The X-Files Lexicon's exclusive interview with R.W. Goodwin.
Conducted by Matt Allair (03/11/2009)
Page editor: XScribe
Paying tribute to the past history of film and television is a common tradition within Hollywood, and it's an important one. For any artist, one cannot move forward without acknowledging the past, which makes R.W. Goodwin's new feature, Alien Trespass, an interesting project, as well as a good illustration of this tradition. Alien Trespass is a science fiction alien invasion film that's set in 1957, very much in keeping with cold war films of that era, which features an interesting conceit, that the film was completed, and then shelved in 1957 and only now released in 2009.
Many fellow Philes were already aware of R.W. Goodwin's highly respected legacy within The X-Files phenomenon. Colleague Lyle had privately commented to me his feeling that Bob Goodwin was the most eloquent crew member when talking about what "makes" The X-Files what it is. Mr. Goodwin had already enjoyed an illustrious career, and was already considered a heavyweight veteran of the business before joining The X-Files production team in Vancouver for season one. A five-time Emmy Award nominee, as well as the recipient of three Golden Globe Awards, his other work includes the highly respected series, Life Goes On, as well as working with Richard Donner, as a producer for the feature Inside Moves (1980). His other television and film work includes Hooperman, Mancuso FBI, The Fugitive, and recently Tru Calling. He was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, then moved to Southern California as a child. After graduating from UCLA, he started his career working in the mailroom at CBS, before establishing himself as a screenwriter in the late 70s. As many Philes are well aware, Mr. Goodwin is married to Sheila Larken who played Margaret Scully, Dana's mother, on The X-Files.
The process of getting this interview was unusual. Author Matt Hurwitz contacted Bob nearly a month ago, and from there, Mr. Goodwin contacted me directly. The behind-the-scenes story of how this interview came to be was interesting. I had reached Bob during a week when he was in the middle of medical visits for a non life-threatening issue. The intrigue of this left myself, and colleague Avi Quijada, the editor of X-Files News, a little concerned but for no reason. The other situation that triggered a reschedule was something that anyone could relate to: One of Mr. Goodwin's children was having car trouble. The thing that struck me was how disarmingly approachable and unassuming I found Mr. Goodwin to be, as well as gracious and candid. During our interview, he walked around with a cell phone headset, ordered a latte, spoke to his staffers to verify information, and remained with me for over an hour. Such rare generosity is greatly appreciated. Our interview proceeded as follows...
Matt Allair: Thank you for doing this, I hope Mrs. Goodwin is doing well.
Bob Goodwin: Thank you.
Matt Allair: First off, I wanted to start off talking about Alien Trespass;, was this idea in development for a long time?
Bob Goodwin: It was. It was not with me. My friend Jim Swift was the one who had the idea originally. He worked on it for--I'm not even sure--but I have a feeling it could have been decades. Finally he came to me and asked if I wanted to get involved, and that was, I think, two-and-a-half years ago. At that point he already had a description. None of them [the outlines] really quite worked, but he had a great story idea. I liked it a lot, and so I started getting involved.
Matt Allair: The X-Files alumni Robert Patrick appears in this film; how long have you known Robert?
Bob Goodwin: I've known Robert since, I think, 2003--something in there. Five years or so. I was the executive producer of a pilot that Robert starred in called Snitch, which unfortunately never got on the air, but it was a wonderful pilot and Robert was incredibly great in it. It was the first time I'd met him. Of course I'd seen him on The X-Files, and Sheila had known him. But I wasn't involved with The X-Files for the last four seasons, only the first five, and Robert didn't work [on the show at that time], but I had seen him, and I was aware of him. It was fun to work with him, it was a real eye opener for me because the guy was so funny, most people don't know that. (Laughs) He has a great sense of humor.
Matt Allair: The narrative of most 50s science fiction films tends to be less sophisticated in comparison to the more complex narrative arcs of The X-Files. Did it force you to change your approach to working on the material for Alien Trespass?
