Archive for February, 2000

The Province: Smoking guns

Feb-21-2000
The Province
Smoking guns

The men behind the Lone Gunmen, that trippy trio from The X-Files, are getting their own Fox pilot. TV writer Dana Gee gets the straight goods from the Vancouver actors — along with a few new conspiracy theories

Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood and Dean Haglund make up the Lone Gunmen.

Look out Hollywood, the Lone Gunmen are taking aim at prime time TV.

Those wacky, paranoid geeks that help Mulder and Scully crack conspiracies are spinning off into their own show.

It was confirmed recently that The X-Files’ guy-in-charge-of-everything, Chris Carter, will produce a pilot based on the Gunmen.

That’s great news for the three Vancouver-area actors who portray Byers, Frohike and Langly: respectively, Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund.

As is the norm with anything to do with The X-Files the lid is on pretty tight. What we do know is if The X-Files does not return for an eighth season — don’t hold your breath — the show will air in September. If Fox can work out new contracts with Carter and star David Duchovny, an eight season will likely hit the air and the Lone Gunmen pilot will show up as a mid-season replacement sometime in January.

We tracked down the trippy trio and got them to dish on the show and life as the wildly popular conspiracy guys.

Dean Haglund A.K.A. Langly

Q. Where’s the pilot going to be shot?

A. In Vancouver, since we were all starting to look too sexy with our buff bodies and tans that we were getting in L.A.

Q. You’re not afraid of rain these days, are you?

A. Only acid rain and what happened to that? I thought David Suzuki said the Gulf Islands were supposed to be dead now unless we took drastic actions! Did we take them?

Q. What do you think the show should be called?

A. Hmmmmmm. How about, I Told You If You Make that Face it Will Stay That Way?

Q. What will your own show mean to your popularity?

A. The show will mean, when entering a large event, I will no longer be asked, “Are you with the band?”

Q. Will we see you walking next to Bruce Willis or John Travolta down a red carpet at a movie premiere anytime soon?

A. Yeah, that’s right. I am starring in a picture with John Travolta and Bruce Willis called That Long Haired Guy Killed the General’s Daughter and He Can See Dead People.

Q. What’s in your new contract?

A. Well, I fought hard, it was quite a battle with Business Affairs, but I worked it so I only have to mention my last name at the security gate to get in.

Q. How would you describe your personal style?

A. Biker from Mensa.

Q. What are some traits you and Langly share?

A. Unkempt hair. Unclean linen.

Q. Will you do nudity?

A. Only if nudity will respect me in the morning.

Q. What is the weirdest thing someone has written about you in say an Internet chat room?

A. You want weird? YOU WANT WEIRD? Oh, baby, you don’t know the meaning of weird until you have seen the things I have seen. Thus, I can’t really judge what the weirdest means anymore.

Q. If you could start one rumour about yourself what would it be?

A. That I am that deep voice you hear when you dial the wrong number.

Q. What rumour would you start about the other two Gunmen?

A. They are the women’s voices that say ‘Telus’ and ‘Next stop, Metrotown.’

Q. What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?

A. That Monica Lewinsky was a CIA operative on a mission to distract the public from the fact that the government was completely useless.

Q. If the moon walk was staged, how do you explain pictures and film footage of the astronauts experiencing weightlessness?

A. They turned the camera upside down. Try it at home.

Q. Is it true that, in the pilot, there will be a strong female role, a theorist who stimulates your intellects as well as your . . .?

A. As my what? Could you finish the question please. I am bad with double entendre. I can barely handle single entendre.

Q. Any idea on who will play that role?

A. I think I will. It’s a chance to expand my acting range to play a woman who I lust after.

Q. Who else would you like to play that role?

A. I think we should rotate the entire cast of 90210 through the part. They’ve got the time.

Q. Finish this sentence: If I were Chris Carter the first thing I would do is . . .

A. Go surfing!

Tom Braidwood A.K.A. Frohike

Q. Shooting The X-Files in L.A. hasn’t made you afraid of the rain, has it?

A. I’m born and bred in the rain. I’m a water baby.

Q. What’s the show going to be called?

A. Don’t know but I think The Lone Gunman would be good. Our name is originally singular whose mythology derives from the lone gunman referred to in the Kennedy assassination.

Q. What did you do to celebrate when you found out the show was a go?

A. I called my wife at home, sat on the balcony of the hotel in L.A., watched the sun set and went to bed at 10 p.m.

Q. What’s the difference between Hollywood you and Vancouver you?

A. About a two-and-a-half hour plane ride.

Q. Will we see you walking next to Bruce Willis or John Travolta down a red carpet at a movie premiere?

A. I don’t think so. Maybe we’ll be hired to clean the carpet if we’re lucky.

Q. What is one trait you share with Frohike?

A. Bad taste in clothes.

Q. What’s one trait you don’t share?

A. I’m better looking than my character.

Q. Will you do nudity?

A. Pity the poor viewing audience . . .

Q. What’s the weirdest thing someone has said about you or Frohike in, say, an Internet chat room?

A. Don’t follow the chat rooms much. But a young female fan at one of the conventions wondered if I wore boxers or briefs.

Q. If you could start one rumour about yourself what would it be?

A. That I can act . . .

Q. What rumour would you start about other Gunmen?

A. That they think I can act . . .

Q. What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?

A. Gas prices . . .

Bruce Harwood A.K.A. Byers

Q. When you heard about the pilot, did you do anything wild and crazy to celebrate?

A. No. A pilot is a pilot –which is good — but not a series. I take it one step at a time.

Q. Are you now considered A-list party material?

A. Nope.

Q. Will we see you walking next to Bruce Willis or John Travolta down a red carpet at a movie premiere anytime soon?

A. Nope.

Q. What will be in your new contract? A bigger trailer, champagne? What do you get now?

A. Sorry, private information.

Q. How would you describe your personal style?

A. Well, I don’t wear suits (like Byers) if I can help it. I prefer relaxed and pretty unstylish clothes.

Q. What’s one trait you share with your on screen persona?

A. Bookishness.

Q. What is one thing you and your character don’t share?

A. Extreme paranoia.

Q. Will you do nudity?

A. Why would anyone want me to?

Q. What would surprise an X-Files fan to find out about you?

A. X-Files fans are hard to surprise!

Q. If you could start one rumour about yourself what would it be?

A. That I was taller and better looking.

Q. What rumour would you start about your other two Gunmen cohorts?

A. That they said I was taller and better looking.

Q. Who is funnier, Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey?

A. Robin Williams.

Q. What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?

A. That the JFK assassination was a suicide.

Q. If the moon walk was staged, how do you explain pictures and film footage of the astronauts experiencing weightlessness?

A. Invisible strings.

Q. How do you explain crop circles and Ricky Martin?

A. They both describe concentric circles.

Entertainment Weekly: ‘X’ Posing: In time for sweeps, The X-Files morphs into Cops

Feb-18-2000
Entertainment Weekly
‘X’ Posing In time for sweeps, The X-Files morphs into Cops
Tom Russo

[Typed by alfornos]

After tracking down everything from a humanoid flukeworm to a sentient pile of coffee grounds, it was only a matter of time before Agents Mulder and Scully found themselves tangling with the lowest life-form imaginable: the Cops perp.

Raising the creative bar for The X-Files 150th episode, creator Chris Carter and Co. teamed up with Fox’s 11-year-old lights-camera-handcuffs reality show. So when you tune in Feb. 20, don’t be shocked to find bleeped-out profanity, the digitally blurred faces of pushers and hookers, camera-rattling foot chases – and, of course, that trademark “Bad Boys” theme song. “The commitment – frightening as it is – is to be Cops no matter what,” says episode director Michael Watkins. “We’ve needed to strip away our show’s exotic beats and go more with visceral instinct.”

