Interview With Paul Rabwin, Producer for The X-Files
Melissa Cooley: When did you join 1013 Productions and The X-Files crew?
Paul Rabwin: I started with The X-Files when they first got their order to become a series. I didn’t join the company while they were shooting the pilot, but after they were “picked up” I started with them which would have been in early ’93, and I’ve been on the show since the very beginning. There are only about four of us left who have actually been with the series for the entire time.
MC: Oh, that’s great! I didn’t realize you were there when the show was in Vancouver too.
PR: Yeah, they were shooting in Vancouver. My role has always been specializing in post-production, and since our post-production is done in Los Angeles my office was at the studio of 20th Century Fox. I would go up to Vancouver on occasion, but most of the time I was here in Los Angeles.
MC: Oh, okay so it hasn’t changed too much for you then, since the move?
PR: Well actually, there are some significant changes obviously. I am able to spend more time on the set, deal with the actors and directors directly as opposed to by telephone. The most significant change for the productions moving to Los Angeles had been the look of the show. In fact, we were very concerned about it because the look of The X-Files had always been very dark and damp. It rained all of the time in Vancouver and was very gloomy, it kind of helped the whole concept of The X-Files. It was no accident that the very first shot of the very first episode that was filmed in Los Angeles was a close-up of the sun blazing over the desert. We did that intentionally just to show that there was going to be a new look, [laughs] and we couldn’t do anything about it.
MC: I remember that, it was great. What television and movies had you been involved with before The X-Files?
PR: I started in 1970 with a company called Quin Martin Productions, and Quin Martin produced some very good television series. I worked on The FBI Show, on Cannon, Barnaby Jones, and a wonderful series called The Streets of San Francisco. I directed all the second unit and car chases on The Streets of San Francisco and went on to do a couple of pilots and movies of the week over at Paramount, and then I was able to get on a series called Chips which I was involved with for four years as a producer. That was my biggest “credit” until I came upon this little science-fiction show called The X-Files, [laughs] I had no idea that it would be anything at all like it is .
MC: [Laughing] So you’ve been surprised by the popularity of it?
PR: Yeah, we were a little surprised at first. I knew it was a good show, that’s why I decided to accept the job, but I had no idea that it would take off the way that it did. It started with a cult status, and it blossomed to become a show that appealed to a great many people… I think the move to Sunday night also helped to increase its popularity, our ratings seemed to improve quite a bit after that point.
MC: Is there anything in particular that you feel makes The X-Files so appealing to different aspects of the audience, both the fan community and the “general viewing public?”
PR: Well, I think the thing that makes The X-Files unique and so appealing, first and foremost is the relationship of the two characters, Mulder and Scully. They are professionals, they are very good FBI agents, they are not romantically involved, they respect and admire each other as FBI agents, but they also have a personal relationship. In spite of what people say, they also relate to each other on a very personal level, but they are professional enough not to allow it to go beyond platonic… [laughing] now that could change, who knows! But I think the fact that they are so grounded in their work makes the show very appealing, they are of course very funny, they are both very good actors, they have a good sense of what their characters are supposed to be, I think people have related to that. I think the idea of us being a science fiction show is not exactly accurate, I think that it is a crime-drama which deals with the paranormal, and I think that is what makes it unique. I think the fact that imitators have tried to make science-fiction shows and have not succeeded as well attests to the fact that this is really a show about real people working in an area that we are not at all familiar with.
MC: That is great that you mentioned that, I was going to ask what you would categorize it as. As a producer, what are your specific duties?
PR: I am one about five producers now, the Writer-Producers work on the scripts and actually write the episodes. We have a Director-Producer who directs many of the episodes, a fellow named Kim Manners, and I am a producer whose specialty has been post-production. Which means, the areas that fall under my jurisdiction are: editing, music, sound effects, color, visual effects… a lot of the fun part of the show. I like to say, once the episode leaves the camera it comes into my jurisdiction– getting the film processed, getting it to the editors, getting it cut, and getting it finished so it can go on the air. In many ways, it is the “heart and soul” of a show like this, where so much works around visual effects and about the sound of the show, the color.. .we can make the hues bright or we can make them dull… and a lot of it has an effect on the feel of a particular episode. I find it a fascinating part of the business, and I have been able to use a lot of my experience on a show like this. It is very complex, it is like making a little feature every week. We really put a lot of effort into it, and a lot of money as a matter of fact.
MC: How much time is spent on each episode?
PR: Well, traditionally we spend close to ten days, sometimes more, actually filming the episode, and then we like to take about six weeks to get it finished to be put on the air. As we get closer to the end of the season that compacts dramatically, we have some shows that will be on the air a month after we start shooting, which is very very fast. But… we are accustomed to that, and we try not to cut too many corners when we have to do that, but it means weekends and late nights.
MC: This is rumored to be the last season of The X-Files, has that changed the feeling [of production] at all?