Bob Goodwin: Well, the whole point of working on Alien Trespass was that it was a 1957 Sci Fi movie. That was the concept from the beginning. Jim and I liked the sci fi movies from the 50s, and he used to see them all as a kid. There were a lot of great ones and we wanted to make one more, and I had seen them as a kid. We thought it was a really funny idea, because if you look at 50s sci fi films nowadays, they're kind of funny. They probably were not meant to be funny when they made them, but they are because the styles have changed so much and everything. Our plan from the very beginning was to make it look as if it was exactly like it was in 1957. If we did it exactly like that then we'd end up with something that was funny, plus scary, as in 50s PG kind of scary. We were checking ourselves to the techniques they had available and the equipment they had available and that kind of thing.
Matt Allair: I understand while prepping for the film, you went back and watched many 50s Science Fiction films; which are your favorites?
Bob Goodwin: Well, my absolute favorite was actually War of the Worlds, and then in terms of quality, The Day The Earth Stood Still was a great one, It Came From Outer Space--there were a lot of other great ones and there were a lot of G rated B movies that weren't as great but I enjoyed. Some of the ones I liked were Invaders From Mars, which I thought was a great movie. Kind of scary, exceptionally low budget.
Matt Allair: Indeed. So was the transition from directing for television verses directing a feature film a difficult one?
Bob Goodwin: Well, this was a low budget feature film with short scheduling, so in many ways...directing The X-Files, which is arguably not a very normal television series, in that in The X-Files we always attempted to make it like a movie, we had a very cinematic style to it and look, and you try to give it a lot of production values, so we had to do it on a television schedule. I think that was really good training for me, to do a feature film like this on a shorter schedule and still attain the kind of quality we were looking for. To answer your question, it wasn't like directing Watchmen or something where I had months to shoot or all of that kind of thing. I happen to do it with skill on a mean schedule, and I used a lot of my training from television, especially The X-Files, to be able to do that. Also, I learned that the only way to do that is to get the kind of people who know how to do it-- that have different capacities that have had experiences with television and know how to do it on that schedule--but at the same time have people who do quality work, so that they are achieving what I was after. Which looked like a nice, well-produced movie, and we just did it on a heightened schedule.
Matt Allair: When you first get a script as a director (either television for film) and you are reading through it, how soon will you start taking notes and breaking it down?
Bob Goodwin: The first thing I do is I try to read the script several times, just to kind of immerse myself in the script so I really know it. That assumes that it's a script I wasn't involved writing, or supervising the writing of it--if it's something somebody has written, I like to read it as many times as I can, and then very quickly I start breaking it down. I break it down in different ways; I first break it down into the different characters and character arcs and things I feel are important for the characters' relationship to the story, and the content of the show. Then I usually do a breakdown that way, then I do little notes to myself about the different characters and where they should be coming from, what they are doing in any particular scene. After I got the creative concept of what I think needs to happen, then I go back and I do a very detailed shot list. Frequently I'll do qualitatively with my notes all of those different ways of shooting. Then for sequences that are any kind of challenge in terms of big action pieces, or special effects pieces--anything that requires extra cinematic attention--then I'll do story boarding as well.
Matt Allair: Which directors and cinema photographers influenced you the most?
Bob Goodwin: Oh my goodness. (Laughs) Well, I would think, as a young man, Alfred Hitchcock, and John Huston--some of the greats. There [are] just so many, it's hard to say. I grew up in the business, starting in production. I was a location manager, and I spent all of my time, as much as I could, sitting with all of the directors that were directing the shows I was working on and taking notes, asking questions, getting ideas about how they approached material. I've been doing it for so long and done so many things; it's hard to check out anyone in particular. I was fortunate to produce a film with Richard Donner, a movie called Inside Moves. Among other movies Dick Donner directed The Omen, then the first Superman and of course afterwards onto the Lethal Weapon films. I learned an awful lot about action, about planning. There's a whole slew of television guys I've worked with that were just amazingly talented. Jeff Bleckner**. I was lucky enough to produce a number of shows with Jeff. He's a multiple Emmy winning director of television, and very, very talented. A guy named Billy Graham, who's not the priest, but for years was one of the top directors in television. Like I say, when you work with people, [for example] Waris Hussein*, you know you look at The X-Files. It was more fun than anything to work with guys like David Nutter and Rob Bowman and Kim Manners--guys like that. We had great times on that show.
Matt Allair: Are you a big believer in the storyboard process?
Bob Goodwin: Yes.
Matt Allair: Was that a tool used on The X-Files?
