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Top Ten Behind The Scenes Secrets from The X-Files: Event Series

(2016-07-13 23:06:00)
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杂谈

6) The Twenty-Year Evolution of Scully's Style

Hargadon advocates for plum scrubs to director, Jim Wong.

Prior to The X-Files revival, Gillian Anderson played Bedelia du Maurier on Hannibal, where she had formed a great working relationship with costume designer, Chris Hargadon (you can get a taste of his extraordinary work with this fun piece: Everything Hannibal Wore on Hannibal). As Hannibal was completing its run, The X-Files revival was starting to crew up, and Chris joined the fray on Gillian’s recommendation. 

Chris only makes a brief appearance in “the metal-files”, for his input on the shades of red for Mulder’s Speedo and we ended up not having the runtime to spare for what went into Scully’s power dressing in 2016. Costumes (deliberately) do not bring attention to themselves on The X-Files, but I couldn’t resist asking Gillian about those early years of pastel and polyester. Despite her claims of having a terrible memory of the series, she was still able to isolate such outfits as the “Christmas jacket” and her puke coloured suits from season 1 (see: "The Jersey Devil", also recommended, the very entertaining “Oh, Dana Scully, No”). 

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Gillian Anderson:After [the series] went to LA, there was a period where Scully got into leather jackets and stuff which in retrospect never really felt right.  And so with hindsight, I think I was able to give a little bit more of an opinion about what was Scully and what wasn’t.

Chris Hargadon:Scully is always put together and in control, certainly in her exterior dress mode. There are certain restrictions within Scully and Gillian would tell me if stylistically I was trying to push because I tend to do that a little bit. There’s a conservatism to Scully and it’s all suitable within the professional nature of her job, but you know, sometimes I like to play around with that. So whenever I went too far with that Gillian would pull me back. 

The two of them made a conscious effort for Scully’s current look to be “kinda square, not too stylish, and yet contemporary. There’s a certain dignity to the way that this character dresses, a certain sobriety in the tones.”

In contrast, Mulder has a very insouciant form of dress. He wears clothes easily and doesn’t want to look like he’s put a lot of thought into it. I’m not sure if this is ever actually caught on-screen in My Struggle I (though it carried over into the action figures), but Mulder wears deck shoes that are missing their shoelaces. The tiniest costuming decisions can give small indicators about a character’s attitude or state of mind.

Chris Hargadon:He was just coming out of his hermitude and so that’s sort of what I thought the character might have in his isolated life. He just wouldn’t want to be bothered with such trivialities as tying his shoes.

7) The X-Files is a show,with music by Mark Snow

There is one very key, long-time creative who was essential to the success of The X-Files, who returned for the revival, but who unfortunately, is nowhere to be seen in the special features. That is music composer, Mark Snow. This is not for lack of desire to gain his insights. Music is extremely important to me and I’m disappointed that he doesn’t get mentioned during any post-production discussion in any of the making-of documentaries. Covering the music spotting and composition process, preferably in his own recording environment was in the original proposal.  What I didn’t know was that since the original series ended, Mark moved from Los Angeles and is now based in Connecticut. All of his work on the new episodes was done long distance. Geography/budget made it prohibitive for me to get the kind of session I had aspired for and for practical reasons, I had to nix that plan fairly early. However, we were lucky, being under the umbrella of Fox, to have permission to score our supplementals with score from both the revival, the two films and the original run. The consolation is that although he may not be seen, Snow’s musical presence is definitely heard throughout. 

Season X slideshow fun/Mulder grooves to Moby in "all things"

There are so many instances where Mark’s music made things better, but none more so than in the very introduction of "Season X" (13 year commercial break). I’d struggled for a long time editing the ‘slideshow’ introduction. How do you cover so many years of history and milestones in such a short amount of time? It didn’t come together until I realized that we needed a great piece of music to set the pace. Once I chose one of my favourite cues, the up-tempo “Eaten By Light” from "Soft Light"the music dictated the structure of the narrative and every single cut. We even timed and designed all the motion graphics based on that cue down to the frame. I also leaned heavily on “Waterston” from "all things"one of Mark’s most beautiful cues. I felt a weird sympatico, as that episode also begins with a deliberately rhythmic slideshow. 

