Archive for December, 1998

The Millennial Comet: Interview with Mark Snow

Dec-18-1998
The Millennial Comet [Vol. 2, No. 5]
Interview with Mark Snow
Brian A. Dixon

Interview conducted and edited by “Millennial Comet” staff writer and Editor-in-Chief Brian A. Dixon (WackiDixon@aol.com).

Here is a man who, to X-Files and Millennium fans, requires no introduction. From day one of both series he has been composing some of the most powerful underscore music we could ever hope for. He’s used sounds in some of the moodiest, most atmospheric, and most frightening manners possible. That man is, of course, Mr. Mark Snow.

You’ll find his name in the credits of every Millennium episode made. A powerful part of the Ten-Thirteen crew, Mr. Snow is the creator of the wailing violin sounds that are the very soul of Millennium’s onscreen presence. He’s given passion to Frank and Catherine’s most emotional scenes and added an edge of excitement to each serial killer show-down. Without the sounds of Mark Snow running underneath it all, Millennium would NOT be the show it is today. It would not be the series we’ve come to know and love. To say that his creation influences Millennium’s very being would not be an exaggeration. The element he adds to the dramatic events is invaluable.

So, without further introduction, I proudly present my recent conversation with the man responsible for giving so much to Millennium….

MC: “Millennial Comet”
MS: Mark Snow

COMING OF THE MILLENNIUM

MC: What is your official title when working with Millennium?

MS: Mark Snow – composer of the underscore music for the TV series Millennium.

MC: You had already been working with Chris Carter and 1013 for some time on The X-Files… what was your first reaction and initial thoughts when Millennium was first proposed to you as a new series and began undergoing development?

MS: Chris Carter wanted a feeling of hope and horror for the Millennium theme and underscore music. So, I thought a melancholy, celtic feel would be right since so many of the first shows had an early or medievil religious themes… and for the theme, the contrast of the solo violin (Hope) over the dark sustains and percussion (horror) of the accompianment.

MC: Was there any specific inspiration for the “Millennium” theme song? How was it recorded?

MS: Chris Carter sent over a CD of Kiley Minogue (Celtic fiddle stuff), so that was my initial inspiration. I had a live violinist play over my electronic track.

MC: What sets the overall tone or musical feel for the series when you’re writing a piece of music for Millennium?

MS: The slow, deliberate brooding Frank Black seems to set the tone of the action and therefore the music tone.

DIVIDED ATTENTION

MC: How, if at all, do you try to separate your work on Millennium and The X-Files?

MS: The Millennium music is simpler and more folk, celtic, modal ancient sounding music than X-Files. X-Files in general is more modern avante garde sounding, with symphonic traditional overtones.

MC: What other shows or movies have you worked on recently?

MS: The X-Files movie and Disturbing Behavior directed by David Nutter, who directed the pilot of Millennium.

MC: Is it difficult to work on two or more television series at a time? Do you find that it limits or stifles your creativity?

MS: No, the shows are so different, and basically very well done (some of best on TV), that they’re usually very inspiring and different from week to week. They also seem to be shows that count on the music for its complete effect, unlike a show like L.A. Law which relies on dialogue mostly. Working on both shows does not limit my creativity but actually inspires it.

MC: Who are your favorite musical groups or artists to listen to?

MS: Eagle Eyed Cherry, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Suzanne Vega, Natalie Merchant, Crash Test Dummies, Chumbawumba, Tracy Bonham, to name a few.

MILLENNIAL EVOLUTION

MC: I know that one of the pieces of show music you’ve composed which will always stand out in my mind is the exciting and very different chase music from the climax of The Thin White Line. Do you have a personal favorite piece of music from an episode of Millennium?

MS: The show “Luminary” was a favorite of mine for the music, and more recently “Closure”; the montage cue with Emma at the computer cutting back and forth with Frank at the computer, and the black and white flash backs of Emma as a young girl!

MC: Did you enjoy writing the lighter, more humorous scores for the Darin Morgan comedy episodes of the second season?

MS: Yes! That was a fun change of pace for me, and very enjoyable! Sort of going on a mini-vacation!

MC: With season three we not only got new opening credits sequence images but also a slightly tweaked version of the Millennium theme song. Why was the decision made to alter the theme music for the third season, and how exactly was it changed?

MS: I just added a choral countermelody that was to announce the arrival of the Emma character. Chris Carter’s idea, but very subtle. I don’t know if all listeners hear the differance, but obviously you do! Bravo!

MC: Popular music, in addition to the underscore, has become very important to Millennium. We’ve heard such artists as Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, Patti Smith, America, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the Talking Heads, and Zager & Evans highlight some of the most important scenes of the series. What is your view concerning Millennium’s artistic and dramatic use of music?

