home,” whose unconventional approach has ensured The X-Files’ legacy.

“I don’t really look for controversy, but part of The X-Files’ success is that we have done some episodes that have shaken a few trees,” he says. “Not that I’m knocking ER, but when you sit down to watch that, it’s pretty much what you expect to see every week — somebody gets an appendectomy or someone almost dies of cancer. On The X-Files, we have an opportunity every episode to do something totally different than we’ve ever done before, and totally different from what the audience has seen.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m still here, because creatively it’s like a day at Disneyland for me, as a director,” he concludes. “I’ve done 35 episodes now and had 35 different opportunities to do something where the audience turns off the show and says, ‘Wow, that was great.’ For whatever reason. There was a moment or two moments or four moments in that episode the audience will never forget. And that, to me, is special.”

The X-Files Magazine: Fate Accompli

Feb-15-2000
The X-Files Magazine [US, #13, Spring 2000]
Fate Accompli
Gina Mcintyre

[Typed by Gayle]

After years of searching, Mulder finally learns the fate of his missing sister in The X-Files’ most emotional mythology two-parter to date

A nearly opaque cloud of manufactured mist fills the wide, open expanse of Stage eight on the Twentieth Century fox lot. A strong, circular light cuts through the haze like halogen beams through a night fog, illuminating a rectangular, wooden set that resembles a train car from Santa’s workshop on some exaggerated scale. While dozens of people scurry from place to place inside the considerable shadow cast by the box car, director Kim Manners stands on the other side of the stage, walking in circles around production designer Corey Kaplan and visual effects supervisor Bill Millar. Waiting for the final preparations for this morning’s scene to be completed, the forward-thinking Manners is already planning the exact choreography of a complicated camera move still days away on the production schedule, with the pair of department heads standing in for Mulder and Scully.

The whole place is a hive of activity. It’s the beginning of the second day of shooting on “Closure,” the second of a two-part episode that finally reveals what really happened to Agent Mulder’s missing sister Samantha. The shows begin with the story of a young California girl, Amber Lynn LaPierre, who disappears one night under peculiar circumstances. The case draws the attention of Mulder, who is struck by its similarities to Samantha’s alleged abduction. Driven, the agent and his devoted partner Scully are drawn deeper into the child’s case and after much searching, ultimately uncover a life-changing truth. For years, Chris Carter has indicated that his master plan for The X-Files includes the explanation for Samantha’s fate, which has been central to the ongoing narrative since the pilot episode. His quest to discover what terrible circumstances befell his beloved sister has spurred Mulder onward through countless adventures, his will resolute and unyielding. But penning the episodes that would once and for all explicate the mystery proved more challenging than Carter and his writing partner executive producer Frank Spotnitz had anticipated. In breaking the story, the pair directed the storyline onto an entirely new path, borrowing a phrase from German philosopher martin Heidegger that translates as “being in time” as the title for the first episode.

“I don’t think [Chris] thought he would tell a story that said exactly this,” Spotnitz explains. “We’re still going to the same place in the end, but I think we found a slightly different way of getting there. We kind of stumbled upon it at the last minute, honestly. We sat down to do this two-parter and these are the post-conspiracy mythology episodes, sot hey tend to be simpler. We wanted it to be a case that became a mythology episode, rather than just starting out a mythology episode. We found a way into the Samantha story and I think we ended up going further in explaining what happened to her earlier than we expected to. It was exciting to do. I think it feels very reality based, this-could-be-happening-in-your-city kind of thing, which was very appealing to us about the story. It’s always been Chris’ maxim of telling stories that seem real, and this seems very real in the beginning and it gets more fantastic.”

While the episodes unquestionably belong to The X-Files mythology, they do not involve conspiracies, aliens or Cigarette Smoking Men – even though the CSM does briefly appear. Instead, the two-parter closely examines Mulder’s emotional state, resulting in a gripping tale that afforded leads David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson the opportunity to showcase their acting talents.

“Right before they received the scripts, I called to prepare the actors for what was coming, and I think they’ve welcomed it,” Spotnitz says. “I think they look forward to scripts like this because so many of the episodes are about the cases and that honestly is what’s most interesting to us about the mythology shows. They can be about Mulder and Scully as characters more than investigators.”

Manners, at least for the time being, is more concerned about logistical issues and exacting camera work – the nuts and bolts of the operation – than how the actors will meet the emotional rigors of such sweeping important episodes. With dozens of X-Files outings under his belt and years of working with Duchovny and Anderson, the director is confident that each scene will take shape naturally under his lens.

“We haven’t really discussed it up front,” Manners says. “I think this is a story that we’re going to have to find together, David and I. As we shoot, I think that it will flesh itself out for both David and myself. It’s one of those. David, he’s not an actor that likes to plan or predict. He likes to find it on the day, which works well with me, especially in a story like this. It’s better to find it as we get there.”

“It’s a big story,” he adds. “I’m kind of excited to answer for everybody, myself included, what happened to Samantha. I’m handling it like I would any other script. I’m just trying to do my best work and tell the story the best I can.”

Assisting in that mission are the dozens of hard-working members of the series’ behind-the-scenes creative team, most of whom are presently toiling on one of three stages on the lot. Today, first unit begins filming at 9 a.m. on Stage Eight; then the company will move to the adjacent Stage Five, while second unit work for “Sein Und Zeit,” under the direction of co-executive producer Michael Watkins, is completed on Stage Six. The day will last well into the night.

Rarely does the shooting schedule see three stages in use (generally, The X-Files uses only Stages Five and Six); most of the time, at least one unit is out on location. But this has proven an exceptional year in many ways. Even while the fate of the series hangs in the balance – no official announcement has yet been made about a possible Season Eight – The X-Files has kicked into artistic overdrive, producing uncompromising, dark, outings and quirky, imaginative tales, as well as taking the mythology into unexpected areas. Crafting such an eclectic mix is sometimes unpredictable.

“It’s been different than last year, but actually more hectic,” says general foreman Billy Spires. “I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we have to have a lot more stuff ready sooner. We haven’t had any episode with one main set. It seems like there’s eight to 12 different sets every episode that we ‘re getting ready. You don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labor as much when it has to be ready so quickly. Because of the lack of stage space, we have to take [a se] down sometimes the moment they’re done shooting either to revamp it or put something else there. “We work about 80 0ercent of the weekends,” he continues. “We’ll be working through this weekend on all the changeovers and the sets that have to be ready for Monday and Tuesday. And then we’re going to start prepping episode 12. We may have a break for a few hours but that’s only because the director hasn’t let the production designer know exactly what he wants. As soon as the prints come down to the trailer, it’s on.”