That’s why David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and the X-Files crew are spending this January night in a dicey, pack-your-pepper-spray section of Venice, Calif. In their quest to replicate the cinema veritΓ© look of Cops, they’ve staked out a shabby bungalow, armed with a simple BVW-700B video camera – to capture that classic lighting-be-damned, run-and-gun feel. And the new aesthetic is paying nifty dividends: Not only has shooting time been reduced dramatically, but Carter estimates the move lopped $500,000 off the reported $3 million-per-episode average. “I’m sure Fox would love it if we did every episode on video,” he says.

The guy Fox can thank for this cost-cutting concept is X-Files writer and die-hard Cops-head Vince Gilligan, who’d championed the crossover for years. “I’d broach the subject now and then,” he says. “Everyone was interested, but a little reluctant.”

Carter says the series’ move from Vancouver to L.A. (i.e., Cops central) helped make Gilligan’s idea more feasible. But ultimately, he says, “it was just a question of finding the story to tell.”

Gilligan certainly solved that problem: The episode finds Mulder and Scully running into the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (and the requisite Cops camera crew) as they investigate bizarre murders in South Central, where eyewitness accounts implicate everything from a werewolf to a real-life Freddy Krueger.

The scene filming tonight finds Mulder and Scully checking up on Steve and Edy, a pair of bickering queens who are in danger of being the next victims. In classic Cops style, the agents get caught in the cross fire of a dish-smashing catfight. “He treats me with disrespect!” Edy wails. “We’re not here to get involved in personal problems,” says Mulder. As Edy continues to let loose with the histrionics, Duchovny can barely suppress a laugh.

Although they’re not straying far from Gilligan’s script, the moment has a definite improv feel. And since this is being shot – a la Cops – in continuous takes, if anyone screws up – or cracks up – it’s back to line 1. Still, Anderson says, “after you’ve rehearsed a couple of times, you start remembering what it’s like to do live theater, and it can get very fun and creative.” And, she adds, you can’t beat the result: “When you watch a scene on playback, it *looks* like Cops.”

Perhaps too much so. “I said to my mom, ‘Do you want to watch some [footage]?'” confides Gilligan. “And there’s this great scene with all the cops running up the street, sirens going. She leaves the room to go wash dishes. I said, ‘Aren’t you interested in this?’ And she’s like, ‘Well, turn off Cops and show me some X-Files.'”

Gilligan laughs. “Must be on to something.”

TV Guide Online: Chat with Vince Gilligan

Feb-17-2000
TV Guide Online
Transcript from the February 17th chat with Vince Gilligan

TV Guide Online: Tonight we are chatting with “X-Files” writer Vince Gilligan about the upcoming episode entitled “X-Cops”. Welcome Vince! Thanks for coming tonight!

Vince Gilligan: Hi, everybody!

Question: In the “X-Cops” trailer…it just says Mulder + Scully are investigating a monster in L.A. and their being videotaped by “Cops”…but what type of monster are they chasing? What’s the episode really about, other than the “Cops” thing??

Vince Gilligan: Well, I could answer that, but it would spoil the show for you on Sunday night. I will tell you that Mulder and Scully think they are looking for a werewolf when the show begins, but then some questions arise… as they often do.

Question: How long had you been toying with the idea behind “X-COPS” before you actually wrote the script?

Vince Gilligan: I had wanted to do a “COPS” related episode for three years now. I pitched the idea to Chris Carter way back in season 4. We put it on the back burner for a while, but finally found the right time to do it, which was this year.

Question: Are you set to write any more episodes for the seventh season?

Vince Gilligan: Yes, in fact, the plan right now is that I will write and direct episode #21, and it will be the first time I direct an “X-Files” episode, and in fact, the first time that I’ll direct ANYTHING since film school, way back in 1989. I’m very, very nervous about directing and yet, nervous in a good way. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, and I’m hoping not to embarrass myself.

Question: Have you ever had an idea for an episode that you thought would be great, yet had it vetoed?

Vince Gilligan: Chris Carter is a great guy to work for in that he seldom vetoes ideas. Having said that, it took him a while to warm up to the idea to doing the “COPS” crossover. But that’s what I like about him. He needs to see you have a lot of enthusiasm for an idea before he gives you the go-ahead sometimes, and that makes you work even harder on that idea, whatever it may be.

Question: How does working with a staff of writers differ from being the sole writer of the project? Is it more of a collaborative atmosphere or all you all working on your own episodes?

Vince Gilligan: The great thing about my job is that we get to do both. We often write episodes all by ourselves, and often we team up and write them together. It pretty much depends on how much time we have to get the episode written. Both ways are fun. It’s great to be able to go off by yourself and write one alone, and yet it can also be a real kick to get together in a room with Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban and bang out a story together.

Question: On average, how long does it take you to write an episode?

Vince Gilligan: The short answer is “As long as we have.” In a perfect world, I like to have at least three weeks. More often than not, once the plot is fleshed out and the actual writing begins, I have on average about 12-16 days. It’s a tough schedule, but it’s a very challenging one, and I think it’s made me a better writer. It’s certainly made me a faster one.

Question: How difficult/different is it to break into TV writing? It seems that it would be more difficult than trying to shop a screenplay.

Vince Gilligan: It’s a good question, but a tough one to answer. The reason it’s tough to answer is because everyone who’s ever made it in either business has followed a completely unique path. Which is to say, there is no one “right” way to break into the business. Having said that, a lot of people do have success with writing spec scripts for TV shows that are in production and getting them to the right agents or TV producers. At the end of the day, it IS tough breaking in, but I have always believed that talent will prevail. If you work hard at writing and are talented, you will succeed sooner or later.

Question: Were you present at all on set, while “X-COPS” was being filmed? If so, was everything turning out how you had planned?

Vince Gilligan: Yes, I was! It was a wonderful set to visit. The crew was very happy because the shooting went very quickly. That’s because we shot it all on video, and because of that the shooting days averaged four to five hours, versus twelve to sixteen… which is how long they normally go. The other reason it was great fun being on the set was that most of the sheriff’s deputies you’ll see in the episode were REAL L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. They were a wonderfully enthusiastic group of men and women who brought a level of realism to our episode, which we could have never accomplished with actors. One deputy in particular, a man named Michael Maher, was an officer I got to ride along with during the writing process. Riding with him gave me a real insight into what the deputies do on the job. It was very exciting! Deputy Maher has since become a good friend, and I plan to ride along with him again in the future.

Question: Any official news on whether there will be an 8th season?

Vince Gilligan: I was waiting for that question! πŸ™‚ We’re waiting ourselves. It all comes down to David Duchovny at this point. Once he decides one way or the other, we’ll know whether or not there’ll be an eighth season. He still enjoys playing Agent Mulder, and of course does a wonderful job as always, but it’s up to him to decide whether to do it another year or to move on with his career.

Question: I have a friend who still has nightmares about Leonard Betts. Have you ever frightened yourself with something you’ve written?

Vince Gilligan: That’s a good one… Actually, it does get sort of creepy sometimes, writing these episodes. I’ve creeped myself out on several occasions, writing in my office here on the FOX lot late at night. One time that springs to mind was when I was on a tight deadline to finish the episode “Paper Hearts.” It was about 4 in the morning, and I was the only person on the lot, except for one or two guards. The studio is dark and deserted at that time of the night, much like a ghost town. I remember thinking I was seeing and hearing things just out of the corner of my eye as I would make frequent trips to the bathroom. The frequent trips to the bathroom were of course brought on by all the coffee a writer needs to drink when he’s pounding away at the typewriter at 4 in the morning.