MS: I think it’s very cool and helps maintain the edgy, fresh hip tone that the creators hoped for. And the fact the these source pieces are so eclectic is a cool thing!

MC: On The X-Files movie you were given the chance to utilize a full orchestra for your soundtrack. How did it feel to use the orchestra, and do you think you’ll be given the same opportunity again anytime for Millennium or X-Files series work?

MS: The big orchestra was a thrill, but absolutely impossible to do on a weekly basis because of the time constraints. Watch for it on next X-Files feature film!!!

MC: Any personal views on Frank’s musical obsession with classic swinger Bobby Darin?

MS: I think that comes from Glen Morgan, he’s the big Darin fan. It also seems consistent with Frank’s generation.

FLASHES OF THE FUTURE

MC: A lot of rumors and strong anticipation follow the idea of a Millennium soundtrack CD similar to The X-Files album “The Truth and the Light”. Can you shed some light on the situation concerning a potential Millennium soundtrack CD?

MS: Two labels are interested in releasing Millennium music. Electra, which did the X-Files score and pop albums, and Sonic Images, a label that specializes in soundtracks. Stay tuned for updates. That’s all the information that I have now.

MC: In regards to the future of Millennium in season three… any special musical pieces you’ve recently composed for upcoming episodes we should be listening for?

MS: Yes… in “Omerta”, the Millennium Xmas show, I really push the envelope by incorporating elements of Opera and classical Choral elements, soloists and groups. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done on this episode, and hope you all enjoy it!

MC: Thank you very much, Mr. Snow, for taking part in this interview and being willing to speak with the Comet. Both myself and all of our fan readers extend our gratitude for being able to look into your world.

MS: Thank you, Brian, and I apologize for taking so long to get this to you!!! I hope you find it interesting and informative!

Source: Brian A. Dixon, The Millennial Comet Vol. 2, No. 5 [members.aol.com/Rings13/Abyss.html], Dec. 18th, 1998

The X-Files Magazine: Heart and Souls

Dec-08-1998
The X-Files Magazine [US, #8, Winter 1998]
Heart and Souls
Gina McIntyre

The Cool View Motel is not the kind of place you would expect to find outside the balmy, bustling activity of Los Angeles. A breeze rustles leaves belonging to a thick stand of trees nearby. The gravel lot shifts uncomfortably as the occasional truck rumbles over its skin. The decor is anything but trendy. The Cool View us a rustic stop somewhere in the middle of nondescript territory. Its only distinguishing feature on this mid-October evening is the remarkable sunset consuming the Western sky, an explosion of red hues that is the inadvertent result, a random passerby mentions, of the brush fire that erupt from this site earlier in the day.

Outside the building’s perimeter, people assemble. The chattering of countless walkie talkies drowns out the night’s more natural sounds. Spectators gather in the artificial illumination originating from sets of powerful lights. It could be anywhere, but this rural locale is actually the location set of The X-Files’ first foray into romantic comedy, an episode called “The Rain King” penned by Season Six writing recruit Jeff Bell, that just might ruin producer/director Kim Manners’ reputation as “The Horror King.”

Manners, renowned for gruesome offerings such as the now famous Season Four outing “Home”, is unconcerned. In fact, he’s pleased to contribute to the eclecticism that is rapidly coming to define the series’ Sixth Season.

“It’s a sweet little story,” he explains. It’s got a lot of compassion, a lot of pathos, and it’s very funny. We’ve got some great characters. It all revolves around this weather man, Holman Hardt, who for 20 years has repressed his feelings for Sheila Fontaine. You know how people’s emotions and how they feel are affected by the weather, well it’s just the opposite here. The way Holman feels affects the weather. It’s really quite a clever script.”

Clever and different from traditional X-Files subject matter, “The Rain King” is indicative of the kind of unexpected episodes in store for the show’s devoted fans. Never afraid to take risks, Chris Carter and his new Los Angeles based crew have challenged themselves to push the series’ boundaries even further this year to deliver the most compelling television possible. So far, they’ve tackled car chases, time travel and body switching with equal aplomb; with the Valentines Day episode “The Rain King” and the Chris Carter brainchild “How The Ghost Stole Christmas,” they turn they attention toward creating paranormal greeting cards for the holidays.

Even as Manners is putting the finishing touches on his remaining second unit work, X-Files mastermind Carter is himself toiling inside the confines of a supposedly haunted house (no, really) in out-of-the-way Piru. A comedy of errors of sorts, the imaginative episode takes place on Christmas Eve and features only four characters: Mulder, Scully and two mischievous characters played by guest stars Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner.

The differences between the two episodes, which were shot in sequence, even though “Rain King” will not air until next year, were not lost on the crew. The first episode required them to find dozens of locations, build and decorate a number of sets, not to mention create snow and hail storms and stage a car crash on a deserted stretch of highway.