For “Sein Und Zeit”/”Closure,” property master Tom Day’s department was required to stage dozens of photographs of young Mulder and Samantha to appear at Mulder’s mother’s house, which meant finding six children to pose as the siblings at varying ages and inventing memorable poses suitable for framing.

“In this particular case, we had to go back beyond what we usually see of them into even younger and younger [ages], Day says. “In fact, one of my assistants, he has a son and a daughter who are roughly the same age relationship. We used his children as one of our groups of kids because his daughter is a 1 year-old infant. She’s got the chicken pox, right now, so it made for these really cute pictures of a big brother holding his little sister who’s got the chicken pox.”

The photographs, though time-consuming, were not the most challenging item Day was called upon to procure for the episodes. “In [“closure”], Mulder finds his sister’s diary,” Day says. “Considering how absolutely central to his entire series that relationship is and how important being able to read what she’s written is to that character, that is as huge a prop as we can be responsible for. It’s really got to be right on. That’s years worth of storylines and preparation leading up to that. As the prop department, we want that prop to be worthy of the years of build-up something like that gets.”

To find the perfect specimen, Day acquired countless diaries and journals, then headed to the show’s producers for feedback. “What I’ll do is I’ll start with Kim and say, ‘Kim, what works best for you as far as the logistics of shooting?’ Then I’ll get multiples of them and have them aged to varying degrees. We’ll do maybe one version that will have been attacked by mold and mildew, and the other version will be dusty and worn and aged, bleached looking from the elements. Once the director settles on what works for him, size and width and all those parts of it, I’ll age a few of them up to show the differences and then I will show them to Chris, Frank, and all the guys at Ten Thirteen.”

The scope of the two-parter – the LaPierre case leads Mulder to other similar cases all with a paranormal bent – is even affecting the workload of effects man Millar. Upon completing a blue screen sequence involving a young boy for the episode directed by Watkins, Millar must begin to procure the equipment necessary for the specialty camerawork featured in the final installment of the story. He, too, echoes Spires’ and Day’s sentiments about the frenzied pace of Season Seven.

“[‘Closure’] is probably the heaviest episode [in terms of visual effects], certainly of the last three seasons,” he says. “We probably have four day of motion control shooting to build [some supernatural entities] into moving plates and have them mingle with Mulder and Scully. Integrating all that is an object lesson in choreography and motion control acting and camera work. [In feature films], certain shots and scenes can take three to five days t set up and photograph, some longer than that. We’re being asked to do that kind of quality and essentially get our shots in half a day, which requires an immense amount of preplanning and a little bit of luck as well.”

To ensure that luck is on his side, Millar ways it is key to take advantage of the lead time he has, now nearly eight days. “Kim kind of previsualizes what he wants to do with certain scenes,” he says. “We talk and figure out the camera moves largely on paper. Kim wants to be able to move the camera though 360 degrees without giving any evidence that there was any kind of special camera in use. He wants it to look more like a hand-held shot. We figure out what configuration we need of camera and track and what kind of motion control camera we need, whether it’s a crane, whether it’s a crane built on top of a dolly, what axes of motion the camera needs to describe and how fast the dolly needs to move to get out of its own way so that when the camera turns around to photograph where the dolly was at the beginning of the shot, we’ve managed to move the dolly around to the other side of the room. All of this has to happen over and over again, and the camera has to be positioned for each pass within literally fractions of a millimeter from where it was, time after time after time in order for us to meld each of those plates together and not see any misregistration, lines or any perspective change that would five away that one of the entities in the scene was shot at a different time or place than everything else.”

According to Millar, that particular scene will take two to three hours to set up, roughly six hours to shoot and will require 40 to 50 hours of digital composting during post production to complete. It will appear on screen for less than 30 seconds.

The end result, of course, is worth the labor. Week after week, The X-Files continues to meet the standard of excellence demanded by Carter and the millions of fans who embraced the series as a watermark for television. If anything, the unparalleled ambition of episodes like “Sein Und Zeit” / “Closure” is raising the bar higher, challenging the crew to push themselves to reach new creative plateaus.

And viewers can continue to look forward to more of the same. Even though many of the series’ carefully guarded secrets have been revealed, some components of the ever elusive truth will remain out there and will take shape in even more remarkable forms. “There’s something more coming,” a confident Spotnitz says with a grin.

The X-Files Magazine: Going Hungry

Oct-??-1999
The X-Files Magazine [US, #11, Fall 1999]: Going Hungry
Gina McIntyre

[typed by Gayle]

In season seven’s first stand-alone, Vince Gilligan tells the tale of a monster’s tragic eating disorder. Vince Gilligan has everyone fooled. The X-Files writer/co-executive producer best known for quirky episodes like Seasons Four’s “Small Potatoes” and Season Five’s “Bad Blood” projects an unmistakable Southern charm; in person, he is amiable, easy-going, good-natured. But lurking somewhere deep within his psyche is a villainous imp. There must be. There’s simply no other explanation for how someone so unassuming could send property master Tom Day on a mission as revolting as hunting down real brains for the inaugural stand-alone episode of the series ‘ seventh year, the all-too-appropriately named “Hungry.”

The story of a monster in disguise who uses his part-time job slinging burgers to sate his unstoppable and quite literal appetite for the cerebral. “Hungry” is a throwback tot he show’s classic take on horror, with touches of Gilligan’s irrepressible wit thrown in for good measure. Although the episode will air third in the season line-up, scheduling demands mandated that it was the first to be filmed. As stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were both completing work on features they shot over the hiatus, a Mulder/Scully-light story was needed to begin the roster. Gilligan’s unusual and intriguing stand-alone offered the perfect solution.

“Originally, I wanted to do a story about a monster from the monster’s point of view,” the writer offers. “sort of like an episode of Columbo where you were following the bad guy throughout the show and then Columbo, or in this case Mulder, keeps coming in and asking questions that make it clear that he suspects our main guy. It seemed like a fun idea. What I really wanted to do, if it really worked correctly [was] to have it by the end of the show [that] you’re rooting for the monster. You’re sort of not happy every time Mulder and Scully show up because you don’t want the poor guy to get caught. I don’t know if it will work like that when you watch it but that was the intention.”

X-Philes displeased at the intrusion of their favorite agents? The unlikely prospect made Gilligan’s task that much more formidable. To capture the pair’s signature chemistry without using them as the center of the narrative, the writer employed inventive storytelling devices.

