Lexicon Exclusive

“Sound Designs”

The X-Files Lexicon’s Exclusive Interview with Thierry J Couturier, conducted by Matt Allair, 3/25/15
Page editor: XScribe

With the way that the very art of how television and film works, you have technicians whose work is so seamless, that the public never really notices, and the focal point tends to be other aspects, which is sort of the point. It has been mentioned before in the piece about Jeff Charbonneau, but most fans focus on the outstanding work of Mark Snow and his work on The X-Files, which is well warranted, but aside from the pivotal role that Jeff played in editing the music, another figure that had a vital role in the overall sound design of The X-Files, and the Pilot of Millennium is Thierry J. Couturier, who was the Sound Supervisor during the Vancouver years. The next vital role would be the sound editors of course. But Thierry was such a major figure in the success of The X-Files that he has remained fairly anonymous and has done few notable interviews before this opportunity. The other reason why Thierry is important is that his son Nathan Couturier was the voice who exclaimed “I made this!” on the Ten-Thirteen Productions logo. Yet Thierry is true veteran of the industry and his body of work represents quite a range, many of these projects being rather iconic, starting as an associate editor on such films as Enter The Ninja, Exterminator 2, and Missing In Action 2, as a Sound Supervisor, he has been involved with such films as Terminator 2:Judgment Day, Quigley Down Under, Patriot Games, Boomerang, Hoffa, Sliver, Searching For Bobby Fischer, the recent Miami Vice remake, and the Oscar Winning film Birdman. His television credentials are no less impressive. He was involved with the Pilot for the under- appreciated Space: Above and Beyond, he cut his teeth on MacGyver, and has worked on L.A. Firefighters, Medium, the Pilot for Sons of Anarchy, as well as a long run on The Mentalist.

How the events that lead to this interview unfolded is a long one, but Jeff Charbonneau graciously connected us to Thierry about over a year and a half ago. Then there was a series of stops and starts on the part of this website in scheduling the time to interview him, and historically for this site, such problems had never occurred before. But Thierry has managed to be gracious and good humored about the delays, and has demonstrated a patience that has been very appreciated. Even after the interview was conducted at the end of March, there were further delays, audio problems that resulted in a lack of clarity, and the need for Thierry to clarify points in writing that were incorporated into the interview as of June 26th. Just a day prior to the interview, word came out of The X-Files revival with six new episodes, and that everything exploded, and such developments had an unexpected delay in getting the transcript for this interview organized, which makes all of the delays so unusual for the site, which has had a history of being prompt in posting past interviews.

Of course on the day of the 25th, the very topic of the news was the very thing myself and Thierry discussed, as well as some humorous tales about Nathan and how he came to be the voice. Interestingly, in the middle of the interview we got a call from NPR radio asking someone from XFL to appear and to discuss the news about the series revival, but the commitment to the interview took priority. We chatted briefly about The After, and the second X-Files feature, I Want To Believe. Thierry could not have been any nicer, considering his stature, and relatable in treating me as an intimate friend. He demonstrated humor, grace, candor, and generously spent an hour talking with me, which was most unexpected. The interview proceeded as follows…

Background / How Things Works / Millennium, Birdman, and other thoughts

Matt Allair: This is such an honor to speak with you. Thank you for taking the time.

Thierry Couturier:  What’s a few years between friends?

Matt Allair: How did you get into the field of sound supervision?

Thierry Couturier:  Not a quick answer, but: I think no one ever has a direct idea while growing up and then starting a career that becoming a ”sound professional’ is what you will be. As a kid growing up in New York City I was exposed to all kinds of music, theater, films, and of course the sounds and rhythm of that city that played 24/7. I always acted in school plays, was involved in Stage Crews, was the 5th grade Monday Cartoon/Shorts Projectionist, and in 6th grade had the run of the elementary school delivering science equipment and screening films throughout the building for teachers who thought 16MM projectors were dangerous (P.S. 165 was five stories big). I used to stay up half the night watching movies on this big 3’ by 3’ box of a b&w TV that had only a 11” screen. Loved all those 30’s and 40’s Westerns!