8) Just a Few Thousand Words About The "Weremonster" Audio Commentary

Nine seasons of DVD box sets, mythology re-releases, two feature films and many wonderful filmmaker commentaries were recorded. Yet somehow, David and Gillian had never done one together for The X-Files. Gillian had done a solo track on her writing/directorial effort, "all things." David never did one for the series but I had heard him on other films (recommended: Michael Tolkin’s The Rapture). This needed to happen! Everyone already knows about Mulder & Scully’s on-screen chemistry. Even Rolling Stone recently crowned them as television’s best duo of all time. When paired together, it’s like lightning in a bottle. I was determined to try to bottle some of that comedy gold into an episode commentary.

In addition to the leads, an invitation to record was extended to all 4 writer/directors of the revival. The Morgan Brothers respectfully declined to participate, ever self-deprecating and insisting to me that no one cared what they had to say (more on this later), but everyone else was game. The logistics of how to get David and Gillian in a room to record together became one of the biggest challenges of this project. It’s not sexy to read about, but so much of producing is puzzling out schedules. Suffice to say that the window of time given between recording/editing commentaries and final delivery was narrow. Meanwhile, after the revival wrapped, you can imagine how busy each of them were producing/starring in their own respective series. At the time, Gillian (who resides in the UK) was filming the third season of The Fall in Ireland. David was in the middle of Aquarius, not only acting, but directing an episode. Despite efforts on both sides (Fox, me, managers) it was so tough to lock down. A tiny window opened up when they would both be in Los Angeles in mid-January for the Fox premiere, Jimmy Kimmel, junkets, etc. The hope was that we could wrangle them away from their round-the-clock publicity duties for a commentary session at some point then. We got it by the skin of our teeth, after the TCAs, literally the last day of their press tour. David & Gillian had exactly one hour of free time that coincided with each other, pretty much just enough time to play an episode through from start to finish. Immediately after, Gillian went straight to the airport to catch a flight back to Ireland!  

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Normally commentaries are done in a professional sound studio, mixers, a controlled, quiet setting. You can talk to the talent through their headsets without ruining the recording, you can start and stop. In our case, there wasn’t even time to travel them from the hotel where the TCAs were being held to a recording studio. I consulted with a producer friend, Keith Clark, who had recently done a quality, impromptu commentary recording in a Beijing hotel with Tom Cruise & Christopher McQuarrie for the last Mission: Impossible film. If Keith could fly to China last minute, then I had full confidence that he could MacGyver-up the audio-visual situation in a Pasadena hotel. I booked a location sound recordist and a suite in the hotel, and we all prayed to the sound gods that it was not located beside a noisy elevator, busy street or loud press roundtable.

Next task – which episode would Gillian and David do? The only episode they had seen up to that point was "My Struggle I" at the premiere earlier that week. I worried they might be suffering fatigue about this episode after a full day of being asked the same questions over and over again by the media. Also, because we were in the middle of making a documentary that was entirely focused on "My Struggle I" ("43:45"), there was high potential for overlap of the same stories. I was concerned about over-tipping our bonus content towards only Episode 1. Chris Carter and Jim Wong were already going to record "Founder’s Mutation" together, so amongst the four episodes left to choose from I campaigned for "Mulder & Scully Meet the Weremonster." Although more Mulder-centric, it had the most evenly distributed Mulder/Scully screen time. Plus, it was hilarious. It had seemed like they’d had fun shooting it. It had a monster in it.

What I honestly never seriously considered was how would a commentary come out when both of your commentators had never seen what they were watching before? Often it’s an actor who is seeing it for the first time, but the director or showrunner is also there to guide them along. In this case, Gillian and David went in totally cold. They had no time to prep for it. It was an unusual outcome and a learning experience. On one hand, it’s totally unique, fans are hearing something genuinely spontaneous. They are getting very honest initial reactions, as if David and Gillian are watching with you in your living room on the night it airs. It was a taste of their wonderful, charming banter. The unanticipated complication was that because it was their first viewing, they quickly got caught up simply watching it. This created some fairly long bouts of silence… interjected with bursts of laughter… then silence again. Because they were in a hotel suite instead of recording studio, the opportunity to toss them prompts or talking points while the episode was running was not really an option.  

