Transcript of the DVD Audio Commentary by Chris Carter for the episode 'The Red And The Black'
Transcribed by: Libby|
Edited by: X_Follower This is Chris Carter, I directed this episode, and wrote it along with Frank Spotnitz. It's the second of a two-part series beginning with 'Patient X', and a big event in The X-Files mythology in that we take Agent Mulder's belief which the series was based on and turn it on its head. Agent Mulder becomes a skeptic, Agent Scully becomes the believer in the course of these two episodes, which was a big deal for us. All leading towards the movie and ultimately towards the end of the series. Everything that came from these episodes actually turned the series on its head for a time and allowed us to go forward with many new elements, some of which we're seeing here and we'll see more in this episode. [An unknown person is typing a letter to someone addressed as "Dear Son", and a young boy trudges through the snow.] We're seeing a letter being written here now, by someone we don't know. I'll tell you that this was one of the most difficult inserts ever to be done on The X-Files. For some reason, shooting something on such a tight focal length and focus field was extremely difficult to do and I think we spent about a day doing this one insert of this typing alone. All done on stage in Vancouver. [The letter is finished and is removed from the typewriter. The young boy reaches a cabin.] This was shot on Grouse Mountain just above the city of Vancouver, you can actually see it from the city of Vancouver. A small cabin up there. And I remember the day we were shooting, Brian Thompson, who everyone knows from the series, was actually snowboarding up there and stopped by to see us. [The unseen person in the cabin gives the boy an envelope.] This young man, who's probably now a college-age teenager, is the son of the production manager on the show at this point and for five years, J. P. Finn. [Main titles] These are the old credits before we revamped them for the new and improved version of the show which began in about Season 8 where we had to add a lot of new characters, and you'll see "The Truth Is Out There" has been replaced by a new mantra. ["Resist or Serve"] [Ruskin Dam. A helicopter hovers over the bridge. There are burned bodies on the bridge.] This is a beautiful location and I actually got to go to work in this helicopter which was something I'd never done before, and was a first for me and for the show, I don't think any of the other directors ever gotten to go to work in a helicopter, but this was a distant location, a beautiful location. Very difficult scene to shoot, not only for us but for the helicopter pilot. It's just logistical when you're on a bridge like we're on here, getting all of your people on and off, moving things on and off, it's very difficult because there are only two ways off of a bridge. It sounds easy, but it's difficult. I tried to shoot this with long lens, kind of a vérité style, giving it a lot of energy, or as much energy as I possibly could. The first time I was, I think, ever shot with helicopters, which has its own inherent time-sucking difficulty, moving things in and out, not a lot of time for rehearsal on a TV show schedule and budget. [Mulder has got out of the helicopter and slowly moves among the paramedics, who are carrying bodies in body bags, looking for Scully.] Playing with time here. And dread. Agent Mulder afraid to find what he's going to find. These bodies were all created for this episode at some great cost and length by both the prop and the production design department. Harder than it looks to create a charred, dead body. [Mulder asks if Scully is there and Skinner tells him that she's being looked after. They go to a nearby medic station.] This is my homage to ER, the first time I ever got to shoot a sort of steadicam sequence, it's much more difficult than it looks, trying to put something together, moving actors and camera in a tight space like they do week in and week out so beautifully. [The medics load the unconscious Scully into the helicopter. Spender arrives, looking for his mother.] Also in this episode we get the reintroduction of a character who was introduced in 'Patient X', for a character who will go on in the series to be of no small consequence. This is Jeffrey Spender here, played by Chris Owens, who, a little note, played the monster in 'Post-Modern Prometheus' and who did such a great job there that he got this job without having to audition, we all believed in him as an actor, actually not just me but David Duchovny had commented on how good he thought he was, and I think it went a long way toward making our choice an easy one. [In another medical room elsewhere, Marita Covarrubias is unconscious.] This is shot in an abandoned hospital in Vancouver. It had an interesting observation space above it that we used, very difficult to shoot in. This two-part episode, it's actually so full of betrayals and counter-betrayals and twists and turns, actually it's a terrific episode that you have to watch very, very carefully and this was one of the small problems with the mythology, I think, is that when you really made it interesting you actually made it somewhat less accessible because you had to pay such careful attention to it and so much hinged on this two-parter, but now, with the release of this mythology set, I think you get a chance to really appreciate just