“It was a very interesting experiment.” Gilligan admits. “By the time I got through it I was realizing that this is why we don’t tell stories this way, because Mulder and Scully get so little screen time in comparison. I don’t know how much the fans are going to like this one. I hope the do and they see [that] at least we tried something different. I’m real proud of it. The fans so like Mulder and Scully, so enjoy watching then on screen together, and this episode by virtue of the fact that it had a different structure to it, they’re on screen much less. I mean they still have that Mulder/Scully dynamic and yet I had to be very scrupulous about only showing it from this guy’s point of view.”

While Gilligan’s script offers yet another approach to the classic X-Files formula, it also helped ease the crew back into the routine of shooting television’s most cinematic series. Nearly everyone working on the L.A. set praises the episode not only for its ingenuity, but for the fact that it allowed them the rare opportunity to gradually work back into the show’s frenetic pace. Rather than exhausted seniors battling final exam week with too little sleep and too much caffeine, the principals seem more like classmates reunited on the playground after a relaxing, homework-free summer.

Not that there’s a dearth of activity on Stages Five and Six on the Twentieth Century Fox lot, The X-Files’ home when not shooting on location. On this, the sixth of eight days of first unit photography on “Hungry,” the construction team has been toiling since 5 a.m. to strike the various sets no longer needed for the episode, make changes to existing pieces and begin planning for what the next script will bring. Music from an unseen radio blares from across the stage; sawdust litters the air, seen only in the rays of sun streaming in from the open doors at either side of the building. Voices call to one another, sharing jokes and plans for lunch.

In the midst of this bustle, Day enters the safe confines of his office, which is nestled along the side of Stage Six, camouflaged in part by Mulder’ s apartment and various props and pieces of set dressing. After enjoying a pleasant summer hiatus, Day admits he was ready to get back into the swing of things, but was quite astonished to learn what Gilligan had in store for him.

“Fried brains, that was one of the highlights,” Day says, shaking his head. “At one point, we need to simulate human brains. We actually had a brain test day where we went out to the different meat-packing places and brought in a bunch of your different varmints’ brains, cow and pig and sheep, to see which one would look the best and which one would sit on the set properly.”

Given that Day has been working in the industry for years, one might think that brain detail would be less grisly that it sounds. Not so, he says. It was possibly the most grotesque assignment to ever come his way. “It’s right up there,” he says, “It took some getting used to. It took a leap of faith to jump in and say this will all work just fine. I talked to the medical technician on Chicago Hope because they use all kinds of animal parts, stuff you could even go to the market and buy. Obviously when you’re simulating surgery you have to have something. I talked to them about what’ s best to sue for rain. We found steer brain worked best. They could have had [special effects make-up coordinator] John Vulich whip out some brains, but I don’t know in all honesty if it would have looked the same. It looked great for what we were doing with it. It was perfect.”

For his part, Gilligan felt no remorse at sending Day on his stomach-turning errand. “They love this stuff.!” He says with a smirk, “I think they said they used steer brains. I would have thought they’d be too big, but I guess not. I mean they’re not super-smart animals, but their heads are so big you ‘d think their brains would be bigger than ours. That was pretty funny. Then they have to cook them once they’re out there. They have to put them on a hot grill. I don’t know what brains do when you grill them. People eat calves’ brains. I’ve never had them. I don’t know what they taste like.”

If there’s brain on the grill, you might guess which of the X-Files stable of directors would be behind the lens. Infamous for his affection for the gruesome, the tireless Kim Manners found in “Hungry” material he could really sink his teeth into, aside from its horrific menu. As odd as it might sound, the script is actually a subtle character study about one man’s seemingly futile struggle to conquer insurmountable odds.

“I think they tailor made it for me,” the director says. “It’s one of mine. I’m having a good time with it. I had a good time off and I’m feeling really fresh. Normally when I do my first show of a season, you come in with butterflies and you’re always a little frightened. It’s been two or three months without directing, talking to actors, pointing the camera, but I feel like my brain’s on Viagra. I’m very, very excited. I’m getting great film and great performances, and that’s what it’s about.”

According to Manners, guest star Chad E. Donella, who portrays peculiar anti-hero Rob Roberts, is responsible for one of those “great performances.” The actor, whose previous television appearances include stints on such impressive series as ER and the Practice, recently completed work on Flight 180, the feature debut of X-Files vets Glen Morgan and James Wong, perhaps accounting for his ability to key into the show’s dark spirit. “Chad is an outstanding actor.” Manners raves. “He’s really carrying this episode, [Because] the episode is from Rob Roberts’ point of view, the ball is really in Chad’s court. He’s doing tremendous job.”

Of course, man cannot become monster alone. To truly assume the aspect of an otherworldly creature, one needs special effects – and lots of ’em. Supervising Donella’s transformation from mild-mannered fast-food employee to intimidating and ravenous fiend are FX make-up artist Greg Funk and visual effects maven Bill Millar. Prosthetically, the monster is comprised of three separate pieces-a forehead appliance, a bald cap and a nose piece. To completely transform the actor into his hideous alter-ego took nearly three hours, Funk says, adding that the metamorphosis was complicated because certain scenes required Donella to remove portions of the make-up himself.

“He has a disguise on and he takes all the pieces off,” Funk explains. “It can’t just be a make-up job-boom, he’s the monster. We’ve got to make it so a human disguise comes off revealing this monster, almost kind of Mission Impossible-like without pulling a whole mask right off. He pulls off little ears, takes [his] wig off. Kim was very specific. He said, ‘It’s gotta be good.'”

One of the creature’s most distinguishing attributes is its rows of deadly teeth, which it uses to extract sustenance from its victims. The lethal incisors had to be fashioned digitally by Millar. “The monster has shark-like teeth, several rows of them, which are seen to slide in and out of his jaw as he opens his mouth,” he says. “He covers that with an artificial set of dentures which makes it look as though he had normal teeth. He removes those teeth and we see nothing but gums and then these razor-sharp rows of teeth slide out of the gums. To build that prosthetically would have been difficult and also would have extended the gum to the end of the actor’s [real] teeth, which would have looked somewhat strange. We’re doing all that digitally and enhancing the mouth and shortening the practical teeth digitally and then introducing the shark teeth. They’ll be a digital composite generated with CGI teeth and tracked into the mouth.”

Finding a place for all this monster business to occur fell to locations manager Ilt Jones. After scouring Southern California for a restaurant that would employ a brain-eating monstrosity, he stumbled onto a Mom and Pop-owned hamburger stand named Lucky Boy in a working class Los Angeles neighborhood called Southgate.

“There’s a Greek family who owned it for 38 years,” Jones says. “It’s actually one of the first burger joints in L.A. It was right around the time of the first McDonald’s, 1948, [that] they built it. It’s actually something of a landmark in the neighborhood. It’s much nicer than your average generic Burger King or something like that. It’s got a huge neon sign, lots of fun lights. It’s got a great look. I’m happy to have found that. I combed L.A. looking for burger joints because none of the big boys wanted to touch us. Curiously enough, McDonald’s didn’t want to be associated with somebody who ate brains.”