Bob Goodwin: We had to use it on The X-Files, especially in the first season and into the second season. All we had were guest directors, then when you're doing a series, you want to make sure that the directors, as they step in for each episode--some of them come in for one episode--you want to make sure they are creating an episode in a series that you have conceived creatively and you want them to make that they are on the same page as the producers are. One of the ways you can control that is [by] using storyboards, and in fact as a director, as they are working on an incredibly fast schedule. It's good for all departments, so that everybody is completely aware and prepped for whatever the sequences [are] going to require. You don't need to have the prop man find out at the last minute that he doesn't have some key piece of equipment he's going to need, or the same thing for other departments, the camera department, or anybody, so storyboards are great.
Matt Allair: You have a very long history in the business; was there any particular television series or films you worked on prior to joining The X-Files, that in hindsight, helped you the most while acting as an executive producer and director for the show?
Bob Goodwin: I think that if you're worth anything, everything you do adds to your arsenal of weapons. By the time I got to The X-Files, I had produced several televisions series. One that stands out is Life Goes On, which really if you look at it, which is as superior as anything on The X-Files. It was a family show. There were two daughters and a son, and the son had Down Syndrome, and we used an actor that actually had that, Chris Burke. That show, I think, was...valuable in terms of understanding the human condition and the interaction between humans. I think that was a very successful show. I think like The X-Files, we had some great funny ones, and obviously some great scary ones, serious ones, and everything else. I think more importantly [is] to get characters that the audience [is] interested in.
Matt Allair: As a director, Ideally, what kind of actors are you happiest with? Ones that just take direct direction? Or actors that offer their own insight and will take ownership of their character?
Bob Goodwin: Ideally, you always want [the latter]. Billy Graham had a saying: "Filmmaking is a collaborative medium; if it wasn't they would only order one lunch." So, in every field that you work in, and I include the acting which is critically important, you always are looking for people who are full of talent and ideas. Generally, when I direct a show I spend an awful lot of time preparing myself for where the characters are emotionally. Where they should be in terms of the story, and how all of that comes together, and in a complimentary way. I'll have a pretty good idea when I direct a scene how I'm going to stage it, where I want the actors to do. Generally speaking, when I do our first rehearsal, I'll give the actors some idea of what I think they should do. You know, "You come in through that door and stand there, and you'll be sitting here, but you get up at this point because you're mad and you want to say something." Then as the rehearsal evolves, you allow the actors to offer their own ideas and suggestions, I'm completely open to that. It doesn't mean to say that I take every one of them; sometimes I'll take them, mold then and shape them. Sometimes they'll be so great that I'll replace whatever thoughts I had to begin with. On Alien Trespass, some of the funniest moments came from Robert Patrick or Eric McCormack, who's an incredibly inventive actor. He was just wonderful to work with. Some of the funniest scenes on the movie came from when our camera operator came to me and suggested: "You know when the monster sneaks up behind the girl in the theatre, why don't you have the tentacle touch her shoulder, and she thinks it's her boyfriend, and she smacks it away." I'm open to any ideas; the only thing is, at the end of the day it has to be done, especially on a short schedule, without going into tremendously long hours or you'll never get the whole show finished. I reserve the right to be the final authority. If I don't feel something is working or I feel it maybe working to a certain degree, I get the final call.
Matt Allair: You wrote the episode "Demons". Did you find writing an X-Files episode to be an interesting experience? Did it give you an insight into the challenges of what the other writers faced?
Bob Goodwin: I started as a writer. I started concurrently in two fields. I was working in production, but then as a young man I wrote for a living for a few years. I wrote independent feature scripts. Only one ever got made, but I made a living either selling my own scripts, or being hired by other producers to write scripts for them. It's one of the things that has served me well all these years as a producer; that I was solid and successful in the fact that I actually sold scripts, which is hard to do. I think I sold, over a two or three year period, about twelve scripts. I was a writer before that, I am a writer, I have always been a writer. I've been in the writer's guild since I was 24. What I would do as a writer, every series I produced I would write one episode. When you're an executive producer, writing becomes difficult because you're responsible for running the show on a day to day basis. As a producer you know, I['d] get scripts sometimes that would be impossible to do; they were so far beyond the scope of what we had to work with. Now, on The X-Files, when it became successful-- which was very early-- I remember Charlie Goldstein [was] still running production. In the second season we were doing episodes where the nuclear submarine came up through the polar ice caps. You know how television is (laughs). I would call and say: "Charlie, don't you think someone should talk to Chris and the writers and try to get scripts that are not quite so impossible [to execute]?" His response was, because at that point, we were becoming a world wide phenomenon, "I don't know how you're doing this, and here's the deal: Spend what you have to spend, and do whatever you have to do. Just don't miss an air date." So you know (laughs), its like, "Thanks a lot." It's a job where everything is put on my shoulders. As a writer, you've got to be careful because you can't think as a producer. I always told the writers, including Chris, I said, "Don't pre-edit yourself because you think something will be too difficult." Unfortunately, you don't want the producer inside of you to be too dominant over the writer because that will hamper your creativity.