how elaborate and complex the plotting is here. [Memorial Hospital, Washington D.C. Mulder arrives in Scully's hospital room, and brushes back her hair, awakening her.] This was one of the busiest years of my life, producing not just The X-Files series but Millennium, the first year of Millennium. At this point we were basically in pre-production of The X-Files movie which Frank Spotnitz and I had taken Christmas vacation to plot and I had taken ten days out of our schedule, I don't know how I got it still, to write and then I was asked by Frank if I would come and direct this episode. He thought it was so important to the path to the movie, the narrative path to the movie, that he wanted me to do it and I agreed. This was in the middle of way, way too much work, but, I don't know, somehow we got everything done that year. [Mulder and Scully talk in her hospital room. She has no memory of the events on the dam.] The distance the show had come to get to this point where Agent Scully is abducted, Agent Mulder's belief has been taken from him, and Agent Scully's skepticism has been taken from her. You can only do this, I think, when you've had a run like we've had up to this point in the series which has made the show so popular. So we were taking chances here and I think by and large those chances made the show that much more interesting in the kind of its second life, as it were, when we moved away from Vancouver after year five, after the movie. I really look at The X-Files as… it has two stages, it has its first life in Vancouver, it has a second life in Los Angeles, and the mythology and direction of the show changed right about that same time which was interesting because we changed location at the same time. The Uroff-Koltoff, Star of Russia, it's a reference to my childhood. I grew up with Steve Uroff and John Koltoff, they both lived on Cornuta Street in Bellflower and I named a boat after them and I got a nice letter from John Koltoff who I hadn't seen in twenty years, as a result, which was nice. Mostly I made my friends dead people on The X-Files, this was a nice chance to do something other than that. [The Well-Manicured Man and Krycek on the ship.] Nice twist here with Krycek, the torturer now the tortured. Nick Lea played this character so well. [WMM tells Krycek that Marita Covarrubias has taken Dmitri.] This was shot on a little tiny, I think, three-sided set on stage in Vancouver, in a little stage where we shot a lot of what you'll see is the abduction sequence to come. This whole episode, if you look at the cast list in the closing credits, it's so much longer than most cast lists you'll ever see on a TV series and we were able to spend, I think, a little bit extra time and a lot of extra money in making these episodes because they were leading to the movie and we convinced the studio, I think the studio in the larger sense because they were doing a movie, we convinced them to spend the extra money to do this extra special work because it was all leading up to June, or May I should say, when The X-Files movie would be released, so there was a kind of synergy that we had never seen before between the film unit and the television unit. [WMM says: If the boy was your trump card, why infect him unless you could also cure him with a vaccine developed by the Russians?] This is such a nice twist here, that someone is able to figure out a plot point without ever having been given an answer and so much of the story hinges on it and it's done as a trick, sort of almost a sleight of hand by the Well-Manicured Man. Wiekamp Air Force Base - that's a reference to another person I grew up with, Warren Wiekamp, who I got my first hit off when I was a ten-year-old baseball player, I hit a double off him which was somehow very important to me at that time and obviously remained important to me. [A fireball erupts at Wiekamp Air Force Base - a crashed UFO.] This wreckage, and what you just saw, was staged, it took an entire night to shoot it with elaborate explosives set up on a schedule to explode from the distance to the foreground to make it look like a spaceship had just crashed, and that spaceship was built partly off-site, partly on-site, and then set in place, but it looked like it actually had been moving the way the scene was staged. No special effects there, it was all done in the camera and with explosives and the good hard work of Dave Gauthier and his team who did all the physical effects for us. [In Scully's hospital room, she is looking at pictures taken of the incident at the dam.] My biggest memory from this scene, or of shooting in this hospital room with Gillian Anderson, was it was a very cramped space, but we had rolled and she was doing her part, I don't think David was in the room at this time, it was either someone else or she was alone with the realization of something, or she's talking on the phone, I'm not sure which, but anyway she's acting and I realize it's a take that I don't like but I don't want to stop her, I just want to let her go on and I might be able to use part of it, and I look at my watch, and she is so sharp, she actually realized that I wasn't going to use that take and that I was looking at my watch and she wasn't even looking at me and she sort of scolded me, still without looking at me, for looking at my watch and for being disrespectful to her and her performance. It was actually an amazing moment because I didn't realize