After Jones discovered the kitschy locale, the rustic restaurant was given a slight overhaul by construction coordinator Duke Tomasick and his crew. “We had a lot of work to do at the restaurant,” Tomasick says. “We had to make it what it needed [to be] for the script. We were down there for five working days. We took an average-looking restaurant, and we made it nice. We repainted everything, brought in a lot of greens, made some new signs. The owner of the place is probably happy.”

Except for the fact that there was a monster working behind the grill luring unsuspecting customers to their deaths, the owners were undoubtedly pleased. (At least the monster was kind enough to vacate the premises when filming wrapped.) For the scene in which the creature claims its first victim, the restaurant’s drive-thru was used as a clever snare for an unsuspecting unnamed “Hungry Guy.” As the man drives to the open take-out window, the equally hungry monster snatches him from his car for a quick bite.

The sequence, which serves as the episode’s teaser, was shot in the wee hours of a mid-August Saturday morning, explains stunt coordinator Danny Weselis. For the scene, Weselis used a double in the place of the actor cast as Hungry Guy, the stuntman wore a vest-like harness that was rigged with a cable underneath the costume. “From the camera you couldn’t see the cable,” Weselis says. “You see his whole body leaning out of the car. We had three effects men on the other end. We had fall pads inside [the restaurant] so when he got pulled through the window, he actually slid across the countertop and landed on the top of the fall pads. On the count of three, they pulled, he was out of the car, through the window.”

At that point, the script called for the drivers car to creep forward. Obviously, a real runaway car is far too much of a danger on a television set, so Weselis climbed on the floor and took control of the wheel. The only catch was he couldn’t see where he was going. Fortunately, the stunt went off without a hitch.

“As he goes through the window I was lying in the car blind-driving it,” he explains. “I took the driver’s seat out of the car, lay on the floor, covered myself in black so you couldn’t see me. I could just barely look out of the top of the windshield. When [my stuntman] got yanked out of the car, I just sort of crept forward, went out the driveway and made a slight left turn and he headed across the street. Traffic was blocked, obviously. I just ran into the curb.”

In addition to driving an out-of-control vehicle, “Hungry” required the enterprising Weselis to dispose of a corpse-in broad daylight with witnesses, no less. As he devises a way to tackle this latest obstacle, a group of onlookers gathers across the street from the apartment building in the trendy L.A. neighborhood of Los Feliz where the production has moved for the day.

Watching from beneath a black tarp, Manners, sporting a white X-Files T-shirt and his new short haircut, sits surrounded by a barrage of camera equipment, artificial tree limbs and an assortment of black and white trash bags stuffed with paper. Soon, he and the stunt coordinator discuss Weselis ‘ carefully choreographed designs for tossing the body of stuntwoman Annie Ellis out with the garbage. Unrecognized beneath the remarkable work of Emmy-award winning make-up team Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf and Kevin Westmore, the normally sun-tanned and svelte Ellis has assumed the identity of the unfortunate Sylvia Jassy, a nosy neighbor who falls prey to the monster’s malignant hunger. Dressed in a flowered house dress and covered with layers of padding, Ellis undergoes final touch-ups, which include being doused in even more fake blood, before climbing into a trashcan.

“We put her inside one of those big trashcans, like the ones outside residential areas, and the trash truck’s going to pick her up,” Weselis says. “Inside the trash truck, we’ve got fall pads and boxes with padding in there. We’re going to slowly dump her in. She’s got a big, nice area to fall into. It’s a brand new truck, actually. It’s not one of those old ones. I already tested it out myself a couple of weeks ago, got the arc of the trashcan and put a pad in there. It’s over pretty quick, and you’ve got a big landing area. There’s no problem with that.”

He’s right. Despite having to repeat the action four times, Ellis escapes unharmed and manages to stage her landing perfectly for the camera. Manners repeatedly praises her, and pleased, the crew breaks for an early lunch – promptly at 3:30 p.m. Over his meal, Manners discusses the myriad components that comprise his first Season Seven outing, the out-and-out horror, the black humor, the poignant tragedy of Rob Roberts’ dual nature. It’s a potent mix and one that the director seems quite confident will find a place in the hearts of X-Philes.

“I think the fans are going to love the show because it’s scary,” he states. “We’re having a chance to shoot scary, [with] tight eyes, a guy waiting, points of view, a lot of tension. I think that’s what the fans like. I know it’s what I like as an audience member. I want to do more shows like ‘Home’-shows that when the audience turns them off they go, ‘Wow,'” Manners says, adding, “I think that’s what I’m going to try to do this year.”

Bardsmaid’s Cave: My visit to the set

??-??-1999
The Cave’s X-Files Commentary Archives:  Encounters with the show
Title: My visit to the set
Author: Patterson

[Original article here]

Ok gang! Now that the cat’s out of the bag, it would be wrong not to share as much info and details as I can. So here goes.

FIRST OF ALL, HOW DID I GET TO GO? Well, I’m still amazed at it. I give total credit to God for the opportunity. Yes I pursued, but so much was out of my hands and His timing and opening of doors is what made it possible. I just really wanted to say that first. I am a student studying television production. One of the reasons I love the show is because what little I know about producing episodic television makes me appreciate what these people do every week. And we all love knowing the names of the people behind the scenes and what they do. So, I wrote Kim Manners a letter telling him how much I really enjoyed his work with the X-Files and that I was studying television production and was fascinated with what it took to put a show like the X-Files together. I said I would be in LA during a certain time and if at all possible, I would really appreciate the opportunity to meet with him and learn more about the process. I didn’t think I’d get anywhere. He’s obviously a very busy person, why in the world would he bother with a kid from Nashville? Imagine my elation when he called. To quote the movie, The Saint: Miracle number one. We spoke on the phone and he said it shouldn’t be a problem for me to visit the week I would be out there since he wasn’t directing that week. He told me I should call him a few days before I left for LA and we would arrange a time for me to visit the set.