“We have to make it hail on the entire roadway while a guy’s driving a car and loses control and crashes it in a hail storm,” Manners sighs, largely unaffected by the daunting task. “This is my 27th one of these. I kind of giggle because it’s always big. We’ve done it. Nothing scares us anymore. You get a huge ice-chipping machine, then you get three of them. We put them on 40-foot flat bed trucks. We use 300 pound blocks of ice. It’s like a wood chipper. You throw it into the chipper and it blows then up into the air and it lands on the cars and you have to drive these machines along with the car. They’ve got to get the hail between the camera lens and on the car and in the foreground. As it doesn’t work, my lenses get tighter and tighter and tighter, so I’m shooting narrower and narrower and narrower. You get very wet, very cold and the ice hurts when you’re driving in it and it’s hitting you in the back of the head.”

Jeff Bell admits he was astonished at what it took to realize his creative vision. “Frank [Spotnitz] really encouraged me to be on the set the whole time, which has been a great learning experience, seeing how they do it, seeing how big it is,” he says. “I had no idea it was this big. Here’s one example. We make it rain one day, and so you write the word ‘rain.’ You don’t think it takes 25,000 gallons of water and three cranes to do that. You don’t think it’s 50 tons of ice, three ice chippers and about 40 guys throwing ice, staying up all night as you do it. Sort of the reality of how a simple word can become [something that] takes a lot of labor, it just makes you think about what you write next time.”

Watching as his script was carefully shaped into being, Bell says, was ultimately more rewarding because he had poured so much effort into painstakingly crafting the quirky story. “This is so specific,” he explains. “To balance two points of view, the paranormal with the rational, have them both sort of half right, is incredibly difficult. I had no idea it was this hard. I think the writers/producers here are terrific, and now I see how hard they work to make it that good.”

As Manner’s team bravely suffered the barrage of their own ice storm, the first unit crew preparing Carter’s episode had somewhat the opposite problem. The day before the episode began filming on location at the Piru mansion, a sizable California brush fire broke out.

“It was like Vietnam because there were six of those big yellow and red water dropping planes circling around dropping water on the hillside and then there were about six helicopters doing the same thing,” marvels location manager Ilt Jones. “At one stage, the fire got within 500 feet of the house and we were standing in the backyard with Venture County fireman watching these huge 30-foot flames leaping up behind the eucalyptus trees and saying, ‘Are you sure this is going to be O.K.?’ They said, ‘Oh sure, it’ll burn itself out in an hour’ Sure enough that area right behind the house burnt out within an hour or two, so the house was saved. It was amazing because the whole of the hillside was lit up, only half a mile away.” “After something like the fourth episode, Frank Spotnitz called and said, ‘Great work guys. It’s amazing what you do.’ I said, ‘Yeah, they’re pretty exhausted but happy.’ Joking, I said, ‘You could do us a favor and do a “My Dinner with Scully” [episode]. Let everybody have a break.’ If you’ve ever seen the movie My Dinner with Andre, it’s one set. So Frank said, ‘You know thats a good idea.’ They call this Christmas episode ‘My Dinner with Scully.’ This is the break. When I found out this was the episode, I said, ‘Well, there’s one small catch: The only people who didn’t get a break were the art department because they had to build this house!”

The house in question is the beautifully recreated library, complete with working fireplace, of the Piru mansion. All teasing aside, Kaplan says she and her team are happy to have been able to collaborate on such an elaborate set. “To be honest with you, the art department is so pleased to have had a chance to put so much quality woodwork into a set. Everybody feels proud. They take a look and it feels like an art piece.”

Construction coordinator Duke Tomasick echoes her sentiments. In only eight days, a crew of roughly 50 people-painters, plasterers, carpenters, laborers- built the library from scratch. “”we’ve got a good crew who came in and got it done. It’s a beautiful set. I knew it would be. I couldn’t wait to do it. I was hoping we would build something. At first they were talking about finding a practical location, but I think Chris wanted a lot more ability to shoot it and with all the trick stuff I don’t think they could have found a location that would work, so we created it.”

Mid-Afternoon, mid-week on Stage Six. Chris Carter walks through the replica library ensuring that everything will be ready when David Duchovny and Lily Tomlin arrive on set. Nearby, visual effects supervisor Bill Millar stands waiting to answer any questions about how to adjust camera angles or lights to make Tomlin’s entrances and exits more dramatic and spooky.

“We decided that [she] appears usually in flashes of lightning, which is obviously practical, so we shoot background plates different frame rates, different camera speeds, then shoot the production plates to match those and introduce [her character] selectively in post-production. Most effects on this series are acquired as 35mm images and then scanned into the digital domain and we manipulate them there. Even the effects we plan wholly as production visual effects we tend to enhance a bit later on,” Millar explains.

