Transcript of the DVD Audio Commentary by Kim Manners for the episode 'Milagro'
Transcribed by: Libby|
Edited by: X_Follower Hi, I'm Kim Manners, and I directed this episode called 'Milagro'. This first shot here introduces Jonathan Hawkes. We brought a big crane in, we pulled the roof of the set, crane down into our character here at his typewriter, staring intently. I wanted to tell the story basically in a series of images, that's why all the quick cutting, this is a lock-off that we did, then we cross-faded. When you lock off your camera and just let the actor meander and you cross-fade, a great way to tell the passage of time. The light change there that Billy Roe did. The sun's gone down and now we're into the evening. The camera's still locked, it hasn't moved. And this scene here kind of foreshadows what this story is ultimately about, which was a man who has no love in his heart, only evil, and at the end here, in this episode, he'll make the ultimate sacrifice by killing himself to prove that he does have love in his heart. That was kind of a tough thing to pull off right there, where we pulled his heart out of his chest because we had to put this rubber heart in there and hide it, and make it look believable, so that's why we started the blood through the shirt, it helped hide the fact that we were doing a little sleight of hand there. This is a set that we built in what we call our red/blue room, this set was originally built for a show called 'The Beginning' which was the opening of Season Six. We've used this set over and over and over again, I think it's been twenty-eight different things. And there was the heart burning in the fire, that was done with certain elements, we put a real heart in there, or a phony heart I should say, and then John Wash recreated it through CGI because the phony heart was just for a line-up, we couldn't put the fire on it because it would melt the heart. This is when our character first meets Scully. Obviously becomes quite infatuated with her. That shot right there, you can't shoot a shot that tight on TV, and that was shot with what they call a 45 or slant 45 millimeter lens, with a time-and-a-half extender, but they can get that tight; because of the television format you can't get that tight with normal lenses. This scene was a little tough for Gillian to pull off because as scary as this might be for some reason, she somehow finds it rather… there was something dangerously exciting about that encounter. Now this is a series of murders that they're investigating, that are allegedly created by the main character of this man's book, Jonathan Hawkes played this character, I don't remember the character's name offhand. I love the script, I love the author who was living vicariously through his character, main character, the killer in his book. And now he's become infatuated with Scully here and now he'll write to this and some of it comes true that the character actually meets Scully and so does he. I just felt it was kind of… a very interesting character study and I chose to shoot it very simply. I didn't put a lot of razzle-dazzle in the camera work or anything. I just tried to let the characters carry it. This is the source lighting through the window, this is nothing but moonlight coming through a window, probably a little negative fill here on this left side, just get some half-light on his face. We used a jib arm for that because if you'll notice, the camera came from profile right over the top of him. This was shot up at Griffith Park. There's a very small forest up there and probably the only pine trees in Los Angeles. It's in one little isolated spot in Griffith Park, so that's where we went to shoot this. And this is the character of the book, this was played by Nestor Serrano. This is what intrigued me about this script, you never really know if this character is real or how he escapes the pages of the book. I thought it was very interesting. That was shot on a 200 millimeter lens to throw the lights of Los Angeles out of focus in the background, they didn't want to know we're in LA. We created all this, these bushes and stuff we brought in because there was no foliage up at Griffith Park that was this thick, so it was all brought in off a truck, all these bushes. That beating heart was being beaten by a man with a hose and a pump (laughs) and you'll see that's our lead character again just finishing typing that chapter of the book which just took place. We have a library of establishing shots for, especially the Hoover building in Washington, and a number of establishing shots of Washington itself. Unfortunately I have used many of them over and over and over again, and I think about three years ago we sent up Paul Rabwin and a group of Washingtonian film-makers to shoot us a new batch because the old ones were getting recycled too often. It's interesting to watch these older episodes and see how David and Gillian had different looks that they had there, Gillian's hair is so short here, and they're so much younger (chuckles). Here again, Scully's captivated by this, something very dangerous here that she finds very intriguing, very seductive. I wanted to ramp the slow motion here and really study the seductiveness of this and then cut over here to Jonathan Hawkes and recreate basically the same move. He's a very good actor. I haven't seen him much, but he's a tremendous talent. He was perfect for this role. This is one of my favorite episodes actually, 'Milagro'. This looks like it was shot at about 120 frames a second. Film travels through a camera at 24 frames a second, which is normal speed, so we shot it at a 120 frames a second and then projected it at 24 so that's why you get your slow motion. This prop was made over and over and over again to get it right. It was very difficult, heart with a hand. This church is in downtown… no, actually, it's not downtown, it's down here in Olympic I believe. It's a beautiful, beautiful old church. This is one of my favorite scenes actually in the movie, this is Jonathan Hawkes' point of view of Scully entering this church, but I wanted to shoot this very simply. Once I get there, the camera won't move. We shot wide, medium and tight overs and again we just let the actors carry the scene. There's such beautiful backgrounds. Now this is their first encounter and he knows all about her, he seems to know more about her, and it's frightening her, but at the same time her fears… again very seductive. This scene