Archive for November, 1999

Newsguy: On Location With Ilt Jones of the X-Files – Part 1

Nov-30-1999
Newsguy
On Location With Ilt Jones of the X-Files – Part 1
Ariel Penn

X-FILES – INTERIOR – ADAMS HIGH – VIRGINIA (actual location: Rose City High School in Pasadena California):

I watch closely as a high school teacher is shoved 100 feet across a school cafeteria by a six long banquet table. I keep rubbing my eyes because I don’t believe what I’m seeing. It looks so real, and I’m only about 15 feet away and can’t see any wires. The actor, not a stunt double, is hurled across this long expanse within seconds.

Director Rob Lieberman is at the helm for Season Seven’s episode “Rush” which features a high school principal overtaken by some mysterious, evil force. There are wires pulling the actor, but to my eye they look to be slightly thicker than a strand of hair.

A large crewmember throws himself in the path of the trajectory and stops the actor and table from being hurled at full force into a wall. I admire the setting: beautiful tall ceilings and early 20th century windows add a nostalgic air to the scene.

I had the opportunity to interview Ilt Jones, the man responsible for finding these architectural wonders for one of the world’s most popular shows. The location manager is responsible for not only finding the right locations as written in the script, but managing all the details required to bring the crew on location.

Ilt Jones worked on Profiler for two seasons. He also worked on the feature Gattica, a beautifully designed feature film. Ilt did some location work as well on Pulp Fiction and As Good As It Gets. From Wales originally, Ilt was a stock broker before he made a career change eleven years ago when he moved to California.

On the X-Files, Ilt needs to find 8 to 10 locations per episode and 4 to 5 choices for each of those locations.

What was it like shooting aboard the Queen Mary for the Season Six episode “Triangle”?

Even though we have a lot of money we couldn’t afford to buy out the whole hotel. (Note: the Queen Mary in Long Beach is now a hotel and museum). We bought different blocks of rooms at a time to avoid scheduling conflicts with groups that had already booked the hotel. It was like playing three dimensional chess. Since it was shot during a storm, we had rain cranes everywhere. We flooded the whole place. It’s an old ship, and the seals are leaky. We did $40,000 dollars worth of damage, which we had to repair. But we did 9 days of shooting there. It looked brilliant.

Tell me about the locations used in the Season Seven Premiere Two Parter.

Obviously we’re based in L.A. and have to do all our shooting in the L.A. area. When they write things like an East African beach, we shot that at Leo Carillo (a popular beach near Malibu just north of Los Angeles). They shot it beautifully. A lot people said, “That was amazing. We couldn’t believe you sent a second unit to Africa.” Obviously we didn’t, but the people who live locally will have recognized it.

Most of our job is making the a suggestion of a place. That’s enough to sell it. Put a couple of land rovers on the beach and a couple of African looking guys run around and you’re half way there. You need to avoid telephone poles and traffic zooming past.

It seemed absolutely desolate.

Yes, you felt you were a long way from civilization.

What’s the best part working on the X-Files?

I provide people with the ball… the director and the art department. They run with it. It’s a constant source of amazement and joy to me. When I see how what I looked for turned out on the screen, it’s great fun for me. I hope that novelty never goes away. I love to see the results of a well-organized collaborative process.

(Continued to Part 2 on December 15th).

Forbes.com: Conspiracy Theory

Nov-29-1999
Forbes.com
Conspiracy Theory
Seth Lubove

The lawsuit by X-Files star David Duchovny is a window into Rupert Murdoch’s masterly vertical integration strategy.

AS FBI AGENT MULDER ON Fox’s hit television series The X-Files, moody actor David Duchovny investigates far-fetched conspiracies and creepy aliens. Now, in a high-profile case, Duchovny is charging the parent of the show’s producer, Fox Entertainment Group, with a dark conspiracy to stiff him on the profits.

Whatever the merits of Duchovny’s claim, his lawsuit is doing a great job of illuminating Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. (Fox is an 83% -owned subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corp.; see story, p. 120.) As a strategist of vertical integration, Murdoch has few peers. The lawsuit is a direct attack on such integration strategies.

The X-Files, from which the Fox network could haul in $1 billion in advertising profits through this season, is a classic example of how the theory is supposed to work. The show touches nearly all the corners of Murdoch’s global holdings, thus enhancing the value of the larger enterprise (see chart).

“This model of vertical integration, of which we’re in the forefront, is the model of the industry,” crows Peter Chernin, president of both Fox Entertainment Group and News Corp. and Murdoch’s No. 2 executive. “Disney buying ABC or Viacom buying CBS are attempts to duplicate what we have.”

But with vertical integration come lawsuits from actors and producers claiming that they were shortchanged on profit-sharing deals when the broadcasting appendage of a media empire bought a show on the cheap from the producing part. Duchovny’s trial attorney, Stanton (Larry) Stein of Los Angeles, has become a one-man cottage industry of the suits, having represented M*A*S*H star Alan Alda and the producers of Home Improvement in similar cases.

In this case, Stein and Duchovny’s other lawyer, Peter Nelson, prepared a complaint that reads like a paranoid script from the X-Files itself. Fox is accused of “corporate greed” and “avarice” in allegedly peddling the show for a lowball price to its television and cable units. Fox’s vertical integration strategy is a “corporate scheme.” The studio is in a “conspiracy” with the show’s creator, Chris Carter, to pay Carter “millions of dollars in ‘hush’ money” to cover up Fox’s “self-dealing with its affiliated entities.” (Carter himself chose Murdoch’s New York Post to rail against Fox for pulling the plug on his latest show. Conspirators make strange bedfellows.)

Chernin denies that the company underpays for the show. But Murdoch has never been bashful about what he is up to. The public offering last year of Fox Entertainment Group, a repository of domestic film, sports and broadcast properties, touted the X-Files as “vertical integration at work.” The show is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television, premieres on the Fox network, is syndicated by Twentieth Television to the FX cable channel and Fox network affiliates that include 22 Fox-owned stations, and is sold to such Murdoch holdings as British Sky Broadcasting and STAR TV. Twentieth Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising staged a ten-city X-Files Expo road show. A movie based on the series was produced and financed by Fox’s Twentieth Century Fox Film studios. Dozens of X-Files books are published by News’ HarperCollins Publishers. Fox Interactive produces X-Files videogames.