When I college, I had ambitions of being an actor, or a psychiatrist for actors (I was more a listener than a talker), but realized I had more ambition to ‘be a director’….. not unlike the ‘goal’ of 98% of students in film school today. So I created my own shows for the local TV, directed college theater, ran an acting class, and was a DJ; psychology was my minor. After college I left the East Coast, didn’t find work right away in LA, and went up to Mill Valley and worked around the Bay Area. I was a DJ for a while, where I did the first West Coast interview with Bob Marley in ’73, worked at the Record Plant in Sausalito, and edited news at KPIX-TV, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco. In television news we went from shooting and editing 16mm film to shooting on ¾” videotape and having live feeds from remote news trucks. Editing news taught me about trusting your initial instincts and making choices quickly; having imminent on-air deadlines was great training. I came back down to LA and started editing feature films, working on and off at Cannon Films for a number of years (Cannon was to the 80’s what ‘Corman Films’ was to the 60’s-70’s). Not having grown up the film biz, I saw this insightful Masters program at USC that taught the overall basics of the film business and producing; it’s called the Stark Motion Picture Producing Program. I want to acknowledge its creator, the late Art Murphy; there are so few colorful, insightful, wacky, outrageous but delightful characters in this business who are smart and fun and willing to let it all hang out. He was one. And a great educator.

From cutting feature films to working in management and helping with foreign distribution (as Cannon ramped up production and distribution from four to dozens of films a year), I moved into editing sound for features. A few years later, right after I had the joy and insanity of creating the temp soundtrack for Terminator 2 (Gary Rydstrom* would win two Oscars for his brilliant sound design and for mixing this film up at Skywalker Ranch), Fred Chandler** (at Paramount) dragged me into my first television supervising gig on a show called MacGyver. I was reluctant to do TV because I had come to L.A. to work on ‘Features,’ not ‘Television’.  That jaded attitude would change two years later, when after working alternately on film and television, Paul Rabwin (X-Files producer) called and said, and “There’s this show that I just got called The X-Files.” When I asked what’s it about, Paul replied “it’s kind of weird and freaky, but really cool and it’s going to be fun.” I said, I’m in! The rest became history.
That fall we started, and by the third episode I realized every presumption I had about television was changing: we (and I mean everyone from Chris down) were making a movie a week. We were able to push the boundaries of a nascent broadcaster (FOX) with a killer show that had a big, thick soundtrack. With Mark Snow and his brilliant score, the sound elements and dynamic mix (Dave West lead mixer and constant on stage sound designer) we pushed TV sound as far as we could go (even though, sadly, we could never get enough rumble out of TV speakers…).

Background / How Things Work / Millennium, Birdman, and other thoughts

Matt: You have spoken about the role of ADR on The X-Files; how did the role of ADR evolve from the early seasons to the later seasons?

Thierry:  In general, the world of ADR is such that no one really wants to do it – that is, if we could always just use the production sound (original track on set) for the whole show, everyone would be really, really happy. (I think Woody Allen is the only one that never does ADR). Unfortunately, in the real world you sometimes have noise from being on location or on a set (camera motors, dollies, falling props) or lines get changed or added or the tone of a scene changes a bit and some lines need to reflect that, or the performance of a line (or part of a scene) has to be changed or improved. Why we do ADR. Actors sometimes think we bring them to the ADR stage just to torture them. And the truth is we’re just looking for the best and smoothest performance/story, and we always want every line to be a) heard and b) understood. Ain’t nothing worse than watching a show, then struggling to ‘decipher’ a line, and missing the next five.

And back to my first statement: virtually everyone would love to NOT have to do ADR.

But we do.

The first five years of The X-Files were shot in Vancouver; and there was often was a lot of noise on various locations, or because of practical effects on the set; sometimes we‘d get dialog where it sounded like the feet were mic’d, not the voices. We would protect and clean up as much as possible in editorial, then in the mix. The principal actors were often in Vancouver, so our ‘Northern Post Supervisor’ would run the ADR sessions –- which often were after a day’s shooting and that meant really late at night. Sometimes David Duchovny would be on set until after two in the morning, so going to shoot ADR for him then was hardly a joy. But he’s a trooper and he did. Gillian and David are very talented actors, with rhythm, sync, and performance, so getting ADR done up north, or when they were in LA, always slid easily into the show.

As far as the evolution of the quantity of ADR, I think there may have been more changed and added lines in the first few years. Also, the production sound improved. The show was at the start of using digital editing in the industry (for DIAL/ADR we used Waveframe) and that allowed for a lot more sophisticated editing than cutting 35MM film or tape to 24-track editing (or one of the other 15 systems everyone was trying to develop as ‘the standard’. Every few years computers and hard drives improved, so did the editing systems.) (“ProTools” being the standard editing software now).