reminds me always of the moth to the flame, the moth's attraction to the flame. This is a terrific scene, this is a great example of a well-written scene, actors don't struggle with scenes like this too much when they're really well-written. As I recall we did three different sizes here and I had to shoot them all with one camera, I couldn't get two cameras in here to get two sizes at the same time because it was just too crowded, but as I recall we didn't go any more than maybe two or three takes for each one of these, because the material was so good, the actors just eat it up. It's also very easy for an actress like Gillian to work with an actor like Jonathan Hawkes who does his homework and is well-prepared, he's as talented as he is, I mean, it really becomes a joy to watch two actors who really bounce off of each other. They didn't improvise, but look at the tears in her eyes here, I mean, nobody came in with menthol crystals and blew those in her eyes, she's listening to the actor here and he's listening to her, this is a really good example of two actors who are in the scene together and the reason they're in the scene is because they're listening to each other, they're not just listening for their cues to say their lines, they're literally listening to what the other person is saying, and that's why Gillian got so emotional there because she was totally in the scene. This is when acting is not acting, it's, you know, it's the real deal, it's the real thing, method acting is when you're working it too hard, you know, acting is a craft that no-one should ever catch another person acting, if you're really a good actor it shouldn't look like acting, and that's what a scene like that was, it was two people who were really in the moment. That's why this episode is really so special because it's great actors who were doing some very well-drawn characters. Again, you want to be in the character's head in an episode like this because it's, you know, it's not about the monster of the week or anything like that, so you want, especially me as a director, I love to shoot tight and get into their heads. These close-ups right here in this particular scene are loose as far as I'm concerned, I love to get into eyebrows and chin and... This was a scene that I'd call the Quinn Martin scene, I start tight on the mailbox and pull back and I had to do it over and over and over again so it didn't look like a 1970s TV shot but we finally got it - Philip Padgett, that's his name - but we finally got it to pull back and it fit rather than look like a zoom, you know. Here comes Philip Padgett now. It's a fake elevator and there it is, it's on the lobby floor and we shoot inside of it and then at a point here we're going to have to move the whole elevator to the next floor, so when the doors open you're some place else. Now they're walking down the hallway of Mulder's apartment, so we actually had to move it to the hall from the lobby. I don't like storyboards, I'd rather go ahead, do my homework as I see the scenes in my head, and I make some kind of very rudimentary notes to myself that only I can read, I have a shorthand, and I'm a very fortunate director because after I see a scene and make my notes I can pick up that script a week-and-a-half later and the notes prompt me to the visions I had and I can recreate them with the camera. Basically I put myself in the audience's chair, I'd read a scene over and over and over again and then say what do I want to see as an audience member, what images do I want to see, what cool images do I want to see to make this scene, to tell the story of this scene, and that's how I started and I've been doing it for so long that I understand the characters, I understand what Chris wants. Now this is a completely different prop from the one you saw earlier, notice we're not going to show you the face of it, only the back of it. And this is Scully's fantasy here. We didn't really have time to improvise much on The X-Files and if we did a scene and if it didn't work for them they might change a few lines of dialogue but, you know, the storytelling on The X-Files is always very specific so it really isn't an arena for improvisation. That would be a second unit insert but you can see what's happening here on the screens, what he's writing is actually happening to Scully so he's almost hypnotizing her through his writing. They say there's something very exciting about danger and that's really what this episode is about for Scully, it's... she knows every step of the way she's doing something wrong but it's too enticing, the danger element of it is too enticing to her. It's a very sexy story actually. Meanwhile, Mulder's working the case here, he's up to something. You know, basically, working in Los Angeles and working in Vancouver, while Vancouver was very exciting and we had the opportunity to be in a very dark, dreary, rainy, wet atmosphere which suited The X-Files and the mood of The X-Files, it was a wonderful relief, for me anyhow, to be able to come to Los Angeles and work in the dry air and have a little sunshine and little warmth. Vancouver was very demanding, very, very demanding, and it was nice for me to be able to work here in LA, go home at night, have a home-cooked meal, be with my wife and children. I think David and Gillian liked the move as well, I think it worked really well for them and their spirits, I don't think the work suffered at all from moving it from Vancouver, I think, if anything, it may have gotten a little better. The crews in Vancouver worked, you know, our crew in Vancouver was tremendous, we worked at North Shore Studios and they were small sound stages and to be able to come up here and work on these massive sound stages that are Fox's was a treat. You know, it's always kind of a treat to be able to work on a lot that has so much history and we got very lucky because our biggest concern when we moved from Vancouver was that we would never find a crew as good as that Vancouver crew. As a matter of fact, we found a crew that was more than up to the task, our crew in Los Angeles were just the hardest working people and great family and we were very fortunate to be able to replace those Vancouver people with such a tremendous group of people here in Los Angeles. This shot was done again with what they call a jib arm, this is with a remote-controlled camera that's underslung from a long jib arm on the dolly, and I've come all the way around them here. It's tough