Question: Vince, Hi there. My name is Anthony and I’m a huge fan of yours. I was wondering if there is an address so fans can write you for an autograph? Thanks!

Vince Gilligan: Thank you, Anthony! The best address to send correspondence to is: Ten Thirteen Productions; P.O. 900; Beverly Hills, CA 90213 Of course, there is no official fan club for writers! If we were that good looking, we’d be in front of the camera, not behind it.

Question: What is your favorite “X-Files” episode ever?

Vince Gilligan: I don’t really have one favorite. I don’t really have a favorite movie or type of food either. It’s always so hard to choose just one. I do have MANY favorite episodes, however, some of them include: “Dwayne Barry”, “Colony” and “Endgame” “The Walk” and pretty much anything written by Darin Morgan. Glen Morgan and Jim Wong wrote some great ones too, of course…”One Breath” was a favorite of mine.

TV Guide Online: Thank you Vince, for chatting with us this evening! We enjoyed it and hope you can talk with us again soon!

Vince Gilligan: Thank you so much for signing on! And as always, thanks for watching. P.S.: I’m sorry… I don’t know what “WEEB” is. Of course, if it’s anything Internet related, I am the WRONG person to ask. I barely know how to get my VCR to work. πŸ™‚

The X-Files Magazine: Fate Accompli

Feb-15-2000
The X-Files Magazine [US, #13, Spring 2000]
Fate Accompli
Gina Mcintyre

[Typed by Gayle]

After years of searching, Mulder finally learns the fate of his missing sister in The X-Files’ most emotional mythology two-parter to date

A nearly opaque cloud of manufactured mist fills the wide, open expanse of Stage eight on the Twentieth Century fox lot. A strong, circular light cuts through the haze like halogen beams through a night fog, illuminating a rectangular, wooden set that resembles a train car from Santa’s workshop on some exaggerated scale. While dozens of people scurry from place to place inside the considerable shadow cast by the box car, director Kim Manners stands on the other side of the stage, walking in circles around production designer Corey Kaplan and visual effects supervisor Bill Millar. Waiting for the final preparations for this morning’s scene to be completed, the forward-thinking Manners is already planning the exact choreography of a complicated camera move still days away on the production schedule, with the pair of department heads standing in for Mulder and Scully.

The whole place is a hive of activity. It’s the beginning of the second day of shooting on “Closure,” the second of a two-part episode that finally reveals what really happened to Agent Mulder’s missing sister Samantha. The shows begin with the story of a young California girl, Amber Lynn LaPierre, who disappears one night under peculiar circumstances. The case draws the attention of Mulder, who is struck by its similarities to Samantha’s alleged abduction. Driven, the agent and his devoted partner Scully are drawn deeper into the child’s case and after much searching, ultimately uncover a life-changing truth. For years, Chris Carter has indicated that his master plan for The X-Files includes the explanation for Samantha’s fate, which has been central to the ongoing narrative since the pilot episode. His quest to discover what terrible circumstances befell his beloved sister has spurred Mulder onward through countless adventures, his will resolute and unyielding. But penning the episodes that would once and for all explicate the mystery proved more challenging than Carter and his writing partner executive producer Frank Spotnitz had anticipated. In breaking the story, the pair directed the storyline onto an entirely new path, borrowing a phrase from German philosopher martin Heidegger that translates as “being in time” as the title for the first episode.

“I don’t think [Chris] thought he would tell a story that said exactly this,” Spotnitz explains. “We’re still going to the same place in the end, but I think we found a slightly different way of getting there. We kind of stumbled upon it at the last minute, honestly. We sat down to do this two-parter and these are the post-conspiracy mythology episodes, sot hey tend to be simpler. We wanted it to be a case that became a mythology episode, rather than just starting out a mythology episode. We found a way into the Samantha story and I think we ended up going further in explaining what happened to her earlier than we expected to. It was exciting to do. I think it feels very reality based, this-could-be-happening-in-your-city kind of thing, which was very appealing to us about the story. It’s always been Chris’ maxim of telling stories that seem real, and this seems very real in the beginning and it gets more fantastic.”

While the episodes unquestionably belong to The X-Files mythology, they do not involve conspiracies, aliens or Cigarette Smoking Men – even though the CSM does briefly appear. Instead, the two-parter closely examines Mulder’s emotional state, resulting in a gripping tale that afforded leads David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson the opportunity to showcase their acting talents.

“Right before they received the scripts, I called to prepare the actors for what was coming, and I think they’ve welcomed it,” Spotnitz says. “I think they look forward to scripts like this because so many of the episodes are about the cases and that honestly is what’s most interesting to us about the mythology shows. They can be about Mulder and Scully as characters more than investigators.”

Manners, at least for the time being, is more concerned about logistical issues and exacting camera work – the nuts and bolts of the operation – than how the actors will meet the emotional rigors of such sweeping important episodes. With dozens of X-Files outings under his belt and years of working with Duchovny and Anderson, the director is confident that each scene will take shape naturally under his lens.

“We haven’t really discussed it up front,” Manners says. “I think this is a story that we’re going to have to find together, David and I. As we shoot, I think that it will flesh itself out for both David and myself. It’s one of those. David, he’s not an actor that likes to plan or predict. He likes to find it on the day, which works well with me, especially in a story like this. It’s better to find it as we get there.”

“It’s a big story,” he adds. “I’m kind of excited to answer for everybody, myself included, what happened to Samantha. I’m handling it like I would any other script. I’m just trying to do my best work and tell the story the best I can.”

Assisting in that mission are the dozens of hard-working members of the series’ behind-the-scenes creative team, most of whom are presently toiling on one of three stages on the lot. Today, first unit begins filming at 9 a.m. on Stage Eight; then the company will move to the adjacent Stage Five, while second unit work for “Sein Und Zeit,” under the direction of co-executive producer Michael Watkins, is completed on Stage Six. The day will last well into the night.

Rarely does the shooting schedule see three stages in use (generally, The X-Files uses only Stages Five and Six); most of the time, at least one unit is out on location. But this has proven an exceptional year in many ways. Even while the fate of the series hangs in the balance – no official announcement has yet been made about a possible Season Eight – The X-Files has kicked into artistic overdrive, producing uncompromising, dark, outings and quirky, imaginative tales, as well as taking the mythology into unexpected areas. Crafting such an eclectic mix is sometimes unpredictable.

“It’s been different than last year, but actually more hectic,” says general foreman Billy Spires. “I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we have to have a lot more stuff ready sooner. We haven’t had any episode with one main set. It seems like there’s eight to 12 different sets every episode that we ‘re getting ready. You don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labor as much when it has to be ready so quickly. Because of the lack of stage space, we have to take [a se] down sometimes the moment they’re done shooting either to revamp it or put something else there. “We work about 80 0ercent of the weekends,” he continues. “We’ll be working through this weekend on all the changeovers and the sets that have to be ready for Monday and Tuesday. And then we’re going to start prepping episode 12. We may have a break for a few hours but that’s only because the director hasn’t let the production designer know exactly what he wants. As soon as the prints come down to the trailer, it’s on.”

