Archive for 2011

Monster & Critics: Michael Bublé talks future diaper duty, new video

Dec-06-2011
Monster & Critics
Michael Bublé talks future diaper duty, new video
April MacIntyre

[Original article here]

What does Canadian crooner Michael Bublé wish for in 2012?

“To live more in the moment and to be happy with what I have,” he says in the December 4 issue of Parade.

On Bublé appearing on The X-Files:

MB: It was a very small part. I was a sailor. I just needed the money—my singing career was nonexistent at that point.

On his worst pre-fame gig…

MB: I did singing telegrams, but I wasn’t very good because I don’t have a big, loud voice. There were times I didn’t get paid. It was tough on the ego.

What do you always take with you on tour?

MB: I’m trying to learn Spanish, so I have my Spanish for Dummies book. And my wife bought me this little stuffed pig that she thinks looks like me—and it does, which is weird—so I bring that for good luck. He’s always there when I walk into my dressing room, looking at me with these big, sad eyes.

Do you want to have enough kids for a hockey team?

MB: I hope not! Watching my best friend with his newborn, I think one is enough. This poor guy doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. I went to see him the other day and he had poop all over him—and he was happy! I was like, “Wow, I can wait for that.”

Check out more from Michael Bublé on Parade.com and watch the singer’s hilarious rendition of his least favorite Christmas song in this video…

SciFiAndTvTalk: Sci-Fi Blast From The Past – Brian Markinson (The X-Files)

Nov-??-2011
SciFiAndTvTalk
Sci-Fi Blast From The Past – Brian Markinson (The X-Files)
Steve Eramo

[Original article here]

In today’s Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, veteran actor Brian Markinson talks about his guest-starring work in The X-Files.

“I’ve been very fortunate with my career in that I’ve played everything from attorneys, doctors and cops to serial killers and psychopaths,” says actor Brian Markinson.  “I haven’t been pigeonholed and that’s been great.”  In The X-Files episode Born Again, the actor had the opportunity to play both good cop and bad cop in a story linking a series of bizarre murders to a little girl.

“My audition for The X-Files was pretty much like all the auditions actors go on,” recalls Markinson.  “I had a meeting with one of the show’s executive producers, Howard Gordon, who also co-wrote Born Again with his then partner Alex Gansa.  I read the first scene in which my character Tony Fiore meets Special Agents Fox Mulder [David Duchovny] and Dana Scully [Gillian Anderson] for the first time.  They taped it and that was that.  The meeting lasted all of ten minutes.  At that time I didn’t even have the opportunity of really reading the whole script.  They were only releasing sections of it because it had not yet been completed.

“The ironic thing about getting the role is that Tony Fiore, at least on paper, seemed like this Italian guy.  When I went in for the audition it was me, a good Jewish boy, and a bunch of, ‘Hey, how ya doin’?’ Italian guys.  I thought, ‘There’s not a chance in hell that I’m going to land this thing.’  My audition tape was sent to [X-Files creator] Chris Carter and Jerrold Freedman, who directed the episode, and I got a phone call shortly thereafter booking me on the series.”

As one of three men responsible for the murder of a fellow police officer, Tony Fiore is targeted for death by an eight-year-old girl named Michelle.  The girl, whose body has been taken over by the spirit of the murdered officer Charlie Morris, manages to eliminate two of his killers and then goes after Fiore.  The dead officer is particularly interested in seeking revenge on the detective who not only was his partner but who also married Morris’ wife after his death

“I guess the best way to describe Tony is that he’s a bad guy with a conscience,” explains the actor.  “Without going into too much exposition, he’s a man who made an epically tragic mistake in his past and compounded it.  The story is really a morality piece and years later Tony is forced to confront that particular demon from his past.

“We really don’t get a chance to see the kind of guy he was back then,” continues Markinson.  “We just see him when things start crumbling, but, yeah, he’s a bad man,” the actor laughs, “and not a very bright guy, either.  He’s a follower.  I don’t necessarily think he’s the guy who was the ringleader.  I just think that he got caught up in the whole thing and it came back to nip him in the ass.”

Although he was not previously an avid viewer of the series Markinson had watched a handful of XFiles episodes and was familiar with the show prior to being cast in the program.  “What I love about it is that it’s unlike so many other shows.  The writing is phenomenal and, again, it has the whole morality play aspect, which sort of reminds me of Star Trek,” he notes.  The actor enjoyed working with the Canadian production crew and found series’ stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson extremely friendly and generous.  This sort of rapport gave Markinson the chance to really sink his teeth into what he feels is a very character-driven piece.

“Working with the crew up in Vancouver [British Columbia, Canada] was such a positive experience.  You really got the sense that everyone there was so excited to be working on this together.  There was no dissension and no one throwing fits on the set.  All of this made it a really easy place to work.

“As for David Duchovny, he is just terrific.  Fox Mulder is such an understated kind of character and Duchovny is just the antithesis of that.  He’s got a very good sense of humour.  David made the whole experience a lot of fun and I loved working with him.  Gillian is a very warm individual and a wonderfully talented actress.  Not only did I enjoy working with her but I also enjoyed watching her work.  Her eyes are incredible and she’s just so amazing.  Sometimes it can be kind of a boys’ club up there on the set because most of the crew are men, but she does her own thing and fits in very well.  My wife is from Vancouver and she went to school with Gillian’s husband, so, we have this sort of weird connection.”

Markinson also had the opportunity to work with director-turned-award-winning author Jerrold Freedman on the episode.  The actor recalls Freedman as being a take-charge sort of person on the set.  “Jerry was extremely helpful and spent a lot of time talking to me about performance.  He was very encouraging all the way through the shoot and it was great to have him as an ally.

“When you’re guesting on a show you walk on the set knowing absolutely no one.  It’s much easier if you’re David Duchovny because you’re there every week.  You know everybody and you feel like this is your home but coming in as a guest you really have to rely on the good faith of the group and they were all great.”

Did the actor have much contact with creator Chris Carter while he was working on the series?  “Chris really was sort of hands-off with Jerry.  There was a lot of trust and friendship there.  Chris was around but it was like he wasn’t there, if you know what I mean.  We had lunch together but he pretty much left the episode in Jerry’s hands.”

The climax of Born Againbrings Michelle and Tony Fiore face-to-face for a showdown in the detective’s own home.  After Fiore’s legs are snared by an electrical cord the little girl begins to turn every object around the house against her captive.  As Fiore struggles frantically to free himself a fire poker flies up into the air and hurls itself directly towards him.

“The way they did that trick was not terribly scientific,” recalls Markinson.  “The poker itself was hard rubber, not steel.  The prop guy squatted down out of frame six feet or so from me.  He was supposed to throw this poker and have it sort of glance off the back of my head.  We did it and did it and we got it down pretty well.  When we rolled the cameras he wound up and threw this thing.  To everyone’s surprise, especially mine, the poker hit me straight on the temple.  I saw stars.  I have a feeling that’s the take that they used, too,” he chuckles.  “It hit me full on and I just went down and kind of crashed.  It took me a little while to get my wits about me.

“It was also very cool having a fish tank explode on you,” he adds.  “The production team took a long time to rig that thing up and they also had one other dummy tank standing by, but they ended up not having to use it because we did it all in one take.  I really had a good time shooting the episode.”

The son of a chemical engineer, Markinson thought about pursuing the same line of work when he got into high school.  He started doing plays in his junior year and continued in college.  “I studied acting in England, actually London, for a year.  I saw a lot of theatre there and then came back to the United States and went right to school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.  I think my year in London was really the catalyst for making that decision.”

Markinson did some professional theatre work before going to California to make his television debut playing a doctor testifying about crack babies in the American drama series Equal JusticeHe found the process of acting on television quite a bit different from appearing on the stage.  “When I worked onstage I was used to rehearsing a show for four weeks.  In television all that time is condensed from the time you get the job to the time you show up on the set.  That could be a day, two days, it might be a week, but you’ve got to do all that work and show up on that set ready to work.  So, it was kind of daunting.

“When you’re working in television, rehearsal means blocking it with the camera and maybe running through it once.  You really have to rely on yourself and your wits much more.  There’s less of an opportunity to break down the material and hash it out.  [Spencer Tracy] once said, ‘Just know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.’  That’s particularly true when it comes to working in front of a television camera.”

Since his arrival on the West Coast in 1991, the actor has appeared in such motion pictures as Apollo 13, The Birdcage and Wolf with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer.  His television credits include the made-for-TV films The Betty Broderick Story, Shame II, Web of Deception and White Mile for HBO as well as guest-starring roles in such series as L.A. Law, China Beach, Sisters and Love and WarHis appearance in The X-Files was not his first foray into the world of beyond, having worked on an episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation and two episodes of Star Trek:Voyager.

“I appeared with Paul Sorvino in The Next Generation episode Homeward.  I play the guy who stumbles onto the Enterprise from the holodeck and ends up killing himself.  When I worked on the programme they were on their last season. The cast was all old pros and knew each other incredibly well.  These people were family and felt very comfortable with each other.  I got to play a scene with Patrick Stewart [Captain Jean-Luc Picard] and I really enjoyed having the chance to talk to him afterwards because I’m a great fan of his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

When casting began for Star Trek: Voyager, Markinson auditioned for the role of The Holographic Doctor, which ultimately went to Robert Picardo.  Although the actor was not signed up for a regular of tour duty aboard Voyager he was eventually cast as Mr. Durst in the first-season episode Cathexis.  He went on to appear briefly as the crewman in the following episode Facesuntil a Vidian scientist grafted Durst’s face over his own disfigured features in an attempt to woo B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Biggs-Dawson).

