On Location With Ilt Jones of the X-Files – Part 2

We continue our exclusive interview with Ilt Jones, the location manager for the X-Files. The location manager is the one responsible for finding those fabulous locations you see each week on this very popular show. Ilt is also responsible for coordinating all facets of bringing a crew on location.

I visited Ilt at Stage 5 on the lot at Twentieth Century Fox in L.A. The crew was dressing the stage when I arrived. Ilt and I visited in the location loft above the stage which features huge location maps on the wall of the greater Los Angeles area, a location manager’s tool of trade.

What was one of your favorite locations and what episode did it appear?

The most remarkable location was the one featuring the African beach in the season finale of season 6. The closing shot is a slow lift with a crane showing a space ship in the water. To get that shot at Leo Carillo beach, they had to build a crane platform at the very end of the rocks, a very narrow sliver of rocks sticking out into the ocean 100 feet. The grips built this camera platform that was 40 feet square all balanced on rocks 2 feet wide.

It (the set up) was huge. We were not allowed to drill into the rocks. When the tide went out they rushed in with forklift trucks and built the structure. It would take a month to build this if they were in construction. They built it in two days.

What’s the collaborative process like between the Locations and the Art Department/Production Designer?

When I get a script, I break it down for the locations. I go out and take pictures of things that I think will work. The first person I show the pictures to is the Production Designer (Corey Kaplan). Because some of the things we do on stage need to match what we do on location. We are the first people to collaborate on the locations. I get four or five choices for each location. She takes what she likes to the director.

We’re such a big company I try not take us to places that are logistical nightmares. It’s like moving a circus around.

What do you think of the naysayers who didn’t think the show could move from Vancouver to Los Angeles and maintain its spooky ambiance?

I think they (the production team) brought a refreshing new approach to the show. There’s a lot more humor than there was before. I think they stretched out and provided more breadth visually. We still do spooky dark stuff. Last year, we shot in Cedar Grove in Griffith Park, which was beautiful and spooky on screen.

We also did stuff in the desert: the Area 51 stories. I personally am a big fan of the desert. The naysayers are in the minority. We get loads of feedback from e-mail and the media that keep encouraging us to keep doing what we’re doing.

We are also in Southern California, and we’re gonna have to feature the desert. There are so many great old buildings in L.A. In Pasadena, there are magnificent buildings all over the place. There’s plenty of eye candy to be shot here.

What dream locations would you like to see in the X-Files that we haven’t seen yet?

There’s an underground reservoir in the San Fernando Valley that’s the size of the Rose Bowl. It’s has huge 50 foot tall pillars. It’s straight out of Metropolis. It’s the coolest place I’ve ever seen in my life as a location manager. It gives me goose bumps thinking about it now.

And Angelus Abby, the mausoleum in Compton, looks like downtown Baghdad. It’s a Moorish fantasy with huge mosque-like domes. It’s in a park setting with a temple.

The Bradbury Building I’d love to see on the screen (featured brilliantly in Blade Runner), one of my favorite all time buildings. Union Station is another location that looks rich on screen.

What has been the biggest location challenge so far?

“Rain King,” the episode we did last year about the guy who could control the weather with his mind, was one of the most challenging. We had to find a motel where we could crash a cow (fake cow) through the roof. We had to fire the cow up in the air. The next thing you know there’s a hole in the roof and Mulder narrowly escapes being hit by the cow.

There’s this cow lying on the bed. Basically, we had to find a hotel where we could make a big hole in the ceiling and have debris everywhere and the cow in the room.

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