Transcript of the DVD Audio Commentary by Chris Carter for the episode 'First Person Shooter'

Transcribed by: Libby
Edited by: X_Follower

Hi, this is Chris Carter. This is the audio commentary for 'First Person Shooter'.

The casting of these three kids was all-important, as written by William Gibson and Tom Maddox, these were supposed to be hyper-testosterone-amped video game players. Geeky, but a little over-enthusiastic. And it's actually very hard to get kids to play geeky and warrior-like at the same time. But these guys were all really funny and easy to work with. Billy Ray Gallion was a sort of madman, he was a lot of fun on the set, but actually while everyone gave 100 %, he gave about 300 %, he really was this character.

This was a moveable set, the interior was filmed on stage and then we brought the exterior here to this location which was an incredible location. That's all real, no set extension, that's no computer generated graphics there. That is a long street between two tall buildings which was a warehousing area. It was painted a very funny color pink but the lighting job, and the little pieces there, were added by set dec, the lighting - an amazing job done - wet down streets for this motorcycle attack.

There were actually this many motorcycle riders and while some of the shots actually had fewer motorcycle riders in them, and I had to shoot cleverly, which is part of the shot you just saw which was not a finished shot. There were a lot of tricks I had to play but I had to have this many motorcycle riders in sequence, choreographed for each different shot. This scene took a long time, it took a lot of planning, it took a lot of patience on everyone's part because these guys had never actually ridden together. You'd see a first computer-generated image here which is these three kiosks that appear on the street. This was a long, cold night of shooting. The scenes with the shooters in the windows were actually shot by Rob Bowman. We couldn't get to those scenes in the few days we had to shoot at this location and Rob came in and while he was off doing something else he was kind to come in and actually add, I think, an element of beautiful artistry to this shoot-out which is probably about as ultra-violent as you'll ever see on The X-Files. But because it's a video game the level of tolerance, I guess, for the Standards and Practices people was greater. I was actually surprised that we could get it past but as the show, as the years wore on, we got sort of, I think, extra levels of leniency from the censors.

I had begun shooting this scene with the kids back behind the barricade and I'd actually forgotten these headset units which I thought looked really cool and I went ahead and shot an entire scene without the headsets on and realizing I'd made a mistake and so we had to go back and reshoot that scene including the headsets which was just a screw-up on everybody's part, having to go too fast.

The introduction of this video vixen had to be shot as a night-time scene but it needed to be shot in the day-time, so we had to do an elaborate tenting of this underground area which had a lot of light exposure and then blast these lights in to get this kind of eerie, shadowy walk down the stairs by the stiletto-heeled woman. This was a lot of fun to shoot, the crew was very happy to be on set, very attentive (laughs) to everything on this day. This costume caused quite a stir. I remember the first time I saw it when Krista Allen came in to a wardrobe fitting, and it was not an X-Files moment because on X-Files casting normal, everyday people has always been the kind of signature of the show, and so first of all to go through the casting process with Krista and to find Krista was amazing because we saw so many beautiful women, but then the wardrobe fitting, I think, was… I'm not sure if I'd call it a highlight or an X-File itself.

This location is out off the 5 freeway, it's actually... it was a military contractor. It had all kinds of communications, lead-lined walls, crazy stuff, but it had actually been abandoned, or at least it was empty. So it had a kind of an eerie quality already, but we got several different locations in one here, including the big light room which became the sort of video playroom. They used to make rocket engines at this facility and I think they still did some military work. We spent several days trucking out to… near the [...] Valley, I believe.

The room was empty originally, and Corey Kaplan and her art team, production design team, filled it up with pieces of modern institutional art that, that gave it a sort of high-tech, of the moment flavor. These were very difficult scenes to shoot for me, five people standing around talking, because it takes so much time and you just want to sort of get on with it. It ended up taking a lot more time than I actually had. I had to figure out a way to shoot this next scene very, very simply because I just had run completely out of time, and so my coverage was limited, which is why I had to get so much of the dialogue on the run. Shot in two or three different locations here.