Matt Allair: Do personal experiences or life experiences inspire the kind of stories you feel compelled to write?
Bob Goodwin: In some cases, yes, in some cases, no. "Demons" was really based on a chapter in a book by Oliver Sacks about a painter in California, (Franco Magnani) who was born in Italy and left as a very young boy, and had been living in San Francisco. He was at least in his 40s, and he had some sort of viral attack that was centered in his frontal lobe. He went into convulsions. It took him a while before he was able to get back on his feet, and in the meantime, he took up painting. He had these moments that became more and more frequent where he would transport himself back to the village that he lived in as a young boy. It was more than just memory; it was almost like he was physically, mentally, emotionally just transported back in time. He started these paintings of the villages, and people noted that while they were beautiful paintings, somebody got curious and so they took some of his paintings and actually went back to the village, which had not changed in a 1,000 years. They were told that a photograph of a painting of the village itself, every single detail was exact, [down to] the stones and the masonry. There's a name for it: Waxman-Geschwind. The short name for that particular phenomenon is called the Dostoyevsky syndrome, and I thought that was fascinating, so that was sort of the basis for my story. I had that and I had a very strong image that occurred to me. The image was the opening scene – where Mulder wakes up in a motel room covered in blood and doesn't know how he got there or what happened; that became the basis of the story. It was a combination of a couple of visual ideas that I had, and some stuff in the treatment, combined with this wonderful phenomenon that I read about.
Matt Allair: I see you are involved with a new show; what is The Cody Rivers Show about?
Bob Goodwin: The best way to describe it...It's kind of Monty Python meets Moulin Rouge in the 21st Century. It's very funny, off the wall. Two guys named Andrew Connor and Michael Mathieu...They're extremely talented sketch comics that have [had] loads and loads of material now for years. It ranges from song and dance to plain old comedy sketches, characters, puppets--everything you can think of. A lot of it is really off the wall. In fact we worked together for a long time, finally figured out a concept where we think we can do it as a half hour. We can do as a cable series.
Matt Allair: You played a pivotal role managing the Vancouver production. I have a feeling most of our readers don't understand your role as a producer, could you walk through what it was like on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis on the Vancouver set?
Bob Goodwin: It evolves over time. Initially when we first started prepping the show, you have to create in your mind with Chris and some of the other producers, the style you want to achieve with the show, and that style involved the cinematography, art direction, the acting, costumes--there was every single element of it. My biggest role in the beginning was to get a concept based on what Chris had been talking about, and how we wanted to go forward, so we put together the people--the team that were able to do it--and to guide them as to what we wanted. I remember for the look of the show, which in those days was very unique for television, they didn't have shows that had so much dark and light. One of my favorite artists, a guy named Caravaggio***, who was probably one of the most innovative and creative artists ever. He came at a time in the late 16th Century, early 17th Century when most art was colorist or mannerist. He was the first to start using real dramatic source light. If you look at some of his paintings, there's one called "Supper at Emmaus" [which] shows Christ sitting at a table, they're in a room that is very, very dark, but there's a shaft of light coming in through the window that lights up all of the characters, so you get this real chiaroscuro, it's a real shadow of light effect. So I pulled a number of Caravaggio's, I got reproductions of them and mounted them all on a board, and that's kind of where we started.
