San Diego Business Journal

'X-Files' Films Final Scenes in Local Desert

Staff Writer

Is the truth out there in Ocotillo Wells?

Longtime science-fiction drama "The X-Files" is shooting scenes from its final episode in the desert-area off-roading site this week.

Filming of the series finale will wrap up at an ancient pueblo set built in a remote canyon area of Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreational Area, with a helicopter flyover scene featuring Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

According to Kathy McCurdy, vice president and director of production for the San Diego Film Commission, the financial impact to Ocotillo and the neighboring community of Borrego Springs, which are about 80 miles east of San Diego, could reach between $500,000 to $750,000. The actual impact won't be known for several weeks, McCurdy said.

The two-hour finale is expected to air May 19 on the Fox Network. The show is produced by 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles.

The decision, planning and permitting process took place within a matter of several weeks.

The show's crew began building the set April 4.

According to Curtis Itogawa, district superintendent of the Ocotillo park, he was contacted in mid-March, two weeks before construction began.

The show had originally wanted to film all of the footage in the Anza-Borrego park, but the plans conflicted with bighorn sheep lambing season and an area of the park in two species of rare tropical bats live and reproduce.

According to Mark Jorgensen, superintendent of Anza-Borrego, when the helicopter shoot is scheduled, the park will have to go out and find the herds of sheep and let the pilots know which areas to avoid.

There will probably be three or four fly-throughs, Jorgensen said.

The area in Ocotillo Wells where the show eventually decided to build its set is about 100 feet by 50 feet in dimension. It's a cliff face with very little vegetation.

Still, the park will monitor production to make sure the area is as undisturbed as possible, Itogawa said.

The park doesn't charge visitors fees, and "The X-Files" isn't technically paying anything to film there, Itogawa said.

Under a program encouraging companies to film in the state, the California Film Commission collects fees and returns most of it through rebates.

Mac Gordon, location manager for the show, wasn't able to comment on the production's economic impact on Ocotillo and Borrego Springs.

Gordon did say that the 25 members of preparation crew has been there since the beginning of April, so expenditures already include their motel bills, food and extra hardware needed for building the set.

When the rest of the crew comes in, plus the staff and actors, almost all of the hotel rooms in the area will be booked.

"We leave a good economic imprint," Gordon said.

Gordon said the show looked at desert areas all over the state, including Mojave and Riverside, to find a location for the pueblo ruins scene.

The set should be down by May 3 or 4, he said.

Although nothing's final, the footage shot in Ocotillo and Borrego could end up being several minutes in the episode, Gordon said. It's an important scene, he said.

McCurdy, who talked to the Business Journal from the Ocotillo set, said there isn't a lot of concern that fans will interfere with production, because the location is somewhat remote.

However, there are usually contingency plans in place, if a lot of people do try to watch the production, she said.

McCurdy said the timing is good for Borrego Springs and Ocotillo, which have had a slower tourist flow this year. The drought this winter lead to a lack of the wildflowers that usually brings out most visitors, she noted.