Chernin declines to venture a dollar figure for the value created by X-Files since its debut in 1993. “We’re talking about soft dollars and soft values in so many places,” he says. But Duchovny lawyer Nelson, who helped negotiate the actor’s profit participation deal in 1995, charges that reruns of the show have propped up the value of Fox’s fledgling cable channel, FX, as well as the company’s 22 local television stations.

Duchovny’s specific beef has to do with the amount of money that flows back to the production company portion of the empire in license fees ( $2 million per first-run episode), where he’s entitled to an undisclosed share of the profits.

Suspicious of the lack of reported profits, Nelson hired well-known Hollywood accounting sleuth Philip Hacker to audit Fox’s books. Finding debatable expenses such as an instance in which Fox paid a $300,000 commission to sell publishing rights to the British unit of its own HarperCollins, they concluded that Fox’s distribution arms were paying lowball license fees for the show.

Because of the show’s success as a leading prime-time ad-revenue generator, the lawyers argue that Fox should pay a price comparable to the legal extortion that Warner Brothers extracted from NBC for ER ( $13 million per episode). But not being held hostage by your suppliers is the whole point, Chernin says. “That was a phenomenal event for Warner Brothers and devastating for NBC,” he says. “Those events are neutral for us. All it does is shift value from one side of the company to another.”

Accountant Hacker, who’s been involved in many of the celebrity profit-sharing cases, recalls how the late Walt Disney used to deal with the issue: He didn’t give cuts to actors, period. When Hacker was working for Disney in the 1960s, crooner Bing Crosby demanded profit-sharing to star in the studio’s 1967 flick, The Happiest Millionaire. Fred MacMurray got the part.

Entertainment Weekly: 1999 The Year That Changed Movies: Burning Question

Nov-26-1999
Entertainment Weekly
1999 The Year That Changed Movies: Burning Question
Will Lee

[Extract posted By alfornos]

Q: In The X-Files’ season premiere (Nov. 14), Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) undergoes an elaborate and dangerous medical procedure that has all sorts of important repercussions for him, not to mention the future of the world. *So what exactly did they do to Mulder?*

A: The truth, says X-Files executive producer Frank Spotnitz, is back there – two seasons back to be exact. That’s when Mulder was infected by the black oil (remember?). Although it seemed at the time that the alien virus had been cleared from his system, it was actually just lying dormant – until the extraterrestrial hieroglyphics discovered last season reactivated it. The newly potent virus transformed Mulder into an alien-human hybrid equivalent, one with telepathic powers. Enter the Cigarette Smoking Man, who abducts Mulder and, explains Spotnitz, “has the alien material removed from Mulder’s brain and transplanted into his own.” If the operation worked – and right now, we don’t know – the CSM would be a psychic hybrid, resistant to the black oil and the coming alien invasion. Mulder, in turn, is back to being plain old human. So why all the Christ imagery (e.g., Mulder on a cross wearing a crown of thorns)? Turns out Duchovny, who cowrote the episode with Chris Carter, wanted to structure the episode along the lines of Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ – in fact, Mulder’s musings on a life that could’ve been were patterned directly after Christ’s dream in that movie. The homage was designed to emphasize the dominant themes for this season: “It’s a conjunction of science and mysticism, of aliens and religion, that we’re starting to develop,” explains Spotnitz. “It’s deliberate on our part, to help bring all the mythologies together into one story line.” Calls to Oprah were not returned.

Tribune: Kiss and Tell

Nov-25-1999
Tribune
Kiss and Tell
Allan Johnson

Sorry, `X-Files’ fans, the producer promises the latest Mulder-Scully lip-lock is just a tease

In a way, it’s too bad Sunday’s episode of Fox’s “The X-Files” is getting more attention for what happens near the end than it does for its plot.

The paranormal series is giving a final send-off to its sort-of-sister “Millennium,” producer Chris Carter’s moody, dark show about visionary ex-FBI profiler Frank Black’s (Lance Henriksen) battle against a shadowy organization near the end of the century.

Airing at 8 p.m. on WFLD-Ch. 32, the episode ties up loose ends from the 1996-99 series, which was canceled in May. One of those is the fate of Black, whom Carter likens to the typical “hero with the weight of the world on his shoulders.” The episode also features a former member of the nefarious Millennium Group’s plot to raise the dead and use them to wreak havoc in the new century.

But more attention has been focused on one of the most anticipated moments in “X-Files” history: a kiss between special FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).

The actors have kissed on-screen before. Once a shape-shifter posed as Mulder got Scully drunk and put the smackdown on her. Another time it was a Scully-lookalike from 1939 from whom a time-traveling Mulder stole a smooch. And in the “X-Files” movie, the couple’s lips brushed slightly before Scully got stung by a virus-carrying bee.

But never have Scully and Mulder done the lips-on-lips thing as themselves. And before fans of the show think they should be especially thankful this weekend because of the kiss, listen up. “X-Files” creator Carter says there will be no romantic entanglement mixed in with alien- and-mutant investigations.

“I’ve resisted any temptation (of romance) because I don’t think it’s right for the characters,” says Carter. “For me, the passion and the protectiveness of one towards the other is something that we all admire and envy because that kind of trust and caring happens so infrequently in life. When it does, it is transcendent.”

Carter says the relationship between Mulder and Scully has never been about sex or romance. It is the closeness between partners that most law enforcement types share that is at the center of their bond. It is also the closeness of two best friends, which in many cases can be as special and deep as a love affair

“Sometimes (viewers) don’t realize how protective Mulder is of Scully, and how noble and masculine and good that is,” Carter says. “They see it as two people who kid each other and are playful and protect each other in the most common senses of the word. But he’s very protective of her as a woman.” Carter adds that Scully is just as protective of Mulder.