for Bill Roe because I'm seeing almost all of the set so he doesn't have a lot of place to put light, but Bill has never had a challenge that he couldn't meet, he'll light from the floor, light could come through the windows, everything he does… you can't throw him a curveball. Here Mulder's put together the crime, he's figured out that what this man is writing is exactly what the murders are that are going around them here in town, so he's got him now as a suspect where in fact it's not him at all but the character of his book which is obviously the paranormal element here in this episode. I work on the editing process quite a bit once we're done shooting the show, I'll spend two, three days in the cutting room with the editor and we'll go through the show, shot for shot, scene for scene, and we'll get it just the way we want it, and then I turn it over to the other producers and I work together hand in hand with them to make sure that, you know, the show maintains its integrity. Oftentimes our shows will run long, maybe ten, twelve minutes long, and we have to find that film to cut out 'cause we only have a certain amount of time that each episode can run. But because I'm also an executive producer here the other producers take great care to preserve my vision and my film, and they're always ready to line-cut dialogue in order to preserve my shots and my vision as it were. In that I'm very lucky really. This is shot downtown, this is, I believe, I can't remember the name of this building, this was shot downtown in a giant warehouse where other studios have come in and they've built this jail set and so we heard of it and we went downtown and utilized it. We were there for a day or two, I think. This was a very simple episode, there weren't a lot of locations, there weren't a lot of exteriors. It was a real interior show, that's why I'm shooting it here so tight, it's all up to the actors to carry a piece like this. This cemetery, this is all special effects fog that we had to lay out and it was a huge area and they put down… it's not just smoke they put down, little misters and it was cold so the mist would stay low to the ground. This is on location, I believe some place in Glendale. This was really tough because we've got a chase coming up here and there were lots of holes in the ground, and I didn't want this little girl to get hurt, nor Nestor for that matter, Nestor Serrano who plays the character in the book, there he is there. Those are stunt people, stunt doubles who took that fall. This was interesting, I think that one of the reasons that… one of the big things that attracted me to this story is that this character is never explained. In other words, it's the evil in Jonathan Hawkes, or Philip Padgett's heart that are really creating these murders, but we never answer whether it's Philip Padgett that does the murders or if it's really the character in the book that comes from the pages, it was never answered and I found that very intriguing really. That's the thing about The X-Files, it oftentimes will leave more questions than it will give you answers. But I think that's what gets the audience thinking. This was shot on a motorcycle. David Duchovny came to run faster, well, when we did an episode called 'Tunguska' and he outran two horses, so I had to get on a motorcycle with the camera to keep up with him. This was tough on this little actress, we had to bury her in all of these flowers. As I recall, she had allergies (chuckles) and it was very tough for her to lay quiet underneath there until we get her uncovered. Back in the jail again. You can see it's quite a big complex that this company built down there, that's why we went down there to use this set. For us to build a set like this would have cost maybe three, four hundred thousand dollars, and we probably rented it for five thousand, so... The mythology episodes are very complicated. We have to get them just right. The stand-alones give you a little more freedom creatively. The mythology episodes are an established style, or established storyline, they're usually bigger episodes, where with your stand-alone episodes it's kind of your independent vision, it's not part of a running story. So, like I say, I used to prefer the stand-alones, now, I, I… they're both challenging in their own way. This is the scene here when the character actually confronts the author and again we never say whether this is real or not, although at one point the character disappears, so this is really kind of a conversation that Philip Padgett is having in his own head. An interesting wardrobe choice, this hood, we wanted to make him look like death himself. Now Mulder and Scully are watching him here and there's nothing happening, he's not talking to anybody. So this whole scene is a figment of his imagination. I worked with Nestor on a series called 'Hat Squad' that we shot in Vancouver about three brothers who were cops and who had a father, played by James Tolkan, who was an ex-cop, and these guys, these three brothers all wore hats, fedoras, it was based on an actual squad of police, I believe out of Chicago. Nestor's a great actor. This scene where the character is telling Philip Padgett that he only has evil in his heart, that he has no love in its heart, that he can't feel love because he has no love, he only has evil, this is the scene that sets Philip Padgett up at the end of the hour to tear out his own heart to prove that he can sacrifice his own life for the love that he feels for Scully, so no ill will befall Scully. This is the scene where he's going to burn his manuscript. This is on stage, this is back in that set that I was talking about, the red/blue room. This is over on Stage 6 at Twentieth Century Fox. Now we have a little interacting here, the character from the book is actually now going to kill Scully and Philip Padgett knows it and Mulder now is, unbeknownst to him, Mulder is actually interfering with Philip Padgett's saving Scully's life. This was a really well-written piece, revisiting it has been a lot of fun here. [A story can have only one true ending. Even as the stranger felt compelled to commit his final words to paper, he did it knowing it must never be read. To see the sum of his work was to see inside his own emptiness, the heart of a destroyer not a creator, and yet reflected back upon him at last he could see his own ending. And in this final act of destruction a chance to give what he could not receive.] There you have it.