That was the reference of what we're going to go for, from there, the camera, the cinematographer John Bartley and other people were able to at least move forward with the concept. You do the same thing when you're dealing with the art department, designing sets, or picking locations, creating the ability to achieve that kind of thing, you move forward with every single department as you prep. Once you're going, there's directing style you have to achieve, I spent a lot of time working with the directors, a lot of storyboard work. We were designing sets cinematically. That's what I did the first season; I just made sure that all of the stuff we'd talked about is all covered. Basically I was the yard dog there to make sure that nobody varied from the plan, that we ended up with a show that was consistent every week, consistent in quality and style, and I did an awful lot of directing that first year too. The shows were very, very ambitious--much more ambitious than anything that anybody had ever tried on television. I used to joke that we'd send most of the directors home in body bags, and lots of times I would either have to help, or pick up stuff that wasn't done. Also frequently we would shoot other material, or re-shoot stuff, so I did a lot of directing as well. I directed the season finale "The Erlenmeyer Flask". Basically, through the years it got easier because we brought in directors who became producers. They were very talented and quickly understood what the show was about. Then I wasn't having to be so consistently, constantly watchful because the other guys got it.
Matt Allair: Indeed. So how well did you know Chris Carter before coming to work on the show?
Bob Goodwin: I had known Chris for many, many years before The X-Files. We both worked a lot way back when for a company called NBC Productions, which was the production wing of [the] NBC network. Brandon Tartikoff was running everything. He ran the network, but he also ran the production house. Chris and I were there for a couple of years doing different shows. Not together, but I've always admired Chris for a long time.
Matt Allair: Was there a certain moment you had a sense the show was working and it was going to last?
Bob Goodwin: I liked the pilot--I thought it had a lot of promise, I'm not quite sure it was completely fulfilled, but it certainly gave you a really good idea of what the series could be about. It definitely showed you a couple of actors with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson who were individually attractive, but more importantly together it seemed to happen--really wonderful chemistry and charisma. I actually thought, from the very beginning, the show had the potential to be a big hit. I told Chris way back before the first season opened. I remember having a conversation with him in the office in Vancouver. I think it was before we even shot anything. I'd seen a few of the scripts [by] Jim Wong, Glen Morgan, Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa, and Chris of course. I said to Chris: "You know in my opinion you need three elements to have a successful show: You have to have the material, combined with a great idea, and you also have to have the cast that will carry it forward for you with an ability to cross over. The third element is to mount the show creatively in terms of the look and production value." I saw what we had with the actors, I saw what we were getting with the scripts. It had a lot of good ideas and dialogue, a cinematic look, the overall quality of the production. I wasn't surprised when it became a hit. There'[re] never any guarantees, the network didn't expect anything of it, we were basically scheduled in the worst time slot in television, which is 9:00 on Friday night. From the beginning we did well enough that we were going to stay on for awhile, and then it just kept going. By the end of the first season we did "The Erlenmeyer Flask," which was the season finale, which arguably [was] our most impressive episode just overall, and that got a lot of attention. It was over that first hump that a lot of people heard of it, then we were on our way.
Matt Allair: I was curious regarding camera placement and the setting up of shots. Are there certain tools you prefer using, or does it depend on what the script calls for?
Bob Goodwin: It depends on what the scene is or the sequence. Whatever the tone you need-- whether it be action, or spooky and eerie, or something very character driven, or that sort of thing--that will guide you as to how you should approach it, and then you have to make sure that the directing style, which of course the camera, the cinematography is an element of that, ultimately locks up together to create what you're looking for.
Matt Allair: As John Bartley scaled back his involvement during season four, and other DP's were brought in, was there a concern that the visual continuity of the show would be affected or was the transition smooth?
Bob Goodwin: The transition is never smooth. There's just no way with cinematographers. We kind of prepared ourselves. Not that I knew that John was going to leave--he didn't just leave overnight, he gave me enough warning. The show was so big that we realized half way through the first season that there was no way that one crew could handle The X-Files, that it was just too much to shoot in eight days, and get it all done, so we developed a second crew, we called it the B unit, but it was not the second unit**** because it was just as big as the A unit. What would happen is the A unit would shoot for eight days, and most of those scripts couldn't really get done in eight days, so there would be two days or three days left over with work. It was all very difficult scheduling because David and Gillian would do so much stuff together, but we always managed to figure out ways to get an extra two or three days shooting, then that B unit would go on to shoot inserts or pick-up shots. Basically what would happen was the B unit would try to keep consistency because all of the material that was shot would have to look like it was done by the first unit, the main unit. We found ourselves training our own.