I remember many early ADR sessions where there were so many principal and secondary actors in for looping, that our loop group (background) actors would be with us all day, often into the evening.  David and Gillian always had a handle on how they played Mulder and Scully –- so from that perspective it was exceedingly rare to have to shift a performance; they had the tone and attitude down from day zero (the pilot).  ADR for them was almost always for noise or to add lines. Some of the guest actors, cast either from here or in Vancouver, sometimes had a bit more work on the ADR stage when doing lines –  matching or changing performance for a one-time ‘character’ is often harder than for a regular on a series. I do remember one guest actor going twenty-eight takes to get a line change, “You call this life!!!?” And another famous guest star attempting twenty-six takes of a long on-camera line (we ended up going back to production).

Matt: In the years that you worked on the show, was there a lot of live Foley work on each episode, or did you use a library?

Thierry:  We always shot every episode with 100% new Foley. It’s good to be unique, when you can, to help make each show sound original. (When an episode goes to foreign countries to be dubbed in their language, they are provided fully filled effects, Foley and music tracks, and they mix in their foreign language ‘dialogue’ track.) With Foley, sometimes you shoot stuff that’s already pretty good in production, but then choose at the mix which sound to use. Often with production sound that is or has ‘Foley’ in it, like footsteps, minor body movement, set downs, ‘prop’ events, you may discover the dialogue is married to it, and that ‘English’ has to be taken out for the Foreign M&E (music and effects tracks) – hence you may lose that ‘production Foley’ and absolutely need the newly shot Foley.

Fun to do on X-Files -- the sound of an alien body, (slightly desiccated)…Scully reaches in and crunches it under her fingers. After several cereals, a certain Chex crunched at a certain angle, a certain distance from the mic worked deliciously. It was hailing really hard one episode, and we couldn’t quite get (or ‘have’) the pounding/pelting sound of various sized hail on a car. So, I took a forty pound block of ice onto the ADR stage and covered the room with a giant tarp. Using a big ice pick and various tools, I pounded that block till it was micro cubes. Great fun, and we got the sound of ‘hail hitting car,’ ice flying in the air, and ice falling on ‘car and road’. Almost every week we had to create some unique sound; I would call it that week’s ‘gimlet.’ The first ‘gimlet’ was the nickname we gave to a device that was the only thing that could kill a certain ‘alien.’ A metal knife slipped out of a handheld tube. Over days various people came up with eighteen variations for the sound of this device -- meal, sword, knifes, silencers, muffled metals, etc., none of which worked for the producers. Late in the night, third day of the dub, Paul Rabwin grabbed the microphone and said, “Okay, is this the sound you want?” then he went “Psshep” into the mic (the knife out), and then made a sucking sound (knife back in). Fun sounds with mouth and mic. They loved it. Sometimes a simple organic sound works best. Foley (and this last example I guess being ‘mouth Foley’) played a big part in helping create the texture and realism for the show, as well as contributing many many specific sounds that enhanced the spooky and surreal events and locations.

Matt: You’ve indicated in the past that Chris Carter was happiest when the sound effects would feel like they were part of the music. As the series progressed, did you develop a strategy to where Mark Snow’s, Jeff Charbonneau’s, and your roles would overlap?

Thierry:  Well, I was fortunate to go to Mark’s playback sessions with Chris, Jeff, and Paul. This allowed me to see what the music and tone would be for that episode, and also what the challenges would be in terms of where we might be competing aurally. Chris didn’t necessarily want the sound effects standing out. Music was the overall bed and blanket. And at times, of course, with gunshots, cars crashing, big events, or establishing ‘historic’ or unique atmospheres, the BGs or FX would take some precedence for a bit. But in general, if the FX was so far ahead of the music (louder than the MX), he often felt it wasn’t the right balance for the story. Mark’s music was always the driving force of the show. A lovely brilliant score every week.

Balancing the FX, BGs (backgrounds), and Foley , we tried to create environments that help the aesthetic of the story and give it movement and character. And at the same time it couldn’t stand out, like “oh, look at this” (actually, really: “listen to this!!”). So, a lot of times we were trying to tuck our side of the sound into the music. Not to hide it entirely, but we knew if it stood out it might get a note in playback. Often a loud sound design event or element would stay in the show because it felt like an element of the music. The producers were meticulous about giving notes and each producer/writer who came to playback would give notes. There were a lot of notes-- but it was always about trying to shape the sound to drive the story. On a show where you have just normal events happening, just ‘reality’, the notion of how to use sound, or the absence of it, is often quite different than what we were trying to do.

