On Location With Ilt Jones of the X-Files – Part 1

X-FILES – INTERIOR – ADAMS HIGH – VIRGINIA (actual location: Rose City High School in Pasadena California):

I watch closely as a high school teacher is shoved 100 feet across a school cafeteria by a six long banquet table. I keep rubbing my eyes because I don’t believe what I’m seeing. It looks so real, and I’m only about 15 feet away and can’t see any wires. The actor, not a stunt double, is hurled across this long expanse within seconds.

Director Rob Lieberman is at the helm for Season Seven’s episode “Rush” which features a high school principal overtaken by some mysterious, evil force. There are wires pulling the actor, but to my eye they look to be slightly thicker than a strand of hair.

A large crewmember throws himself in the path of the trajectory and stops the actor and table from being hurled at full force into a wall. I admire the setting: beautiful tall ceilings and early 20th century windows add a nostalgic air to the scene.

I had the opportunity to interview Ilt Jones, the man responsible for finding these architectural wonders for one of the world’s most popular shows. The location manager is responsible for not only finding the right locations as written in the script, but managing all the details required to bring the crew on location.

Ilt Jones worked on Profiler for two seasons. He also worked on the feature Gattica, a beautifully designed feature film. Ilt did some location work as well on Pulp Fiction and As Good As It Gets. From Wales originally, Ilt was a stock broker before he made a career change eleven years ago when he moved to California.

On the X-Files, Ilt needs to find 8 to 10 locations per episode and 4 to 5 choices for each of those locations.

What was it like shooting aboard the Queen Mary for the Season Six episode “Triangle”?

Even though we have a lot of money we couldn’t afford to buy out the whole hotel. (Note: the Queen Mary in Long Beach is now a hotel and museum). We bought different blocks of rooms at a time to avoid scheduling conflicts with groups that had already booked the hotel. It was like playing three dimensional chess. Since it was shot during a storm, we had rain cranes everywhere. We flooded the whole place. It’s an old ship, and the seals are leaky. We did $40,000 dollars worth of damage, which we had to repair. But we did 9 days of shooting there. It looked brilliant.

Tell me about the locations used in the Season Seven Premiere Two Parter.

Obviously we’re based in L.A. and have to do all our shooting in the L.A. area. When they write things like an East African beach, we shot that at Leo Carillo (a popular beach near Malibu just north of Los Angeles). They shot it beautifully. A lot people said, “That was amazing. We couldn’t believe you sent a second unit to Africa.” Obviously we didn’t, but the people who live locally will have recognized it.

Most of our job is making the a suggestion of a place. That’s enough to sell it. Put a couple of land rovers on the beach and a couple of African looking guys run around and you’re half way there. You need to avoid telephone poles and traffic zooming past.

It seemed absolutely desolate.

Yes, you felt you were a long way from civilization.

What’s the best part working on the X-Files?

I provide people with the ball… the director and the art department. They run with it. It’s a constant source of amazement and joy to me. When I see how what I looked for turned out on the screen, it’s great fun for me. I hope that novelty never goes away. I love to see the results of a well-organized collaborative process.

(Continued to Part 2 on December 15th).

 
 
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