“When I auditioned they had me read for the part of the Vidian scientist and not Durst.  I think they set Durst up in Cathexis to end up having him sacrifice his face for the lust of a Vidian,” he laughs.  “Durst was always meant to bite the dust.

Voyager was so much fun because I got to appear as Durst in both episodes and then play that alien doctor under all that makeup in Faces.  In playing the Vidian I found that I had to rely on the sort of work I learned in England in terms of the theatre.  I was wearing these prosthetics all over my body, had false teeth in my mouth and was pretty much blind because I was wearing an opaque contact lens.  I not only had to overexaggerate everything and try to blow through all of that rubber but I also had to play a pathetic sort of being and do a love scene.  That role is certainly one of the most challenging things I’ve every had to do and I really worked hard to make it all work and play those scenes opposite Roxann-Biggs Dawson.”

The actor recently worked with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer in the feature film Up Close and PersonalAlong with a guest-starring part in an episode of the UPN series The Sentinel the actor appeared as Jason Webster in the television film Alien Nation: Millennium.

“Ken Johnson who created the Alien Nation series is an amazing guy.  He’s a real hands-on type of person who has crafted this entire world, much like [Star Trek‘s] Gene Roddenberry, with a jargon all its own.  I remember in one scene I was up on this balcony holding a woman hostage.  I was wielding a gun and screaming about a giant scorpion that was after me – you get to say some really incredible things on these types of shows – and when I looked down there was Kenny with a broom in his hands sweeping up the street.  He does everything.  It’s his baby and he makes it fun for everyone on the set.  When you’re working on The X-Files or Star Trek you can see the amount of money they put into these shows.  I’ve got to give Kenny a lot of credit because he gets the job done on a much more limited budget.”

Markinson’s upcoming role is one he will be sharing with his wife, that of parent to a newborn baby.  He’s very much looking forward to playing this particular part and feels his job as an actor will allow him to be an even better parent.  “I’m very lucky because I can pick and choose when to work and went not to work.  I can stay at home and be a father,” he says happily.  “Acting’s a nice way to make a living.”

The A.V. Club: William B. Davis

Oct-18-2011
The A.V. Club Toronto
William B. Davis
John Semley

[Original article here]

The actor: There are few villains—in television or in fiction, writ large—as compelling as the Cigarette Smoking Man (a.k.a. Cancer Man, a.k.a. CGB Spender), the primary antagonist for the first six seasons of The X-Files. Played by Toronto-born character actor William B. Davis, Cigarette Smoking Man pulled the strings on a vast conspiracy that motivated the show’s gripping, if at times unfocussed, “mythology” arc. Though primarily associated with “Smokey,” Davis has had a broad career across film, television, and theatre. And it’s all detailed in his new autobiography, Where There’s Smoke…: Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man, which Davis launched last night at the Gladstone. We spoke with him before the launch about his career, his signature role, and his emergence as a spokesperson for skepticism.

The Dead Zone (1983)—Ambulance Driver
William B. Davis: Have you seen that film?

The A.V. Club: Yes, but I can’t recall seeing you in it, not that I can remember offhand anyways.

WD: Not that you can remember! That’s right. You’ll see my name in the credits. But you will not see me in the picture. I still have fans who will read my IMDB and send me fan mail saying, “Loved your role in Dead Zone.” Well, my role ended up on the cutting room floor. Yes, I worked on that film, but I did not appear in it. … I’d been a theatre director for 20 years. But I actually had not acted in about 20 years since my first year of university, until about the late ’70s and early ’80s. And that’s when I did Dead Zone.

SCTV (1984)—Man On Phone
WD: Was I on that? Okay…

AVC: Well it’s listed on IMDB that you appeared on an episode of SCTV.

WD: By God, you’re right! I had totally forgotten about that. I have the dimmest memory now that you mention it. As I remember, it was quite a good time!

AVC: You should revisit your own IMDB profile more often, to shake loose more of these memories.

WD: I should really look at it. If only to make sure it’s accurate. I remember last time I looked at it, there was something that I didn’t do, and I corrected it. One needs to keep on top of these things. I remember I was reading—who was it? I think it was Maggie Smith’s entry, or Albert Finney’s. I can’t remember. But this was on Wikipedia. And they had stage credits and left out completely this production of Miss Julie at the National Theatre of Great Britain, on which I was the assistant director. And it wasn’t mentioned at all, so I put it in. And of course, while I was putting it in, I mentioned that William B. Davis was the assistant director.

Beyond the Stars (1989)—Hal Simon
WD: I used to equate the work we did in those earlier years as being like “studio actors.” Kind of like studio musicians who are called in to put together music for a piece, and they lay it down, and they go home. We come in, we do our piece, we do the best we can, and we go home, until we get called for a different one. It’s a workmanlike part of the job. At the time, as I say, I was a theatre director and running my own acting school, so [acting] was just another string to my bow, rather than my whole career.

AVC: What spurred your move from theatre to acting, where acting became not just a string to your bow, but a larger part of the bow? If not the bow itself…

WD: Well, it was not planned. It’s just what happened. I started doing more and more work. But really it was The X-Files that did it. And it took two or three years for The X-Files to do it. But once that part blossomed, I started getting more and more roles. Finally, at age 57, or whatever it was, I could put down my profession as just “actor.” And I didn’t sell my theatre school, but I handed it over to people I trusted.

The X-Files  (1993-2002)—Cigarette Smoking Man/Cancer Man/CGB Spender
AVC: Is it true that even this role was meant to be just a cameo in the first episode, where you’re just sitting in the background smoking?

WD: I don’t think it would be fair to say about The X-Files that anything was “supposed” to be anything. I don’t think they had any plans or any idea what they were going to do. But in spirit, yes, you’re right. Apparently someone in Los Angeles hard turned it down, apparently because there were no lines, but I don’t know if that’s a true story or not. But yes, I was just a figure in the background. And it got a little more prominent and a little more prominent.

Finally one of the writers said, “Let’s do something with that!” The fans were interested in that character, so they started to give him more episodes. I think the producers were a little bit unnerved about that, because they didn’t know if I could act. I love Bob Goodwin’s comment on the back of my book. He was one of the executive producers who was assigned to direct the first major episode [the character] did. And he said that within the first five minutes he was thrilled. It reminded him of working with Donald Sutherland, and he just thought I was great.

AVC: Is the title of your book borrowed from the episode of the show, “Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man”?

WD: Well, the subtitle at least. The main title is Where There’s Smoke…, which is about the fact that the character smoked a lot, but also a metaphor for the fire that burned within me, going all the way back to my early life. But yes, the subtitle is a play on that episode, except these are my musings on my life.

AVC: For this role, you were required to constantly smoke cigarettes…

WD: Yes, but I had given them up years before.

AVC: So how did you work around that?

WD: I think it had been like 17 years since I’d last smoked, so I wasn’t really worried about becoming addicted. They offered me these herbal cigarettes, as well as real tobacco cigarettes. I said, “Oh no, I’m an actor. I’ll take the real cigarettes.” And we used those for the first two episodes. Then I found myself thinking, “Hmm. Well I sure would love to do some more of those X-Files episodes, just so I can smoke.” So, after that, we switched to the herbal cigarettes and used them throughout the run of the show.

AVC: You mentioned that this was the role that allowed you to work just as an actor. But was there ever a worry about the character being too iconic that you’d be too closely associated with him?

WD: It’s a double-edged sword. The visibility is great, and the attention is great. But there are terrific shows that did not use me, specifically because of that association. A great show shot out in Vancouver, Da Vinci’s Inquest, which ran for years, did not want to have me on the show. It was a very truth-oriented show, and they did not want the referential thing of, “Oh, there’s the Cigarette Smoking Man.” So I never so much as auditioned for that show.

AVC: Even based on the title of your book, though, it seems as if you’ve always embraced the role. Or at least come to embrace it.

WD: Oh absolutely. And I still go to fan conventions and deal with fan mail, and all this stuff that’s still associated with [The X-Files].

AVC: Do you get a lot of fans stopping you on the street and offering you cigarettes?
WD:
[Laughs.] Not as much as I used to! It used to be that I could hardly walk down my street without someone leaning out their window and saying, “Hey you got a smoke?” It still happens, but not nearly as often. Now more often it’s, “Gosh, you look familiar? Are you from Kitchener-Waterloo?”

Robson Arms (2005)—Dr. Carlisle Wainwright
WD: They contacted me and wanted me attached. They thought it would give it some help with the funding and so on. And it sounded like a terrific concept. When the scripts came, there were some minor issues—there seemed to be a bit of ageism in there—but we worked through these. I had Lois Lane, Margot Kidder, as my wife. But eventually she ran off with some young man, and there wasn’t much left to do with my character. But it was fun.

AVC: What was it like returning to Canadian television after working on a major series in the United States?

WD: Well, I had never left Canada. I was always based here, and would just go down to Los Angeles to shoot. And the first five seasons of The X-Files was shot in Vancouver, so even most of what I did on that was based in Canada. I’ve done such a range of things, from the big X-Files feature film to smaller shorts for my friends in Vancouver. And Robson Arms sort of falls in the middle somewhere. It was a little friendlier, more low-key. In the end, it’s not that different, one shoot from the other. Some are more money, and some move faster, but the process is always similar.

Amazon Falls (2010)—Calvin
WD: That was really fun. Again, I was in on it from the beginning. I wanted to be part of it, so I was involved through casting. That was filmed in 12 days, so that’s a different rhythm.

AVC: After the film premièred at the Toronto International Film Festival, it screened in a few places in one-week runs, but never really got a proper release. Is this frustrating, especially after working on a film like X-Files: Fight The Future, which opened nationwide on hundreds of screens?