Last minute changes, which are not out of the ordinary, require Millar to stay close by as the shots are set up and completed. Even before the actors arrive on set, the effects supervisor spends time discussing new ideas with perfectionist Chris Carter. “We have Lily disappear in one shot and she’d been holding Mulder at bay with his own service revolver,” Millar says. “Now rather than just disappearing, he wants her to disappear selectively, a little bit at a time, leaving the gun hanging in the air, which will then drop and Mulder will catch it. The original script idea was that she would just disappear and take the gun with her. It’s a nice idea. It just means we have to rig things slightly differently. We need to be able to isolate the gun on the set so that we can move the actors independently of it.”

Costume designer Christine Peters explains that it was her job to construct Tomlin’s replica turn of the century gown to enhance her antique look. “Lily’s [dress] had to be made,” she explains. “She had to be [dressed in turn-of-the-century [garb], and we couldn’t exactly find that anywhere, so we had to make it and we had to have doubles, so it had to be made. We couldn’t just rent it from a costume house or something. It’s a direct copy of two separate pieces. We used the back of one gown I found and the front of another. The sleeves and the front are a copy of an old silk piece that’s from the 1890’s and the back is a copy of a separate piece.”

Complicating matters further, Peter’s continues, was the fact that Tomlin’s guest-star role was not finalized until the day she was to begin shooting. “She came in Friday night for a fitting to work on Monday afternoon,” she says adding that the consumers took the liberty of working ahead to ensure that the costume was ready. “We decided what the costume was going to look like before the actress was even cast. We cheated and called another costume house and got [Tomlin’s] measurements. We pretty much knew it was going to be her, so we started without her. We decided if anything changed, we’d change accordingly.”

As Lily taunts a bewildered Mulder over and over again to capture just the right camera angle and just the right vocal intonation on film, the busy second unit team assembles a high-school gymnasium set for the final day of shooting on “The Rain King” on adjacent Stage Five.

What that means for set decorator Tim Stepeck and his crew is recreating piece by piece the set that they first built on location, much as they were required to do for “How the Ghost Stole Christmas.” When the set is as elaborate as a high-school reunion, though, that prospect can be more difficult than it sounds. “Half of that gym is being re-shot, and we had to build the gym on that stage,” he explains. “The Rain King” was actually the hardest episode for my department. I think that it was dressing all whole big high school reunion dance and then doing the corridors here on stage on top of doing the bathrooms on stage. It was like eight sets a day. The good thing is with the crew and I have, pretty much anything these writers throw at us, they seem to surpass it.”

That tireless dedication is something Manner’s is also quick to praise. “It’s really a good crew,” he says. “I think part of their stamina comes from being part of the excitement in being part of the best show on TV. We thought that there would be a longer learning curve in getting the crew hip to what we do here on The X-Files, and as it turned out, boy, by the end of the first episode, they knew very quickly what they were up against and they responded.”

When second unit shooting at the reunion wraps in the wee hours of the morning, the actors will depart, the crew will travel home for some much deserved rest and Bell’s script will be complete, sending the writer back to the storyboard to brainstorm a concept for his next episode. For the time being, however, Bell is just happy that he could contribute a script that would add a new dimension to the series he’s watched for so long. “It’s an X-File/Love Story. Of course when Mulder and Scully sleep together in my episode, I think it’s going to shock everyone,” Bell dead pans, trying to stifle a sly smile. “And then the fact that everyone dies is probably more shocking. But isn’t that what a great X-File is? Anyone can die at any moment?”

Sci-Fi TV: Gilligan’s Files

Dec-??-1998
Sci-Fi TV
Gilligan’s Files
Bill Florence

[Transcript by Alfornos]

Episode by episode, writer Vince Gilligan assesses his part in the conspiracy.

After contributing one episode each for TXF seasons two and three, VG graduated to co-producer, writing five episodes for season four and six entries during season five. And he has already penned an early episode of season six. His 13 episodes made him, in the first five years of TXF, a collaborator behind the conspiracy.

Soft Light, which aired May 5, 1995, told the story of a man whose shadow could kill by reducing matter into pure energy. “I wrote this one BEFORE I was on staff,” VG says, “and it was the one I had the least to do with. When I did my first draft, I didn’t really understand the TV budget. I thought, from watching the show and being a fan, that they could do anything. The first draft I turned in probably would have cost $13 million to produce. TXF regularly costs between $2 million and $2.5 million a week.

“My first draft had the shadow growing and growing. It moved independently of the guy, and it would go after people. In the end, in the big neutron accelerator room, this thing went crazy and grew even larger, and Mulder had to jump from a chair and hang from a pipe in the ceiling to avoid it. The Cancer Man locked it up in that Pentagon storage area. It was sort of crazy. Chris Carter and the other guys did a good job of reeling it back in to reality.”