Carter, the 43-year-old California surf bum/surfing writer who was brought into the Disney family 13 years ago to work on television movies, also was protective about his other series, “Harsh Realm.” But that didn’t stop Fox from canceling the show about soldiers fighting in a virtual reality war after only a couple of episodes.

Carter says Fox entertainment chief Doug Herzog didn’t “get” the concept behind “Realm,” and might not get “The X-Files’ ” mandate of monsters, mutants and government coverups. Herzog, on the other hand, has said he loves having Carter as part of the Fox family.

Carter says if he does another series (he has a pilot idea he would like work on in the spring), “I certainly want to do it at a place where they’re going to support it. They’re going to nurture it and they’re going to make sure that they’ve done everything they can to get it to its audience. And I believe that was just not the case with `Harsh Realm.’ ”

He also says Fox has approached him about another season of “The X-Files,” but Carter says some “hurdles . . . I’ll quote them,” have to be cleared up. Probably the largest hurdle–in addition to Herzog getting a clue about the show–is his and Duchovny’s contracts are up at the end of this season.

(Carter adds he is enjoying a healthy working relationship with Duchovny, the tired-of-the-show actor who is suing Fox for selling repeats of the show to its FX cable network rather than putting the show on the block to the highest bidder.)

Also a consideration is Anderson, whose contract runs for another season. She, too, is “tired” of working on the show, Carter says, and has said this will be her last season as well.

This season Carter and his producers are “telling just good, scary stories again” and not doing as many lighthearted shows as they did last season. They have enough material to either end the series this May or go another season, plus the game plan calls for another “X-Files” movie in 2001.

Meanwhile, FX is airing a nine-hour “Millennium” marathon Sunday with host Lance Henriksen and featuring episodes that closely relate to and lead up to the “X-Files/Millennium” crossover at 8 p.m. The “Millennium” marathon starts at 11 a.m. And the cable channel airs its 14-hour “X-Files” marathon at 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, with fan-selected episodes in 11 categories, including “Best Mulder/Scully Chemistry,” “Best Scully Episode” and “Best Mulder Episode.”

Christian Science Monitor: Interview with Vince Gilligan

Nov-05-1999
Christian Science Monitor
Interview with Vince Gilligan
Katherin Dillin

Seeing the story helps writer keep ‘The X-Files’ ‘out there’

You don’t have to believe in UFOs or government conspiracies to write for “The X-Files.”

“We’re all fairly agnostic on all those subjects…,” says Vince Gilligan, co-executive producer and writer, in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles about what it’s like writing for a hot TV show. “I don’t disbelieve in any of this stuff we write about, but there’s a big difference in not disbelieving it and actively believing it.”

“The X-Files” heads into its seventh and perhaps final season this Sunday, Nov. 7 (Fox, 9-10 p.m.) as contracts for the show’s creator, Chris Carter, and one of its stars, David Duchovny, run out. Launched in 1993, it found an audience primed for a one-hour drama about two FBI agents who investigate cases involving alien abductions and government conspiracies.

Mr. Gilligan, whose scripts reveal a deft if sometimes dark comic touch, says that since the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon in the ’70s, “we’ve lost a lot of innocence … a lot of respect for government … and maybe this [show] taps into those feelings.”

“X-Files” also taps into America’s love of movies. “We really try hard to put … a one-hour movie on television every week. We tell our stories visually more than verbally,” says Gilligan, who joined the show in 1995. Most TV shows are dialogue-based, whereas “X-Files” and big-screen movies rely on scene direction (visual cues), he adds.

“The process of being a writer is to picture the scene in your head,” he says. “It’s almost like closing your eyes and watching it play out in your imagination and then just getting it down on paper.”

Gilligan was a fan of the show from the start. “I was home alone one night. I saw an advertisement or two for this new show called ‘The X-Files’ … I was literally hooked about 15 minutes into it.” He liked the charismatic characters – Fox Mulder, the intuitive UFO believer, and Dana Scully, the scientist and skeptic.

Gilligan sums up the two this way: Mulder is a “quixotic hero; he’s always tilting at windmills, he’s always fighting the good fight, and it makes him a very romantic hero…. Scully is every bit as appealing … she’s more down to earth.”

As for whom he’d follow into a UFO hunt, “Most of us would be much more comfortable in the presence of Scully than Mulder…. We’d all be tagging along with Scully saying, ‘Mulder, you’re out of your mind….’ As Chris Carter always said … ‘Mulder is the main character, but Scully is the eyes that we the audience watch the show through.’ ” Gilligan found his way into the TV writing business via the movies. He went to film school at New York University, wrote a script for his senior thesis titled “Home Fries” (released in 1998), and entered it into a contest called the Governor’s Screenwriting Competition, sponsored by his home state of Virginia.

As one of the 1989 winners of that competition, his script drew the special attention of a panel judge, producer Mark Johnson (“Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Rain Man”), who often teams with well-known director Barry Levinson.

“He’s still my mentor,” Gilligan says. “He produced ‘Home Fries,’ and I still work with him every chance I get.”

Screenplays and TV scripts offer different rewards and different kinds of heartbreak, but they’re both “a lot of hard work,” he says. With movies, “You can live anywhere … you can live on some island in the middle of the Pacific and e-mail your stuff around.”

In TV, “the writer is not only taken seriously, but the writer is very often the boss, the final arbiter [who] has the final say in matters ranging from the stories that are told to the look of the cinematography to the editing to the casting to the music….”

Writing for TV also means that “your life is not your own.” On “The X-Files,” the eight writers spend about 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week, pounding out scripts. Schedules are relaxed as the season starts, but later, when the “[script] pipeline is empty,” days get longer, deadlines are cut from three weeks to 10 days, and scripts can turn into a team effort, with different members tackling one of the four acts that make up each show. There’s a three-week break in May. Says Gilligan: “Three weeks is great, but by the end of the season three years would be [even better].”