The first replacement for John Bartley was not somebody who was part of the show. Ron Stannett is a very talented cinematographer who joined us in the fourth season after John Bartley left. The season premiere was called "Herrenvolk," which I directed. Nothing went right on that episode. We were shooting on a distant location for the first time ever on the show in Kamloops and the three days there were a near disaster with all kinds of production problems. When we got back to Vancouver for the interiors on stage, Ron had a tough time believing we had been shooting the show at such low light levels. For most of the third season we were all amazed and increasingly apprehensive because John Bartley's lighting was getting darker and darker and darker...
Ron left fairly early on and we moved up Jon Joffin who'd been DP on the B unit and was shooting some arrestingly beautiful film. Eventually Jon moved on and we called up Joel Ransom, who was the current DP on B unit. Eventually--very deservedly--Joel won an Emmy for XF. He's a brilliant talent and a pure, chuckling delight. Except for Ron, who I recruited from Toronto, all of these guys--John Bartley, Jon Joffin, Joel Ransom and a bunch more--go back with me for years. Jon pulled focus on some show I did when he was about eleven. I first met Bartley in 1983 when I went to Vancouver and produced a couple of television movies and John was our gaffer. I knew he was a talent from the first week I worked with him. He's been a dear friend ever since.
You know, over the course of years you have to expect that people aren't going to stay forever, that there are going to be other opportunities, so you need to be prepared. The way I describe it, there's a great restaurant in Vancouver that [has] been, for almost twenty-five years, the best. [It's] called Bishop's, and the chef is named John Bishop. He would train these Sous chefs, then they would move up, they would become his chef, so consistently that he would train his replacements. Because of that, it's consistently been the top restaurant in the South, it's the same with our show. You train the people that come up and (they) become your replacements.
Matt Allair: Aside from your producing responsibilities, did the fact that you usually directed the opening and closing episodes of a season allow you more preparation time in comparison to the other directors?
Bob Goodwin: No. Well in a way, on the opening we would have more time. If we were going to start the season shooting in mid July, early June then we'd prep. But, the actual prep for each episode was always the same, it was eight days. Which were eight days to prep and eight shooting days, plus whatever days we would have with our other unit. There was actually no extra prep on the last episodes; as a matter of fact it was actually the opposite. Because I would be preparing the second to last episode up until the moment I['d] start prepping my own episode. We only really devoted prep time during that eight days leading up to that show, was for that time you do the casting. Frequently off of bigger episodes, [for example] we had episodes using submarines, or Russian gulags or things that were extraordinary. We were prepping way ahead of that, but that was the producing kind of prep as opposed to the directing kind of prep. When it comes to the actual directing of each episode, I think you kind of edited the eight days you had. The reason we decided early on...in a series you do twenty-two episodes on a year, while one show was being shot, the next show is being prepped, and I would be working, so episode two was being shot by David Nutter, so [with] episode three, Billy Graham would come in to direct an episode. Over the course of the eight days, I would be prepping the next episode. So, as a director myself if I were going to do an episode at the end of the season, it would become difficult. I would still be overseeing the one shooting during that period. That would be the most difficult because I would be on the stage all day directing and I may have to keep a strong eye prepping the next director, so we decided early on that if I did the first one and the last one, that it helped. After the first year, I did make sure that I had the stalwarts--either David Nutter, Kim Manners, or Rob Bowman--doing that previous episode so that I was confident I wouldn't have to go solve a lot of problems or whatnot, I could focus on the episode I had to direct.
Matt Allair: During post production, regarding the episodes you directed, were you given a lot of latitude to work with the editor in refining how an episode was cut together?
Bob Goodwin: Yes, I mean probably a little bit more than most directors because most directors come in, and they deliver their cut, then turn it over to the producers who pretty much run with it. That happened a lot on The X-Files, but in my case because I was the executive producer obviously, I had a little more insight and ability to stay on board than most directors. Not as much on the season premieres because I would have to shoot that, race down to LA and generally have to work over a weekend with the editor to get my cut. Then I'd have to be back up in Vancouver because I would be prepping the next director. By the finale of course, it meant that everybody had gotten on the bus and gone away for the hiatus, and I'd get to go down to LA and spend as much time as I needed to.