Matt: Most fans don’t understand the dubbing and mixing process; could you explain it? The X-Files, that in hindsight, helped you the most while acting as an executive producer and director for the show?

Thierry:  Dubbing, or mixing, which is the same term, is going to a Mixing Stage to combine (Mix) all the separate and various edited sound tracks from each of the various sound elements into one combined track. The composer writes the score, and the music editor cuts, syncs, and prepares all those tracks for the stage. That’s the music side. The sound supervisor is responsible for getting all the other sound elements to the stage. There is the production dialogue (DIAL), (the actual dialogue shot on the set), the ADR, (the additional dialogue that is ‘shot’ on the ADR stage), the backgrounds (BGs) (general ambiance and beds needed for each scene), the ‘hard’ effects (FX), (like gunshots, doors, cars, spaceships, explosions, Alien attacks, etc.), and the Foley (footsteps, small movement, unique props, cloth movement, etc). The Foley is shot on a stage that has many different surfaces for walking on, and the room is generally stuffed to the rafters with ‘props’ to create any kind of ‘practical’ sound. There are two Foley walkers, and a Foley mixer, who record in sync with the picture, and generally spend two days to shoot the Foley.

All of the elements, the DIAL, ADR, BGs, FX, Foley, and MX need to be edited and the tracks are then brought to the stage. We’d usually have about 120 tracks of sound to start with. Along with Paul Rabwin I would help supervise the mix. At that time we had three mixers: The lead Mixer (Dave West) would handle DIAL and ADR, the second mixer, BGs and FX, and the third would mix MX and Foley. (It’s common now, because of mixing board automation and tracks accessible on computers [in ProTools sessions], to just have two dubbing mixers on a stage: one handles DIAL/ADR/MX, the second FX/BGs/Foley.). The X-Files started as a two-day dub (with a lot of overtime) and evolved into a three-day dub (often still with lots of overtime). Once we were in the mix stage had our first pass (mix), we would play it back for ourselves, and do our notes. Then we would play the mix back for the producers, do their notes, then have another playback and do the additional notes. In the nineties we did a 4-track mix. (Today almost all shows mix in 5.1).

[ Note: Since the mid-80s most people listened to TV in Stereo. In the 1990s a 4-track mix became common in broadcast (it was an ‘LCRS’ mix, or Left, Center, Right and one Surround channel). Through the magic of Dolby, we could encode those four (LCRS) separate channels into two. The network could broadcast that two channel mix (called an ‘LtRt’), and your TV could play that in Stereo (left and right), or if you had a Dolby decoder, (and four speakers) you play back all four channels. The norm in the HD (HighDef) world today is to mix a show in 5.1 (that’s Left, Center, Right, Left Surround, Right Surround, and Low frequency [or Subwoofer] channels). So at home you can get TV broadcast of the six discreet channels, (if you have the equipment and speakers), as well as the Stereo mix… because the reality is 98% of all TV watchers…. still listen in Stereo!]

The first year (1993-1994), Chris, when available, would come over the hill from FOX in Century City, to the playbacks at the dub (or ‘mixing’) stage in Burbank. Not fun for him. Not fun driving in traffic. That summer we installed an ABVS*** encoder at West Productions, and got an ABVS decoder installed at a screening room in the ‘blue whale’ (editorial building) at FOX. This was an early fiber optic telephone line, expensive, not installed commonly yet, and could carry a tremendous amount of info -- i.e. our digitized picture! Now Chris and the producers could just walk a few buildings over from his office to this playback room at Fox. We were now able to send to not only our audio Mix, but with the ABVS line we could send our Picture as well. The stage always got the most current ¾” picture (with the latest visual effects), so sending them our picture in sync with the playback audio was incredibly useful.

Matt: Do you think there’s a psychological element that should drive sound design? Is sound design about manipulating an audience?