Unlike movies, in TV, there’s the pleasure of seeing your work aired only a week or month after it’s written. “You’re watching it on TV along with millions of other Americans. And that’s the whole point of being a writer, to get your stuff made and to share it with people.” With movies, scripts often never get filmed.

This season will kick off with a two-part mythology (“The Sixth Extinction” and “Amor Fati”) written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz. It picks up where last season ended with Mulder gone mad. Gilligan, who will write or co-write seven or eight episodes this season, provides the season’s third episode, “Hungry” – a scary and humorous story from a monster’s point of view. “I’m as proud of that episode as I’ve been of any of them that I’ve ever written,” he says.

This season, Mulder will undoubtedly still pursue extraterrestrials and Scully will continue her Spock-like interrogations of “Spooky” Mulder. But the question remains: Is an eighth season “out there?” Gilligan can only say that those who work on “The X-Files” are also “wondering what the future is going to hold.”

New York Post: ‘Harsh’ words for network boss

Nov-05-1999
New York Post
‘Harsh’ words for network boss
Don Kaplan

“X-FILES” creator Chris Carter is fuming that Fox TV chief Doug Herzog canned his new sci-fi show “Harsh Realm” after only a few episodes.

Now, the conflict has clouded the already uncertain future of the “X-Files.”

“I don’t think that the man who is running the network now got the show or even watched it,” Carter told The Post yesterday. “Someone over there made the decision [to yank it]. [Herzog] was the one that delivered the message – so I blame the messenger.”

“Harsh Realm,” a military-themed series set in a virtual reality world, struggled to find viewers since its debut on Oct. 8.

The bad situation was the result of Fox not heavily promoting “Realm,” Carter claims – not its murky storyline that some TV critics labeled as confusing.

“The ratings weren’t great,” Carter admitted, “but ‘Harsh Realm’ was never considered on any other merit.”

Fox “decided to put all their eggs into other baskets,” Carter said. “The viewer awareness, which had been very high early in the summer, had slipped to a pathetically low number – people just didn’t know the show was on.

“I guess [canceling it] was a quick way of trying to stop the bleeding of a much larger wound,” Carter said.

“I have enormous respect for Chris Carter’s work, and I regret as much as he does the failure of ‘Harsh Realm,'” Herzog responded to Carter’s accusations. “But I do believe our ongoing discussions with Chris are best conducted in private, not in the press.”

Meanwhile, the seventh – and what may very well be the final – season of the “X-Files” kicks off Sunday night, picking up where last season left off: FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) has gone crazy and is locked away in a padded cell, while his partner, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), is in Africa looking at what appears to be a spaceship hidden underwater near a beach.

But the series’ season premier is overshadowed by a slew of behind-the-scenes problems. Both Carter’s and Duchovny’s contracts expire this year – Anderson has one more year on hers – and Duchovny is suing Fox and Carter for allegedly selling the “X-Files” syndication rights to other Fox-owned stations at bargain-basement prices.

“We just haven’t spoken about business,” Carter said, pointing out that despite their differences, the two successfully collaborated on writing an upcoming episode.

“A lawsuit creates its own environment; it’s just a little different,” Carter said.

Also, neither Carter nor anyone else on the show has been told yet if it will return next year.

“We know where we’re headed,” Carter said. “We’re talking about a pivotal two-part episode arc that would air in February that would lead us to the end.”

The scope and meaning of the arc will depend on Fox’s decision on keeping the show on the air, Carter said.

Newsday: Is the Future Out There?

Nov-04-1999
Newsday
Is the Future Out There?
Verne Gay

(The Long Island daily newspaper)

“The X-Files” has become the X factor for a struggling Fox.

Poor, poor Fox. Imagine the painful musings that are now going through executives’ heads: “No one is watching us … no one is watching us.” The mantra has picked up in recent days. No matter what we do, what we put on (with the exception of “Ally McBeal’s” premiere) the song remains the same. No one is watching Fox.

And no one knows exactly why.

The numbers tell a particularly brutal tale. Last week – with the World Series airing Tuesday and Wednesday – virtually all Fox’ shows drew under a 10 percent audience share. The exception was Sunday, when an NFL overrun dragged some football fans into the prime-time schedule. So far this season, Fox’ regular shows are tracking more than half a rating point behind last year’s performance.

Fox has already canceled two shows (Harsh Realm, Ryan Caulfield: Year One), shelved two others (Family Guy, Action) and pulled one (Manchester Prep) even before a single episode aired. The network is now airing movies on Friday, throwing “trash” specials into other holes, and praying hard – that the new Chuck Woolery game show, “Greed,” which premiers tonight will not sink into the muck that has become its new season.

Executives don’t really want to talk about the fall and for good reason: They have no answers. There have been rumors – all unsubstantiated – that new boss Doug Herzog is about to take a bullet for the merging fiasco. That’s unlikely to happen, just yet. Herzog’s not to blame. He’s a newcomer (from cable’s Comedy Central) with some good ideas (Action) and some bad luck, who is saddled with a scheduling strategy sanctioned by Rupert Murdoch. But then no one is going to fire Rupert, are they?

So what gives? First off, “The X-Files” premieres Sunday, and Fox without “Files” is like NBC without “ER.” The premiere is a good and appropriately creepy continuation of last year’s season-ender, and the episode should do a big number.

Also, Fox typically has a poor October. Last year at this time, a bunch of new shows were canceled and another entertainment president (Peter Roth), took an early vacation. Then the rest of the season turned around – even though that was accomplished mostly by sensational “shock TV” specials.

Veteran TV observer Paul Schulman, president of Schulman/Advanswers NY (a media buying firm), says that “the biggest problem that Fox has is that they started the season late, and when you start “Files” in November, the hour version of “Ally” and “Party of Five” in October, you are, in effect, losing the promotional platform for your new shows.” He adds, “it also hurts that those who did tune to their new shows rejected them.”

Yes, indeed. But others just might argue that Fox’ biggest problem has to do with Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, the two guys who produce the network’s biggest show. Most people now assume that “The X-Files” will end this season; both David Duchovny (who is suing Fox for back-end profits) and Gillian Anderson have indicated they want out.