Matt Allair: Was the willingness for producers to give directors more creative control on The X-Files an anomaly within the television business?
Bob Goodwin: We didn't give most guest directors creative control; I think probably it was just the opposite. We had very, very strong feelings--we being Chris and I, and Jim, Glen, Howard and everybody else--about how that show was to be directed and put together. But, when we started identifying the fact that the show was so difficult to direct, and when we would find those amazingly talented people like David Nutter, Rob Bowman, and Kim Manners, if you look at the total episodes directed, a huge percentage of all of shows that were done over those five years that I was on,( I can't speak for the last four years) were directed by David, Rob, Kim, and Bob Goodwin. Yet those folks were producers, and they were producers for the simple fact that they were, not just brilliantly talented directors, but that they totally understood what The X-Files was about. We wanted to give them more creative control. For me, it was a tremendous opportunity because, as I was saying, early on when we were trying directors, I found myself working at three in the morning, directing a scene with Mulder and Deep Throat or somebody, then having to be at work the next morning at eight o'clock to take the next director out on location scouting. When I found those guys, I was thrilled that we were able to tie them up and they couldn't go anywhere, not only [for] the episodes that they were doing, but to help us with the retakes, or re-shoots or added shoots. We would help each other too. If [someone] had a particularly difficult episode, especially the finales, there was no room after you were done. You couldn't re-shoot because everybody was gone. They would help me out. I'd say: "Take this scene for me, will you? because it would take a load off my day here." I liked them so much because they were so talented. We did find a number of talented guest directors that came in and did repeated episodes where we felt very comfortable with them. You'd try to figure it out after their first show or so that they were really on their game. If they were part of the team and then you'd give them much more leeway than you'd ordinarily do.
Matt Allair: In light of the recent passing of Kim Manners, what are your thoughts on his importance to the series?
Bob Goodwin: First of all, he was one of the most wonderful people you'd ever met in your life.
Sheila and I were so devastated. I was introduced to Kim through Jim Wong and Glen Morgan who had worked with him at Cannell. They had done a number of shows with him (Stephen J. Cannell), and they kept telling me what a talented guy he was. I'd look at the material he'd done, and it was absolutely wonderful work, but it was just not the same type of material we were dealing with, and that was one of the issues that went along with our problem, because no one was doing anything [like it.] i>The X-Fileswas so unique [for television], it was difficult to find directors based on what was done in their past, because nothing in the past was like The X-Files. It was too different. So finally Glen and Jim just persuaded me to let Kim direct an episode, which was fine, and he did an absolutely spectacular job. He was so talented and so collaborative. Did you ever meet Kim?
Matt Allair: Unfortunately, I wish I had, I never had got a chance to.
Bob Goodwin: Well, his real family name was Manneri, and he had all of the passion and the life that Italians carry around with them all of the time. I was amazed at the guy, indeed (you have me a little choked up here). It was so hard. He came in and kind of saved my life because he was able to take up a lot of the extra work that I had been doing prior to that. He did it with so much enthusiasm, so much excitement, that I'd come to him and ask, Kim--you know some director, Jimmy Whitmore, Billy Graham, or Jerry Freedman, or whoever would be directing an episode--"We can't fit this one sequence into the schedule, and so we're going to do it as a second unit thing. Do you think you could direct the second unit?" You know, when you ask somebody to go out and work from 6 pm to 8 am in the middle of the week, and then they have to come back to work the next day, you kind of hesitate because it's not easy. There was never a second's hesitation. He jumped into everything with so much enthusiasm and such great skill, it was just a great experience.
Matt Allair: There have always been a lot of signs that The X-Files had a major impact on television; are you pleased to see the influence?
Bob Goodwin: Well, you know, of course. It was a once in a lifetime experience,... hopefully I've had other experiences like that, but they were different genres. Like I say, Life Goes On was a good experience, I did some fabulous television. Alien Trespass I have to tell you is the most fun I've ever had at all in my life. We just had so much fun making the movie. But, The X-Files was something so unique and so groundbreaking. I've traveled all over the world, and everywhere I go, people will go: "Oh my God, R.W. Goodwin from The X-Files!" How could you not just be so proud? The person I have to thank the most for that is Chris Carter. Chris asked me to come on board from the beginning and I was thrilled to do it. Throughout the times I worked on the show, Chris was the most generous and supportive guy, for me, personally, and for the show itself. Clearly, he had a brilliant concept to begin with that had masterful ideas about how things should be done, and what they should look like. I can't say enough about Chris. He was a delightful person to work with, always. A complete gentleman which, unfortunately you don't always find in this business, and I got to work with some other great people like Morgan and Wong, Howard Gordon, David Duchcovny, Gillian Anderson, and on and on. The whole crew, the talented people who worked to put the show together. It was just a very unique experience that will never be duplicated in my lifetime. I hope I still have a few more experiences that will be exciting and everything else in other ways. But, in terms of just that particular phenomenon there's just nothing you could say about it [to compare].