For “Sein Und Zeit”/”Closure,” property master Tom Day’s department was required to stage dozens of photographs of young Mulder and Samantha to appear at Mulder’s mother’s house, which meant finding six children to pose as the siblings at varying ages and inventing memorable poses suitable for framing.

“In this particular case, we had to go back beyond what we usually see of them into even younger and younger [ages], Day says. “In fact, one of my assistants, he has a son and a daughter who are roughly the same age relationship. We used his children as one of our groups of kids because his daughter is a 1 year-old infant. She’s got the chicken pox, right now, so it made for these really cute pictures of a big brother holding his little sister who’s got the chicken pox.”

The photographs, though time-consuming, were not the most challenging item Day was called upon to procure for the episodes. “In [“closure”], Mulder finds his sister’s diary,” Day says. “Considering how absolutely central to his entire series that relationship is and how important being able to read what she’s written is to that character, that is as huge a prop as we can be responsible for. It’s really got to be right on. That’s years worth of storylines and preparation leading up to that. As the prop department, we want that prop to be worthy of the years of build-up something like that gets.”

To find the perfect specimen, Day acquired countless diaries and journals, then headed to the show’s producers for feedback. “What I’ll do is I’ll start with Kim and say, ‘Kim, what works best for you as far as the logistics of shooting?’ Then I’ll get multiples of them and have them aged to varying degrees. We’ll do maybe one version that will have been attacked by mold and mildew, and the other version will be dusty and worn and aged, bleached looking from the elements. Once the director settles on what works for him, size and width and all those parts of it, I’ll age a few of them up to show the differences and then I will show them to Chris, Frank, and all the guys at Ten Thirteen.”

The scope of the two-parter – the LaPierre case leads Mulder to other similar cases all with a paranormal bent – is even affecting the workload of effects man Millar. Upon completing a blue screen sequence involving a young boy for the episode directed by Watkins, Millar must begin to procure the equipment necessary for the specialty camerawork featured in the final installment of the story. He, too, echoes Spires’ and Day’s sentiments about the frenzied pace of Season Seven.

“[‘Closure’] is probably the heaviest episode [in terms of visual effects], certainly of the last three seasons,” he says. “We probably have four day of motion control shooting to build [some supernatural entities] into moving plates and have them mingle with Mulder and Scully. Integrating all that is an object lesson in choreography and motion control acting and camera work. [In feature films], certain shots and scenes can take three to five days t set up and photograph, some longer than that. We’re being asked to do that kind of quality and essentially get our shots in half a day, which requires an immense amount of preplanning and a little bit of luck as well.”

To ensure that luck is on his side, Millar ways it is key to take advantage of the lead time he has, now nearly eight days. “Kim kind of previsualizes what he wants to do with certain scenes,” he says. “We talk and figure out the camera moves largely on paper. Kim wants to be able to move the camera though 360 degrees without giving any evidence that there was any kind of special camera in use. He wants it to look more like a hand-held shot. We figure out what configuration we need of camera and track and what kind of motion control camera we need, whether it’s a crane, whether it’s a crane built on top of a dolly, what axes of motion the camera needs to describe and how fast the dolly needs to move to get out of its own way so that when the camera turns around to photograph where the dolly was at the beginning of the shot, we’ve managed to move the dolly around to the other side of the room. All of this has to happen over and over again, and the camera has to be positioned for each pass within literally fractions of a millimeter from where it was, time after time after time in order for us to meld each of those plates together and not see any misregistration, lines or any perspective change that would five away that one of the entities in the scene was shot at a different time or place than everything else.”

According to Millar, that particular scene will take two to three hours to set up, roughly six hours to shoot and will require 40 to 50 hours of digital composting during post production to complete. It will appear on screen for less than 30 seconds.

The end result, of course, is worth the labor. Week after week, The X-Files continues to meet the standard of excellence demanded by Carter and the millions of fans who embraced the series as a watermark for television. If anything, the unparalleled ambition of episodes like “Sein Und Zeit” / “Closure” is raising the bar higher, challenging the crew to push themselves to reach new creative plateaus.

And viewers can continue to look forward to more of the same. Even though many of the series’ carefully guarded secrets have been revealed, some components of the ever elusive truth will remain out there and will take shape in even more remarkable forms. “There’s something more coming,” a confident Spotnitz says with a grin.

The X-Files Magazine: Games Without Frontiers

Feb-15-2000
The X-Files Magazine [US, #13, Spring 2000]
Games Without Frontiers
Gina McIntyre

A video game takes on a life of its own in the X-Files’ second round of cyber mayhem from sci-fi author William Gibson.

Say the name “William Gibson” to a group of science fiction fans, and they will immediately think of high-concept, high-tech narratives set in a complicated future with many possible realities. Mention the author to members of The X-Files crew, and you’re likely to be greeted with knowing winks and smiles. The department heads are all too familiar with Gibson’s cyber flair, and they know when his prose finds its way into a script for the series, they’re going to have their work cut out for them.

Such was the case with the author’s second script for the show – the cryptically titled “First Person Shooter” – which has already been described by locations manager Ilt Jones as “Westworld meets the Matrix.”

“That’s actually a pretty good way to put it,” Gibson says. “It’s set in the computer gaming industry. It’s about super violent video games, virtual reality and why boys like them. We created this huge one that gets out of control and needs Mulder and Scully to sort it out.”

Filmed almost entirely on location, “First Person Shooter” sees the agents enter a virtual reality with potentially lethal consequences. Its special effects-intensive storyline made it particularly challenging to bring to the screen – the right locations had to be secured, the proper look had to be developed and, of course, the visual trickery had to be as slick as possible in order for the concept to believably spring to life. “They’re running the final tests on a sort of environment game that will be installed in malls and theme parks all over the world,” Gibson says. “It’s like a building that you actually enter that is a sort of Matrix-like environment.”

On the heels of a successful television debut with Season Five’s “Kill Switch,” Gibson says Chris Carter approached him and his writing partner, fellow sci-fi author Tom Maddox, and invited them to pen an X-Files follow-up. But the hectic schedules of the three men conspired to keep the episode off the Season Six roster. “For some reason, when we do them, it’s a very, very long process,” Gibson explains. “I think that was about nine months ago. Not that we were actually writing it the whole time. I had a novel to finish and a two month book tour, and Chris is not the easiest guy in the world to get together with. We really like it when we can sit down with him and have some quality time and talk about it. We did, but it took months on and off to get it together.”

Feedback from Carter and X-Files executive producer Frank Spotnitz proved invaluable and ultimately sent the episode in an unexpected direction, he says. We’d go into Chris with half a dozen little fragments that might turn into stories, just sort of different things we bounced them off him and he’d bounce them back,” Gibson remembers.

“We kept bouncing until something stuck. I think we started by trying to develop a story in which Mulder and Scully go on the set of a really popular television show. We were trying to play with that television within a television show thing. It didn’t really go anywhere, but when we shifted it to computer game development it got very weird and interesting very quickly.”

Although the hard science fiction element that serves as the foundation for “First Person Shooter” does bear some similarities to the cyberpunk roots of “Kill Switch,” Gibson says he and Maddox made every effort not to repeat the same concepts. “We tried to do something very different but it does take for granted a kind of very, very high tech computer world that isn’t too far off reality,” Gibson says.

Just as on the earlier episode, however, Maddox served as go-to guy for technological accuracy. From computer lingo to the behavior patterns of those in the industry, Maddox’s techie knowledge provided the script with a sharper insight than it might have otherwise had. “He’s very good at keeping it on track with the actual culture of computer gaming,” Gibson says of his partner. “He was able to give us the language [of the industry] and also the language f the stock option deals and things that they have in that business that I don’t even understand and is so very important to the plot in this. The bad guys are motivated by a very contemporary kind of greed.”