Thierry:  Of course it’s about manipulating an audience. That’s the beauty about sound. It’s about creating a tone, or an atmosphere, that is trying to help support and drive the story.  There are two aspects to sound design; one is creating the atmosphere, whether it is supporting the visual on screen, or perhaps steering you in a weird, opposite direction, and the other is the tone, impact, force, and reality (or weirdness) of the Hard Effects (guns, cars, ships, specific noisy things). Say you walk into a cave, maybe there’s a low humming, a distant throb, maybe eerie winds, rumbles, lots of textures on the surface or ground as you walk, some trickling, something whooshing underneath. What is the tone of walking into a place, what do you see in front of us? Where is it? Is it a desert; is it dry, with the absence of anything? Or a lush forest that strangely has no birds? Or does the location have character? Does the BG (background) have a very low tone, or is it high-pitched? What is the shot trying to say, what is the story trying to say, what is happening to the character on screen at any given moment? How can I support that? We are in a room in a house; is it lonely, is it totally devoid of anything, except for perhaps a quiet constant, maybe from one side of the room, or the surrounds, or one surround? Can you hear anything in the distance? Are we near traffic? Are we in the middle of the city? What time of day? Close to a deserted street, or a busy downtown? And even if we are in the midst of ‘chaos’, do we want to forget about all the backgrounds because we are so into the characters’ head, or their story, and we want to forget about the real world? Just because we are on a boat that should have a low throbbing engine, or in some event in the arctic about to reach some alien DNA in the water, does that mean we hear boat sounds, or water lapping on the boat? Or is the water achingly eerie? Close but distant. Is it soggy, is there fog, is there a total absence of sound? Are we drifting? These are all choices that are dictated by what the story, and what the producers are hearing. Sometimes it is obvious, and it’s always valuable in our spotting sessions to understand not only what is in front of us, in the picture, but also what the writer’s intent is. Creating the sound design is a very collaborative event. I’ve had the fortune to work with many talented sound effects designer/editors and mixers. There’s a lot to communicate, and a lot to expect, and it’s invaluable to have input from everyone involved. With an hour-long episode you have 42 to 44 minutes to tell a story. The trick is always how to support the story and make it either real, or hyper real, and bring it out of its particular environment to give you an engaging experience. Many of these paranormal or supernormal stories were about normal events that were hyper events that were strange in some way. How do you support that? Coming up with sonic blankets without making it too overbearing, or too creepy, but keeping the audience engaged and in that story. Sometimes there’s something strange and it feels weird, and I try to not be taken out of that moment by making it a horror show, but in making the sound scape interesting and compelling and always trying to drive and support the story.

Matt: Would you say that the sound effects became more of a challenge as The X-Files progressed?

Thierry:  Every story/episode had its own challenge. There was some ‘device’ or tool or some unique atmosphere to create. You might get it right off the bat, like [for example] making the perfect sound of an alien hand being crushed by stepping on the head of a chicken and slowly crushing it. And sometimes not – back to the FX drawing board in the midst of a dub. In the beginning it was harder as we were establishing the tone of the show and finding what sonic direction Chris had in mind. But there was something we learned quickly, that was most of all you had to feel you were in a normal environment so that when things got weird, or supernormal, or just strange, you had a realistic jumping off point. And you couldn’t go overboard in making things too weird or melodramatic. Again, the music was right in making things really strange. Creating sounds to make each event believable – a lot of editors design work, and then mix it all. You want to create sound environments where these strange occurrences feel/sound true. To put the audience in the show, take them into the moment, keep them there, and with sound, enhance the moment as something is revealed or occurs.

Thierry: The beginning years were the hardest because every episode presented new challenges. The X-Files was a really unique show.  I mean, the first five years had a lot of exploration and turmoil and we all had some really insane fun. We had a wonderful group of sound editors, facing the challenge of creating a real and not real world. Everyone had different ways of how to edit something, how we’d mix something, how we would approach a scene, but there was always a commonality and understanding as to where the show had to go. There was a flushing out in the first season of the nature of the backgrounds and how the FX should play. And then, usually just when a show would get aurally established, the inventiveness had to continue. We could never just pull from our established FX library –(except for Mulder’s basement office), so the editors kept inventing new BGs & FX.

Background / How Things Work / Millennium, Birdman, and other thoughts

Matt: You worked on the Millennium pilot. What do you recall about that experience?