that she could actually sense me as the director in the room looking at her. [Mulder says the answers are in the microchip which is in her neck.] The weird thing about getting to this part in the mythology is that in many ways, and I've said this before, it started to write itself. That we had laid so much down and we'd made such a tapestry of events and a narrative, that all of a sudden when we started to put the pieces together they actually started to fall together almost magically and create this story, the story sort of dictated itself to us in so many ways because of the connections that had been made. But the one element that we add here that is new, which is Jeffrey Spender, and you'll see by the time this episode ends, what the larger connections are, is the thing that actually I think vaults us forward past this point and into a new chapter of the mythology. [Mulder says he doesn't trust his memories now. Scully says that those memories have led him to this point, and to her, but she has no memories to trust or distrust.] I always used to tell the other directors to keep a really tight eyeline, that it was important to The X-Files not to shoot things too wide because you want to put yourself in the characters' heads, and I think that's mostly because it was a scary show, you wanted that fear to come from an identification with the character, you wanted to always be in somebody's head, be afraid for them, or be afraid with them. And so there is very, for me, little margin to move the camera to a point where you're watching the movie or watching the scare. You became a subjective watcher of the show rather than objective and you wanted the camera to play that part for you. [Scully says she can't and won't follow Mulder again without those memories. Mulder asks her what if he could give her those memories, prove that what he believed for so long was wrong, but Scully interrupts him to ask if that is what he really wants.] I'm thinking about this episode and the beautiful weather we had at the dam, so many times during The X-Files when we wanted rain we got rain, and when we wanted sunshine we got sunshine. It's like the weather contributed so much free atmosphere for us. But beyond that, thinking even back to the second season with Darin Morgan's episode we had to have a week of sunshine in Florida, we got a week of sunshine during the winter time, and this was another example of that. We had this dam, we were going to shoot there, rain or shine, and we got the sunshine that we desperately needed. [The Syndicate members are looking down at Marita from the observation floor. They are discussing the latest events of the appearance of the faceless aliens, who are rebels, and that the Russians have a vaccine against the black oil.] I think some of the best visual work on the series was done this season and the next season with Joel Ransom who really stepped in and took over a big job. There had been three Directors of Photography prior to him, and he came in with a template that had already been very carefully designed and made it better somehow and did it quickly and cheerfully, one of the nicest people on the crew. [The First Elder wants to turn the rebel over, but WMM says to wait until they know the vaccine works. He gives instructions for Marita to be injected with vaccine.] Laurie Holden who would go on to star opposite Jim Carrey in a big feature film. [Mulder and Scully at the office of Dr. Werber.] Dr. Heitz Werber who was in the original X-Files pilot episode and makes his way back into the series five years later, or four years later. [Scully is with Dr. Werber, about to be hypnotized.] I remember getting a note from the network at the very beginning of The X-Files, reading the name Heitz Werber, and asking me please do not have him speak with a thick Austrian accent; I think they thought we were casting Sigmund Freud. Also, for careful viewers of the series, to get to the point where we have Agent Scully now undergoing a regression hypnosis, it shows how far the show had come. I think we were about a hundred episodes into the series by this point. This was a very difficult scene to shoot with the crane, jib-arm crane, moving the camera down, everything had to be timed perfectly, the dialogue, the camera move and the actor. And we pushed that lens right into her face. [Suddenly, Scully reacts. She starts remember the spaceship flying over the dam.] This was the coolest thing. We shot on a giant stage, which I think actually was an aircraft hangar of sorts, and we built the bridge that you saw at the dam on stage, and over that we hung from a giant crane, what I can only describe as a sort of a giant disco ceiling with lights on it that had to perform on a schedule and to my commands, so there was a guy sitting at a keyboard and I had to yell at him: Now! Now! Now! And the lights had to change because this was not a special effect, this was all done in the camera, even the rapid disappearance of the spaceship was done with me playing with the way I was moving the film through the camera, fast or slow. [Scully remembers seeing people on fire.] I also got to shoot these fire stunts which was really scary to do, to actually set someone on fire and get the shot that you want without harming them, and these stuntmen of course are very well-trained to do this and would never allow themselves to be hurt, but you've got to be just mindful that you've got