And just as with “Kill Switch,” Gibson says he plans to visit the set of the series to see his vision realized – which should be quite a treat considering that “First Person Shooter” marks the first time X-Files guru Carter has stepped behind the camera to direct this season. “I’m going to take my daughter down and try to see some of it. She’s 17 and a huge X-Files fan,” Gibson reports. “Apparently – I have this second hand through Tom – Chris has found a really great building to use for the location. Tom said Chris was talking about using motorcycles indoors for a kind of Mad Max effect. Of course, I’d love to see that. I don’t know if [Tom will be there]. He’s got a day job now doing something around computer securities so I don’t know if they’ll let him get away. Since my day job is writing science fiction novels, I’m more flexible.”

The X-Files Magazine: The Next Files

Feb-15-2000
The X-Files Magazine [US, #13, Spring 2000]
The Next Files

The X-Files Official Magazine: Is this the final year for the show?

Spotnitz: I still don’t know. I’m waiting to hear. As I’ve said before, we need to act like this is the last year in case it is. If it turns out it’s not, all of us will need to figure out how to adjust. I think about it every day. It’s kind of weird. You don’t know whether this is the end or not. It’s odd.

Magazine: How would you say Season Seven is shaping up so far?

Spotnitz: I think we’ve returned for the most part to the kind of quintessential X-Files type episodes, which are scary, solid paranormal mystery with some humor. That seems to be what we are interested in doing again this year. There have been some departures from that, “The Goldberg Variation” and an episode called “The Amazing Maleeni” are funny and lighter, but I think both of those are very clever. I think “Millennium”, “Rush”, “Signs and Wonders”, “Orison” they’re the kind of episode that won us an audience in the first place.

Magazine: Is it true that episode 12 will be Vince Gilligan’s homage to Cops?

Spotnitz: Vince has been wanting to do that episode for three years and we’re finally doing it. We’re shooting on videotape, which is kind of scary, and it’s going to appear like an episode of Cops. Vince is a big fan of that show and knows it well, so there’s a lot of conventions from Cops that are in this. It’s fun. It’s exciting to do because it’s a real challenge to tell a story that way. David [Duchovny] wanted to direct it, but he ended up being so heavy in the two preceding episodes that we’re filming that there was no time for him to take off as a director. He’s going to direct something later this season. I think something he’ll write.

Magazine: Will there be any mythology episodes before the season finale?

Spotnitz: I think there will be one more more traditional kind of mythology episode. I’m working on the episode with Cigarette Smoking Man [William B. Davis] actually. This is the year of the actors. He had an idea that I think is great, and I think he’s going to write it. We’re trying to work that out now, but it’s got Cigarette Smoking Man and Scully and Mulder and Krycek. It’s really going to be fun. It will be something you’ve never seen before. I can tell you that. [It will air] probably in March or April.

Magazine: Do you have any idea how you will wrap up the year?

Spotnitz: It depends on whether it’s the last year. If it’s the last year I have an idea, otherwise I don’t know.

Talk City: Frank Spotnitz Online Chat

Feb-07-2000
Talk City
Frank Spotnitz Online Chat

Hello and welcome to the live chat with — Frank Spotnitz, — the Executive Producer of “The X-Files” and the President of Ten Thirteen Productions. Hopefully you will have all seen last night’s episode, “Sein Und Zeit,” and will have plenty of questions for Frank about these two-part mythology episodes, as well as the direction “The X-Files” is headed this year. I know you are all eager to talk directly to one of the show’s writers, so let’s get to it. Please welcome — Frank Spotnitz

XFILEKATE: What was it like to make the 150th episode? Did it feel like a milestone, or just another hard day at work?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: It’s a little unreal to think about having done 150 episodes. On the other hand, just when I stop to think about it, I have to get right back to work.

ADAMRS: Is Chris Carter creating the Lone Gunmen series, or are you developing the series too?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: It’s the four of us together that are creating the series. The characters were originated by Glen Morgan, and James Wong.

LAURACAP: When you and Chris Carter co-write an episode, how do you decide who will write what and do you have any preferences as to the type of scene you like to write?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: It’s never that organized! What usually happens is Chris and I discuss the story concept, then I go off and develop it more specifically. Then we split up the acts, or oftentimes I haven’t finished the story in time to even start writing, so he’ll be writing while I’m working out the rest of the story. But his is always the final typewriter.

LAURACAP: Have you personally made any plot decisions you’ve regretted in hindsight?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: No, I’m happy to say I have not. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how plot decisions from early seasons have borne fruit years later, in ways we never would have anticipated.

ADAMRS: Will the final episode be multiparted or a single episode? If this is the last season…

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I won’t know until I know if this IS the last season. I would imagine whenever the end comes, it will be hard to conclude in a single hour.

LAURACAP: What aspect of your Executive Producer job gives you the greatest satisfaction?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Hmm. I always say my favorite part of the job is going to the house of the composer, Mark Snow. That’s because the show gets so much better, and all I have to do is sit and listen πŸ™‚ I enjoy so many parts of my job I get great satisfaction from working with the writers, to help them develop their stories. But the best feeling is when I watch it on the air, and feel it’s turned out well. And I always do watch it on the air, even if I’ve seen it 100 times, because seeing it broadcast is like watching an opening night.

LAURACAP: “When “The X-Files” is over, what do you think will be your fondest memory?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Wow! There are so many things that I will remember fondly about doing the show. I can say already that fortunately the good memories last longer than the painful ones. But I guess the true pleasure, if there is such a thing, will be in watching shows years from now and still being proud of the work.

ADAMRS: Will Scully’s religion and spirituality be explored further after such episodes as “Orison” and “Amor Fati?”

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Do you want it to be explored further? I feel we have mined Scully’s Catholicism quite a lot. You’ll see Scully’s belief system examined in a way unlike any we’ve done before.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The question to this answer was lost. However, FS provides some nice insight to the television-making process — NLYNN

FRANK SPOTNITZ: … because you have to have a new episode every 8 business days, or this big machine shuts down. So there’s always a challenge, and the storytelling process is so complicated you can never master it. So, in that sense, you usually feel that you’re falling a little short. But that’s a good thing, because it keeps you working hard.

CLARISSE: I want to believe that the answers to all Mulder’s questions about what happened to Sam are going to be revealed next week. Are they going to resolve the previous appearances of Sam (the bee colony clones, the grown up Sam who appears with CSM) are will that just be left “out there”?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: As anyone who has watched this show knows, information comes out slowly. Having said that, a lot of the important questions about Samantha will truly be answered next week. But, as is so often the case, it’s usually more interesting to ask questions than to answer them.

PATSANDIEGO: It seems Samantha would have much insights to the Aliens. Is there a chance of her becoming a more visible character?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Wait till next week!

LAURACAP: What types of shows is Ten Thirteen now looking to develop?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: We are going to do a spin-off of The X-Files, featuring the Lone Gunman. Hopefully, that will keep us busy for a while, or at least longer than Harsh Realm did.

ISAUO: I am confused as to what happened to the adult version of Mulder’s sister. Last we heard she didn’t know if she wanted contact with Mulder. And now in last night’s show we are again wondering where she is. Can you explain that a bit?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: How can you be sure? How do you know that adult really was his sister? It may well be that was just another clone using Samantha’s genetic material. Again, wait until next week πŸ™‚

KRYCEKSARM_2: Do you have big plans for Mulder and Scully’s personal relationship?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: LOL! Yes.