Matt Allair: Indeed, Thank you again for your time, you've been incredibly generous, I really appreciate it.
Bob Goodwin: Anything you can do to help us with Alien Trespass would be greatly appreciated. We open April 3rd. We're opening in twenty-four markets around the country and then we'll widen out after a couple of weeks to another thirty markets. The response so far has been great, we had an amazing experience up at WonderCon in San Francisco before that with 3,500 or more people in the room that just responded so enthusiastically, I felt like I was Bono or something. That's kind of what we're getting all over the country with our screenings, with the rushes and the press. So, I got my fingers crossed that this little, tiny movie can actually poke it's head above ground and gain some traction.
Matt Allair: Again, thank you for doing this, I hope all is well.
Bob Goodwin: I appreciate it, thank you.
Mr. Goodwin demonstrated, through his humanity and humor, that he is doing his part in honoring the past while moving forward. He already has the incredible good will of many fans; for that reason, they might want to go to the theatre on April 3rd and see Alien Trespass. I must thank Cheryl Boone Issacs, and Karoline Ali for their assistance in providing publicity material about the film. It demonstrates the true character of Mr. Goodwin, That someone with so much clout and prestige could be so relatable, and treat me as a peer and equal. It was touching and uncommon. I look forward to seeing where he takes us next with his immense talent.
Please visit the Alien Trespass website.
*) Waris Huessein is a highly respected television and film director who has worked on both sides on the Atlantic. Born in Lucknow, India, he later attended Cambridge. By 21, he started as a trainee director for the BBC. He started his television career directing in 1964 the first episode of Doctor Who titled "An Unearthly Child", as well as episodes for that first season. He also directed BBC episodes for The Wednesday Play and Edward & Mrs. Simpson. He has directed the TV film, Little Gloria...Happy at Last and is presently working on the Winter's Tale, currently in production.
**) Jeff Bleckner is a two-time Emmy winning director who was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was also a Tony award nominee in 1972 for Sticks and Stones. His television work includes Boston Legal, Commander in Chief, The Fugitive, Mancuso FBI, Lou Grant, Dynasty, Knots Landing and Welcome Back, Kotter.
***) Caravaggio (1571-1610) Full name: Michelangelo Mersi da Caravaggio. An artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily and was considered the first great representative of the Baroque school of painting, which emphasized light and shadow, an abundant amount of details, as well as an overall sense of awe. There are eighty known paintings of Caravaggio's work. There is an element of homoeroticism in Caravaggio's work, which now has left some, in certain circles, to regard him as a 'gay icon' amongst critics and scholars.
****) Second Unit: A photographic team that shoots scenes which do not involve the principle cast, such as stunts, car chases, or establishing shots. A 'B' unit would be a second or third photographic team that operates in the same manner. This footage can be referred to as 'B Roll'.
Interview with Sarah Stegall
Interview with Jeff Charbonneau
Interview with William B. Davis
Interview with Alex Gansa
Interview with Glen Morgan
Interview with Mark Snow
Interview with Amy Donaldson
Report from LAX-Files book signing
Interview with Erica Fraga
Interview with Howard Gordon
Report from Vancouver TV Forum
Interview with Gabe Rotter
Interview with Robert Shearman
Report from Believe Again event
Report from X-Con 2009
Interview with Jana Fain
Interview with R.W. Goodwin
In Tribute to Kim Manners
Interview with Matt Hurwitz
Pemberton Set Report
Paley Festival Interviews
Interview with John S. Bartley
Report from Wondercon 2008
Interview with Howard Gordon
Q&A with Chris Carter
Interview with Doug Hutchison
Interview with Frank Spotnitz