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The Vancouver Sun: Secret of X-Files' success is its secrets

The Vancouver Sun
Secret of X-Files’ success is its secrets
Alex Strachan

“Mulder will see something that he thinks is paranormal, and Scully will say, no, it can’t be.” — X-Files producer Chris Carter on what fans can expect in the upcoming season.

PASADENA, Calif. — Chris Carter promises the usual surprises — and a nasty shock or two — when The X-Files begins its fourth season sometime in October. The first episode will be a conclusion to June’s cliffhanger which opened a whole new can of worms of exactly who is doing what to whom.

Beyond that, and the fact the season opener is being shot in Kamloops — “This one is set in Canada,” Carter said cryptically, refusing to reveal more detail than that — he isn’t saying much other than, like all good X-Files episodes, this one poses more questions than it answers.

Carter is juggling duties between The X-Files and shepherding his new show, Millennium, also filming in Vancouver.

“Hopefully, I won’t get the two confused,” he said, but he’s being facetious: Howard Gordon and R.W. Goodwin, supervising producers of The X-Files since its inception, are involved in the daily operation of The X-Files set while David Nutter, a veteran of The X-Files’ early years, is helping Carter supervise Millennium.

Carter said the secret to making sure a success stays a success is to remain actively involved.

“Because if you don’t, and there are a lot of people working on a show, somehow the show can take on a life of its own. It’s one of the ways something can fail. There are many reasons a show can fail. There are very few ways it can succeed.”

It has taken Carter, 39, eight years, he says, to realize what it takes to be a good storyteller — a process that involved learning how to translate something from script to screen.

X-Files scripts are prepared weeks in advance, and days of pre-production go into preparing each episode for actual shooting. Carter said most of his time in Vancouver is consumed supervising pre-production, scouting locations and making sure the crew has what it needs to work quickly and efficiently. The X-Files, with its extensive use of Lower Mainland and now Interior locations, and its complicated camera setups, is one of the most demanding productions in series television. The cast and 248-member crew work 12-hour days, seven days a week, for an average eight days per episode. Twenty-two episodes are shot each year between mid-July and early May. This year production started July 16.

“Kamloops gives us a nice look we wouldn’t get otherwise,” Carter said. “It’s river valleys, golden hills, and it’s got an arid quality — a big blue sky — you just don’t get in Vancouver. Well, you get the big blue sky this time of year in Vancouver, but you can’t get the rolling hills.”

There is little question that The X-Files has captured the popular imagination.

“I honestly can’t say why people believe this,” Carter said. “I think it has a lot to do with the global, political climate, the lack of a clear enemy and a certain amount of navel-gazing. But I think it also has to do with science. We are living in a world where technological and medical advancements are making quantum leaps. We don’t quite know how to fathom those things, and it gives us a feeling that, in fact, we may not be in control.”

The X-Files is popular enough now that it is sprouting imitators like pods from outer space: Dark Skies and The Burning Zone. Even David Hasselhoff is trying to turn Baywatch Nights into an X-Files clone.

“I think David Hasselhoff said that he thought the problem with The X-Files is that we talk too much on it,” Carter said. “Actually, I think that’s the problem with Baywatch, too.

“All I can do is speak to my own paranoia, which is great. So if my paranoia has inspired more paranoia, I think I’m a happy man.”

Pressure is mounting for an X-Files feature film while the series is still on the air.

“That’s a subject of some debate right now,” Carter said. “Whatever I do, I want to do it in such a way that it strengthens the show, not weakens it. The trick is to avoid doing something so big that you can’t ever recover on the series. I want to make sure that when we do this X-Files feature that we don’t just do it for the sake of doing it, but that we do it right.”

Carter said the feature film would dovetail with events on the series, the so called “mythology episodes” which deal with alien invasion and government conspiracy. If the go-ahead is given, filming would probably begin late this spring.

Caller is equally leery of the program’s move to Sunday nights, starting in November [sic].

“I like to think of The X-Files as being abducted to Sunday nights,” he said, laughing. “Everybody resists change. Some people see Sunday as a night when they’re preparing for work the next day, and kids might not be able to stay up because it’s a school night.

“I’m hoping [the show] doesn’t suffer. I’m just hoping that [the resistance] dies away and that people come back to the show because it’s good.”

Carter said both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are good friends, and “David and Gillian both renegotiated their contracts last year, so that’s out of the way.

“I have told them — and I think they are party to this — that I just want to do five really good years of The X-Files, five years where one day we can look back and say honestly that we did our best work. That’s why I haven’t left the show. If they’re willing to devote five years of their lives to it, so will I. Anything past that is gravy.”

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One Response to “The Vancouver Sun: Secret of X-Files' success is its secrets”

  1. […] Interestingly, it seemed like the production staff on The X-Files were less than thrilled with the shift to Sunday nights. Carter confessed as much in contemporary interviews: […]