WD: Yeah, and that’s frustrating not just on a personal level, but for Canadian film in general. There’s a hurdle that seems impossible to get over. I’ve seen many fascinating low-budget films that don’t get seen. I mean, when you compare it to the marketing of Fight The Future, never mind the cost of making the picture, it’s hard to imagine how these smaller films can get seen. But Amazon Falls has had a light. It’s won a number of awards, and people seem to really, really like it.

Critical Eye (2002)—Host/Narrator
AVC: Here’s another show, although nonfiction, which deals with the paranormal and the unexplained. Working on The X-Files, did you develop an interest in these topics?

WD: I did, in a kind of curious way. I was never a believer in aliens or UFOs, or whatever. And people who don’t really understand how the film business works assumed I had chosen to be in this series because I believed in these things. And they’d come up to me with glee, excited to tell me about a new sighting or something like this, and I’d tell them that I don’t actually believe in these things. They’d say, “You don’t?! Why not?” Well, the onus is on them to prove that these things exist, not on me to prove that they don’t. I don’t have to prove why Santa Claus doesn’t exist or why fairies don’t exist or why UFOs don’t exist. And they’d say, “Well, we have!”

AVC: So you’re a skeptic?

WD: Well, yes. One time I was listening to an interview on the radio with Barry Beyerstein, who’s a professor at Simon Fraser University and a member of something [formerly] called CSICOP—the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal [now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry —ed.]. This is a very reputable organization, with many scientists on the masthead. So I contacted him and became very interested in how they had examined so many of these issues, and tested them with scientific rigour to see if there was anything to them or not. I ended up becoming a kind of spokesman for the skeptic community. Because of The X-Files, I had the notability, and now I had some knowledge. So I did some talks on the subject at various places, and then Discovery Channel grabbed me to host a couple different shows, where I’d look at paranormal events and see what the science behind them is.

AVC: It’s interesting that you’re a skeptic. Because in one sense, you’re so associated with a seminal television series about the supernatural that it’d seem like something would rub off. But at the same time, The X-Files was obviously just a fictional TV show, and all these paranormal events were scripted, which would naturally make you more wary of them.

WD: I mean, there’s no relationship between me being an actor working on a show. Nobody thinks that if I play Macbeth that I’m going to go around killing kings. These are fictional stories.

The Tall Man (forthcoming)—Sherriff Chestnut
WD: That’s still in post-production. I just did the [additional dialogue recording] for it just last week. I think they’re trying to get it ready for Sundance, so maybe it will première there.

AVC: And you play a sheriff in this film? What’s the role exactly?

WD: It’s an interesting plot. There are children disappearing in this small town. And everybody assumes that they’ve been murdered. Without giving a spoiler—well, I am giving a spoiler—but it turns out that they’re actually being kidnapped from poor families and sent to rich families, where they can get a better childhood. It’s someone’s perverse idea of how to make a better a world.

AVC: That’s interesting. Pascal Laugier’s previous film, Martyrs, has a similar plot. But Martyrs seems much grislier than this.

WD: Does it? I haven’t seen that. Maybe I will. The Tall Man is beautifully shot, though. It looks great.

AVC: And you star opposite another great Canadian actor, Stephen McHattie.

WD: Yes! And he did a great job in that.

AVC: Had you two worked together before? It seems that, in this industry, you’re bound to cross paths eventually.

WD: You know I’m trying to think … I feel like we might have rubbed shoulders in something, but I can’t remember from what. When we got on a set we had the feeling that we knew each other before.

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter Plots Return to TV With Police Thriller

Sep-29-2011
The Hollywood Reporter
‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter Plots Return to TV With Police Thriller
Lacey Rose

[Original article here]

Media Rights Capital is producing the female-lead “Unique,” which has a supernatural element.

X-Files creator Chris Carter is heading back to the small screen.

After several years away from Hollywood despite heavy demand, Carter has reemerged with a female-lead mystery police thriller titled Unique. The project, which is set up at Media Rights Capital, has a supernatural element to it. He is set to write and executive produce.

Carter spent nearly a decade at the helm of the David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson vehicle, which ran from 1993 to 2002. The series not only helped put host network Fox on the map but also define it as a destination for edgy, quality fare.

In addition to a rich ancillary revenue that came from DVD and merchandise, the franchise spawned two feature films, 1998’s The X Files and 2008′ The X Files: I Want to Believe. Last month, Anderson told an Australian morning show that there’s talk of a third X-Files feature. “I hope it happens,” she said. “There’s talk of it.”

Carter, who also created Millennium, which ran on Fox from 1996 to 1999, is repped by ICM.

Herald Sun: The jest files

Sep-10-2011
The jest files
Herald Sun
James Wigney

[Original here]

600889-gillian-anderson

Gillian Anderson in Melbourne to promote her latest film Johnny English Reborn. Picture: Chris Scott Source: Sunday Herald Sun

DRAMA and thrills have left Gillian Anderson with a taste for comedy.

GILLIAN Anderson shot to fame as Special Agent Dana Scully over nine seasons of The X-Files. Since leaving the cult sci-fi hit nearly a decade ago, the Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor has shifted effortlessly between the stage (she was nominated for an Olivier award for her West End role in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House), TV (nominated for a BAFTA for Lady Dedlock in Dickens’ Bleak House) and film (two X-Files films, and The Last King of Scotland). The US-born, England-raised actor lives in London with her three children and partner Mark Griffiths. She visited Australia with co-star Rowan Atkinson this week to promote their film, James Bond spoof Johnny English Reborn.

What was the appeal of Johnny English Reborn for you – was it working with Rowan Atkinson?

It was a mixture of Rowan and the thought of playing the head of MI7. It sounded like a really cool thing to do. I could also see the potential in the script of what they were aiming for and the idea of it essentially being a James Bond with humour.

Are you a Bond fan?

I think I am a Bond fan like any other. I have all the Bond films but I haven’t seen one in a really long time. And if you really look at them, there are really only one or two really good ones. I think Goldfinger is one of them. The others are really just cheesy, bordering on parody.

All the Bond parallels in the film place you squarely in the shoes of Dame Judi Dench. Did you go back and watch what she had done as M?

I didn’t, because it’s clear that the two characters are quite different. But in thinking of her as M, I realised how much power she has as an actress to be able to basically whisper and allude to so much power over everybody. She doesn’t raise her voice at all. It’s really quite straight and laser-like. I found that fascinating.

Am I right in thinking you are both attached to a movie with the unlikely title of The Curse of the Buxom Strumpet?

Yes. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. It’s a zombie film and that title is alluding to a ship. But we will see. If they get their financing together and we are both still available, then maybe. It’s quite funny.

Is there a big difference between Rowan Atkinson on and off set?

There is a big difference when the camera is actually rolling to the Rowan Atkinson off-set. Especially if there are physical gags involved. Very often it will be discussed, but he won’t necessarily go through the motions of it because it’s exhausting and he very much saves himself for when the camera is rolling. He is not one of those actors or comedians who spills out all over the place and you get it in spades before the take. It’s quite disconcerting when you are talking on an intellectual and technical level and all of a sudden the camera rolls and this master of comedy pops up out of nowhere.

Did you enjoy the comedy aspect?

Actually a good portion of the theatre I have done has been comedy and a fifth to a seventh of the X-Files were comedy episodes. I have done a couple of comedy films but I would actually like to get to be more funny. This is a straight character to Rowan’s comedy and I am very much interested in getting to be the comedian because I enjoy it very much.

You came very close with what you did on The Simpsons, but The X-Files is surely ripe for its own spoof?

We actually talked about it for a while. There has always been the idea that every few years we would come back and do another picture and within that there was always a desire that at some point we come back and do a spoof. It may be too late now but I love the idea of it. There is so much stuff we could pull from. There is one episode called Bad Blood which is actually one of my favourites and we kind of take the p— out of ourselves in that and it was so much fun to do.

I think a lot of people were hoping the second X-Files movie would answer a lot more questions. Were you happy?

I think that if we were to do a third one, it would answer a lot more of those questions and maybe also have something to do with aliens, which is ultimately what people want to see. David and I have been very vocal about the fact that if Chris or the studio were to come to us to do another one, we would do it. Recently Chris announced that it was likely to be in the works but I have no idea what that means or at what stage it is or who is writing it or whether Fox is even interested.

Do you miss Scully?

I miss her when I am together with David and Chris and we are reminiscing about it, or somebody is a particularly big fan and brings something up, but I don’t think about her on a daily basis. I think I am more appreciative of all that she was now than I was even at the time.

Why does the show continue to strike such a chord?

I have no idea. I really don’t know. There are new generations of fans out there, which always surprises me. I get letters from people who say ‘I’m 12 and I just started watching the series and I am so glad it’s out there. That’s cool.

You are becoming quite the Dickens specialist too, after Bleak House, and now you are playing Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. How do you go about breathing new life into these revered literary characters?

When I read a script I generally know on the first read whether that person is inside me somewhere, and that was a case where I got her. It’s my version of her, but there is something inside that went ‘Oh, I can do this. I get who this is’. Sometimes I read stuff and I just don’t get it – it doesn’t resonate. I get very specific images and vocal mannerisms, and then it’s just down to hoping they come together in the right way and other people agree you are on the right track. When I showed up to the set for Great Expectations I hadn’t really discussed that much with the director about the direction I was taking her, and it didn’t actually occur to me until the second day that he could have said ‘What the f— are you doing?’ I just really hope it’s good. It looks like it will be, but you never know.