The whole episode is kind of a departure for us, a kind of a lark, a sort of a loopy episode. And a kind of science fiction we weren't used to doing, which was a sort of high-technology, futuristic technology. So the tone of the episode sort of shifts between believable and unbelievable, and we'd always tried to make the plots as believable as possible. I think this one stretches the limits of that kind of science fiction. Jamie Marsh was, I think, just right for this character who needed to be as much a kind of bullshit entrepreneur as a techno-geek, and to make him sort of sympathetically unsympathetic.

This white room was lit in an interesting way by Bill Roe. He decided to use fluorescents on the floor, big wall washers, to give the room some detail and some perspective. An all-white room tends to be a very flat and uninteresting location, even though it's supposed to be stark and very neutral because it provides the background for the game, or it is the game as sort of superimposed on it. So we took this big space and tried to give it some visual interest.

I'd seen Constance Zimmer on a commercial before and I really liked her, and she'd actually come in and read for a couple of different parts, and we could never find the right thing for her and this turned out to be the right thing. She has a kind of pretty girl geek (laughs) quality that worked well and it set her apart interestingly from the guys without being too overt about it.

This room really looked great on the video monitors.

These scenes were also just very time-consuming, people standing around looking at a monitor, but you've got so many people to cover, so many different levels of dialogue. It's really a scene about talking heads and the inserts. In the end, I'm sure that in more capable hands, Rob Bowman, Kim Manners, someone like that, that these scenes might have had a little bit more depths and interests. But with the time, I guess with a certain amount of my inexperience shooting these long, talky, multiple character scenes, I'm sort of limited to what I could do in the time allotted.

These images, these 3-D wireframe images, were really sort of brilliant. Bill Millar, responsible for this work.

More multiple character scenes that I couldn't figure out how to shoot with multiple cameras, it took forever.

The establishing of the crime and of the different perspective, Mulder and Scully perspective, on the crime.

These scenes at this location were all shot in the same night, even though they would come in at different points in the story.

We needed a very cool Asian video stud, the sort of ninja warrior of video games. And we, we went through several casting sessions before we found Christopher Ng who ends up being someone who's never ever used guns before, so he had to be taught how to use these weapons which give quite a kick, and this is something on a movie where you had more time, you'd be able to actually teach him and give him lessons, spend some time on the firing range. The trick there with spinning the guns he actually did and had to practice it over and over and over again. If that wasn't tough enough, then he's got to come out and fire these weapons which are almost impossible to keep still for even the best kind of marksman, so this guy came out and actually performed under pressure beautifully.

The control room was a set, really interesting set, built on stage. We ended up spending a lot of time in there.

This was so deafeningly loud, with these motorcycles roaring down this kind of urban canyon. The explosions are big balls of fire we added in later, obviously we weren't shooting the real motorcyclists. But we had to have certain lighting effects, interactive lighting effects and that was all something that needed to be carefully choreographed on location by Bill Millar with camera angles and choices about where to use the actual number of motorcycles and where we'd be able to add computer generated motorcycles.

This is a scene that we didn't know whether Standards and Practices would allow us to include the more visceral graphic element. Done with prosthetic arms.

The character of Maitreya, played by Krista Allen, actually speaks a line of Japanese here which I think literally works out to be: 'Forgive me for what I'm about to do.'.

I got to shoot several different autopsy scenes during the course of The X-Files and during my few directing assignments I think this is the second one I ever shot, and it's hard to do anything different with them because you are stuck to that table, with that corpse. The most important thing is that you don't catch the corpse breathing on-screen, even though you can fix that now pretty easily in post-production with the magic of digital manipulation.

We were always re-dressing these autopsy scene sets and it was really the same autopsy room dressed and re-dressed over and over again as rural country morgues, high-tech city morgues, always to fit the different occasion, different episode, different setting.

The costumes that the video gamesmen wore, we ended up choosing just regular motorcycle gear mostly, with some added pieces. They are standard equipment, you can go down and buy them at the store, but just the combination of the headsets, the kind of rigid plastic armor, and some kneepads, these guys look like what I would imagine real video participants would look like if they were able to jump inside a game like this.