SO WHAT HAPPENED? So I did. It took a while of phone tag and thinking it wasn’t going to happen. I had been in LA a couple of days before I heard back from him. I was so anxious I think I called his office a time or two too many. He’s incredibly busy trying to do his job of providing quality entertainment, but I was worried about me. Yeah. But he called and said he was in the editing room cutting the episode he had just finished directing the week before, but that they were shooting on the Fox lot and he would show me around that afternoon. I was very jazzed. OK that’s an understatement. I was literally jumping up and down. Now, the day before, just on a lark a went and found the Fox lot. I circled, then decided, “what the heck, let’s see what happens,” and turned into the gate. When I got up to the guard shack, they asked my last name and I told them. But surprise surprise, I wasn’t in the computer. She asked me if they were expecting me and I said no they aren’t. And very nicely she suggested I make a U-turn and try the courtesy phone to let them know I was here and have them buzz me in. So I made a U-turn and went home. Well, it made it so much more fun when the next day I pulled up and they asked for my last name, I told them and they said “Patterson?” (well actually they said my real name but you get the idea.) I had a drive -on pass. Which means I could drive a few feet onto the lot and then turn into a parking lot. I was directed to the Ten Thirteen production offices, which are very cool. The doors are that translucent smoky class and the logo on the door looks like the logo at the end of an episode where the kid says “I made this!” I went in and there were three desks in an open area, one directly in front of me, and a fourth in an alcove of sorts behind the guy in front of me. I had been told to ask for a certain person whose name I didn’t recognize and he would take me to Mr. Manners in editing. However, that person was at lunch (it was 2 p.m. PST). So I said, that I was there to meet with Kim Manners. Well, the guy behind the guy in front of me picked up the phone and said, “I’m assuming he’s expecting you?” I answered in the affirmative and he asked my name. I told him and he called Mr. Manners. Then the young man directly in front of me was then instructed to walk me back to the editing building.

We headed even further into the maze of trailers, RVs, and house-like buildings and I chit-chatted with this guy. On the way, I saw a really familiar face walking towards us. The guy I was with raised his arms and bowed in mock worship and then it hit me who it was. Now let me stop here (I know, how dare I?) but before I went out there I had written down every single question I could think of to as Kim Manners. Some serious, some not so serious, some out-right funny. But one of the things I wanted to ask was if I could meet John Shiban. He is, hands down, my favorite writer for the show and I love him! So now back to the story. So I recognize this face and decide to seize the day. “John Shiban!” I said. He turned around because he had passed me and I walked up to him and said, “Hi I’m Patterson (really told him my real name) and I love your writing. You are my favorite writer for the show. I’m sorry I don’t want to take up your time, but I just had to stop you and tell you how much I admire your work.” He smiled (very cute smile. Is it obvious yet how much I love this man?) and thanked me and unfortunately that was the end of the conversation. But I couldn’t believe the timing. Miracle number two. Well nice young man (actually he was a couple years older than me) and I continue on. He points to a small building with a large “X” on it and sends me on my way. Alone. By myself. So I go in the door and I’m in a hallway. there are only four rooms off this hallway and I don’t see anyone in the first two on my right and left. I call out a questioning ‘Hello?” and get a loud welcoming “Hello!” back. Kim Manners bolts out of the room and extends his hand. “Kim Manners,” he said. “Patterson,” I said. (actually I told him my-oh you get it.) He invites me into the room where they are editing the episode he directed last week. I was thinking he would try to maneuver me away from the booth but instead he ushered me in and began telling me all about the story. I got to watch them edit for almost an hour. It was really amazing. The editor Louise Innes whose first job with the XF was Triangle!!!, had been putting together her edit since shooting began using the footage shot each day. So it was cohesive and you could follow it. What they were doing was making the Director’s cut. Manners was changing a few shots used, picking different takes, trying to tighten it up because it was running about ten minutes over, he said. They hadn’t added any music or audio effects, hadn’t re-recorded any dialogue, all they had was the audio from the set. But it was very cool. Certain things hadn’t been inserted yet like close-ups of Mulder reading a letter or words typing on the page. Stuff like that. So suddenly there’d be a black screen with what we’re supposed to be reading in quotes. That was funny.

I asked some production questions and he told me a couple of stories. He  said he like to be about four or five minutes over when he takes it to the producers. Then they make their cuts. He said it’s difficult because he is one of the producers so he’s simultaneously still trying to cut and yet fight for the shots he wants. I wanted to ask so many questions but I didn’t want to distract him too much. Also, I was very engrossed in watching the monitors. So much so that at one point I forgot where I was and during a very suspenseful moment let a “No!” out when something happened I didn’t want to happen. He and Louise started laughing at me and Kim said something to the effect of “Got ya didn’t I?” They refer to the episodes by their number, not by the name like we do. So he was editing 18, 19 was currently shooting, 20 (DD’s baseball ep) was set to begin shooting on Friday (I was there on Wed. St. Patty’s Day), and Manners was eagerly awaiting the script for 21 which is the first part of the two-parter season finale. I’m sure that 17 was still being sweetened in audio and having the music added. Until being there, I knew they worked hard, but in reality I didn’t have a clue, not even an inkling of how hard they work. I still don’t fully grasp it. But getting back to my story. Manners said that most episodic television is shot in eight days. But X-Files actually averages about 10 to 12. He said about a year and a half ago he and Bowman did a two-parter that shot 28 days straight I think he said. I guessed if it was Patient X/ The Red and the Black. He said “No but good guess!” It was Tempus Fugit/Max. So we talked about all the effects they had to do like the crash site and working in the plane cabin. He told me he had his camera operators wearing helmets during that scene.

So they got all the way to the fade out for the commercial break and Manners said he’d take me over to the sound stage!! As we were walking over there I asked him about Monday, if he found it more difficult to direct having to shoot the same scene five different times or if it gave him a chance to play. He said it was more difficult because he had to find five different ways to film it and he wanted each time to have subtle differences and so it was a lot of difficult choices. So we talked about what he did choose and things like that. Then we went to the sound stage. They were shooting the sequel to Unusual Suspects and it is set in Las Vegas, so they had built the hallway and a couple of rooms for a Las Vegas Hotel. It was awesome! If you had blindfolded me and dropped me in the middle of it, I would have sworn I was in a hotel. From the carpet to the signs pointing the way to different wings to the working light fixtures to the very large, very gaudy floral arrangement sitting on a marble table in front of the elevator. You literally could walk the whole floor which was built in, I guess, a D shape. They had two bedrooms built. The one they were currently shooting in was huge and you walked in from the hallway and it had a bathroom with a black jaccuzzi and gold faucets. It was so cool!! So we walked around and he introduced me as his friend Patterson from Nashville. I met one of the camera operators who was really neat. I met a couple of the Special Effects guys. They were either getting ready to shoot someone or had shot someone. The shirt they had was in plastic (like it got just got back from the cleaners) but had blood all over it from several gun shot wounds. They showed me the little contraptions for getting shot so that you bleed. There’s a charge and they hit the button and the blood packet explodes. I asked if it hurt and they said sometimes when the clothing is loose and if the packet has allot of blood in it, when it explodes it gets slammed against the flesh and makes “A very nice welt. Or so I’ve been told” as one of them said. I asked Manners if he had gotten dibs on directing the sequel since he had done the Unusual Suspects. He said they had wanted him to do it, but he felt like he had been there, done that. I did meet the director of that episode whose name was Brian Spires or something very much like it. I didn’t recognize his name. But he seemed nice. He was young, like early to mid thirties. They were getting set up to shoot in the room and they started taking a wall down. Manners explained that all the set walls are “wild” so that they can remove a wall and put the cameras any where to get the shot. He said it spoils them because they’ll go out on location and be shooting in someone’s house and want to remove a wall to get a shot, but obviously can’t. Then he said, “C’mon, I’ll take you over to FBI headquarters.”