You keep returning to the stage. What is it you get from theatre that you don’t get anywhere else?

It terrifies me. I hate it as much as I love it and I only decide to do something every few years because of that. Along the way there is at least 100 times where I go ‘Why did I subject myself to this again?’ But at the same time there is a part of me that is fed in a completely different way to anything else in that live process with an audience and discovering stuff in the moment and the danger of it.

Johnny English Reborn opens on Thursday.

Fox All Access: ‘X-Files 3: The Truth Is… Gillian Anderson Doesn’t Know!

Jul-29-2011
Fox All Access
‘X-Files 3: The Truth Is… Gillian Anderson Doesn’t Know!

[Original article here]

Are rumors of a third “X-Files” movie the truth?  Or are they just out there?  That’s what we wanted to find out when we spotted Gillian Anderson this afternoon at the Television Critics Association meetings today in Beverly Hills.  She told us she wishes she knew what was going on, and that she’d be happy to read a script — if only somebody would give her one!  (Click on the on the audio player to hear Gillian Anderson)

 

Kodak ONFILM Interview: Rob Bowman

Jul-25-2011
Kodak ONFILM Interview: Rob Bowman

bowman_620X0

[Original article here]

“Filmmaking like any art is subjective. It is one thing to get excited about an abstract idea and get it on paper as a script. It takes discipline to do the hard work necessary to translate that concept to film. A film look is kind of a magical interpretation of the story and performances. It’s a chemical process that sees images the way we do with our eyes. I know how the light will fall off in the background, and what we’ll see in the foreground. That’s especially important when we are telling stories through people’s eyes to show the audience what characters are thinking and feeling. The more I study and practice the art of filmmaking, the more I realize that happiness, frustration, sadness, victory and defeat are universal themes that evoke similar emotions everywhere in our country and the rest of the world. It’s a gamble every time you make a film, but that’s a really exciting part of being a filmmaker.”

Rob Bowman has produced and/or directed episodes of nearly 40 television series and movies and films for the cinema. He earned four consecutive Emmy nominations for The X-Files. A short list of his diverse credits includes the television series StarTrek: The Next Generation, Parker Lewis, The A-Team and Castle.

[All these films were shot on Kodak motion picture film.]

A CONVERSATION WITH ROB BOWMAN

Filmmaking obviously runs in the Bowman family. Let’s begin this conversation with the father, Chuck Bowman. How long have you been producing and directing films?

CHUCK BOWMAN: I’ve been directing, producing and sometimes writing and acting in films for about 35 years. Before that I was a television newsman at KTLA in Los Angeles and at various stations in the Midwest.
Rob was born in Wichita Falls, Kansas, while I was working at a television station there. I was working my way to Los Angeles, because my goal was to work in the film industry. I got my first job in Los Angeles when Rob was 3 or 4 years old. I did voiceovers on travel shows.
I got into producing sportscasts and reporting during the mid- to-late 1960s and early 1970s. After a while, I decided it was time for me to buy some 16 mm camera gear and start producing and directing my own industrial films. Rob was the best crew member I had. His enthusiasm never wavered.
In 1976, I started producing television programs, beginning with Black Sheep Squadron, which was also known as Bah Bah Black Sheep. My next show was The Incredible Hulk. I produced and directed a lot of other shows, including about half of the Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman episodes, among others.

Rob, did you grow up knowing that you wanted to be a filmmaker?
ROB BOWMAN:
As my dad mentioned, when I was very young and living in the Midwest, he brought me to places where he was working. I was a kid when my dad was working at KTLA. George Putnam was the news anchor. Near the end of the show, George would bring me on the set and stand me up on the news desk that he was sitting behind. The turning point was Thanksgiving Day when the station ran The Wizard of Oz. I was sitting on the floor at my uncle’s house. My dad was sitting in a chair right behind me. I remember this moment, exactly. I was completely swept away by the movie. That was the beginning of my fascination with making films. Knowing that things are ‘made’ was a very important lesson in my childhood. My mom was a highly-skilled seamstress and she used to make some of my clothes when I was little. I knew that she ‘made’ them. She had a skill and one can learn a skill. My grandfather was a painter and sculptor. He had a garage in Burbank that was a beautifully organized workshop. That is where I watched him create his artwork. Though he was a stern, old guy, his art always had a sense of humor. I realized he was always trying to entertain people and I found that fascinating.

How did that lead to you thinking about making films?
ROB BOWMAN: My dad was already making films and I wanted to understand the craftsmanship of filmmaking. From 4 years old through my teenage years, I was fascinated with the notion of organizing my thoughts and translating them into images that tell narrative stories. I had a normal childhood. I played sports, had girlfriends and did all the things that kids do. I grew up in Burbank in the shadows of Walt Disney Studios. Walt Disney was alive and The Wonderful World of Disney was on television on Sunday evenings. It was pure magic being a kid growing up in Burbank living near the place where Walt Disney created magic. If you didn’t go to Disneyland 50 times by the time you were 15, you weren’t up to snuff. I kind of turned away from it during in my late teens. Maybe it was too easy or too close. I went to Utah, where I became a ski bum and did some bartending.

How did you begin your journey into filmmaking?
ROB BOWMAN: I began by helping my dad on his projects. He was making documentaries, industrials and commercials and I worked with him from an early age. I took a film production class at the University of Utah. We were assigned to write, produce and direct a story. It became as clear to me as a Fourth of July fireworks display that was where my passion was. I was one of three people who wrote a screenplay. I got the other two people’s drafts and rewrote the whole thing in one night. A buddy of mine who is now a director and friend starred in it. That was the equivalent of putting my toe in the water, and realizing how badly I wanted to swim in the filmmaking business. I couldn’t get back to Los Angeles fast enough. I got a job in the mail room at Stephen Cannell’s production company. I took film classes and spent my days getting people coffee, Xeroxing scripts and doing whatever I had to do to pay my rent. I realized that a lot of people wanted to be filmmakers. I recall asking myself, ‘Why would somebody hire me?’ That’s when I realized I had to find my own point of view, my signature approach to filmmaking. First, I studied the great directors: Steven Spielberg, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Stanley Kubrick and many others. I was on a mission to see what appealed to me about their films and what didn’t. My goal was to develop my own signature. It took me a few years. My time at Cannell’s company was where the day-to-day, real world of filmmaking took place.

In retrospect, what were you learning?
ROB BOWMAN: I was learning how they told stories on film. Cannell always aspired to reach the highest levels of filmmaking. That experience helped me to understand and appreciate what it takes to tell a worthwhile story on film. I watched approximately 400 hours of television shows being made during the two-and-a-half years I worked there. It was an incredibly dense, seven-day-a-week education.

Who were the people who influenced you?
ROB BOWMAN: Obviously, my father is at the top of that list. One of the important lessons I learned was his work ethic. Filmmaking, like any art, is subjective. There is no one right way to tell any story on film. It’s not like you are selling insurance for a living. I think I was 20 years old when I made a commitment to succeed in the film industry no matter what it took. I wrote a mission statement for myself. I promised myself that I would not fail through lack of effort. Stephen Cannell was also obviously a big influence. I learned that creating art on film takes inspiration, discipline and hard work.

You are more than a little passionate about this subject, aren’t you?
ROB BOWMAN: I love talking about film. Telling stories on film is a very tricky thing to do because you are creating two-dimensional images that you want to have a three-dimensional impact. How do I construct images with dialogue and music so they’ll move the audience? How do I draw the audience into the story and evoke emotions, including laughter, suspense, tension, excitement – all those things and more? Getting it perfect every time is virtually impossible, but that’s the dream I keep chasing. Every day, I ask myself, ‘How can we make this a better story?’ I don’t worry about tomorrow. I concentrate on what I have to do to make this scene jump off the screen. It’s more of a challenge today that ever, because there are so many channels and options for the audience. I feel like I’m auditioning for the audience’s attention every day that I have a program on the air.

You don’t seem to have focused on comedy, drama or any other genre. You like to do all of it?
ROB BOWMAN: I have always wanted to try my hand at making films which are funny, dramatic, action-packed, creepy, and everything else. I have felt from the beginning that if I have passion and enthusiasm for a project, the only thing that could get in my way is me. I believe that if you never quit, you will never fail. You’ll have ups and downs, good times and bad times, including doing your best work when nobody is looking. All you can control is aspiring to produce the highest quality films possible, and don’t let rejection, frustration or fatigue discourage you. You are in charge of your own destiny.

How did you decide to focus on producing and directing?
ROB BOWMAN: It was my opinion early on that the director was the one who makes the movie, but I’ve learned that it takes many people to make films. Directing is the creative, organizational process of translating the script to the screen. I also like producing because it enables me to encourage, cajole and nurture other filmmakers. But, the most alive I feel is when I’m directing. It’s also when I feel most vulnerable because of the unpredictable variables. It keeps me on my toes and oddly enough I get bored if I don’t feel slightly overwhelmed.

Don’t you think filmmaking is probably the most collaborative art form?
ROB BOWMAN: No one makes worthwhile stories on film alone. It begins with the writer who starts with an idea and blank pieces of paper. As a director, I draw diagrams of how things should move and the choreography between the subject and camera before I shoot anything. When I walk on the set, I begin working with the cast and crew. But, the writer begins with a blank page. That strikes me as a daunting mission. My first obligation is to deliver what he or she intended. My second obligation is to elevate it and make it better.

When you’re reading the script for the first time, do you talk to the writers and make suggestions?
ROB BOWMAN: Absolutely. I torture the writers, because I want to talk about everything. I ask about their intentions for the story because sometimes the writers don’t always get their stories on the page exactly the way they want. We’ll talk about the central idea—is there a better way to express it? Sometimes I may have a suggestion about structure, action or dialogue. It’s that critical back and forth with a writer that I need and enjoy. I cannot say enough how much I appreciate writers.