But in the strange netherworld that is Hollywood, the following could also happen: Fox, desperate to keep “Files” for an eighth season, could settle Duchovny’s suit and pay the producers and “ER”-size ransom to return.

Will they want to? Both Carter and Spotnitz were stunned when their “Harsh Realm” was dumped after just three airings. In an interview, Spotnitz says that “it seemed like a panicked, irrational decision. They came to us before the show debuted and said, ‘we blew it by not promoting the show. It’s just terrible and we’re going to try and make it up …’ And then, suddenly, it was canceled without any warning whatsoever. There was no discussion, we were not even privy to their line of thinking. So we were shocked.”

Now ask yourself this: If you were president of Fox, would you throw a cream pie in the face of your most important producers? Of course you wouldn’t. But sources say Fox execs were shocked themselves after they learned that the Oct 22 episode of “Realm” was nearly beaten by the WB’s “Steve Harvey Show.” Given that a founder of Fox (Jamie Kellner) now runs the WB, the humiliation was apparently too great to endure.

Spotnitz adds that “obviously we were very unhappy with the way they treated “Harsh Realm” but we love “Files” and we want to keep a firewall between the issues.”

But is the end out there? “You know, it may be, but I don’t know. But from where I stand, not knowing the answer, I’ll act as if it is. I don’t want to find out that it’s too late and [we] haven’t done anything about it. So we’re treating it creatively as if this is the last season. We don’t want to miss any opportunities that last year might give us.”

And those would be: a kiss between Mulder and Scully; an episode starring the magician, Ricky Jay; the return of Lance Henriksen’s character, Frank Black, to complete the storyline for the canceled “Millennium”; and the return of an evil serial killer from an early season who had kidnaped Scully. And may we humbly suggest another idea? An episode about how an entire nation of Fox viewers were abducted by aliens.

Los Angeles Times: Chris Carter: Facing ‘X’ Factor

Nov-03-1999
LA Times
Chris Carter: Facing ‘X’ Factor
Greg Braxton

As ‘The X-Files’ prepares for the launch of its seventh season this weekend on Fox, there is continuing drama over the series’ uncertain future.

“The X-Files” returns Sunday on Fox for its seventh season, scaring and mystifying viewers with its tales of the paranormal and the unexplainable. But though he knows how the cliffhanger that launches the season premiere turns out, the ultimate truth is still out there for the show’s creator, Chris Carter.

That is, whether this season will be the end of the line for Carter and stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson–and the show itself.

The contracts for Carter and Duchovny, who plays FBI Agent Fox Mulder, are both up this season. And Anderson, who portrays FBI Agent Dana Scully, has declared that she will not return, even though she is contracted for another season.

Both 20th Century Fox Television, for whom Carter produces the series, and the Fox network say they would like everyone back for an eighth season, and Carter says he’s interested. But there are obstacles–primarily of a financial nature. At a cost of about $3 million per episode, “The X-Files” already is the most expensive series on network TV, and that would climb even higher with the extra money it presumably would take to keep the key players in the fold.

But Fox, off to a disastrous start to the season with the almost total failure of its fall lineup, badly needs to keep the few hits it has.

“We would love to have the show back,” Fox Entertainment President Doug Herzog said. “There are a couple of hurdles that need to be jumped over. But we are already in discussions with the studio, and when the time is right, we will sit down with Chris. The wheels are in motion.”

In an interview this week, Carter indicated that he would very much like “The X-Files” to continue–if some major issues are resolved and Duchovny, Anderson and other key principals are on board. He said he is extremely excited, personally and creatively, about the coming season.

Carter outlined some of the highlights of things to come this season. The central characters, particularly Mulder, will have a renewed vigor and purpose in their investigation of the unknown. The series will deal more with the personal relationship–and romantic tension–between the two agents; they may even finally kiss. Carter added: “And there are a lot of great stories left to tell.”

But Carter said pointedly that while studio chief Sandy Grushow has approached him about another season of the drama, Herzog has not. He feels that some answers have to come early next year. He also said he felt Herzog was “not a fan of the show.”

Responded Herzog: “I’m not going to comment on that.”

Carter realizes Fox owns the drama and can continue it without him.

“I don’t know what their plans are,” he said. “But it’s their show. They can put it on without any of the principals being involved.”

Besides the financial hurdles, the show’s future is clouded by the lawsuit filed last August by Duchovny against 20th Century Fox Film Corp., the parent of the television studio. Duchovny alleges in the Los Angeles Superior Court suit that Fox gave its broadcast stations and FX cable channel sweetheart licensing deals for reruns of “The X-Files” rather than seek the highest bid in a competitive auction.

Casting even more uncertainty is the strain between the network and Carter following the cancellation of Carter’s new drama series, “Harsh Realm,” after just three weeks. Carter criticized Fox for failing to promote the show properly.

“I really don’t know how the ‘Harsh Realm’ situation will affect ‘The X-Files,’ but it hasn’t created any greater desire for me to work harder to create a TV series for a network that is unwilling to promote it and unwilling to take a chance,” he said.

Nevertheless, Carter said he has been proceeding with this season of “The X-Files” with the same enthusiasm and freshness as previous seasons. And for now, he is not steering the series toward a conclusion.

“As always, I want to tell good stories, scare people, leaven it with some funny episodes, expand and possibly wind down the ‘X-Files’ mythology,” he said.

Sunday’s season premiere picks up where last season left off: Mulder has lost his mind and is locked away in a padded cell, while Scully is on the Ivory Coast, looking at what appears to be a spaceship in a tide pool. The installment, which continues next week with an episode written by Carter and Duchovny, “reinvests and redefines Mulder with a new spirit in his quest,” Carter said.

Several other surprises are in store. Prominent will be a New Year’s Eve-themed episode in which Mulder and Scully find themselves “in a position that men and women find themselves in at midnight.” The two agents, who have always put their personal feelings for each other aside, may finally deal with them.