Thierry: David Nutter is such a great guy, and one of our more incredible directors around. Right now he has this reputation for directing twenty-one pilots, and, except for two, all of them have gone to series; a phenomenal track record. So, he chooses projects really well, and he directs even better.  So, here was the Millennium pilot. I have to tell you it is one of the best sound jobs I ever did.  It’s also one of the darkest shows (story-wise) that I have ever worked on. The start of the show is a freeze of a rain shot; David created a tone, which fit into the grayness of Vancouver. I thought it was a show that would never be recognized because the subject was so dark. It was a brilliant pilot and an interesting series. David J. West was the sound designer and re-recording mixer, as on X-Files.  David would be the shape-shifter in terms of sound, helping create and enhance the editors tracks. While he was the lead mixer, he took huge steps in shaping the quality and tone of the dub, for this show and X-Files.

Matt: Sound design has radically changed since the days of Ben Burtt; do you find that digital audio has been a hindrance or an asset, or just another tool?

Thierry:  Well, a large part of it is that it is just another tool, but what a tool. In the early days of working with sound, cutting ¼” to ‘sync’ with silent 8MM film, working in television with 16MM film that was edge coated with mag stripe (for sound), or cuttings 16MM docs with separate 16MM mag, or working with 35MM mag stripe (one track of audio) or ‘full’ coat (two to six tracks) in Features. To the development of eighteen different Digital Audio Workstations. Pro Tools was the one that fit all worlds – music and post production, with library, editing, and tracks formats, that while many other systems may have been better in certain aspects, this, like Coca Cola, stuck, and has became the benchmark for working and trading audio sounds around the world. And a giant asset that now is at every editor's digital fingertip is the ability to have thousands of “plugins” that can manipulate any piece of sound in ways that could never have been done so easily before in the cutting room. The advent of computer work has made it very hard for some careers in the sound world. In the feature world, big budget films now have audio crews of less than a dozen sound editors. Thirty or forty was not uncommon in the 35MM film sound world.

Thierry: Now you have the ability to get sound wherever you are. You can get large sound files, you can plug them in and download, work with them on your laptop. The computer has helped to make broad changes in the way audio is recorded on the set, how it’s prepped for editorial, and how you can edit. The workflow has changed in the digital world, and the work produces possibilities have changed by the advent of all these tools that you can use on your Pro Tools.

Matt:You recently worked on the Birdman feature, which has gotten a lot of critical acclaim and Oscar attention. In retrospect, do you have a good sense to know when you are getting involved in a project that will get a lot a critical attention? Can you predict when a project is really good?

Thierry:  Well, not really. Not till you get there. Sometimes there’s a buzz about something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean [anything]. Ten years ago a friend asked me to help cut some dialogue on a picture called Babel. Knowing nothing, I jumped on Reel one and saw it was a very interesting film in some rocky desert with two boys playing with a rifle. Halfway through the reel, they shoot at a bus. When we cut inside the bus, we discover…Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt having a very bad day. It dawned on me this was a good film. Until you see something you don’t know what it’s going to be. In the case of Birdman, one of the best films I’ve ever worked on since T2 [Terminator 2], which was also so unique, so filmically interesting. With Birdman it was the ability to take a subject matter that isn’t really too complex, and to make it really, really complex, and then through incredible camerawork, make it feel like it’s all very straightforward. The brilliant way Alejandro González Iñárritu**** set up each character’s themes and the timing of them and the great camera work to tie them all together, like the T2 Terminator, into a fluid two hours. When Jim Cameron made The Terminator the morphing technique that was being developed cost sixty to eighty thousand dollars to create three seconds of film. A few years later one could buy a morphing program for your home computer for 99 dollars (laughs).

Thierry: So, you’re propelled along with the story on this guy’s journey to try and find himself and improve himself. How do you know it’s really good? I had worked with Martin [Hernandez, sound supv for Birdman/Babel], and he brought me in on Birdman. Did not know much about it, but was bowled over on my first screening.

Thierry: When I was at Cannon Films I got to wear a lot of hats. The one thing the Go Go Boys had was a ton, a mega-boatload, of chutzpah -- drive; they also often had no class, no culture, and no taste. But they made a lot of films and out of that there were a few brilliant films like Runaway Train, Street Smart, and Barfly. There are some artists, and some art in every field that is just brilliant, and you can’t put your finger on why.  It just is – looks good, or is a good book, great film. Alejandro, a true film artist, is very down to earth and very expressive in how he describes things. He has a way of saying things in colors almost.