Obviously, getting the right words on the paper is just the beginning, isn’t it? 
ROB BOWMAN: Everyone makes a contribution. There is a critical relationship with everyone involved in the making of a film or TV show. From the writer to the producers to the actors to the editor to the people who make the sound effects to the composer to the colorist – all the people who touch the project elevate it. By the time it’s finished, it’s greater than the sum of the parts.

How about sharing memories about some of your early projects?
ROB BOWMAN: After I left Stephen Cannell’s company and floated a video of my work around town, the first people to respond were Rick Berman and Bob Justman, the executive producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was around 26 years old and probably looked like I was 19. Bob Justman said he liked my footage but was concerned about my age. Rick Berman popped his head in the door and asked ‘Are you the pizza delivery boy?’ I said, ‘No, I’m Rob Bowman.’ From that day forward, he would occasionally refer to me as ‘pizza boy’ and say, ‘Hey, great film, can you shoot a little faster?’ I remember the month before I directed my first episode; I was going to the sets quite frequently to figure out what I was going to do. The sets were a big part of the story. They were modified from Star Trek movies and were huge. Star Trek had a large cast, and they all got close-ups. One of my challenges was figuring out how to do that and also use the environment. I storyboarded the entire episode, but I was terrified. We started with a daunting scene with 10 or 12 people on the bridge set. On the first or second day of production, the Enterprise was hit by a photon torpedo. I asked the cinematographer, how do I make the ship shake when the torpedo hits? He grabbed the magazine on the Panaflex camera and said, ‘You tell me when the torpedo hits and I’ll shake it like this.’ I thought he was being sarcastic, and said, ‘Don’t play with me. I just want to know how to do it.’ He said, ‘I’m telling you.’ I asked him twice, and he said the same thing twice. So, I said, ‘Okay, shake the camera on cue, but the ship gets hit on the left side, so it’s going have to tilt the other way. The cinematographer said, ‘Tell the actors to lean camera right or left.’ The next day the dailies came in and the impact was perfect. It’s difficult explaining how I felt standing on that multimillion dollar Star Trek set with the legendary Gene Roddenberry, creating a believable effect by yanking the camera magazine around.

Does that feeling ever go away?
ROB BOWMAN: No. I have earned a lot of credits for producing and directing, but the thing that has never changed is my love for doing my homework – sitting alone with a pencil and script, dreaming up and executing ideas on a set.

What was the next television show that made an impact on you?
ROB BOWMAN: That’s like asking who my favorite child is. Parker Lewis was interesting, because it was a comedy with aggressive camera movement. That landed me my first movie (Airborne), a little film about rollerblading with a young Jack Black and Seth Green in the cast.

After directing that film, you went back to producing and directing episodic television programs. Please share some thoughts about that.
ROB BOWMAN: I saw a trailer for the pilot of The X-Files. There was a shot of a kid standing in the forest with leaves swirling around him. I said that’s the show I want to work on. I called my agent and asked him to get me an interview. I just got to work on one episode during the first season. I loved it. We tried some pretty unusual things to grab attention, including shooting dialogue scenes with silhouettes of characters, and long sequences with no dialogue that required some savvy camerawork. I remember thinking; this is a television show where you have to be a filmmaker. That was what Chris Carter expected from everybody.

You directed more than 30 episodes of The X-Files and earned Emmy® nominations for four consecutive years. You also produced more than 90 episodes. What do you remember most about those years?
ROB BOWMAN: I just felt it was the right place for me. I remember us shooting a night scene on a farm that was like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. I called Chris Carter and told him that in order to get this done in one day, I was going to have to cut back and forth between what they are looking at and their faces. That means you can’t change it in editing. He gave me the go ahead. I had a great time because it was a tremendous challenge. The next season, they asked me to stay on as producer/director. It took me about half a second to decide that’s what I wanted to do.

How do you make decisions to make commitments like that?
ROB BOWMAN: I believe it’s the result of having spent all that time with my dad when he was doing those industrial films when I was a kid, and then going through an apprenticeship with Stephen Cannell. I also learned a lot while I was working under Gene Roddenberry on StarTrek: The Next Generation and being mentored by (executive producer/director) Jeff Bleckner. He took me on as sort of a protégé when I directed a few episodes of Mancuso, FBI. Jeff is a wonderfully finessed director who knows where to place the camera and how to talk to actors with brevity and accuracy. Dan Curtis was another great mentor whom I worked with on Dark Shadows. I remember my agent calling me and saying Dan Curtis wanted to meet me. I was 29 years old. At one point in our conversation, Dan asked, ‘If you weren’t a director, what would you be doing?’ When I told him that I didn’t have an answer, he said that’s what he had wanted to hear. Dan took me under his wing. He called me his surrogate son. He took me to dailies for other shows and explained what he liked, what he didn’t like and why. After the first day of production of an episode that I directed, he told me that I had what it takes and that he thought I was going to have a big career.

What was the next step on your journey?
ROB BOWMAN: My singular focus was directing and producing The X-Files over the next eight to nine years.

How did you create paranormal monsters?
ROB BOWMAN: That was another learning experience. The monsters were usually either robotic, which meant they moved funny, or it was a guy wearing a rubber suit or prosthetics. Whenever a monster would come on the set, I would turn off lights until there was just enough illumination to get a sense of the creature. Not a literal sense—just sort of a visceral sense of the creature. It was interesting because you couldn’t see how big it was or what sort of murderous weaponry it carried. Leaving those things to the imagination was a lot scarier. We took a ‘much less is more’ approach to filming those atmosphere scenes, because there are no limits when you engage the audience’s imagination.

That also had to stretch your imagination.
ROB BOWMAN: There is no reason why you can’t take a cinematic approach to storytelling on an episodic television series. Sometimes filmmaking is more about what the audience doesn’t see. It’s like the downbeats in between the notes that engage them.

How do you define cinematic storytelling?
ROB BOWMAN: Using images to evoke emotions and feelings is cinematic storytelling.

When you are directing, are you generally in the video village or at the camera with the actors?
ROB BOWMAN: Both. A lot of the time I want to be with actors who are in front of the camera, where I’m an eye-witness as it is happening. Other times, I want to be at the monitor in the video village because I want to make sure everything is in the right place in the frame.

I can tell from our conversation that you use light, shadows and darkness as well as words and the actors’ performances to tell stories.
ROB BOWMAN: I’ve always been conscience about how you can use light and the absence of light as a narrative tool. It’s another way of conveying emotions as subtext for the dialogue. Earlier in my career, Stewart Copeland, a drummer for The Police, scored my first movie. He invited me to visit museums in England and see the paintings. I went to his place in the northern countryside and hung out with him for a while. Then, I visited the British Museum which has more mummies than paintings. I went on to Paris, where I stayed in tiny hotel room across the street from the Louvre and other museums. I walked to each museum and looked at 500 to 600 year old paintings that were among the most beautiful things I had ever seen. There was no electricity when those paintings were made. The artists used sunlight and candles, and shadows and darkness like words. It was remarkably simple and effective. I also went to see Dutch master paintings in Amsterdam. There was a painting that had sunlight coming horizontally through a window and falling on a wall covered with heavily textured stucco. I noticed the way that the artist used sunlight reflecting off walls to motivate light on faces.

How did that influence your thinking about producing and directing The X- Files?
ROB BOWMAN: I had the cinematographer place big lights outside of windows. That allowed us to shoot faster while getting the right looks. We used silhouettes and darkness to create a very specific look for the show.

That’s interesting. You almost sound like a cinematographer.
ROB BOWMAN: I get eye rolling when I say this to the wrong person, but I like to paint with light. Lighting films is a form of painting. Sometimes you do it just right and other times you miss. I keep trying to do it better.

We also wanted to ask you to share some memories The A-Team television series. You produced more than 30 episodes of that program.
ROB BOWMAN: The A-Team was produced and aired during the mid-1980s. My claim to fame was that I directed montage scenes. The montages were used as cutaways to close-ups of faces of characters as bridges between first and second unit shots. I have to admit that it was fun.

In 2002, you directed a movie called Reign of Fire. What was that like?
ROB BOWMAN: Reign of Fire was a story about fire-breathing dragons which come out of the center of the Earth and attack mankind. I envisioned a very gritty sort of William Wyler-approach to making this film with dragons that look real. I thought it would take about three weeks to design the dragons. It ended up taking many months.

The visual effects artists started with illustrations and built a digital dragon. We brought a paleontologist in to scrutinize it. He told me it wouldn’t fly because it was too heavy. It needed bigger wings and the legs were too skinny. He explained that the dragon weighs four tons. It needed big legs that could carry that weight. We didn’t want it to look like an alien. It was supposed to be a freak of nature—sort of a hybrid between an alligator and king cobra snake. I was determined that it look like a misfit of nature with the goal of creating a visceral reaction. I wanted everything else to be realistic, including wardrobe, music, set construction, performances, camera work, lighting, color timing and mixing. I was aware of how fragile the idea of that movie was. I planned to focus on what it was like to live in an environment like that.

Let’s fast-forward to Castle, a relatively new episodic series that you are producing and occasionally directing.
ROB BOWMAN: The story revolves around the relationship between Castle, who writes mystery fiction novels, and a detective named Kathy Beckett. Castle gets permission from the mayor to tag along with Beckett during murder investigations. He is seeking inspiration for new stories. Kathy was motivated to become a homicide detective because her mother was murdered, and her killer was never found. This is serious work for her. She doesn’t joke around. Castle, on the other hand, can be goofy and funny at times.