“We’ll explore their relationship in a way we never have before,” said Carter, giving credit to a fan who expressed frustration that producers have teased the show’s followers with hints of a romance between the characters in previous episodes and in “The X-Files” movie, but never followed through.

“Now we’re going to address this,” Carter said, adding with a smile, “though not exactly in a clear way, which is the manner in which ‘The X-Files’ handles things.”

That exploration will continue into the February episodes that traditionally have leaped extensively into the mythology of aliens and government conspiracies at the heart of the series.

Also scheduled this season is an episode featuring the resurrection of criminal investigator Frank Black, the lead character of Carter’s “Millennium” series, which was canceled after three seasons. “We’re going to wrap him up in a way we weren’t able to do with the series,” he said.

Even with the question marks about the future, Duchovny’s legal action and Anderson’s determination about leaving, Carter said working on the series this season has been mostly business as usual.

“With the fact of the lawsuit, working with David has created some limitations on what we can actually speak about,” Carter said. “But we wrote a script together. And I’ll be directing him. So work goes on.”

It wasn’t until recently, when fellow executive producer Frank Spotnitz reminded him, that the reality of a possible final countdown hit him.

“I was all excited by an idea, and after I told Frank, he said, ‘We may be telling our last few stories here,’ ” Carter recalled. “If this indeed is our last season, there are a lot of things that we have to do. I have some big ideas.”

And when the end finally comes?

“One thing for sure,” said Carter, taking a good-natured swipe at the much-maligned “Seinfeld” finale, “our characters will not end up in a jail cell, talking among themselves.”

“The X-Files” begins its new season Sunday at 9 p.m. on Fox.

The Vicki Gabereau Show: Interview with Chris Carter

Nov-01-1999
The Vicki Gabereau Show
Interview with Chris Carter

[Transcribed by gde1013]

VG: Chris Carter is with me as The X-Files launches its 7th season, November the 7th – that’s a bit late if you ask me. But, unfortunately the new series “Harsh Realm,” just got whacked after three episodes, and we can’t figure out just why that is – but I will say, Mr. Carter, sir, that you’re as big a star as the people that are on your show. Isn’t it weird how that happens?

CC: Ha – [laughs] hardly. Not today, at least.

VG: What happened, with Harsh Realm?

CC: It just didn’t get the ratings they had hoped, it didn’t get much of a launch to be honest — it premiered against baseball, which is always a tough competition, and they didn’t do a whole lot of promotion for it. I think they had some statistics and forecasts, and they thought it was going to get bigger ratings then it did, going in, and they thought they didn’t have to spend the money to get people to come see it, and to be aware of it. So, I think it suffered from a couple different things.

VG: Yeah, well how — hmm, I can’t think of another expression — pissed off are you?

CC: [laughing] You know, it came as a big shock, because I think we were doing good work, and the ratings tell the story I think, but you also have to give a show a chance to really sort of find its feet, and I think that didn’t happen. There are bigger troubles at FOX and, we were sort of part of that.

VG: When you say the ratings weren’t good – I mean, if you get 7 people in Canada it’s good – but we’re talking about the great thing down south, but I mean what do they need to carry on? What is required?

CC: They just need, well, you need to be winning your time slot.

VG: So you have to have a share, a big share.

CC: Right, right.

VG: And who wasn’t watching, do you think?

CC: Everyone [everybody laughing]. You know, we had hoped the X-Files audience would come, but they premiered it before The X-Files so it really didn’t use The X-Files as a launching pad. I think that’s pretty much the story, that it really got lost in the, sort of, all the things there are to watch on television these days, and no one really knew it was on.

VG: Yeah – Well, I would think that if the guys were watching baseball, the women might not have been watching. I’ve seen one episode, and one episode only, and of course the production values are first rate, and the writing was very good and everything, but, you know, I just didn’t want to see more guys in fatigues. I think it might have scared women away.

CC: You may be right, but if you stuck with it, you would see that it actually had a lot for everyone. Once you got past those guys in fatigues, there were good stories being told.

VG: Are you severely disappointed, or do you think it will live again?

CC: Harsh Realm?

VG: Yeah.

CC: I think we’re probably moving past Harsh Realm, we’re done with Harsh Realm — out of Harsh Realm, as it were. But, I think there are lessons learned, and we’ll move on. We have other good stories to tell.

VG: Now, why couldn’t you take it to another network?

CC: You probably could, it’s an expensive show to do — all my shows have been expensive to produce because I demand quality. So, it’s not something that someone wants to just pick up, with the low ratings. Because I think there are costs associated that would —

VG: Make somebody panic, and back up.

CC: I think so.

VG: Did you tell the crew, the cast?

CC: Yes, I told the cast and crew, and I’m up here now in Vancouver to say thank you to everyone, because there was a lot of really good work done by a lot of good people. I hope to come back to Vancouver.

VG: Because Millennium’s gone, too. You’ve got to bring those X-Files back here! It ain’t the same. Canadians, are we the only people who tell you that?

CC: No, I mean, it’s the same good show, it just lacks the atmosphere that Vancouver gave.

VG: Fog, rain, muck.

CC: It doesn’t rain in Vancouver, let me just get that straight. [laughs]

VG: You know, it hasn’t been raining, until yesterday. It’s been exquisite, clear, sunny — you haven’t been here.

CC: No, I haven’t. September was an amazing month, you know, Vancouver at its best. Every day you would relish it because it just might go away.

VG: Do you think we’re sick in the head – that we only talk about weather?

CC: No, I mean weather is a big part about living up here, but I love it. I own a place up here now, and I’ll come back even when I’m not working.

VG: Did you buy a place in town, or out in the sticks somewhere?

CC: No, in town.

VG: So, how often will you come back? What are you going to do now, do you have anything to do, do you have a job? [everyone laughing]

CC: Umm… Yeah, I’ve got this other show called The X-Files.

VG: But isn’t it like a train on the tracks, it just goes now.

CC: Hardly at all. It is such hard work, and double duty on both shows — it was probably too much work with the quality we tried to keep up. So, I’m looking forward to now focusing on The X-Files specifically.