His next script, Pusher, aired a year later (2/3/96) and featured a mind-controlling killer who picks Mulder for a deadly contest of wills. “I’m really proud of Pusher. [Director] Rob Bowman really nailed it. For a little while, we were going to get Lance Henriksen to play Robert Patrick Modell,” VG reveals. “Chris was interested in him and wanted to know what he was like to work with. That was before Millennium [where Henriksen stars as Frank Black]. Then, we had a guy we had cast in LA, who did a very good reading for us, but crapped out at the 11th hour. He accepted the job and then took some role in a TV movie instead. His agent said, I m so sorry you have to use him again sometime. We were like, Oh, yeah, THAT’s going to happen. So at the last minute we got Robert Wisdon from Vancouver. It was so important that this actor do a great job. We were going out on a limb, and it could have been an epic nightmare. But Robert did a wonderful job. I hope he has a successful career ahead of him.”

A criminal’s mind produces horrifying photographic images of his impending victims in Unruhe (10/27/96).

“I wrote the part of Jerry Schnauz with Pruitt Taylor Vince in mind, and we got him, because he’s a big X Files fan. He and Gillian Anderson had to learn a few German lines, and neither of them speaks any German. We had to play that like, We never knew this about Scully, but she took German in college, so she speaks German fairly well. I always knew that was a bit of a stretch, but you have to just go with it,” VG says. “I wanted Scully’s final speech in German to be a little rusty, though, so that the subtitles would come up and instead of Scully saying, I have no unrest! it should have said, I am have no unrest. She was SUPPOSED to get the tenses all wrong, so her meaning would come across but the grammar would not be correct. That would have been more believable. But there was a miscommunication between us and our German translator, who turned it into perfect German.

“Also, if I could do it again, I would lighten up on the plot a tiny bit. Less plot and more time with Jerry Schnauz would have been fun.”

Paper Hearts (12/15/96) featured a serial killer imprisoned by Mulder who leads the agent to think his sister Samantha was a victim of the killer years before. “The red laser dot in Mulder’s dreams was originally a blue laser dot in the script,” VG says. “Blue, green, red and yellow lasers all exist, but I found out from the prop guys that red lasers are the easiest to procure. Blue lasers are more expensive and more fragile, and the prop guys figured that if they were tromping around out there in the woods shining a blue laser, they would probably break the thing, and then they would be stuck. So they asked if we could use red instead. Red shows up better than blue on the film stock, anyway.

“That idea come from a completely different story I had for Mulder being led around by a mysterious laser beam. That story never really amounted to anything, and I wound up using certain scenes in Paper Hearts instead.”

Leonard Betts introduces a man who regrows body parts and consumes cancerous tumors. VG co-wrote the episode (1/26/97) with John Shiban. “The whole time we were writing that one, I was shaking my head saying, This is ridiculous, it’s so crazy! A guy gets his head cut off and then it grows back, and then he’s made of living cancer, to boot! To his credit, John said, No, it’s going to work! And I believe it does,” VG says. “I m particularly proud of this one, because it’s as out there as any X Files we’ve ever done, as far as the pseudo-science. Still, we explained it as well as we possibly could, and also there’s a certain tongue-in-cheek feel to the whole thing – a wink at the audience, and that lets us get away with it. There are certain moments when the pseudo-science gets particularly ridiculous, and Mulder or Scully comments on it in such a way that helps make it work. That was fun.

“It was either John or John and Frank Spotnitz together who came up with the idea to give Scully cancer. As time goes by, I forget who came up with what. And it doesn’t really matter, because it’s such a group effort. But Chris has to approve that, of course. That’s why Chris is a good guy to work for. When he heard the idea, his reaction was, That’s pretty ballsy, but let’s do it. ”

The collaboration of VG, CC, JS and FS produced Memento Mori (2/9/97). In it, Scully confronts her cancer while Mulder investigates the bizarre circumstances surrounding her abduction two years ago. “I had less to do with that one, but I would like to say I had more to do with it, because it was nominated for an Emmy. We were in a rush, and I think I stayed on Leonard Betts to take a final pass on it, while the others got to work on Memento Mori.

“None of us had really collaborated before, until Leonard Betts. Our collaboration worked pretty much the same way on this one, and it still works well for us. First, we go sit in a room together and figure out the story, putting index cards on a big bulletin board for the teaser, Act 1, Act 2, and so on. We hash it out, scene by scene, throwing around ideas, and then once we have a story from start to finish that we like, one that Chris has signed off on, we start writing. That much is true for just about any episode, but in the case of a collaborative episode, we assign different acts: I might do the teaser and Act 1, John might get Act 2, and so on. Then, the three or four of us together sit in a room with a laptop computer hooked up to a monitor, and we’ll all do Act 4 together. Then, we go back and rewrite the whole script, all of us together.”