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( Darin & Kumail FaceTime during a break of us filming Monsters of the Week iTunes promo)

It’s probably not common knowledge, but there are guidelines and rules as to how long you can leave gaps of silence for an audio commentary in delivery specs. We needed to fill in those moments where David and Gillian were silently taking in the episode. I reached out to Rhys Darby (Guy Mann) to see if he might want to do a commentary with Kumail Nanjiani (I prefer to do commentaries in pairs). This almost happened but unfortunately, shooting schedules foiled us again. I circled back to Darin. I want to say I didn’t beg, but I might have begged a little.   Basically we proposed it as being like another "X-Files Files" podcast session with Kumail as moderator. Prior to the recording, the only note I gave was to tell them about David’s stunned reaction to the X-Files theme song as Mulder’s ringtone, hoping that Darin would address that. I thought he had some fun providing his own "Hollywood A.D."related meta-logic.

All these words essentially to explain that the splicing together of two separate sessions was by necessity and not design. It was a given that most folks would be keen to hear everything David & Gillian had to say, especially since it was the first time that they had done it for The X-Files. This was the tact we took in editorial. Here are the only bits that were cut out of theirs in favour or Darin & Kumail’s commentary: 1) a couple chuckles 2) Gillian saying that she wished she stole the fox head from Scully’s motel room and 3) David actually anticipating out loud that we might need to call Chris and Darin to fill the spots where they just breathed into the microphone. Despite the whirlwind set up and circumstance, I’m still so grateful that David & Gillian took out the time to do this for us, the fans. That also goes for Darin & Kumail, an awesome comedy duo themselves, for their contribution and willingness to take on supporting roles. What’s nice for fans who wished there was more Kumail Nanjiani and Darin Morgan, is that there exists another full 45 minutes of Weremonster discussion from The X-File Files XThon event at Cinefamily.

9) Glen Morgan's Storyboards

During the blocking of the scene in "Home Again" in which Mulder & Scully sit vigil by Margaret Scully’s bedside in the ICU, David Duchovny caught a glimpse of Glen’s personal storyboards. He was impressed to discover that Glen not only storyboards almost every shot (perhaps inspired by Hitchcock) but that he also draws them himself.  As David flipped through them, his expression turned from bemused to confused: “Is this me? Where’s my hair?!”   

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Gillian AndersonWell, like anyone’s drawing skills who is not doing professional storyboards for a living, his characters look like… stick people. And most of them are bald. I can’t remember what might have distinguished Mulder and Scully. It might have been eyelashes. 


David DuchovnyI’ve tried to storyboard myself and mine are worse, mine are really just stick figures. At least his, they look a little more like Bert and Ernie. Actually, I looked like the potato-headed one. And Gillian looked like the potato-headed one with a wig on. They were just funny. You know, the expressions on them were very ‘big’.

There were a few exchanges throughout the day of Gillian, David and Sheila collectively teasing Glen over his art skills. They studied them between set ups, they attempted to mimic the same facial expressions. Fun as these moments are in isolation, I couldn’t make it fit into “the little uberscullys”. Having this topic sandwiched between the very personal and somber stories of Glen’s own mother passing away and the challenges that Gillian faced herself that day as a mother never felt quite appropriate in tone.  

Mr Potato-Head with a wig on.

Although there was an illustrator/storyboard artist on the crew to help directors to storyboard complicated sequences, Glen preferred to draw his own. It’s part of his directorial prep process. 

Glen MorganEverybody makes fun of me but I can do [that work] at any time, and I’d rather work it out as much as I can at my desk, than out on the street for a TV show where I’m wasting people’s time.

Visually matching his storyboard frames to episode frames tend to be spot on, but there were also plenty of instances when the actors dictated how and where they would move about and end up within a shot. His storyboards work as a guideline, but he is not beholden to them.

“The Band-Aid Nooooooossse Man.”