We walked over to another section of the soundstage and turned into a hallway. Yes, The hallway!! I was standing in the hallway of FBI headquarters!! However, it wasn’t lit so it was very dark. But I realized we  were standing right outside Skinner’s office. So we went in. We went into his outer office and it was eerily familiar. All the furniture was in there along with a bunch of other stuff. He said that when they weren’t using the sets they become storage areas. But the black leather couch was in there. The one Skinner was reclining on in SR 819. The one Mulder and Scully have sat on oh so many times as they waited for Skinner like in Bad Blood and Dreamland and yes I have seen this show too many times. All these thoughts I kept to myself. So we maneuvered our way around boxes and stuff to Skinner’s door. Alas it was locked! No! Denied!! So we headed back out into the hall to go in through those other doors!! As we did I saw the blanket on that black leather couch move and I realized someone was trying to get some sleep. And I felt very bad for whoever it was that our little tour had come through and yet very glad I hadn’t tried to sit on the couch for a thrill. We went out and in through the doors that go directly into Skinner’s office from the hallway. It was partially dressed. And also stuffed with stuff. But the conference table and chairs were there, his desk was there, but the pictures weren’t on the wall. You know the ones of the President and the Attorney general. But nevertheless it was enough for a moment of zen. We left the Assistant Director’s office and walked down the hallway a bit. And did you know that there is an autopsy lab across from Skinner’s office? Well there was that week. In the episode I had seen them edit, there was an autopsy scene. Manners said this was where they filmed it and actually I was currently standing on Scully’s mark and Mulder walked over to her from another door way. I actually felt my atomic particles jump to another energy level. But it was nothing compared to where I was about to go. We walked through the door the aforementioned Mulder had been near, and walked behind a  bunch of other sets till, this pilgrim reached her Mecca: a tiny office in the basement of the FBI. yes ladies and gentlemen. I went into the X-Files office. It was lit and dressed and perfect!!!! I’ll try to tell you exactly what I saw but keep in mind my circuits were most definitely blown so there’s a lot I missed. But here’s what I did notice: there are two desks, but I realized there have always been two desks. Mulder’s desk and a tiny table more than a desk where the computer is. Both are incredibly short. I instantly headed to that little alcove we never go in, so I could see what the hell is back there. It certainly is set up for Scully. Lots of scientific equipment like beakers and test tubes and measuring things. It looked like a very small version of your High school science lab. There was a sink, I think. And a snazzy looking computer that appeared to be linked up to a database. As I walked back toward Mulder’s desk I asked the oh so important question. Not the one about why Scully didn’t have her own desk. There really is no room and I figured it was a losing battle. So I asked why her name wasn’t on the door. Especially now that they were back on the X-Files. He said that Scully’s never had her own office. It’s Mulder’s office. I pointed out the painfully obvious fact that Scully was also assigned to the X-FIles. He said but it’s not her office. I countered that when Diana was assigned to the X-Files (a very dark time in the history of the justice system) HER stinkin’ name was on the door. He acknowledge that I was correct but said when Spender was shot and Diana was “-well, we don’t know what happened to Diana. But Fox got his office back.” He said, “As you can see it plainly says ‘Fox Mulder – Special Agent’ ” I concurred with his reading skills , but suggested it should say Fox Mulder – Special Agent and Dana Scully Special Agent. He only said “Sorry.” By this time we were leaving the office and I said. “This is a source of great frustration.” Y’know what he said? “You’ll get over it.” I had to laugh! I guess so, I mean not much I could do about it except take him down right there, and I wanted to finish the tour.

We then left that sound stage and went outside. We started heading over to another sound stage and Manners was talking to someone and asked, “Are the Lone Gunmen anywhere around?” That guy said, “yeah, in the alley.” So we head that way, turn the corner and there was Frohike. Manners let out a very large, very loud “Tommy Boy!!!!”. Now I had been freaking out the whole time, but kept it inside, projecting a very cool, calm, collected veneer. But I swear when I saw Frohike, I broke into the biggest grin. No hiding it. Frohike had just seen Monday and was congratulating Manners on a great episode. Manners introduced me and said “of course you know Tom Braidwood as Frohike.” It was very cool and he was very nice. It was so surreal, because he is just like he is. It was amazing, I’m getting giddy just thinking about it. So we finished talking to Frohike and continued on to the other sound stage. It was dark but we approached another set. It was Mulder’s apartment. Unfortunately, it was not dressed for Mulder’s apartment. The episode Manners directed centered around Mulder’s new next door neighbor who has no furniture. And it was dressed for his apartment. That is to say it was a very empty room with sheers on the window instead of blinds. We actually went in through his bedroom door so I got turned around for a second. And there were no lights so even though I got to stand in Mulder’s foyer/dining room, I couldn’t see anything. And his kitchen wasn’t up. Bummer. We walked out his front door and there were Mulder’s fish. Real fish! All the time. It was cool!

We left his apartment and headed over to wear a crew was shooting something with a phone booth. Manners said that they were shooting second unit stuff. We head over there and guess who they had directing second unit stuff. Rob Bowman. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. He directed Fight The Future. 🙂 I really liked Bowman. He has this amazing personality that’s larger than life. He was talking to Kim Manners about his plans for the weekend and the production manager comes over and wants to hurry things along. Bowman turns to him and says, “Hey man. I’m having a conversation.” Manners doesn’t miss a beat. He yells “Action!” and they run through this one move. Manners kind of shrugs like “Hey cool.” I had turned around to watch what they were doing and realized a man was naked except for flesh colored shorts. It didn’t make sense. I hope it will soon. Manners even said “Why is this man naked?” but no one really answered him. Just remember naked man attacking phone booth with a rock. Apparently Bowman had been called in to shoot these scenes for some reason. But he was very jovial. I wanted so bad to say “Syzygy, man loved it!!!” But I was trying to be cool. And I didn’t really get the chance. But it was so awesome especially since I don’t think he was even supposed to be there! Miracle number three.