A series of bizarre pregnancies leads Mulder and Scully to a man who can change his appearance at will in Small Potatoes (4/20/97). “I got a big kick out of that,” VG admits. “[Director] Cliff Bole is a great guy, and I love working with him. He has done more than 300 hours of TV as a director, and before that he used to be an actor, a stuntman and a whole bunch of other stuff. He has done everything. He’s a real asset to the show, and I m hoping he’ll do at least one more of my segments this season.

“I had a good time writing that scene at the end where Scully almost kisses Mulder. Of course, it’s not really Mulder, it’s Eddie Van Blundht. Both David and Gillian really enjoyed doing the episode, because it was a change of pace for them, and they have fun doing comedy. But as I recall, Gillian was a little reluctant about the kiss, because she was fearful for the franchise. In other words, she worried that we were taking the show too far. She wasn’t sure Scully would actually do this with Mulder, which I think is a smart consideration. But in the end, when she saw the whole thing cut together, she was fine with it, and it didn’t hurt the show at all. That episode is such a little piece of craziness.

“I was about 10 pages into the script when I realized that Darin Morgan would be great as Eddie Van Blundht. I wouldn’t have cast him in that part if I had not seen him in another role first, which was in a student film he and a friend did. Darin starred in this 15-minute film, and he was wonderful in it. He did a great job for us in Small Potatoes. When I called to ask him if he would do it, I said, I’ve got this great part for you. You play a fat, ugly loser. He always tells that story now.”

Season five began somewhat short on Mulder and Scully.

Unusual Suspects (11/16/97) details the Lone Gunmen meeting for the first time to assist a woman whose paranoid claims about the government may be true. “That episode was a real challenge, but it wound up being a lot of fun,” VG says. “I got the assignment to write it because David and Gillian weren’t going to be available at the fifth season’s beginning. They were still shooting the X Files movie. We had to get production rolling, but we needed an episode without Mulder and Scully. Chris decided our best bet was the Lone Gunmen. He gave the assignment to me. I was flattered, but I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with it. I came up with an entire board, with John’s help, that was a pretty cool story, and we’ll probably use later, but we didn’t use it for Unusual Suspects. It was a contemporary story starring the Lone Gunmen, and it took place in the present, rather than telling how they met each other. I pitched it to Chris, who said, Maybe you ought to go back and try again. A lot of work had gone into it, but he was right, and I knew it even then. We sat there for a few minutes and talked about it, and Chris said, Why don’t you just show us how they met? Go back in time and show us the particulars of their meeting and becoming the Lone Gunmen. That’s when it all clicked. After that, coming up with the particulars with pretty painless.

“The information these guys have about the government told me that one of them worked for the government in some capacity in the past. As the clean-cut one, Byers had to have the government job. And what’s a cool job that’s sort of geeky and yet kind of on the inside? That would be working for the FCC. Then, it quickly followed that this guy is a straight arrow who loves his government, and the episode is his journey from straight arrow, government guy to a guy whose whole world crashes down around him. Everything he held dear turns into a travesty. I m really proud of the episode. Kim Manners did a wonderful job directing it, and he got great performances from those guys.”

The Christmas Carol/Emily two-parter (12/7/97 and 12/14/97) had Yuletide cheers – and tears, especially when Scully discovers a mysterious young girl who turns out to be her daughter. “I m very happy with these two episodes, although when you end part one with Scully saying, This is my child! where do you go from there?” he asks. “I had a feeling, I think we all did, that we were doing something dangerous as far as writing ourselves into a corner. Part two was very good as well, and we did the best we could with that situation. But you can’t just drop a child into The X Files. You can’t suddenly make Scully a mom and have her investigating crimes while taking care of this young child. So we had to get rid of the child, and we got in [sic] lot of trouble for that with viewers. Some hated it. I don’t blame them. Everyone loves Scully, and we have put her through a lot in the past few seasons, not because we WANTED to torture her, but because Gillian’s such a wonderful actress. We wanted to give her some great stuff to play. Christmas Carol and Emily were meant to be heart-breaking.”

Pusher returns in Kitsunegari (1/4/98). Co-written with Tim Minear, it features Robert Patrick Modell escaping from prison to taunt Mulder once more – or warn him of another danger. “That one made me a little gunshy about sequels, because sequels to favorites are very tough, as are sequels to hit movies. What do you do as an encore? How do you top the first one? What I like about Kitsunegari is that we didn’t give the audience the same thing twice. We TRIED to throw viewers a curve ball,” VG says. “Robert Modell is actually a good guy in this episode. But I don’t think that approach was well-received, because the audience was probably hoping to see one of their favorite villains, Modell, do more of the stuff that made him famous in the first place.”

Horror gave way to humor in Bad Blood (2/22/98).