Their relationship is fascinating. They seem like people we all know.
ROB BOWMAN: Ninety-five percent of what happens in each episode is in the script. The rest are spontaneous things which happen while we are shooting. Stana Katic plays Kate Beckett and Nathan Fillion plays Castle. They have both brought their characters to life. I also have to applaud Andrew Marlowe. He created the concept, writes many of the scripts and shepherds the other screenplays to keep them realistic and occasionally funny.

You are producing Castle and directing some episodes. You have spoken eloquently about why it is so important for different films to have the right visual grammar. Which cinematographer was brought onboard to collaborate on this project?
ROB BOWMAN: The cinematographer is Bill Roe (ASC). We have a tremendous relationship, because Bill knows and appreciates how important his lighting is to me. I admire and respect him for what he does. We push each other and collaborate to keep each other in the game. Bill will ask if it is okay if this person is standing or sitting here instead of there. My answer is always, of course. We push and challenge each other in kind of a brotherly relationship that includes everything from cajoling to sarcasm and criticism. It’s a very active verbal relationship that is all in fun and in the right spirit. I admire his ability to create the right images for different situations. We have to shoot so many pages every day, so there is no time for being overly clever. If I can get in my car at the end of the day, and say we did a good job of telling the story, I go home feeling good.

Why do you produce Castle on film?
ROB BOWMAN: If I want to watch a television program with a live look, I’ll tune in a football game or watch the news. A film look is kind of a magical interpretation of the story and performances. It’s a chemical process that sees images the way we do with our eyes. Those images are sent to our brain. There is a random disbursement of silver halide crystals on each frame of film that gets sparked to life by light like its passing through a magical filter. I don’t mean for that to be a technical explanation. It’s something I feel. You are painting pictures with light. The nuances in densities of light falling on someone’s face that we can capture on film is how I see the world with my own eyes. I know exactly what it’s going to look like. In fact, I rarely watch dailies, because I know what we are getting when we’re shooting film. I know how the light will fall off in the background and what we’ll see in the foreground. That’s especially important when we are telling stories through people’s eyes. I want the audience to know what characters are thinking and feeling. Film gives you that latitude. I know how the images will look on film if we decide to be slightly out of focus. If you shoot the same set with an HD camera that interesting texture in the background becomes a distracting highlight.

Those are intriguing aesthetic issues. Are there also practical issues?
ROB BOWMAN: We have to shoot a lot of pages every day to produce an episodic series. There are enough things that can go wrong and to slow you down. If a film camera gets sick, it tells you right away to stop filming because something is broken. With an HD camera, you can shoot a sequence and move to the next location where the assistant cameraman tells you, it looks like we didn’t record anything at the last location.

Are there other intangibles?
ROB BOWMAN: Another intangible is the myth that producing in HD format is cheaper. I don’t agree. One of the studios did a total cost analysis. Because of the perception that digital production costs less, some directors do a lot more takes. They think it is free, but then they have hours of extra dailies that they have to watch. Film is also a proven archival medium. We watch television shows today that were shot on film 40 or more years ago. Digital archives have to be updated and migrated whenever the technology changes.

What role do you think films play in our society? Are they just entertainment or something more?
ROB BOWMAN: Film is a way of telling stories in communal environments, ranging from movie theaters to television screens in our homes. Films influence how we think and feel about the world. We can learn from the experiences of characters in films and television programs about everything from the darker side of life to what it is like to live in the White House.

The first episode of the third season of Castle aired just before we began this conversation. How has it been received by the audience and how is the story evolving?
ROB BOWMAN: The audience for the first episode was 33-percent higher than last year. That tells us that the audience has connected with Rick Castle and Kate Beckett and their dedication to bringing criminals to justice. Filmmaking is a fascinating experience. A writer makes up an adventure and puts the words on paper. You rehearse and decide how it should play on a television screen to engage the attention of millions of people. I think that the more you study and practice the art of filmmaking, you more you realize that happiness, frustration, sadness, victory and defeat are universal themes that evoke similar emotions from people in this country and everywhere else in the rest world. It’s a gamble every time you make a film, but that’s a really exciting part of being a filmmaker.

When students and other young filmmakers ask you for advice about what it takes to succeed in this very competitive industry what do you tell them?
ROB BOWMAN: I tell them they need the talent to create ideas for telling stories on film, and the discipline that it takes to produce those stories. I tell them that they better have a spine of steel and be committed to dealing with peer pressure, frustration and rejection because filmmaking is a subjective art. You may think something is funny or romantic but someone you are collaborating with may not agree. It can be pretty devastating when someone tells you that you aren’t good enough to make films. I went through so much of that during my 20s, but it just made me more committed to following my dreams.

Kodak ONFILM Interview: John Bartley, ASC, CSC

Jul-01-2011
Kodak ONFILM Interview: John Bartley, ASC, CSC

bartley

[Original article here]

“Everything you do in life helps you later on. I began my career lighting variety shows and TV news programs in Australia and as a gaffer in Canada. When I shot The X Files, we blended light and darkness so the audience saw some things, but wasn’t sure whether they saw other things. That added to the aura of mystery. For Lost, we strive for a lot of color saturation, particularly greens. There are also campfire scenes with saturated red tones lighting the darkness, and flash-forward and flashback sequences weaved into each episode. As a cinematographer, I have to be flexible and trust my instincts, especially when directors or actors do something spontaneous. I think movies and television have a great affect on society, because so many people get their ideas about past, current and future history from them.”

John Bartley, ASC, CSC earned an Emmy® Award and another nomination for The X Files, an Emmy nomination for Lost, and three ASC Outstanding Achievement Award nominations for The X Files. His other television credits include The Matthew Shepard Story; Black River; Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus; and the episodic series The Commish.

[All these films were shot on Kodak motion picture film.]

A Conversation with John Bartley, ASC, CSC;
by Bob Fisher

QUESTION: Where were you born and raised?

BARTLEY: I was born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand. It’s a city located on the southern tip of the north island. There is a channel between the two islands, and the wind can be extreme. We call it Windy Wellington.

QUESTION: What did your family do for a living?

BARTLEY: My father was a career Army officer. After he retired from the Army, he was the manager of an automobile parts shop and also worked for a local newspaper. My dad died at the early age of 53 when I was only 12 years old. My mother was the cashier at a local theater since she was 17 years old. They featured everything from stage plays to rock ‘n roll concerts. My brother and I were with her in the back of the ticket booth until she went home at night.

QUESTION: Did that experience influence your thinking about a career?

BARTLEY: I loved watching theater and saw many shows. During the week, we only got to stay until nine o’clock at night and then we would go home. But, on Saturdays mom would let us stay and see the whole musical or play. My first job in the theater was helping the actors with their wardrobes. That lasted about two weeks. To tell the truth, I didn’t know what to do with my life when I finished school. One of my uncles had an electrical contracting business. I worked with him as an apprentice electrician for four years and eight months, including backstage work at theaters.

QUESTION: What was the next step that you took in your career and life?

BARTLEY: I learned about the outside world by listening the BBC and other programs on short wave radio. After I finished my apprenticeship, I decided to move to Sydney, Australia. I stayed with some friends from New Zealand who worked for a theater company. They gave me a ticket to a stage production. After the play, I thanked the manager of the theater and told him that I thought the play was great. He introduced me to the lighting director who offered me a job.

QUESTION: What was your job?

BARTLEY: My first job was operating a rear screen projector during a stage play called The Flintstones. When it got to the end of a reel, I stopped the projector and loaded the next clip. After doing that for a while, I sent resumes to the three television stations in Sydney. I was hired as lighting director for Channel 7 in Sydney.

QUESTION: What did you do as lighting director for a TV station?

BARTLEY: I was responsible for lighting everything from variety shows to news broadcasts. I was really lucky. I didn’t know anything about television, but there were two lighting technicians at the station who taught me what I needed to know.

QUESTION: Did you learn things that helped you later in your career?

BARTLEY: Everything you do in life helps you later on. Television was black and white in those days. I learned how to use light to accentuate black-and-white tones and colors, so they helped tell stories on television screens.

QUESTION: What was the next step in your life and career?

BARTLEY: I decided to explore a different part of the world by moving to Toronto. It took about five months for me to get a work visa. After I got to Toronto, I found out that I couldn’t work at a TV station because I wasn’t in the union. I got a job with an equipment rental company. I initially worked in the maintenance department repairing and maintaining lighting and grip equipment. After a while, they sent me out on non-union jobs as a lamp operator on electrical crews.

QUESTION: Let’s turn the page to the next chapter.

BARTLEY: After about a year, they asked me to run their office in Vancouver. I remember thinking that they were going to pay me to see the country. The first job I did after arriving in Vancouver was changing a flat tire on the camera van.

QUESTION: When and how did you become a gaffer?

BARTLEY: That happened in 1976 on a film called Who’ll Save Our Children? The cinematographer was Don Wilder. For some reason, he decided to give me a chance. George Schaefer was the director and Shirley Jones and Len Cariou were in the cast. After that I worked as a gaffer on everything from commercials to TV programs and movies with Sven Nykvist (ASC), Hiro Norita (ASC), Tak Fujimoto (ASC), Frank Tidy, BSC, Bob Stevens (ASC) and other amazing cinematographers. There is no school like that.

QUESTION: This question could apply to all of them, but tell us what it was like working with Sven Nykvist?