guys who have got a ticking clock on them and they've got to be able to do what you need them to do in a short amount of time before they put them out with fire extinguishers. Don't try this at home. [Scully recalls seeing a second ship.] Also putting fires on stage, it's something that the fire department was there every step of the way for, to make sure, that whenever you do indoor fires you've got big problems that are practical and physical. [Again the spaceship flies over the dam.] It's all done in the camera. On stage, that water is a CGI effect laid in. We were actually shooting down on a floor there. [On the dam, people raise their hands in the air. Cassandra Spender is being lifted up to the spaceship.] And then the coolest thing coming up which is… you're going to see… everyone has to perform, these people started with their hands up and put their hands down you're going to see, because everything's floating upwards and this is a trick in the camera as well. I am dropping snow flakes from the ceiling but I wanted to make them rise along with the abductee here, so this is all in reverse. She was lowered from the ceiling instead of lifted to the ceiling and so I could use these particles to sell the idea that she's being drawn up into the spaceship. Those were all interactive little snow flakes. [Werber brings Scully out of her hypnosis.] This is a weird note, but there are two things in this episode that were just like lucky finds. This sofa that actually had a reclining portion to it, that I could sit Mulder and Scully on a sofa and have her recline on one portion, was the perfect piece of furniture. And the other perfect thing is this china top truck which you'll see later on, and I had to get light through the top of a truck and you'll see as it comes up, I was able to do that because of the design of the truck, and this is coming up in a moment, but they were the two perfect physical elements in the show and I needed something just like it and they just appeared, as if by magic. [Mulder and Scully are in Skinner's office. He has just listened to the tape of Scully's hypnosis. Mulder says Scully's descriptions are typical of an attempt to put together various impressions into a linear narrative. Scully says she doesn't have a clear recollection of what she hears herself saying on the tape.] I actually went to Harvard and sat with the now-deceased Dr. John Mack who was the man who had done the original work, scientific investigation into the existence of extraterrestrials that The X-Files was really kind of based on. I had been allowed to go to his place of work and sit in on a regression hypnosis which is how I ended up writing this sequence. I actually got to sit next to someone who claimed they'd been abducted by aliens like Scully is here, and feel the power of that memory recalled by Dr. Mack who had hypnotized this person I was sitting next to. It was an amazing experience for me to first of all be allowed to do it, because it was very personal for the person, and the person who allowed me to do it was extraordinary, and then to sit there and actually witness this. And I still admit to being a skeptic but the power of sitting next to someone who goes through their abduction again, the pain of it, just like Scully had done there, was freaky for me. [Mulder says to Skinner that the events were staged to either test a military project or cover it up. Skinner says that he has doubted him in the past but was persuaded by the power of Mulder's belief in extraterrestrial phenomena. He says he's doubting him now because extraterrestrial phenomena is the more plausible explanation.] It's interesting to look at the course of the character of Skinner here too, and see what an important part he's played in the series. He's got to be a neutral character who's got to believe Mulder and Scully but still do his job as their administrative superior, and to do that week in and week out, sort of play this same role and make it interesting was a testament, I think, to his strength as an actor, but also to the mythology and how it laid out and made it something interesting for him to play each week. [The doctor checks Marita's eyes which still show evidence of the black oil, which means the vaccine has not worked. WMM advises that they give it time. The First Elder says that survival is more important and that means collaboration. WMM advises against handing over the alien rebel as they would then lose any chance of resistance. The First Elder says that that has already been done.] There was always a story to play, it wasn't just a part, it wasn't just a function. He was drawn into his own story, ultimately a much bigger story as the series progressed. He became essential to the telling of these X-Files mythology episodes. [Spender and Scully in the basement office.] This is one of the last episodes, among the last episodes ever to be shot in this office, which we would go to burn, to be a spoiler of my own mythology episode, we would burn at the end of Season Five, sort of in effigy, as it were, after our long run in Vancouver where this office sat on a stage, different stages, but ultimately the same stage for about four years. And it would never be the same, when we recreated it in Los Angeles it was changed, people may not have recognized that but it was very, very different. [Spender shows Scully a video of himself as a young boy being hypnotized.] People don't