Imagine how much time we actually spent on-screen in The X-Files standing in rooms just like this, with Mulder and Scully arguing about how the victim might have died - it's probably more time spent here, or as much time as spent in The X-Files office probably, all told.

So many people on The X-Files got to get their head cast, Christopher Ng being one of those, which is an elaborate process where you got to breathe through a straw and have your face basically covered in plaster for a short time. I was able to save one of the original head casts of David Duchovny and I actually have it sitting on a shelf in my office at home, staring down at me.

This is also a scene that the crew seemed to be very focused on on the set in their work this evening. Krista Allen does the Basic Instinct leg shift, leg crossing. I remember talking to David right before this scene. He thought that Mulder's character wouldn't be playing along with this sort of rank and file of the cops here, that it was very un-Mulder like, but I think after some discussion we came to an agreement that it is something Mulder might occasion.

This outfit also was a big (laughs), a big hit. I remember also the wardrobe session, it was kind of (laughs) breathtaking. Krista came in and read for the part early on, I don't think she knew quite what it was and I don't think she had all that much interest in doing it, and I sensed her disinterest and maybe she was in a hurry to go some place, I know she's got a young son, so she left the room and she actually wasn't put on the top of the list, believe it or not. She was incredibly beautiful but I didn't sense that she was game for the show, so to speak, and then we read so many other actresses and ended up calling her back on the suggestion of Rick Millikan who liked her a lot, and when she came back it was clear that something had been, you know, off that day and she came back and gave a terrific reading. She obviously looked perfect for the part.

She had to do a lot of training with the sword and the weapons that she needed to use for the episode. The sword in particular takes a lot of practice and she worked with a special weapons technical adviser to do all that sword work herself which was not inconsiderable.

These posters were created by Sandy Getzler who was Corey Kaplan's art director on this episode and actually they're very beautiful. I saved one and I think that just the attention to detail like that helped, as always, to give the episode some credibility or believability.

You get a sense now more of this control room which I didn't really shoot very well originally. Now you get a greater sense of just how beautiful it was, by that same art team. All these monitors needed to be working monitors which requires an extra presence on the set. A guy named Mark [...] who did all of our playback work, it takes tremendous amount of coordination to do this time and again, with each take you have to figure out where you were, roll all the video back on each monitor, and figure out how to make the images match, which is so demanding that it actually takes three or four people, coordinated by Mark, to do that, so these scenes while you are tied to one location, require an extra level for the scene to match up and for the images to be interesting, animated and interactive.

Mulder decides to jump into the game himself. It was an interesting evening seeing David Duchovny come walking out wearing this codpiece and this, this (laughs) outfit. And actually I didn't image how funny it would be until he actually arrived and I'm not sure how funny he thought it was, but he was a sport and I think played it, for as silly as it was, he played it very nice and straight.

Lots of gunfire in this episode. I think that was actually a big category of extra expense, one that we don't normally have, with all the spent rounds and that's why this was probably one of the more expensive episodes we ever did.

Putting the camera up on the roof there to get a more interesting perspective on a street that we shot a whole lot of from nearly every angle.

The search lights added a nice extra element of depths and interests to this street where we spent so much time, and now the Gunmen pop up in a location that is shot separately on a totally different night. The action needs to match so it's hair and makeup, wardrobe, all asked to make sure that continuity is kept through the matching of these scenes.

At the far end of the room is the traveling set which ended up being shot at, I think, three different locations, needed to be trucked around which is hard on the set and a lot of repairs need to be made especially with something as big and sort of bulky as this piece of construction.

Once again, the interactivity of the monitors.

Rob Bowman also came in and this is his shot which is better than I could have done. Nice camera move up to this sword which is now stuck into the cement pillar - art department trick.