BARTLEY: He was a wonderful human being. Sven just used a spot meter. I remember being too intimidated to bring my light meter out, so I learned to trust my eye. Sven was a brilliant filmmaker and warm human being. He showed me how to create looks by keeping the light level low and very subtly bringing it up to reveal things to the audience.

QUESTION: When and how did you begin working as a cinematographer?

BARTLEY: Around 1986, I began shooting film on weekends. Originally, it was trailers for movies and music videos that we often shot with short ends. Most of the time, they weren’t paying jobs. I did a lot of favors usually for young, aspiring directors.

QUESTION: When and how did you earn your first cinematography credit?

BARTLEY: It was in 1989. I got a phone call from David Saperstein, the director who also wrote the script for Beyond the Stars. He told me about his film, and asked if I was interested in shooting it. It was a science fiction movie with an absolutely great cast, including Martin Sheen, Sharon Stone and F. Murray Abraham. After I said yes, he asked if I could bring my reel to the hotel where he was staying. I didn’t have a reel, so I brought a bunch of three-quarter-inch videotapes of music videos and other things I had shot and my three-quarter-inch videotape machine to his hotel. He watched them over the weekend and called me Monday morning and asked me to shoot his film.

QUESTION: Did that first film push your career as a cinematographer into high gear?

BARTLEY: I thought my career would really take off, but absolutely nothing happened. I went back to mainly shooting commercials. I didn’t know what to think.

QUESTION: What kept you going in pursuit of your dream?

BARTLEY: It takes perseverance, but at times that is easier to say than do. A few years later, I shot a few low budget movies and began a two season run on a television series called The Commish, which was produced in Vancouver, Canada. Michael Chiklis was in the leading role as a police commissioner. There were a lot of great scripts.

QUESTION: You shot a few movies after two years of The Commish. In 1993, you began working on a classic television series, The X Files. Tell us about that experience.

BARTLEY: I had worked with Bob Goodwin, the producer, on other projects. He called and said he was starting a new series that I might like. Bob asked me to meet with him, Charlie Goldstein from 20th Century Fox and Chris Carter, who created, co-produced, scripted and occasionally directed episodes. Tom Del Ruth (ASC) had shot the pilot. During that first meeting, they discussed their ideas for making a program with a science fiction theme that looked and felt believable. They were planning to produce 12 episodes that first season. After our conversation, I went back home and thinking that I really wanted to do that show. I tried to contact Bob at the hotel at about 4 p.m., but he had already checked out. I called him at home, but his wife didn’t know where he was. He called me at about 5 p.m., and jokingly said that he tried really hard to convince them I wouldn’t want to shoot The X Files, but they still wanted me. We filmed The X Files in Vancouver (Canada) from 1993 through 1996.

QUESTION: The X Files was about two main characters who investigate stories about aliens on Earth. How would you describe the look or visual style that evolved?

BARTLEY: The look was dictated by the stories. I still remember shooting episode six that was directed by David Nutter. It was called ‘Ice.’ I think that episode took the series to the next level. David pushed the envelope and challenged me to make every shot better. We blended light and darkness. The audience saw some things, and they weren’t sure whether they saw other things. That added to the aura of mystery.

QUESTION: The use of darkness on television was a bit revolutionary at that time.

BARTLEY: A still photographer came up to me one day and said, ‘I figured you out. You light the walls, but you don’t light the actors.’ I told him sometimes that’s true. You light walls and let the actors find their light at the right moments. But, other times, we lit the actors and let everything in the backgrounds go dark, maybe with little highlights here and there. We didn’t reveal what’s in the darkness.

QUESTION: You earned more than a little recognition for your artful cinematography on The X Files. There were three consecutive nominations for Outstanding Achievement from your peers in the American Society of Cinematographers in 1995, 1996 and 1997. You were also nominated for an Emmy in 1995 and you won that award in 1996. We were wondering how those nominations by peers affected your career.

BARTLEY: I met a lot of people, and some said they would send me scripts someday, but I shot The X Files through 1995. That didn’t leave a lot of room for other projects.

QUESTION: Did The X Files affect your thinking about what you wanted to do?

BARTLEY: Not really. I enjoyed shooting the series. There were challenges everyday, and instantaneous decisions had to be made to keep pace with the schedule. I think shooting a television series is even more challenging today. Directors and producers have higher expectations. They want more shots and more alternatives without compromising. We used to do a wide shot and a couple of close-ups and move on to the next scene. Now, it’s more like 10 to 12 shots a scene. On Lost, we average 50 and 80 setups a day.

QUESTION: Why did you leave The X Files in the wake of all that success?

BARTLEY: I loved working with the people on The X Files, but I wanted to experience working in different places on different types of films. I went to Chicago, where I shot three episodes of a TV series called Early Edition. That led to an opportunity to shoot the first few episodes of The Visitor. Randy Zisk was the director. He and I have been friends ever since. That was the show which got me the hours I needed to become a member of the International Cinematographers Guild in the United States. That opened doors for me to work on other films produced in the United States.

QUESTION: That is a bit of an understatement. You have earned more than 20 credits during the past 10 years for movies made for television and episodic television. There are many notable achievements on that list. We are going to repeat an earlier question, and ask what you learned from working on those different projects.

BARTLEY: Every film and each director is a different experience.

QUESTION: How do you see television changing?

BARTLEY: I could take a month to answer that question. Things are always changing, and they are also staying the same. We shot The X Files in Super 35 format and framed for 4:3. We protected for 16:9, because we knew it was coming. We also do that on Lost.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about your experiences on Lost.

BARTLEY: I came onto Lost about mid-way through the first season. I was working on a television movie in New Orleans when my agent called and asked if I was interested in shooting alternate episodes of Lost. I had never been to Hawaii. They sent me some DVDs of episodes, and then I went to Hawaii and watched them shoot an episode for a day or so. Michael Bonvillian was the cinematographer, and there was a great crew.

QUESTION: How would you describe the look or visual style of Lost?

BARTLEY: As a lot of Lost takes place on a tropical island, the greens are saturated, skin tones are warm, and the hand-held camera is fast moving with four different sides of coverage. At night, a blue-green moonlight contrasts with saturated fire and torch light. Flashbacks and flash-forwards do not have a different look. It’s up to the audience to figure out forward or back.

QUESTION: Do you generally work with one or multiple cameras?

BARTLEY: In the beginning, it was mainly a one camera show. I liked that because it gave us more flexibility for lighting, and Paul Edwards, the operator, was always in the right place at the right time with the right composition. We are now mainly shooting with two cameras to get more coverage, but we are not compromising.

QUESTION: Cinematographers choose films to shoot with like artists choose paints for their palettes. What negatives are you currently using on Lost?

BARTLEY: We have mainly been using (KODAK VISION2 500T) 5218.

QUESTION: That’s interesting, because there are a lot of daylight exteriors.

BARTLEY: It is true that there are a fair number of daylight scenes on the island, but there are also flash forwards and flashbacks weaved into each episode. Many times, we are manipulating images while we shoot as well as in postproduction. There are also a lot of interior scenes that are filmed on sets on stages.

QUESTION: There are two of you shooting alternative episodes of Lost. How much prep time does that give you to get ready to shoot your episodes?

BARTLEY: We usually end up with four to five days of prep time after I read the script and talk with the director. Mainly, we use that time to scout locations. The gaffer and rigging gaffer have to see where we are shooting and what lighting I plan, so the cables and everything else are ready when we are. You have to plan, but you also have to be flexible when the directors or actors do something spontaneous.

QUESTION: Do you have different directors all the time?

BARTLEY: We have two producer/directors most of the time. Occasionally, they bring in other directors for specific episodes when that’s what the schedule requires.

QUESTION: What other negatives are used?

BARTLEY: The other negative is (KODAK VISION2 250D) 5205. It is supposed to be a daylight negative, but I have used it for scenes filmed in firelight and bright moonlight, usually when we want a contrast between very warm firelight and a cold night sky. There are no rules for making these types of decisions. You have to trust your instincts.

QUESTION: You were nominated for an Emmy this year. Tell us about that episode.

BARTLEY: ‘The Constant’ was the final episode of the season. It was the most lineal episode I shot all year. There were flash forward and flashback scenes, but they aren’t confusing for the audience. They always know where we are in time. We don’t want those scenes to be noticeably different to the eye. It is more like the audience innately knows they are watching things happening at different times and places.

QUESTION: Do you expose or process film for flash forward and flashback scenes?

BARTLEY: No. It’s in the performances, editing and the sound plays a huge role in Lost.

QUESTION: Tell us more about ‘The Constant’ episode.

BARTLEY: There is a new character named Desmond who arrives on the island in a yacht. He joins the people who are survivors of the plane crash. One of the survivors is a woman whom he is in love with, but her father is a business man who doesn’t think much of Desmond, because he’s an army officer who doesn’t have any money. That makes him a poor prospect as his daughter’s husband in the father’s mind.

QUESTION: This is a totally unfair question. Telling stories with moving images is a relatively new form of expression. What affect do you think that television and movies have on how we think and perceive the world we live in?

BARTLEY: I think movies and television have a great affect on society, because so many people get their ideas about past, current and future history that way.

QUESTION: Do you think filmmaking is a form of literature?

BARTLEY: Some films are obviously better than others, but I am always amazed when the Television Academy sends members DVDs of the different series and movies at Emmy time. Some incredible work is being done.

QUESTION: How do you answer when film students and other young people who want to be cinematographers ask for advice?