Ultimately, when forced to choose between which Morgan brother the cast would poke fun at, Darin won out. David has already had an opportunity to exaggerate Darin’s mannerisms in "Small Potatoes"but seeing Gillian’s physical impersonation of Darin (seen in “man bites lizard”) cracked me up every time. It also seemed a good opportunity to juxtapose that teasing with Darin’s ribbing and enjoyment of writing Mulder as kind of buffoonish in his scripts. Darin’s incredible voice as a writer is a sentiment that was oft-repeated in my interview with David, who attributes his own first solo script, "The Unnatural" as being directly inspired by seeing what Darin (and later, Vince Gilligan) had done to flex the show’s tone. (a bit of trivia: David even tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to convince Darin to write for Californication)

 10) Mother Love

There is a moment in SEASON X (the meta-files) when super-fan Kumail Nanjiani shares his feelings about getting to be on the show: “I wanted to not be too excited because I knew I had to do a good job. I was like, I can’t be the the worst part of the universe that I loved the most”. This describes exactly how I felt as well. While on set, throughout the shoot, I actually worked quite hard to downplay my raging-philedom from most people. Getting to be a fly-on-the-wall and document was golden ticket enough - just focus on working hard, stay professional, be cool, man, be cool. I thought I had been doing pretty well on that front, until Sheila Larken’s first day on Home Again

Sheila had just arrived on set. Writer/director, Glen Morgan met her at the bed where she would be laying for the next two days. It was the first time they had seen each other for many years. I hung back, not filming, so they could reunite in private. Soon after, Glen called me over to them. Sheila had been asking him where this estranged Charlie son of hers had come from, initially believing, I think, that Glen had invented a new member of the Scully clan for this specific script. To be fair, Charles Scully was an absent brother rarely referenced and only properly seen once via flashback in "One Breath"and that was 22 years ago. Glen asked me to help jog their memories. So I recounted "One Breath"’s teaser: Margaret Scully’s morbid tale about her children, Bill and Charlie shooting at a snake with BB guns, sibling peer pressure and a traumatized Dana trying to will the dead snake back to life with her bare hands. I brought up the last time Charles was ever mentioned, thoughtful enough to send Xmas gifts to the family back in ‘97 ("Christmas Carol"). I could see the recognition of it all come back on Sheila’s face. I wondered if she was trying to reconcile the image of that cute, ginger Kid Charlie with the newly estranged Adult Charlie of "Home Again"(a bit of trivia: Glen had originally hoped to get Chris Carter to do Charlie’s voice on the phone). I wondered whether she thought laying down the Catholic guilt would work on Mulder as well as it did with Scully. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to interview her, nor get to pay proper tribute to her longtime history with the series. I did ask Glen about making that dreaded phone call though. He expressed his concern over wanting to make sure that Sheila learned of Margaret’s passing directly from either him or Chris, rather than from the casting agency.      

Glen Morgan:Well, it’s no fun to tell an actor that their character is moving on.  You know, what she’s meant to the show, Gillian could act up a storm but if you don’t like the mother, if you don’t like Sheila, it’s just not going to effect us as much.  She came [to Vancouver] to be comatose and to say one line but that’s not to say she wasn’t acting.  All of us on the show so appreciate what she’s done. Chris always says no one from The X-Files is ever really dead. Maybe she’s in that [Arlington cemetery] bunker with the Lone Gunmen, fighting injustice! (see: X-Files comics published by IDW)

Sheila Larken (Margaret Scully) checks out Glen Morgan’s storyboards.

So, there you have it. Congratulations to the three of you still reading that have reached the end. Thanks XFN for this unique opportunity to share a bit of my thought process. Usually I’m able to put a project to bed after delivery and move on, this one was so personal that it’s been a little harder to ‘let go’. This helped. None of my rambling would even be possible though if not for the trust and support of Chris Carter, Gabe Rotter, Morgan(s) and Wong, the indomitable cast and crew and of course, the gang at Fox Home Entertainment. It was the most challenging, most rewarding job I’ve ever been a part of. Words are not enough to express my gratitude.

_______________________________________
Julie Ng is a filmmaker and DVD producer.
Likes: historical road trips, filling her head with useless trivia, the idea of writing
Favorite Episodes: "Beyond the Sea", "Duane Barry", "Ascension", "One Breath", "Paper Clip", "Pusher", "Jose Chung’s From Outer Space", "Never Again", and "Field Trip."


http://www.xfiles.news/index.php/blogs/top-ten/1326-top-ten-behind-the-scenes-secrets-from-the-x-files-event-series

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