We left that sound stage and went back to the Vegas hotel. We watched the monitors for a moment or two while DD and GA’s stand-ins ran through their moves. Steve and Michelle are their names. Manners told me that David Nutter, another director, saw Steve walking down the street in Vancouver and quickly had the car pull over. He chased Steve down and said “How’d you like a job?” He’s been DD’s stand-in ever since and you can’t tell the difference from the back. Michelle looks just like GA especially looking straight-on. I also met the First Assistant Director whose name was Bruce. He’s very tall. And very nice. Well, Manners said he had to get back to editing so we headed back to editing. He told me that Monday had been submitted to the Emmy board for writing and also for directing. So very cool. It was at this point I remembered my camera and fought the urge to kick myself. I told him I had brought it and if it was ok, could we get a picture together. So Louise took our picture with me sitting at the Avid. I thanked him heartily and headed out. On the way John Fugelsang from VH1 asked me if I knew where building 79 was. He was lost. But I didn’t know. But I thought that was cool. So that what pretty much everything.

Of course as I’m leaving the gate, like a flood, I remember questions I should have asked, details I should have noticed, things I should have said, etc. Funny, it’s never enough is it? I hope this narrative made sense. I thought so much about you guys and how so much of what I saw seemed right online with what we had been discussing in the cave. Little info tidbits: David and Gillian are apparently all anyone ever talks about. They weren’t even there and everything was David this and Gillian that. It was very wild. I don’t think I’ve left out anything. But really I have a whole new respect for what these people do. I read somewhere that Shiban said he was amazed when they hit 100 episodes. Not that he ever thought they would be cancelled but that they were able to do it and everyone still be alive. Manners said that sometimes he’ll leave his house and won’t return until 17 hours later. If they work a 12 hour day it’s getting off early. They all were just praying for hiatus. Everyone kept asking Manners if he had received the script for 21, yet. And I think it was a combination of wanting to know more about the mythology and also being that much closer to summer. It’s an amazing group of people. It’s amazing that there is a brand spankin new episode every week for us to pick apart and critique. So my hats are off to them Also, it gave me a vision, or rather a marker, for me to keep in my mind as I begin my career. It will be a long time before I find myself at the X-Files level, but I have that image in my head and it is very motivating.

The X-Files Magazine: Heart and Souls

Dec-08-1998
The X-Files Magazine [US, #8, Winter 1998]
Heart and Souls
Gina McIntyre

The Cool View Motel is not the kind of place you would expect to find outside the balmy, bustling activity of Los Angeles. A breeze rustles leaves belonging to a thick stand of trees nearby. The gravel lot shifts uncomfortably as the occasional truck rumbles over its skin. The decor is anything but trendy. The Cool View us a rustic stop somewhere in the middle of nondescript territory. Its only distinguishing feature on this mid-October evening is the remarkable sunset consuming the Western sky, an explosion of red hues that is the inadvertent result, a random passerby mentions, of the brush fire that erupt from this site earlier in the day.

Outside the building’s perimeter, people assemble. The chattering of countless walkie talkies drowns out the night’s more natural sounds. Spectators gather in the artificial illumination originating from sets of powerful lights. It could be anywhere, but this rural locale is actually the location set of The X-Files’ first foray into romantic comedy, an episode called “The Rain King” penned by Season Six writing recruit Jeff Bell, that just might ruin producer/director Kim Manners’ reputation as “The Horror King.”

Manners, renowned for gruesome offerings such as the now famous Season Four outing “Home”, is unconcerned. In fact, he’s pleased to contribute to the eclecticism that is rapidly coming to define the series’ Sixth Season.

“It’s a sweet little story,” he explains. It’s got a lot of compassion, a lot of pathos, and it’s very funny. We’ve got some great characters. It all revolves around this weather man, Holman Hardt, who for 20 years has repressed his feelings for Sheila Fontaine. You know how people’s emotions and how they feel are affected by the weather, well it’s just the opposite here. The way Holman feels affects the weather. It’s really quite a clever script.”

Clever and different from traditional X-Files subject matter, “The Rain King” is indicative of the kind of unexpected episodes in store for the show’s devoted fans. Never afraid to take risks, Chris Carter and his new Los Angeles based crew have challenged themselves to push the series’ boundaries even further this year to deliver the most compelling television possible. So far, they’ve tackled car chases, time travel and body switching with equal aplomb; with the Valentines Day episode “The Rain King” and the Chris Carter brainchild “How The Ghost Stole Christmas,” they turn they attention toward creating paranormal greeting cards for the holidays.

Even as Manners is putting the finishing touches on his remaining second unit work, X-Files mastermind Carter is himself toiling inside the confines of a supposedly haunted house (no, really) in out-of-the-way Piru. A comedy of errors of sorts, the imaginative episode takes place on Christmas Eve and features only four characters: Mulder, Scully and two mischievous characters played by guest stars Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner.

The differences between the two episodes, which were shot in sequence, even though “Rain King” will not air until next year, were not lost on the crew. The first episode required them to find dozens of locations, build and decorate a number of sets, not to mention create snow and hail storms and stage a car crash on a deserted stretch of highway.

“We have to make it hail on the entire roadway while a guy’s driving a car and loses control and crashes it in a hail storm,” Manners sighs, largely unaffected by the daunting task. “This is my 27th one of these. I kind of giggle because it’s always big. We’ve done it. Nothing scares us anymore. You get a huge ice-chipping machine, then you get three of them. We put them on 40-foot flat bed trucks. We use 300 pound blocks of ice. It’s like a wood chipper. You throw it into the chipper and it blows then up into the air and it lands on the cars and you have to drive these machines along with the car. They’ve got to get the hail between the camera lens and on the car and in the foreground. As it doesn’t work, my lenses get tighter and tighter and tighter, so I’m shooting narrower and narrower and narrower. You get very wet, very cold and the ice hurts when you’re driving in it and it’s hitting you in the back of the head.”

Jeff Bell admits he was astonished at what it took to realize his creative vision. “Frank [Spotnitz] really encouraged me to be on the set the whole time, which has been a great learning experience, seeing how they do it, seeing how big it is,” he says. “I had no idea it was this big. Here’s one example. We make it rain one day, and so you write the word ‘rain.’ You don’t think it takes 25,000 gallons of water and three cranes to do that. You don’t think it’s 50 tons of ice, three ice chippers and about 40 guys throwing ice, staying up all night as you do it. Sort of the reality of how a simple word can become [something that] takes a lot of labor, it just makes you think about what you write next time.”