AMY: Scully was a little harsher than usual in last nights episode, she wasn’t as compassionate towards Mulder as she usually is, do you have any insight as to why that is and if it will continue next week?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I didn’t see it that way, although I can see why some viewers might. I thought Scully’s anger stemmed from the fact that Mulder was involving murder suspects in what she saw as a theory, colored by his own emotions.

AGENTFISHGIRL: Why are Mulder and Scully acting so strangely toward one another lately?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I don’t know! LOL. They kissed on New Year’s Eve – I thought that was a good sign!

TINA670: It doesn’t make sense in “Sein Und Zeit” that Mulder suddenly believes that his sister wasn’t abducted by aliens after having it confirmed by WMM in FTF, Cassandra Spender in “Two Fathers” and CSM in “One Son.” For what reason would he suddenly change his mind?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Mulder doesn’t know what to think or believe. In the scene you’re talking about, he’s trying to make sense of his mother’s death and what she was trying to say.

MIKE_X: When you are writing an episode do you ever consult the main characters for insight or input into the script?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Yes, although almost always after the first draft has been written. We are blessed with very bright perceptive actors who invariably make our scripts better.

JAMIERUBY: The episode’s mythology is very different. Is it going to still have a connection with the colonists/hybrids?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Wait till next week!

HOT_TODDY: Assuming that there is no season 8, do you think that there is enough time left to wrap up the mytharc in a full and satisfying manner? Including any future movies, of course…

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I hope so! LOL one thing I have noticed is that everybody who follows the show closely has a completely different set of burning questions that we MUST answer before it’s too late. I know we’re going to piss off someone! We’re probably going to piss off a lot of people. But I think when the end comes, we will have answered all of the most important questions and probably raised some new ones.

MOX: Is there a particular character you want to bring back before the series’ end?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Krycek.

IKKLEOSU: Do you ever worry when pitching a story that it sounds a tad cheesy when described, but you know it’s brilliant in your head? πŸ™‚ it’s the dilemma some fans face in describing eps to non-fans .

FRANK SPOTNITZ: LOLOL!! Usually I think it’s brilliant, and other people tell me it’s cheesy.

GWOMANSTAR: How do you write the episodes? Do you always write them in screenplay format?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Yes, we do. We have a very specific neurotic format that we adhere to. We find that being extremely controlling in this way somehow gives us a higher degree of success.

TRUBLUE: For as much as Fox Mulder says to “trust no one,” he is often credulous of everyone, even those he shouldn’t be. How do you balance both aspects of his nature so believably?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: David Duchovny helps a lot, because he gives reality to whatever is written. Beyond that, I think we have so internalized Mulder’s character that we don’t need to think about it consciously very often. We just have a sense of what sounds like him, and what doesn’t.

BROCK: Would you ever consider doing a prequel to the X-files in a motion picture say centering it around Fox’s father and his early X-files experiences?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Do you have any financing?

DKS916: Are you happy with the way the show is progressing?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Yes. I think we do a good job of not repeating ourselves, and I am frequently amazed at what a versatile framework the X-Files is for storytelling. There are so many different types of stories we tell, and for us, the characters never seem to get old.

MELISSA: Is there any other stand alone episodes that you would like to do a follow up episode on (like Orison)?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: There are characters from past episodes I would love to revisit, because I loved those characters so much. But it’s very hard to even come close to the first time, both because you’re probably already said everything fundamental about that character the first time around and because nostalgia inevitably taints your second attempt.

LORI925: I especially enjoyed the spiritual exploration of both characters in “Signs and Wonders.” Will there be more of this character development?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Yes, but without snakes!

HENRY: Frank, about Diana Fowley. Her character seemed disappointing because she seemed nothing more than an obstacle in the M/S relationship. Were you hoping for more?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I thought Diana was deliciously threatening and the turns she took from appearing to be nothing more than Scully’s rival to being CSM’s ally, to finally betraying CSM, were interesting. I know a lot of people hate her character, but I think a lot of that is because they love Scully. I’m always interested to watch how opinion changes over time. When I joined the show, nearly 6 years ago, everyone hated X and wanted us to bring back Deep Throat. Now, more people know who X was, than Deep Throat so I’ll be curious to see what people think of Diana in a few years’ time.

CAROJC: Any plans to bring back Mrs. Scully or any of the Scully family this season?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I would love to bring back Mrs. Scully, and even another hated character, Bill Scully, but there are no plans of yet.

WATCHER: The Smoking Man’s role seems diminished. Will he become more prominent ? Will we see a clear connection between him and Mulder’s mother?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: That depends on whether this is the last year.

CHARLES: Do you use story lines submitted from other people?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: No. We only accept submissions that come from agents, and we never read fan fiction because our lawyers tell us not to. We’ve had a few outside writers, most famously William Gibson, who has another episode at the end of this month.

FOXYTIME: Will you be writing any episodes on your own this season?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I doubt it. I find it is nearly impossible to make time to write alone. And whenever I have done it in the past few years, I have suffered so much in trying to complete my other duties, that I found it’s not worth it.

LILSCULLY2: Do you feel your writers have the energy and freshness to produce new material as good as last night’s IF the show continues for another season?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: God, I hope so!

GUEST-RZD: How important is the post-episode fan reaction to you? Does it EVER help?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I used to log on religiously when the mythology was developing to see what was understood and what was misunderstood. Now, people know a lot more than they think they do, and I rarely get anything constructive out of it. So as a result, I do it much less often.

DOJO: Any plans on doing episodes that take place in the past?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: We’re open to that. The problem has been that time travel is a very well worn science fiction idea, and we have not yet found something fresh to do with it.

MOMSHERE: Will you guys respond to fan pressure to put Mulder and Scully together romantically?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Never!! Over my dead body!! (Which doesn’t mean it won’t happen)

FOXPHILE: Can we expect to see more of AD Skinner and Krycek regarding their strange tie?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I don’t know what tie you’re referring to, other than the fact that Skinner hates Krycek, but I would hope you would see more of both these characters. But again, if this is the last season, we only have a few more episodes to go.

BROCK: If this isn’t the last year of the show, is there any chance we could see The Smoking Man get waxed?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I’d say that’s an occupational hazard. Keep watching.

FANNIN: Hi Mr. Spotnitz, thank you for the best seven years of television. Can you tell us if there will be anything on Gibson towards the end of this season?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: It’s entirely possible. He’s one of those characters I was referring to earlier, the ones I’d like to bring back. I don’t mean to be evasive, but so much depends on whether this is the last year.

SAULTOPAUL: I don’t think I have ever seen Skinner move as fast as he did in Sein Und Zeit….Can we expect to see him out in the field more??

FRANK SPOTNITZ: How come he still couldn’t outrun the fat guy? Just kidding πŸ˜‰

AGENTDANASCULLY: Do you think there is any chance of Harsh Realm being put back on the air?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Never say never! The show will get a full airing on FX starting March 24th. All 9 episodes, including 6 that were never broadcast. It would be a Herculean task to reassemble the cast and crew, but you never know…

CHANCE_171: Do you think that anything that happens in the show could possibly be true?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I was once approached by a fan late in the third season who asked me when we were going to run out of true stories!! A lot of the things we write are based on real science and even more are based on actual mythology. So I think there is usually some basis in reality for our stories.

ZOLA: If this is indeed the last season of the X-Files, what do you think the atmosphere will be like on the set that final week?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I think it will be very emotional and bittersweet. I think everyone who’s been with the show has loved working on it. But when the time comes, I know they will all be excited about the opportunities facing them ahead.