PR: Well, we are doing this interview on the 27th of March. There is a possibility that within the next few days or week, or hopefully within a couple of weeks, we should know the fate of The X-Files. It is not fully determined that it will be the last season, there are some issues and negotiations which are on-going, which may in fact bring us back for another season. Not being certain of that, the creator, Chris Carter, and his staff of writers are planning a final episode which will have two endings at the moment, one would be a finale to try to wrap up the series and the other will be a cliff-hanger to take us into another season. And we are at a bit of a disadvantage, not knowing yet exactly which way we are going to go… [laughs] so it is… interesting! By the time this gets published, or by the time your readers get this, we may have an idea.
MC: I have heard that will be a spin-off of The X-Files involving The Lone Gunmen, are you going to be involved with that at all?
PR: Yes, I am a producer on the spinoff series of The Lone Gunmen, and it seems like a very likely scenario for a spin-off. These three kooky geeks… computer geeks, have been involved in the show since late in the first season, and they have achieved a certain amount of popularity, they’ve had some comic relief, they are also very interesting guys. I think the nature of the show will be unique, there isn’t anything quite like that on the air, my guess is that if The X-Files doesn’t come back The Lone Gunmen have a very good chance of going on the schedule in the fall. If The X-Files does come back, I am not sure if it would be on the air in the fall, or if it might be a mid-season replacement, which means holding it back until January, which a lot of the networks seem to do with certain shows. Anyways, it looks great and I think it’s got a good chance of being picked up as a series… and that we won’t know until the middle of May.
MC: Were you involved at all with Harsh Realm or Millennium, Chris Carter’s other shows?
PR: I worked on Millennium… I liked Millennium! It was a very dark show, Millennium went through some changes over the course of its three years, and I think the audiences had a little trouble picking up on it and identifying with it, which is too bad, because I thought it was very well done. I thought Lance Henricksen was a terrific actor, and I quite enjoyed that show. Harsh Realm, I was not able to be involved with, I was around it, obviously offices were right next to mine and I was very familiar with the production as it was being done, but I did not work on that show specifically.
MC: I wanted to go back to what you were saying before about the feel of the editing and the action of the show, have there been specific things you have done to capture the spirit that was there in Vancouver as you guys have been in L.A., or have you more just recognized that you are in a different place… are there any problems that have come up?
PR: I think we have succeeded, we have shot certain shows at night, which gives it that creepy feel. We have tried to locate the show in areas that lend themselves to an X-Files feel, for example this year we did a show about snake handlers up in the Appalachians, and I think that was just naturally a very uncomfortable kind of arena to set a show in, I think that kind of gave it an X-Files feel. We don’t always get the rainy look being in Southern California, sometimes we manufacture our own rain. We did a show the first year we were in L.A. which took place during a hurricane in Florida and [laughing] all the rain was manufactured, we had big water trucks out there and fans and we created our own hurricane. So, we have the ability to capture the spirit of Vancouver, but the skies do tend to be a little bluer, and the we just compensate sometimes with the way we approach the look of the show after the fact, with the color, sometimes the camera man uses certain lenses that will give it an X-Files feel… I think we have been pretty successful in making it keep the spirit of Vancouver… it has it’s own special look now. If we ever were to shoot back in Vancouver, we would have to try and capture the L.A. look!
MC: Definitely, the show has evolved. There have been some fun episodes this season, the crossover with Cops… are there any more episodes coming up that are particularly unique?
PR: Oh sure, there is one that is being shot right now in which a quirk of nature produces a group of dopple-gangers, which are people who look exactly like other people, and cause havoc through misidentification and I think people are going to find that very amusing and are going to get a big kick out of that. We also have a very interesting episode coming up dealing with the tobacco industry and smoking and I think people are going to find that very very creepy and scary and relevant, and I think that is going to be a very popular episode.
MC: [laughing] Is CSM going to be involved at all in that one?
PR: [laughs] He might be… he might be involved.
MC: I’ll let you go in a minute, it sounds like you’re busy. I do have one more question… What do you think has been your favorite aspect of working with the show?
PR: Well, I guess my favorite aspect of working with the show has been the exposure to a whole new genre of series. This was a ground breaking television series, I think the realization of knowing that I was on a show that had historical significance as far as the history of television is concerned, is very very exciting. I have worked on many shows which were good, had great quality and that we look back upon fondly… but they aren’t going to be trivia questions in, you know… books years from now. I think there have been a handful of absolutely significant television breakthroughs, and I think The X-Files is one of them. I don’t think the nature of television drama is exactly the same, and I think it was a very exciting experience to be involved in that. It just made.. you know I have been involved with this for thirty years, and this has been an absolutely unique experience. The quality of this show, the amount of creative effort that we all have to put it into it is… different, and it’s really fun to do, there is no question about it.
MC: Well it’s fun to watch. Thank you so much! I really appreciate your time…
PR: Well thank you! This has been great, bye…