This is a Steadicam shot, David Luckenbach on the Steadicam, always helpful. He shot the episode 'Triangle' which was almost entirely on a Steadicam and he always had really good ideas, having done so many different shots, about how to make the shot interesting. In this case it's a 360 degree shot which means everything has to be lighted. This scene, which is reminiscent of something you saw in Blade Runner, while a really cool scene, technically it was a very, very difficult scene to shoot, there was a lot of different tricks, in-camera tricks, speeding up the camera. The gymnast's name was Dana Heath and I made her, for far too long and far too many times, do those moves down the street. I had to do them with cameras going slow, cameras going fast, from different angles, and she did it all night long and I'm sure her wrists were about ready to give out. I went through three different stunt people before I could find somebody who could actually do those moves and she was able to do them not just quickly, because you needed someone to do them quickly in real time, but she was able to do them in a line down that center line that leads to Mulder. The stunt at the end is a trick off of a trampoline.

This is a second unit shot. Bobby LaBonge and the second unit camera crew coming in and mopping up pieces of performance that we couldn't finish on first unit, which means they always have to come in and match lighting, they've got to come in and really do a good job mimicking what the first unit crew, Bill Roe's camera guys, have already established.

It's hard to make flat white walls interesting, so when you get into these situations where you're into coverage, overs as we call them, in spaces like this, you want to keep your characters away from those flat white walls because it gets very boring, especially with the long, emotional, talky scene like that, so I buried Constance Zimmer's character up against a door to give it some visual interest.

This is a different stunt with a different stuntwoman. Krista Allen doing the moves but some of the tighter work, the work of a martial arts specialist.

The one shot that was the critical one here, is where Mulder grabs the woman's foot and this was a kick that actually came right into his face with that stiletto heel very close to his face, not something you want to miss at.

Mulder now, through computer generated magic, transported from the abandoned city, the SimCity, to a western town which is a completely different location, also a distance away from Los Angeles, in Valencia.

The art department got to do, I think, three or four different movies in this episode, shooting such a wide variety of locations.

While that looks like a fake ghost town there, it's actually… that is a real western street with tumbleweeds we blew down the street.

I think the weather was warm and nice, and had been, you know, rather temperate throughout the whole shoot, and then the one day that we come and wind up on this western town set, it started raining in the morning and so getting the sort of dusty effect was a little difficult and you can see the streets are a little damp, damper than I wanted them to be.

Krista Allen doing her own gunwork there. Also working with a technical advisor.

Now, Scully, also (laughs) comical-looking in this video get-up. Once again, the set piece hauled out to yet another location. This gunplay was very technical for Krista Allen and while we got to replicate a lot of it through a looping process, she had to do it herself and it's harder than it looks.

The idea to up the stakes here with each level of the game ended up becoming sort of... it upped the cost with each sort of raising of the stakes. Every time you needed to multiply the Maitreya character, you multiplied the budget exponentially.

The effects for this show, I don't think there was ever an instance on The X-Files where we were so late with the visual effects. I think they were put in, plugged into the show at the eleventh hour, literally. I think that this show was delivered late and the effects weren't finished until less than 24 hours before the show aired.

One shot of Scully there, that rain which we couldn't get rid of, had actually begun to pour and we were sort of stuck with it, so I guess because it's a video game anything goes, but a terrible mismatch. This was a video tank that Bill Millar, the special effects supervisor, was able to purchase somewhere and he added it to the scene, put Krista Allen on top of it. We shot her on stage separately in a blue screen or as a green screen element and added her to the tank as the final unbeatable video warrior princess image.

We never really quite knew how to end this episode. It really was an episode about how far you could go with technology and there was no natural ending for the caper, as it were, and so this becomes a kind of silly ending. I thought everybody felt a little silly doing it, actually.

That door weighs about five pounds, it's very light, made out of Styrofoam, and it's supposed to look heavy, but as they pushed it up, no one ever acted the sense of its weight, so it ends up looking a little cheesier than I'd like.

This is the right stuff scene with the Mulder voice-over, the sort of mock heroic scene which paints Mulder and Scully in a (laughs) way we never thought we'd see them, literally.

These wireframe images were all created by Bill Millar. Most of them are incredible, but this final image, which is an image of Scully as the new video vixen, it never really read for me perfectly as Scully, there was (laughs) just something off about it. But being that we had to make an airdate and that we had limited resources, it worked well enough.