understand, or some people understand, but most people don't understand that this actually requires you twice as long to shoot a scene like this. You've got to shoot the scene with the kid, transfer it on to video or whatever you have to do to shoot it on this television screen, it's got to be synched up with the camera, and you've got to shoot it again so it's actually twice as much production time when you see something on television like this as an interactive element. Although that's why you see also that it's not necessarily always interactive here because it's easier to shoot it when you're not tying the actors into the TV screen. [Spender says that what he said on that tape was made up by his mother, and that Dr. Werber's regression therapy is bogus.] [Mulder's apartment. Krycek attacks him and points his gun at him. ] If you go back and read The X-Files scripts, it's amazing that they remained almost perfectly intact. We went to great lengths to plot these things carefully and rigidly and that there was very little moving around of scenes. There was what you'd find on a lot of TV shows is they would shoot things and then re-arrange the scenes to make them more interesting, but these were plotted so carefully that you really couldn't rejigger them in any way. And I think the same goes for the dialogue, the actors were very faithful to the dialogue as written, very little change, very little improv and we just didn't have time for… we were always on such a tight schedule that there just wasn't time to change them, and they were really good about helping us to tell these mythology stories because the information as it's parceled out is so important. I think there is improv in this scene, though, which is why I mentioned it, I think David Duchovny adds his own flavor and touch here in an interesting way, I think some of the funnier lines are his, added on the spot. He added a line in an upcoming scene with Scully. David always made things funnier than they were written on the page because he's one of the funniest people I know. [Krycek tells Mulder that a battle is being waged, a struggle for heaven and earth, where there is one law: fight or die. And one rule: resist or serve.] Sometimes I think the choice of mine to keep these eyelines tight, especially in a scene like this, was maybe the wrong choice, but it may have had to do with the fact that we were like on a two-wall set here, but this scene could have been, I think, dimensionalized by choosing different camera angles. Probably was more of a function of time and not being able to spend the extra time to get the wider shots or the two-shot in this case which would have been more interesting. I think Mulder's apartment over the course of the show was broken into more times than I can count, it's always served as the sort of go-to event when you needed the ramp up the action and the tension. His door was kicked in, beaten down, he was attacked in his apartment. I don't know why he ever went home. [Krycek mentions the alien rebel, currently being held captive. He says that if that alien dies, so does the resistance. Krycek kisses Mulder.] I think that was Nick Lea's idea, I think he always secretly wanted to kiss David Duchovny. [Krycek says goodbye to Mulder in Russian.] Nick Lea does not speak Russian, he learnt the Russian for the episode, but he was good, believable, he sold it. [The camera pans back, as Mulder sits on the floor.] Here's the camera move. This replaced probably the two-shot in terms of taking the time to shoot. [The fence around Wiekamp Air Force Base.] This was a piece of fence we put up on a field, lit the field up, and the reintroduction of Brian Thompson as the Alien Bounty Hunter. I wanted this to be a scene where he effortlessly vaulted this fence. I kind of got it, we actually had Brian jump up on the fence and another man jump down on the other side so we could make it quick and seamless and sort of super-human. So it took two people to shoot that scene, the second person running away is actually the stuntman, not Brian Thompson. [Scully arrives at Mulder's apartment and asks him why he's sitting in the dark. He says he's thinking about destiny, fate, and how to throw a curve ball.] That's David's line. [Both are reconsidering their previous views.] This is the twist within a twist. Mulder the new skeptic now drawn in as Mulder the new believer or possibly so. So a twist on a twist. [Wiekamp Air Force Base. Mulder and Scully arrive.] Here's the night where Vancouver gave us the atmosphere we were looking for - rainy, cold rainy night, Friday night I remember. Started late, working late into the night. People don't realize that when you shoot on a TV schedule you really get about a day and a half off before you start work again, if you're shooting on a five day schedule, because by the time Friday night starts you start about 3 in the afternoon and you shoot till about 3, 4, 5 in the morning, and so you go home and you sleep half the day on Saturday. Wake up, do whatever you're going to do on Saturday, take Sunday off, and you go back to work. So it's a really grueling 13, 14, 15, 16 hour a day schedule that goes on for about five and a half days of the week. It takes its toll on everyone, the crew, and the cast. I think that's one of the reasons that we ended up moving down to Los Angeles is that not only was the work hard but I think everyone, or I should say the actors got tired