Watching as his script was carefully shaped into being, Bell says, was ultimately more rewarding because he had poured so much effort into painstakingly crafting the quirky story. “This is so specific,” he explains. “To balance two points of view, the paranormal with the rational, have them both sort of half right, is incredibly difficult. I had no idea it was this hard. I think the writers/producers here are terrific, and now I see how hard they work to make it that good.”

As Manner’s team bravely suffered the barrage of their own ice storm, the first unit crew preparing Carter’s episode had somewhat the opposite problem. The day before the episode began filming on location at the Piru mansion, a sizable California brush fire broke out.

“It was like Vietnam because there were six of those big yellow and red water dropping planes circling around dropping water on the hillside and then there were about six helicopters doing the same thing,” marvels location manager Ilt Jones. “At one stage, the fire got within 500 feet of the house and we were standing in the backyard with Venture County fireman watching these huge 30-foot flames leaping up behind the eucalyptus trees and saying, ‘Are you sure this is going to be O.K.?’ They said, ‘Oh sure, it’ll burn itself out in an hour’ Sure enough that area right behind the house burnt out within an hour or two, so the house was saved. It was amazing because the whole of the hillside was lit up, only half a mile away.” “After something like the fourth episode, Frank Spotnitz called and said, ‘Great work guys. It’s amazing what you do.’ I said, ‘Yeah, they’re pretty exhausted but happy.’ Joking, I said, ‘You could do us a favor and do a “My Dinner with Scully” [episode]. Let everybody have a break.’ If you’ve ever seen the movie My Dinner with Andre, it’s one set. So Frank said, ‘You know thats a good idea.’ They call this Christmas episode ‘My Dinner with Scully.’ This is the break. When I found out this was the episode, I said, ‘Well, there’s one small catch: The only people who didn’t get a break were the art department because they had to build this house!”

The house in question is the beautifully recreated library, complete with working fireplace, of the Piru mansion. All teasing aside, Kaplan says she and her team are happy to have been able to collaborate on such an elaborate set. “To be honest with you, the art department is so pleased to have had a chance to put so much quality woodwork into a set. Everybody feels proud. They take a look and it feels like an art piece.”

Construction coordinator Duke Tomasick echoes her sentiments. In only eight days, a crew of roughly 50 people-painters, plasterers, carpenters, laborers- built the library from scratch. “”we’ve got a good crew who came in and got it done. It’s a beautiful set. I knew it would be. I couldn’t wait to do it. I was hoping we would build something. At first they were talking about finding a practical location, but I think Chris wanted a lot more ability to shoot it and with all the trick stuff I don’t think they could have found a location that would work, so we created it.”

Mid-Afternoon, mid-week on Stage Six. Chris Carter walks through the replica library ensuring that everything will be ready when David Duchovny and Lily Tomlin arrive on set. Nearby, visual effects supervisor Bill Millar stands waiting to answer any questions about how to adjust camera angles or lights to make Tomlin’s entrances and exits more dramatic and spooky.

“We decided that [she] appears usually in flashes of lightning, which is obviously practical, so we shoot background plates different frame rates, different camera speeds, then shoot the production plates to match those and introduce [her character] selectively in post-production. Most effects on this series are acquired as 35mm images and then scanned into the digital domain and we manipulate them there. Even the effects we plan wholly as production visual effects we tend to enhance a bit later on,” Millar explains.

Last minute changes, which are not out of the ordinary, require Millar to stay close by as the shots are set up and completed. Even before the actors arrive on set, the effects supervisor spends time discussing new ideas with perfectionist Chris Carter. “We have Lily disappear in one shot and she’d been holding Mulder at bay with his own service revolver,” Millar says. “Now rather than just disappearing, he wants her to disappear selectively, a little bit at a time, leaving the gun hanging in the air, which will then drop and Mulder will catch it. The original script idea was that she would just disappear and take the gun with her. It’s a nice idea. It just means we have to rig things slightly differently. We need to be able to isolate the gun on the set so that we can move the actors independently of it.”

Costume designer Christine Peters explains that it was her job to construct Tomlin’s replica turn of the century gown to enhance her antique look. “Lily’s [dress] had to be made,” she explains. “She had to be [dressed in turn-of-the-century [garb], and we couldn’t exactly find that anywhere, so we had to make it and we had to have doubles, so it had to be made. We couldn’t just rent it from a costume house or something. It’s a direct copy of two separate pieces. We used the back of one gown I found and the front of another. The sleeves and the front are a copy of an old silk piece that’s from the 1890’s and the back is a copy of a separate piece.”

Complicating matters further, Peter’s continues, was the fact that Tomlin’s guest-star role was not finalized until the day she was to begin shooting. “She came in Friday night for a fitting to work on Monday afternoon,” she says adding that the consumers took the liberty of working ahead to ensure that the costume was ready. “We decided what the costume was going to look like before the actress was even cast. We cheated and called another costume house and got [Tomlin’s] measurements. We pretty much knew it was going to be her, so we started without her. We decided if anything changed, we’d change accordingly.”

As Lily taunts a bewildered Mulder over and over again to capture just the right camera angle and just the right vocal intonation on film, the busy second unit team assembles a high-school gymnasium set for the final day of shooting on “The Rain King” on adjacent Stage Five.

What that means for set decorator Tim Stepeck and his crew is recreating piece by piece the set that they first built on location, much as they were required to do for “How the Ghost Stole Christmas.” When the set is as elaborate as a high-school reunion, though, that prospect can be more difficult than it sounds. “Half of that gym is being re-shot, and we had to build the gym on that stage,” he explains. “The Rain King” was actually the hardest episode for my department. I think that it was dressing all whole big high school reunion dance and then doing the corridors here on stage on top of doing the bathrooms on stage. It was like eight sets a day. The good thing is with the crew and I have, pretty much anything these writers throw at us, they seem to surpass it.”

That tireless dedication is something Manner’s is also quick to praise. “It’s really a good crew,” he says. “I think part of their stamina comes from being part of the excitement in being part of the best show on TV. We thought that there would be a longer learning curve in getting the crew hip to what we do here on The X-Files, and as it turned out, boy, by the end of the first episode, they knew very quickly what they were up against and they responded.”

When second unit shooting at the reunion wraps in the wee hours of the morning, the actors will depart, the crew will travel home for some much deserved rest and Bell’s script will be complete, sending the writer back to the storyboard to brainstorm a concept for his next episode. For the time being, however, Bell is just happy that he could contribute a script that would add a new dimension to the series he’s watched for so long. “It’s an X-File/Love Story. Of course when Mulder and Scully sleep together in my episode, I think it’s going to shock everyone,” Bell dead pans, trying to stifle a sly smile. “And then the fact that everyone dies is probably more shocking. But isn’t that what a great X-File is? Anyone can die at any moment?”