It’s a he said/she said piece with M&S offering contrasting views of their adventure in a vampire-infested Texas town. “I did quite a bit of research into vampires, and I got it all from one book, an encyclopedia of vampires,” VG explains. “All that stuff in the episode is supposedly true – the seeds and the obsessive-compulsive behavior. Reading all that, I felt like I had struck a gold mine.

“Plus, the actors had a field day with the odd way we told this story. I have to give credit to Frank and John, because they helped me come up with the unusual structure. They both remembered this old episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show, were Rob and [sic] Mary had a big fight and a neighbor came over to ask why they were mad at each other. One of them told the story the way he thought it happened, and the other told the story the way she thought it happened. The structure for Bad Blood was borrowed from that, and from the classic film Rashomon before that.”

Something is bugging M&S in Folie A Deux (5/10/98) when they encounter a telemarketer who believes his boss is an insect monster. “I was happy with this one, even though we were all a bit burned out at this late point in the season. Probably, if it had been earlier in the season, there would have been more energy to it. But Kim did a terrific job directing it. The effect for the bug was created with a combination of prosthetic makeup and a big suit, and also some weird post-production CGI effects.

“This one uses the idea of making the mundane scary. Everyone knows what it’s like to be interrupted at dinner by an annoying call from a telemarketer. What if all this craziness is going on, that we don’t know about? What if a monster is running the telemarketing firm? The boss is a bug, but he’s this really nice guy when he’s in human form. He would probably not be a bad guy to work for. And also, there’s something really interesting and creepy about someone who speaks the truth or knows the truth, but is not believed by anyone. That’s what Mulder has always been,” VG concludes. “It’s a very basic idea, one that’s always good to go back to, because it’s the heart of the series. Mulder is the guy who sees what’s going on, and no one believes him.”

Sci Fi TV: Conspiracy Kingpin – Mixing truth with lies, Chris Carter fashions The X-Files

Dec-??-1998
Sci Fi TV
Conspiracy Kingpin – Mixing truth with lies, Chris Carter fashions The X-Files
Ian Spelling

[typed by alfornos]

CC, master of the X-mythos, keeper of the conspiracies, sounds quite pleased with his first cinematic X Files.

“I am very pleased. I thought that The X Files translated wonderfully to the big screen,” he enthuses. “I thought the story worked. I thought the special effects were really nice, that they serviced the story well – you wouldn’t call this an FX-driven movie. I felt the scares were there. People jumped and they laughed and, hopefully, they were moved. It also sets up season six of The X Files beautifully. It did all I could ask of a first X Files film. It took the theme that has been central to the show – the government conspiracy to prevent us from knowing the truth about the existence of alien life – and set many of those elements in stone.

“We had previously taken those same elements,” continues CC, “and played with them – hinted at, hid, answered and/or lied about them. The X Files writers are already dealing with what was revealed in the film and how it will impact on the series. It will give us many new and interesting opportunities to tell stories. The movie really did what I hoped it would do, which was, in a way, to EXPLODE the series. We’ll have new pieces to deal with now, new angles to explore.”

By now, everyone knows that TXF: FTF propelled FBI Agents Mulder (DD) and Scully (GA) through a series of escapades involving deadly bees, doomsday scenarios, alien spaceships rising out of the ice, government conspiracies, Black Oil, bombing cover-ups, and the pair’s feelings for each other. It spotlighted several familiar characters, among them CSM (WBD) and AD Skinner (MP), and such newcomers as Strughold (AM-S), Kurtzweil (ML) and FBI AD Cassidy (BD). And it did, as promised, answer some questions – while posing others.

CC both produced the XF film and penned the screenplay based on a story co-written with FS. He admits he was personally most satisfied to “finally being able to have someone explain WHAT the conspiracy is about, what it’s attempting to do, where it came from, what its historical roots are, and what its biological roots are. I was also happy that we could show there’s a real defense against it, a way to fight the future. Again, we’ve done some of that in past episodes, but only in bits and pieces. Here, in the film, it was much more of a concentrated story.”

Asked how different was the feeling of producing a film vs. the show, CC avers, “It’s hard to say which was more satisfying. I like the pace of moviemaking, but I like many of the things TV allows you to do. You can have a not-so-great episode one week, but make up for it the following week. You don’t have that luxury with a film. TV allows you to explore things that a movie doesn’t, in terms of relationships, tangents or whatever. It’s much more forgiving in creating small, interesting avenues of discovery and character development than a movie is. But a movie is a movie, and there’s something to be said for that, too.”

The sinister secrets of season six will soon unfold.