MYSTY: When will there be a decision reached about the fate of the show and the last season?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I wish I knew! No-one is asking me. It’s entirely a question of negotiating new contracts with Chris Carter and David Duchovny.

JAX-GUEST: What do you guys have planned for the February sweeps episodes?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: This Sunday is the conclusion of the two-part episode in which we really, truly, honest-to-God find out what happened to Samantha. Then, there’s an episode written by Vince Gilligan that is shot exactly in the style of the Cops TV show and finally, there is an extremely visual science fiction episode written by William Gibson and Tom Maddox, directed by Chris Carter.

BACKITUP17: Do u ever sit back in amazement that you are one of the leading people of the x-files, one of the most popular shows on television?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I am??? I’m often amazed by myself, but rarely for that reason πŸ™‚ No-one I know treats me like I’m one of the leading people on one of the most popular shows on television, although I wish they would!!

LILSCULLY2: Without giving any specific details, how would you like the series to end? I hope it’s not a Newhart ending where Mulder wakes up and the whole series was a dream!

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Darn!! I have some very specific ideas, as you might imagine, as does Chris Carter, who thought about the ending of the TV series when he created it so long ago. But I think the catch phrase of the show, ‘The truth is out there’, will mean a lot in its conclusion.

MATT: How do you keep track of the mythology, and not contradict yourself? How much was planned from the beginning?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Some people think we DO contradict ourselves, although really we don’t; it’s just that it’s all so complicated that you’d have to devote your life to studying it as I have.

LALA: Which of the two characters, Mulder or Scully, that you feel closer to, or more supportive for?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: When I joined the show, I was a Scully in temperament and outlook. But I have become much more like Mulder. I think the beauty of these characters, and indeed of this series, is that you need both characters to get a complete view of the world. In a lot of ways, Mulder and Scully together make one whole person. And so, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I love both of them.

MFLUDER: Who came up with the idea for “The Amazing Maleeni”?? I love that one!!

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Thank you. I had wanted to do a magic show all by myself, starring Ricky Jay, for years, and this is what I was talking about earlier – I couldn’t possibly do it by myself, and we needed a script. So John, Vince, and I scrambled to develop the story together, and wrote it amazingly fast. We were desperate to get Ricky Jay, and begged him for weeks before he finally agreed. As far as we’re concerned, that’s what made the episode. But we liked it too.

DJXMAN982: What inside secrets can you reveal to these audiences about the shows plot twists involving the alien invasions?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: None!

T-PREECE: What are your plans if xfiles ends?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: I hope The Lone Gunman TV series will be a massive success that writes itself and requires no effort on my part. Even if it does require some work, I hope to do that show and continue to develop movies and new TV series with Chris Carter.

GUEST-REALITY: What is it like to work on one of the most loved series ever made?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Believe it or not, you rarely feel that love on a daily basis. It’s like a lot of jobs – it’s a great way to make a living, I like the people I work with very much, but most of the time, all I see are the problems that need to be overcome if the show is to be any good. It’s only at moments like this, where I get to pause and enjoy the fact that other people enjoy the work.

QUESTION: Do u like resolution in story lines??

FRANK SPOTNITZ: LOLOL!!!! That’s a very subtly worded question, I think! Yes, I do, but I think it’s important to answer the important questions, and only those questions so the viewer has something to think about after the show is over.

RDYFRDE: Is the season finale going to lead to the movie or will the movie be a self contained plot?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: If there is another movie, it will in some way be connected to the end of the television series. But I think both Chris and I would love to do a stand-alone movie not connected to the show’s mythology.

GUEST-RZD: How many episode of the year do you have left to film? How many left to write?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: We are about to start shooting episode 16, and we’ll be doing 22 this year. Right now, we’re working on the story for episode 19.

GUEST-RZD: have production difficulties or expense ever prevented you from doing something special? any regrets along that line?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Frequently! It’s a constant balancing act, trying to be as ambitious as possible and still deliver the show for a price. It’s become much more difficult since we moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles, but we’ve tried to disguise that as best as possible.

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Thank you all for the great questions.

FOX Well that about wraps it up. Thank you to — Frank Spotnitz — for providing some insight into THE X-FILES as well as giving the fans a direct link to one of the minds behind the show.

DailyRadar.com: Mulder and Scully Go FPS: Tom Maddox Interview

Feb-??-2000
DailyRadar.com
Mulder and Scully Go FPS: Tom Maddox Interview

A few weeks back, we ran a picture of Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in a very non-X-Files looking suit of armor, firing a big ass rifle. After a smidgen of investigative work (we went to Fox’s press site), we turned up this brief plot synopsis for a new episode of The X-Files slated for Feb. 27: “While investigating the murder of a teen killed while playing a virtual reality game, Agents Scully and Mulder enter a high-tech virtual game to track down their suspect in ‘First Person Shooter’.”

Even though we found that this episode was directed by Chris Carter and written by sci-fi authors William “cyberspace” Gibson and Tom Maddox (who teamed up to write the “Killswitch” episode a few seasons ago), we felt some initial trepidation. Video games and violence have had a major negative buzz in the media since the Columbine shootings last year, and Hollywood is notorious for its poor representations of games. Don’t believe us? Trying sitting through Double Dragon, Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat 2 without wishing to be struck blind. No movie or TV show has done justice to video games since Tron, and that was a mighty long time ago.

Since an X-Files episode about first-person shooters manages to hit two of Daily Radar’s main geek buttons at once, we decided to track down one of the scribes responsible. We were most concerned that Gibson (a notorious low-techie, despite his cool sci-fi stylings) and Maddox were not gamers and would go over the top in their vision of what shooters are actually like. Fortunately, Tom Maddox seemed much more together than we could have even hoped as we found when we spoke to him about the X-Files, video games and parental responsibilities.

Daily Radar: Can you expand a bit on the story for us?

Tom Maddox: Without tipping off the whole deal, The X-Files twist is that it’s a virtual game with real violence. It’s a gaming environment that would be impossible to do now — but it would be so cool if you could — a combination of VR, paintball and FPS games. So it’s a totally immersive environment in which you’re suited up, and you go into it. The VR overlay is such that when you go into the game, it’s like you inhabit it. In other words, you’re in the gaming environment.

DR: So they’re not getting sucked into a computer a la Tron.

TM: No, no, nothing like that. This all takes place at the First Person Shooter corporate HQ, where they are in the end stages of the development of the game. The idea is that this is something that would be installed in malls all over the world.

DR: Sort of like Laser Tag?

TM: Sort of, except much more compelling. You experience it as intensely real, more like the experience of something like Doom or Quake, where you’re being attacked by these other forces, and you can be killed. In the teaser, the QA team is in there doing one of the final run-throughs of the game and something goes horribly awry.

DR: It’s always the QA guys, isn’t it?

TM: Yeah (laughs). The Lone Gunmen are involved with the company and that’s how Mulder and Scully get called in.

DR: Did you put the FPS company in Texas?

TM: I can’t remember where it ended up (laughs). That’s the kind of thing that you don’t pay attention to in revisions.

DR: I only ask because Texas is the center of FPS development in the US.

TM: Oh, I know and I was going to put them (the company in the show) in a penthouse and all that, but a lot of the rewrites had to do with making the episode cheap enough to film. The way Gibson and I first had it set up, the production values would have been expensive. They still spent more money on this episode than on anything else they’ve done since they came back to LA.

DR: So this is now your second episode. The first one was also collaboration with William Gibson. Are you guys longtime buddies or did you meet through agents?