Thierry: For me, I always prefer working with people who are so talented and that’s sometimes challenging and daunting. Some people who ‘think they are great’ are often just mediocre talent. How do you know when something is going to be great? To be an innovative thinker, you tend to think outside the box, and it’s not a broad box, just a different box. Then you can combine that with having your touch, or pulse on something unique and interesting, with a story that people can relate to or be charmed by. I got lucky all of those X-Files years – working with great stories.  You don’t know what you are getting into until you start something. You find out ‘oh, this is cool!’ and then see how people are responding to it. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’ve done because you are so busy. It takes a while for things to unfold. Judy Garland sang a song that was supposed to be taken out of The Wizard of Oz, and lo and behold, it was back in the film (“Somewhere over the Rainbow”), and became an iconic American standard. You don’t know sometimes when you are going to be lucky enough to be touched by something that’s really cool, work on a project that’s so hard and so fun, and do really fascinating interesting work, like in the case of The X-Files. All of these wonderful producers, who were all different and didn’t fit into some mold: You know of Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz. Some went on to do insanely wonderful things, (laughs) like Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and Howard Gordon (24, Homeland). After X-Files, we all tried to work on fun shows, like in any business, and sometimes we get lucky enough to work on projects that turn out to be great, and we feel proud to do our part in getting it better.

Matt: Hopefully with what was just announced, you’ll be getting a phone call to get involved with the revival of The X-Files. Thank you for your time. This has been really terrific. I know that everyone can’t always make much time, so I appreciate it.

Thierry:  Just been asked about my availability this fall.

Thierry’s final remark is a major new development, and it will be exciting to think that another member of the original team from the early seasons will be a part of the revival. Thierry’s past work, and his commitment to moving the art of film and television forward, including offering his services to independent projects – including  a current project I was working on, over which Thierry seemed sincere with his interest, a gesture most appreciated – is one of the qualities that makes him distinctive in his field. This year, 2015, is shaping up to be an unprecedented time for The X-Files; everything old is new again, and this makes it all so gratifying to be present. Nevertheless I wish Thierry the absolute best with his career.

*  Gary Rydstrom is a highly respected sound designer, Born in 1959, Chicago, Illinois, his work extends as far back as Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, Willow, Ghostbusters II, Jurassic Park, Mrs. Doubtfire, Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars Episode I, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Monsters Inc, Punch-Drunk Love, Minority Report, Super 8, Brave, and recently Jurassic World.

** Fred Chandler’s career extends as far back the early 70s, he worked with Orson Welles in the later part of Welles’ career, and acted as the vice president of Theatrical Post Production for Paramount from 1987-1995 until he moved to Twentieth Century Fox in 1995. He has been heavily involved in numerous film restoration projects. He is known as a writer, director, producer, who is an accomplished poet that has been published fifteen times since 2007. As cited in a Visual Effects Society biography.

*** Thierry clarified the term: “ABVS, which unlike an ISDN connection (which sends audio and time code that drives the picture on the receiving end), ABVS sends the audio AND the Picture from the Stage. Much more expensive to initially set up, but the stage knows that anyone in playback is looking at the exact picture being projected on the stage. (really important when new versions, new viz fx, whatever, come to the stage, and often can't be delivered to the playback room). Chris would come to playbacks the first year as often as he could. From FOX in Century City to Burbank at rush hour is not a quick drive. (Actually, thru Beverly Hills and over Mulholland Drive is rather pretty, but two round trips, without a helicopter, is tedious).The solution was putting in the ABVS system, and a screening room at FOX was dedicated to get the signal. Also, with one button they could switch from a Stereo playback to 4-track LCRS playback. (It would be ten years later when HD broadcast allowed all TV shows to be mixed in 5.1 (6-track mix). At home you can choose the more common Stereo (LR on your TV speakers) or the 5.1 mix, if you have the speakers.”

**** Alejandro González Iñárritu is considered one of the freshest new voices in feature films. Born August 1963 in Mexico City, he was one of the first Mexican Directors to win the Prix de la mise en scene for best director at Cannes in 2006, and the first Mexican director to win the Oscar for Birdman. He crossed in a cargo ship through the Atlantic Ocean at 17 and 19. After graduating from college, he started as a radio host at radio station WFM in 1984. Between 1987 to 1989, he composed music for six Mexican feature films. After being involved in film production, he directed Amores Perros in 1999, which premiered at Cannes in 2000 and won best Foreign film. His other films include Babel and 21 Grams.

Back to top