of being away from their families and if they wanted to see them, if they wanted to be in Los Angeles for that day and a half they had to race down there and they were tired of it. I know I was tired of the commute at that point, I was commuting back and forth on a weekly basis. [Scully notices the driver of a truck about to exit the camp. She recognizes him - Quiet Willy. Mulder and Scully are about to be arrested, but Mulder leaves the car and grabs hold of the truck as it leaves the base.] This is the truck I was speaking of earlier. The so-called china top truck, it's actually got a plastic top on it and I was able to hang a crane with a light on top for a scene that you'll see in a few moments and blast a really super-powered light through the canopy of this truck. It's a stunt, it's not really David Duchovny hanging on the back of the truck, if you had any question or doubt. And this is all done on stage, shaking the truck with shakers, mechanical shaking devices, and shaking the camera as well to give a sense that David is really on a moving truck, he is not. [Inside the truck, Mulder finds a containment unit. He shines his flashlight into it and sees the faceless alien rebel.] The faceless alien. This is the addition to the mythology that would go on to change, really redirect the whole plotline of the mythology up to this point, the addition of these characters. [The truck stops. The face of Quiet Willy morphs into the Alien Bounty Hunter.] That effect, morphing of that face, was hard to do in Season Two when we first did it with Brian Thompson. And by the time we got here to Season Four [sic], the technology had improved so incredibly that it was like one of the easiest effects to do, it was probably one of the cheapest effects to do too. So we were really, at the beginning of The X-Files we were really working with a very new technology in the CGI, computer generated image effect technology, we were dealing with a really new thing and it was advancing so rapidly that two years later we were already into a new sort of episode of its life. And it changed things for us because it made things cheaper which is better for television always. This is the light I was talking about, interactive here, all done in the camera, none of this is a special effect, all done on stage. [The Alien Bounty Hunter has entered the back of the truck. Mulder has hidden on the other side of the containment unit. The Alien Bounty Hunter has the stiletto to kill the alien rebel, when a bright light appears over the top of the truck. Out of the light comes a vague figure.] Even that was a man pushed in on a dolly to give a sense that he was floating, he's actually standing on a platform that was built for the occasion. So much of this probably would have been better done as a CG effect now, because it would have been cheap and easier to do with a so-called green screen or blue screen effect, but we didn't have the luxury then, we just had to make it up as we went. [Mulder comes to, only to find that lights shining in the back of the truck are from soldiers carrying flashlights. He sees that the containment unit is now empty.] The X-Files was very inventive in that way because we always had to save money and shoot on a television schedule which was an 8-day schedule. I have to say, though, by this time probably about 7, 8, 9, 10 days of second unit, so-called second unit, it was really a first unit working in tandem with the second unit, so we were really shooting by this point on a little pilot schedule each week, and I have said that I don't think The X-Files will ever be duplicated again and I mean it in this way, is that I don't think that television series are ever given these luxuries of time and of money. [Mulder is back in the car with Scully.] So I think that just purely on economic terms and the physical fact of shooting on the schedule we shot on, I'm not sure if any television show will be given the leeway, latitude and support that we got from Twentieth Century Fox and they were wise to do it because it paid off in big ways for them, especially if you're watching this mythology episode and you bought it, [laughs] it speaks for itself. [Skinner's office. Spender enters. Skinner tells him that Mulder has opened an X-File on his mother. He tells him that Spender has a patron outside the office.] The big revelation here. Takes us right back to the beginning of the episode with this mysterious person writing a letter to Agent Spender. The person who hands the money out the door, we don't see him, he's faceless, or I should say we don't see him, he's faceless. Handing the envelope to the boy that is now being delivered to Agent Spender and we'll get a big twist here for all those interested in the mythology, following it carefully, will see where Spender fits into the scheme here and what his larger relationships are and why they're important. [An FBI mailman hands Spender a letter.] This is the letter that we've seen before. [The cabin in the snow. The young boy walks up, holding the letter which is now marked "Return to sender".] Jack Finn again here. His screen debut. His father has not only worked on the show but acted in the show prior to this, so it's in the blood. [He hands the letter to the mystery man, whose face we now see.] And who else but the Cigarette-Smoking Man, living Kaczynski-like in the woods. [The Cigarette-Smoking Man takes a drag on his cigarette.] The End.