There are several specific points worth exploring thanks to the film. First, there’s the matter of M&S possibly delving deeper into their romantic feelings for one another, a topic CC won’t even touch. He is, however, more willing to contemplate how Mulder and, particularly, Scully, return to dealing with killer trees, inbred families, vampires and the like after they’ve seen what they’ve seen, after they’ve come to realize what”s at stake regarding the conspiracy. “Well, Scully was pretty woozy,” CC says, “and it will be very hard for Mulder and Scully to prove what they witnessed or get anybody to listen to them. That will become part of their agenda now, getting people to listen to them and to take them seriously. That has always been Mulder’s thing, [though less so for] Scully, who has seen less.”

It looked as if WMM (JN) fell victim to a wrathful Syndicate when his limousine blew up. Is he really dead? “Stay tuned,” CC replies with a mischievous laugh. Might audiences see more of AD Cassidy or Strughold in the future? “I would hope so, but we had some very pricey movie stars in the film,” he notes. “So, it’s a matter of money, time and desire on the parts of the actors.” And what of CSM and Mulder? A scene between them at the film’s end was dropped and re-shot because, during test screenings, non-fans expressed confusion as to why two characters who had no contact with each other during the film would suddenly converse. “CSM has obviously decided to favor this ‘son’ of his and, in doing so, has set up a political situation so that Mulder can SURVIVE,” CC notes. “What CSM’s agenda is, what his motives are in furthering and fostering Mulder’s career are interesting, but still not established.”

Season five witnessed contributions by writers William Gibson (with Tom Maddox) and Stephen King, who delivered Kill Switch and Chinga, respectively. Both Gibson and King may write further scripts during season six, CC reports. Also waiting in the wings is Harlan Ellison, although his scripting contribution is less certain. “Harlan is a busy man,” explains CC, who participated in a recent Sci-Fi Channel tribute to the writer. “He has always said he has wanted to write an X Files episode for us. The day he actually WANTS to do it, I’m sure he’ll give us a call.”

When season six begins on November 8, one familiar name will no longer appear in the credits, and that’s R.W. Goodwin. A longtime XF executive producer/director who has helmed previous season openers and finales (Anasazi/The Blessing Way and Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk), RWG represents one of the casualties of the series’ relocation from Vancouver, British Columbia to LA. “We really kind of left Bob, in a way,” CC explains. “Bob decided to stay up in Vancouver. He lives there. He has a kid in high school. He really couldn’t make the trip to LA with us. His contribution to the show was in never, ever, flinching or blinking when we gave him something impossible to do. Along the way, he directed some [sic] our most important episodes. So, we’ll miss him.”

Looking even further into the future, there’s season seven of TXF as well as additional features to consider. “I imagine that the show will go through the seventh year, which would be the 1998-99 season and the year after that. Anything beyond that would be gravy,” CC says. “I have no idea if David and/or Gillian would be interested in staying BEYOND a seventh season. We’ll have to see what happens. I just signed my own contract, so I’ll be around for a while. If the movie is [regarded as] successful, we’ll get to do more movies, and we’ll get the chance to continue on the big screen as a series after the show ends. I don’t know how many films we’ll do, I just hope there will be more.”

CC, as most everyone knows, rules more than just the XF Universe.

He’s the mastermind of Millennium, which is also returning for another season. Though the show had a commendable fall 1996 debut, its ratings had declined, prompting most people to assume that Fox would not pick up the dark, somber series for the 1998-99 season. The network, which also airs TXF and thus probably wanted to keep CC happy, elected to bring back the Lance Henriksen vehicle. “I will be more active in the show this season,” promises CC. “I think you can expect us to turn a corner. We have some really good ideas for the new season. I’m really excited about what we’re going to do with Frank Black [LH] now that he has lost one of the most important things in his life. The stories will deal with that this year.”

When Millennium debuted two years ago, much was made of the fact that it was the new series from the creator of TXF. CC himself doesn’t deny that Millennium has suffered from the comparison to TXF, and that people were tougher on Millennium because of their great X-pectations. “I never wanted to make Millennium like The X Files,” CC argues. “I really loved the original concept of Millennium. It has strayed a little bit from that now. In some ways, that has been good and in some ways, bad. For season three, I have really exciting ideas that I’m looking forward to incorporating into the series. I’ve had long meetings with Lance, and we’re all very excited about season three. I hope people will come to the show again and see what we’re doing. Frank will ultimately end up affiliated in some way with the FBI, which is where he began his career.”

Returning to TXF, CC insists that even after 117 hours of TV episodes and a two-hour movie, there’s still plenty left to uncover about the mythology and about M&S, CC insists. “They are VERY complex characters. We played with Mulder and Scully’s belief systems in the fifth season. They’re both unmarried. They’ve both lost parents, and they’ve both lost them in a tragic way. Mulder and Scully have a lot to learn about life, I think, and they’re things that people have to learn as they move through their 30s and on into their 40s,” CC observes. “So, I really do think we’ve got a lot more to learn about our characters and about the conspiracy. I don’t think we’ll run out of ideas anytime soon.”