VG: Hard to find writers?

CC: Very hard — it’s a Harsh Realm.

VG: [laughs] Quit that. But, your country has millions and millions of people. I can see how it might be hard to find maybe a dozen writers specifically here, but there? They must be hanging from the trees.

CC: If they are, I’ve been picking from the wrong trees. It’s very difficult to write the show. We’re always looking for talents, always looking for people who can execute good stories — and you know, screenwriting is hard. Everyone thinks they can do it because the format is so readily available and understandable.

VG: Because we’ve all seen a million movies.

CC: Yes, everyone’s writing a screen play, but to write well in the screen play format is very, very difficult.

VG: Well one of the things – I don’t know how many people have read screen plays, but you can read a screen play and you cannot know that it’s any good. So, how do you know if it’s any good?

CC: Obviously a lot of people don’t know that it’s no good, and bad things get made [everyone laughing]. But, I think when you read something that is very good, and if you sort of develop your tastes, you can start to know the difference.

VG: Right, but don’t you remember a few years ago when they submitted ‘Casablanca’ to a bunch of hot shots and they all said, “this stinks, put it away.” I mean, so there you are – you gotta lose some. So, will you stick around now for a minute? We’ve got to take a break.

CC: Oh, yeah.

VG: We’ll be right back with Chris Carter.

clip from “The Sixth Extinction”

*

Scully is sitting beside Mulder’s hospital bed. He is still in a coma, not responding, but she is leaning over, talking to him, and crying.

SCULLY: “If you can hear me, just give me some sign — I want you know where I’ve been, and what I’ve found. I think that if you know, that you could find a way to hold on —- I need you to hold on.”

*

VG: Oh dear – a scene from The X-Files’ new season. I’m talking with its creator and writer, often, Chris Carter. So that was melodramatic. He spends a lot… one or the other of them spends quite a bit of time in comas. [laughs]

CC: [laughing] Well, that’s not exactly true. But, it’s true at the end of last season, which was the sixth season. Seventh season, if I can plug, starts November the 7th…

VG: I think I said that – I did say that..

CC: and that’s the, pilot – or, not the pilot – I mean the premiere episode of the seventh season.

VG: What happens?

CC: Obviously nothing — Mulder doesn’t have to act because he’s in a coma. [everyone laughing]

VG: One time… That’s the kind of part I want. Just lie there – or knit, that I think would be good. One time a couple of – I don’t know – about a year ago, I saw you in a restaurant. We waved at each other, and you were with a person – and you said you’d like to introduce me – your niece. Then she said her name. Her first name I’ve forgotten.. Just tell me her first name.

CC: Tracy

VG: Tracy – and what’s her last name?

CC: [laughing] Mulder.

VG: How could you do that? I looked right at this kid – how old is she – 18, 20?

CC: Older than that – twenties.

VG: She looks young. So I said, “how many..” – of course she knew exactly what I was going to say, which was “how many times today?” And she said “Dozens..” Now why would you.. who.. or is that..

CC: That’s my mother’s maiden name.

VG: Ah ha.. So you’ve really, really done it to her, and that happens all the time.

CC: I have a lot of relatives that were very flattered in the beginning, who are now very annoyed. [laughing]

VG: But naming characters is a big deal.

CC: Yeah, it is. Name’s your destiny – particularly on television.

VG: So do you go through.. I mean – I’m not familiar with the Harsh Realm names, but even Millennium, do you go through great lists of names to see how they match? Let’s say Lance’s character.

CC: Well, Frank Black was the name of the lead singer of The Pixies, which I was a big fan of.

VG: That’s deep. [laughs]

CC: The truth is that my name should have been Black. There was some sort of family history that’s been buried deep, or swept under the carpet, and my name wouldn’t have been Carter, it would have been Black. So that’s why…

VG: Well, what is the history that’s been swept under the carpet? Do you know?

CC: I don’t know. I’m actually having my genealogy read right now.

VG: Is your father your father?

CC: Yes, I think. [laughs]

VG: Well, I guess the truth is in the files somewhere. Are you doing that through the Mormons, or how are you doing that?

CC: No, there’s actually many professional genealogists out there now, and you can sort of pick and choose people who have specific skills.

VG: Right, we’re obsessed with this – our generation. You know that – knowing who we are.

CC: We have a lot of money and now we want to know who we are. How we got it.

VG: Who do you think you are? [jokingly] Just who do you think you are!

CC: Who do I think I am? I don’t know – I think that there are rascals and criminals on my father’s side that were never spoken about, so I’m very curious to see from which I came.

VG: Yes, and from what country you came.

CC: Well, my mother’s side.. I’m half Dutch, my mother was all Dutch. My father was a quarter Italian and the rest, I’m sure is some sort of Mongrel – Heinz 57.

VG: They were the ones who were all in jail. What possessed you to try and find this out? I mean, how did you find out your name would have been Black?

CC: There’s is no clear family history on my father’s side. He never knew his father, I never knew my grandfather – my real grandfather. So, I’m just kind of curious what is was that was kept a big secret.

VG: Well, it will be interesting. It might be quite tame. Something that might have been deep and dark then.

CC: My grandmother always referred to herself as widowed, until I realized sometime in my teens that she was actually divorced. Which no one wanted to be known as then in that generation. It’s going to be curious to find out.

VG: Are you writing a book??

CC: Yes.

VG: What is it?

CC: You know, it’s a book.. a character I created, probably about 12 years ago, and it’s just been something that’s been sitting around. I always knew I wanted to do something with it. I thought, you know, why not do a TV Series or movie, but then I thought, it’s the perfect character for a series of books. So I’m currently at work on that.

VG: Is it a… What kind of a character is it? Not a cop or a detective?

CC: Nope. He’s kind of a rapscallion himself. He’s a guy who sits around..

VG: You’re doing your research, that’s why you’re doing your genealogy. [laughs]

CC: Yes, exactly. There are two characters – there’s a… Two characters who work together and it’s set post-World War II, and.. which is really fun to write in that era. It has kind of detective qualities, but it owes something to The X-Files, too.