TM: No, we’re longtime buddies. In fact, if you look at the back of Neuromancer, you’ll see I’m mentioned there as the inventor of ICE. We’d been looking for something to do collaboratively for a long time. Bill likes to collaborate; he’s done a novel with Bruce Sterling and several short stories (with other writers). A few years back — I’m not sure what season the X-Files was in — we were talking on the phone one night and we said, “You know, it would be fun to write an episode for these guys.” Bill lives in Vancouver, and they were still shooting there, so he called up and got himself invited down there to the set, met Chris and said, “A pal of mine and I would like to talk to you about doing a show.” And I think, although I wouldn’t swear to this, that we’re the only nonstaff writers to do two episodes of the show.

DR: Going forward, do you see yourselves pitching another episode?

TM: Well that depends if there’s going to be another season. Bill and I were really excited about the possibility of writing something for Harsh Realm, and we were really bummed, as were Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, when it was cancelled prematurely — the folks at Ten Thirteen Productions were so furious over what Fox did. But we’ve left it open with those guys, and we’re waiting to see what they come up with later this year. The big decision is whether there will be an eighth season of the X-Files, and if so, with whom.

DR: What have you published prior to this? I know you’ve done a science fiction novel and some other short stories.

I have published one science fiction novel, called Halo, and I have another that’s grossly overdue to the publisher. I’ve also written stories that were mostly published in Omni and Asmiov’s and anthologized here and there. I wrote a story called “Snake Eyes” that was in Mirrorshades, the cyberpunk anthology. I’ve been longterm friends with Bill and Bruce Sterling and those guys.

Halo. As a matter of fact, Halo is online. It was published by Tor Books, and it’s out of print; if I can ever get the new book to them, they’ll almost certainly republish it. Go to www.privacyplace.com and look under “About Us” and that will take you to the complete text of the book as well as some short stories of mine.

And speaking of Privacy Place, that’s my day job now. I’m the editor. We’re an exclusively online magazine that does news, opinion and info about personal privacy, online and off. We’re not a policy organization; we’re a magazine. In addition to taking positions, we have some great people writing for us and we aim to amuse and enlighten. Simpson Garfinkle, Mike Godwin, RU Sirius, George Smith, Paranoid Paul …

DR: We heard that this is one of the most expensive episodes of X-Files this season and in recent memory because of the amount of CG involved.

TM: Yeah. They also did some fabulous second unit work for the action scenes. Rob Bowman, who directed the feature (The X-Files movie), as well as our first one, did the second unit stuff, which was very cute since you usually don’t get someone like Rob to do second unit work. And Chris Carter is directing, which is great. We feel like we really got good treatment from them, and the dailies that I’ve seen have rocked. We probably won’t see the actual episode until it airs, because they usually work on them until the last minute, and the amount of CG work was really intense. We’re confident that it’s going to look very fabulous.

There’s a lot of violence and some very sexy stuff, but it’s really about violence and its connection to sex, and it’s about males and females in their relation to these games and the testosterone-driven culture of gaming. We don’t have a message; if we had a message, we would have sent it Western Union. But we did have some things that we wanted to say in the process of doing this very action-filled, interesting episode of the X-Files.

DR: A lot of times, when Hollywood attempts to portray the video game world, they don’t really get it right, but it sounds like you guys are familiar with what’s going on in the world of current gaming.

TM: Yeah, I think so. While I’m not a gamer myself, my son, who is a SysAdmin at BeOS, has been a gamer since he was young, so I see an awful lot of it, and I know what the games are like. Undoubtedly, the gaming people and some of the computer people will have some squawks over what’s possible and what’s not and what’s fair, but the truth is that it’s all got to be shaped into a TV episode. Just like creating a game, the code’s got to be written, and you need an interface that works. The same thing applies here. You have an outline, you have a script and all these ideas you want to do, but, ultimately, it has to become TV.

DR: And it has to get on the air.

TM: And the guys at X-Files have a very firm sense of what they do and do not want to do, and if you don’t want to play ball with that, you shouldn’t write for them. They have treated us very well, they’re very smart guys, they do great work, and we don’t have to agree with all their decisions, but it’s their show, and they spent millions of dollars making this episode.

DR: So you’re not a serious gamer yourself?

TM: No, but I have played games. Neither Bill nor I are serious gamers; we’re too old. You know, we went through our adolescence before all this happened. The closest thing to (video games) in our youth was pinball, which I could play endlessly. I understand the thrill of gaming, however; I completely get it, and Bill does too.

DR: One of the things that concerns the gaming community is the way Hollywood portrays the gaming community.

TM: Oh, I know. You all are obviously responsible for all the shootings (laughs). Basically, I think what you’ll find in this episode is that we have different characters speaking to different sides of the issue. You’ll find that Scully just says, “What the hell is this? The world is a violent enough place, why multiply the violence?” And Mulder says, “Ah come on. It’s a game, and boys like to play games; don’t get tied in a knot about it.” Which seems to me to be true to both of their characters. We didn’t want to demonize the gaming community or games, but at the same time, we had to acknowledge that most of the world views the obsessiveness and violence of games as silly and vaguely alarming in some non-specific way. We’re not trying to send a message, we’re trying to use the whole social situation to make an X-Files episode.

DR: So there’s not a lot of finger pointing then?

TM: Gamers are very sensitive at this point, due to being slandered in the press for the last year or two, so I can’t predict how they’ll react to this episode. We’re trying to use this whole thing, not to exploit it, not to point fingers, but to make drama.

DR: What are your feelings regarding violence in the media and the way games and TV influence kids?

TM: People often perceive as causes things that are, in fact, effects. Take someone like Dylan Klebold. His obsession with violence and his ultimate violent behavior was not caused by violent media and games, but he could manifest his obsession with violence through those things. So it’s not causal as to whether a world entirely without violence would be a less violent world. I believe strongly that working things out in your imagination and having a fictive space where you can do things that you can’t do in the real world is helpful, not harmful. I believe that most of the people who take offense to violent games are censors at heart.

The one qualm that I would have there is that I believe that there are probably developmental issues for young children. There’s a lot of age-appropriate stuff in the world; I don’t want to watch the Teletubbies, and your average three-year-old doesn’t want to watch the X-Files. Parents have to take responsibility for what’s developmentally appropriate for their children and make their own decisions. But I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the world to provide a developmentally appropriate setting. The world is not child-safe (laughs).

Games need to seen in the context of a child’s entire life. I felt confident when my son began playing games that there was nothing wrong. I can imagine that having a child who was disturbed in some way or prone to fear and anxiety, I would think differently about the choices I would make as a parent. Just as I don’t think that it hurts children to see nude people or hear dirty jokes, 99% of the time it simply doesn’t hurt them to play violent video games. Obsessions with violence are not great, but there is a difference between obsessions with violence and obsessions with games. I think it’s the responsibility of the parents to look at their children and know who they are and make parental decisions accordingly.

I’m a writer; I have to defend works of the imagination. It’s what I believe in and there are things that I believe are too important to be held to strict standards of the truth. You have to allow the mind space to create whatever the hell it wants to. Perhaps someday, if psychology ever becomes more than guess work, we’ll really understand what the consequences are. I think there’s reason for parental concern, but I cannot get tied in a knot about the social consequences of violent games; I just think it’s bullsh*t, frankly…

DR: We want to thank Tom for thaking the time to speak with us about this upcoming episode and we look forward to catching it next Sunday on Fox. In the meantime, head over to his home page to learn more about him.