VG: It must be hard to separate those stories. So, you have a story that you’re working on for the book — and, you might want to cheat and put it in The X-Files.

CC: Well, everybody asks, “how do you keep things straight?” Ultimately you do — you don’t write into the wrong characters, or wrong scripts.

VG: How much are you writing now?

[sirens blaring in the background]

CC: Vancouver is supposed to be such a safe city, and all I hear are sirens. [laughs]

VG: No, you see that’s an ambulance, those aren’t cops, honey. It’s coming to take some poor soul who’s tripped and hurt their ankle. [laughing] And we’re Johnny on the Spot, see, coming to fix them up — what was the question?

CC: [laughs] I don’t remember.

VG: Oh yeah – are you writing a lot of episodes?

CC: Yes, I write — I probably write more episodes than anyone, and we write more episodes than anyone, and I have since the beginning of the show. It’s just been the way it is.

VG: Right, but sometimes you don’t re-write them. They have to be perfect…

CC: No, there are some times.. There are some scripts that I don’t re-write and won’t re-write. But, I’d say about 2/3 of them have some of my involvement as far as going through my typewriter.

VG: Is that… Typewriter??

CC: [quickly] computer.

VG: Just checking. Just want to know if you’re a Luddite or not.

CC: Ha – no Luddite here.

VG: But when you re-write, is it because you just have to change it. Are you a control freak, sort of?

CC: No, I mean I wish every script came in perfect and I had to do nothing — it would make my life a lot easier. But there are some things — I have the voices in my head, and I have a sense of how the story should be told. And it’s… You know is has been difficult sometimes — some people get a little irritated when you mess with their work. But, you know we’re in our seventh year, so you know we’re doing something right.

VG: Do you ever take a Holiday?

CC: I’ve had one Christmas off in the last seven years, where I haven’t been writing or rewriting. So, it’s really about two weeks a year. But, I get to come to Vancouver now and again, so…

VG: Yeah, but you’re working when you’re here, and that’s kind of a heartbreaking one.

So, stay with me and I’ll talk to you a bit more. Chris Carter.

*

VG: I’m back with the writer, producer, surfer – Chris Carter. You still doing that?

CC: Yes, as much as possible. Yeah, not in Vancouver, of course.

VG: No, but if you ever go to Halifax — you ever been there?

CC: No, I haven’t.

VG: It’s a great place, and has great settings for your weirdo stories. [laughs] But you know, I have a friend there who’s a publisher, his name is Leslie Choice, and he surfs there, in of course, a wet suit. But he surfs all the time up there, on those big North Atlantic waves. Yipes.

CC: Cold, cold water.

VG: I know, but if you’ve got the wet suit on. You went all around the world, surfing.

CC: I used to work for Surfing magazine when I graduated from college, and I didn’t want to join the adult world. I took a job at surfing magazine and had an amazing time.

VG: Have you joined the adult world now, do you think?

CC: I still.. I’m not sure.

VG: Yeah, but when you’re involved, let’s say, in this particular situation — everything that’s gone on with the cancellation of this show, the one before, I mean, all of a sudden you’ve got the lawyers, you’ve got the lawsuits, you’ve got people freaking out over here. You have to be an adult, and your stomach must hurt all the time.

CC: You know, business is tough, and entertainment is a particularly tough business, and you become very high-profile as I have, kind of inadvertently, and you become somewhat of a target, and you have to be prepared in business to deal with these kinds of things.

VG: When Gene Roddenbury was still alive, did people stop him in the street? Were there 20 people waiting for him when he got off the plane to sign autographs?

CC: You know, I doubt it. It’s a different time, there’s more media, there’s more attention to these kinds of things. I think that people know who producers are nowadays unlike they ever did, for some reason. David E. Kelley is a very… perfect example of that. He’s a big popular guy. So, who knows why that is. But I think a show like The X-Files develops a kind of fan and fan base that tend to be a little obsessive about the show, thank God. Let me knock on wood here.

VG: There’s plywood under there somewhere. One of things among many, that you’ve done that I think is so impressive, when you shot 3 series up here, is that you use a lot of Canadian actors. And you didn’t put them in the background, you put them in the foreground. You used them the way any actor should be used.

CC: Well, I love coming up here because I think the quality of talent, of every technical acting pool, is tops, and I was determined to use the Canadian actors who I knew were very good, in the series, which is another reason I’m kind of sad to say good-bye.

VG: Well, you’ll come up with something else.

CC: Yeah.

VG: But, did you know that they were good, until they read for you?

CC: Well, I know almost all of the Canadian actors.

VG: I’ll bet you do.

CC: There are some that I don’t know still, and I’m still learning faces and names, but I know a lot of them. So, I was able to go back to some people I’ve used before successfully and then to some new people I’ve never used before. Rachel Hayward, would be one.

VG: Right.. What do you read, when you’re not writing?

CC: Not Science Fiction, believe it or not. It’s funny because when you’re working as hard as I am, as hard as we do, you scavenge. You pick up things, you pick up magazines in airports, you read bits of books… You’re always just reading parts of things. What you’re doing all the time is you’re trying to come up with material. Everything’s a resource.

VG: Which is kind of irritating, in a way because.. I mean, books that I read for this show – I mean, I’m practically reading a book a day – and you don’t read it the same way as when you’re sitting around at the old cabin, leisurely reading. You’re reading for – “there’s a thing I can ask..” Or there’s a thing you could develop, I guess. When do you figure, was the last time you read a book just because you were… What, 12 years old?

CC: I read a Graham Green novel last May, which I enjoyed the hell out of, so I have the chance to read every now and again. Something that I’ve either read before, or want to read new.

VG: I’ve saved a book for you. It’s called “Baltimore’s Mansion” by a guy named Wayne Johnson, from New Foundland. Then you can send me a note and tell me what you thought of it. Or now, send it to him. But that’s only if you thought it was good. [laughs] Chris Carter, thanks very much and good luck on the seventh season.

CC: Thank You.