BARTLEY: I don’t think they come to me for advice. I think they just want to talk. Back in early 1995, a schoolgirl sent me an email from Australia. She was interested in cinematography, but lived in some country town that wasn’t anywhere near a film school. We exchanged emails from time to time. She would tell me what she was doing, and was always interested in hearing about what I was working on. We haven’t met, but I still get emails from her. She began working in the film industry in Australia as a video assist technician and is now pulling focus on some big movies. I still get emails from her about how hard it was to make certain shots and what she did. She always asks what I am working on and how it is going. The best advice I can give anyone it that there is nothing easy about working in this industry. You have to love it, because it is tough on family life when you are working 70 or 80 hours a week. Not everyone can do it.

Oscar and Academy Award are trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Shock Till You Drop: Exclusive: Jodie Foster on The Beaver and The X-Files

May-03-2011
Shock Till You Drop
Exclusive: Jodie Foster on The Beaver and The X-Files
Silas Lesnick

[Original article here]

On talking puppets and killer tattoos

In her latest acting and directing project, The Beaver, Jodie Foster tells the story of a man (Mel Gibson) and his collapse into depression to the point that he develops another personality in the form of a talking beaver puppet that quickly winds up taking control of his life.

You can check out the full video interview with Foster and co-star Anton Yelchin over at Shock Till You Drop’s sister site, ComingSoon.net, but, as you can see in the video below, we couldn’t resist asking Ms. Foster about her previous on-screen relationship with an inanimate object’s imaginary personality: voicing a killer tattoo on a 1997 episode of “The X-Files” titled “Never Again”.

The Junction: Truth, Trust and the Magic of Mulder & Scully: 13 Questions for X-Files Writer and Producer Frank Spotnitz

Apr-25-2011
The Junction
Truth, Trust and the Magic of Mulder & Scully: 13 Questions for X-Files Writer and Producer Frank Spotnitz

[Original article here]

Hardly any other series left such a profound impression on the 90s like the sci-fi cult show The X-Files. Not only did it win an incredible amount of awards, attracted a huge fan following and led to two movies, but it also influenced the way stories are told on the small and the big screen. Even today many shows continue to cite The X-Files in one way or another: Be it LOST, Bones, House M.D. or Fringe – just take your pick. And if everything goes according to plan and the optimism of many fans, a third movie should hit screens next year – after all the complex mythology about aliens, invasion and conspiracies makes it a necessity. We got together with X-Files writer and producer Frank Spotnitz to talk about the impact of the show as well as about his experiences as a storyteller.

Drawings by Rose and Roxanne Goldfish from heART for Charity (http://heart.keyofx.org/)

Drawings by Rose and Roxanne Goldfish from heART for Charity (http://heart.keyofx.org/)

Source: Anastasia Hansen and heART

So what is it exactly that made and makes The X-Files such a hit? It is a mix of different aspects – the high quality of the scripts, directing and acting, the mix of creepy and funny stories, the challenging mythology, the unique score by Mark Snow, the atmospheric camera work and, of course, the main characters Mulder and Scully. Two smart characters with different belief systems and world views that were always treated as equals – and even led to a gender role switch to a certain degree: While Mulder is the more intuitive and open-minded character, Scully’s rationalism exhibits more supposedly male qualities. Not to mention the sizzling chemistry between the two: Hardly has unresolved sexual tension been more attractive. When the resolving part does finally take place, it happens off-screen.

Hence it should come as no surprise that The X-Files is still very much alive today. Especially the online community is very active and offers a diverse source of creativity. During the early 90s the show was actually even one of the first to play such an important role within the internet world. When you search for it today, you find a wide range of online forums, creative video editors, news networks, conventions and even charities.

TheJunction: How do you approach storytelling and writing a script?

Frank Spotnitz: When I’m looking for a story to tell, I look for something that I care about, both emotionally and intellectually. The emotional connection comes first. That’s the fuel that drives me through the process of devising the story. But at the same time, I’m thinking about what my story is saying, what questions it’s asking about life. And whether I feel I’m saying something true. That may seem surprising coming from someone who’s written so many stories in the supernatural genre. Ironically, I find it’s easier to identify interesting ideas in supernatural stories. If you’re going to depart from literal reality, then you have to think about why you’re doing that, and what rules govern the reality you’re creating. And in that process I invariably end up finding something I want to say about life.

My frame of mind each time out is that I’m going to try to write the best thing I’ve ever done. I tend to be very meticulous in the process of drafting a story. I typically spend weeks devising the story for an hour of television, thinking about each scene, how they end and begin, the journeys the characters take, what makes the story work. Then I sit down to write, and try to make my first draft as polished and well crafted as if it were my final draft. It never ends up being my final draft, of course — the cliché that most of writing is rewriting certainly holds true for me.  But the stronger the first draft, the stronger the platform upon which to build all my revisions.

Please tell us about your current projects.

I have many projects in development, most of which I can’t really talk about yet. The movie and television business is speculative, so you often have to cast a lot of lines before you get a network or a studio to bite. The project that’s occupying my every waking hour right now is tentatively titled Morton. It’s a spy thriller commissioned by the BBC and co-produced by Kudos Film and Television.

How did you find your way into storytelling and the film industry?

Circuitously. I wanted to be a writer, actor or director from a very young age, but I ended up getting sidetracked by journalism. My first quarter at UCLA, I had this amazing journalism professor, Jim Howard, and I just fell in love with the idea of being a reporter. I ended up writing for wire services for seven years — in Indiana, New York and Paris — before I realized I didn’t love it enough to stick with it. So I moved back to Los Angeles and studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute, where I was blessed with two more wonderful teachers, Beth Sullivan and Howard Dimsdale. The X-Files was, believe it or not, my first job in Hollywood.

How did you become involved in The X-Files?

Dumb luck.  I’d met Chris Carter in a book group while I was in film school. The book group ended, we didn’t really keep in touch, and he went on to create The X-Files. Toward the end of the first season, an old friend of mine who knew of my connection to Chris asked if I’d call on his behalf to see if he could pitch an episode. I felt somewhat uncomfortable doing it, but made the call anyway. Chris said he wouldn’t hear my friend’s pitch, but he’d hear my ideas, if I had any. Up to that point, I’d never thought of writing for television. I thought I was going to write movies. But I figured what the hell. So I came up with three story ideas, went in to pitch them, and Chris promptly shot them all down. I thought that was the end of it, but then a few weeks later, I got a call from Chris. He said two writers were leaving the show — I later found out this was Glen Morgan and Jim Wong — and asked if I’d like to come onboard as a staff writer. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I still can’t.

What do you think was decisive for the major success of the show?

So, so many things. When you have a big success like The X-Files, you have to do everything right — and then get lucky. I think it started with an amazing pilot episode, and the inspired casting of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. From there, the competition between Chris, Jim & Glen and Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa made for a first season that just got better and better. And I would argue that competition to outdo ourselves continued until the very end. It’s incredible to look at the creative trajectory of the show, how restless our imaginations were, and how it just got more and more sophisticated.

How important is the relationship to the fans for you?

I think The X-Files was the first series to have a deep relationship with its fans via the Internet. While we were writing the show, I’d frequently check out the newsgroups, and then the message boards, to see how fans were responding to the stories. Especially with the mythology episodes, it was incredibly useful to see what ideas were landing and which weren’t. In one instance, a fan’s question about the aftermath of Melissa Scully’s death inspired a two-part episode (Piper Maru & Apocrypha). The interesting thing is that the fan base evolves. I suspect of the people who are talking about and following The X-Files online now weren’t online when the show was first broadcast.

What makes the relationship between Mulder and Scully so unique?

You can’t overstate the importance of David and Gillian’s performances, or their chemistry together. Beyond that, I think it’s enormously appealing that Mulder and Scully are two incredibly smart people with boundless respect for one another, despite their profoundly different points of view. During the course of the series, it was their work that brought them together, but also kept them apart.

Since you explore the profound connection between being an author and storytelling in the episode Milagro, how do you perceive the interrelation between an author and the story he/she is telling?

It’s a very interesting subject to me. One of the reasons Milagro is one of my favorite episodes is because it’s about the power of storytelling. The mythologist Joseph Campbell once said that people need stories to survive — not “want,” “like” or “desire,” but “need.” When I first heard that, I thought it was an overstatement, but I’ve come to believe it’s true. Stories help us make sense of the world in which we live. We connect to the emotional lives of fictional characters in a very intimate way that can be incredibly helpful to one’s life. That’s certainly true for me — stories and fictional characters helped me get through some difficult times as a kid, and they still help sustain me in many ways. I am aware when I’m writing that by asking myself what’s true, what I care about, I’m learning things about myself and about the world around me. But at some point, the story becomes its own thing. And then it’s there for other people to draw from, to find meaning.

Do you have any favorite episodes or ones you are particularly proud of? If so, why?

I love the fact that The X-Files was so many series in one. Just about anything Darin Morgan wrote. So many of Vince Gilligan’s episodes and the ones written by Morgan & Wong, And of course countless episodes written by Chris Carter. His craftsmanship and fierce dedication to excellence continues to inspire me.

Big Light, Frank Spotnitz’s production company

Big Light, Frank Spotnitz’s production company

Source: http://www.biglight.com/index.php?p=about

Are there any funny anecdotes you could share from the time the The X-Files was being filmed?

Only over a drink, and off the record.

While working on Millennium, how did you manage to keep a distance from the often dark nature of the show?

I didn’t! But it’s actually incredibly liberating writing about dark things — it helps you sort out your feelings about things that terrify you.

Do you have any advise for people striving to become filmmakers?

Don’t be afraid. If you love it, do it. But work hard. Allow yourself to be as good as you’re capable of being.

Is there anything you would like to tell those out there waiting for a third X-Files movie to be greenlit?

I still don’t have any news to share. But I won’t give up. And the fans shouldn’t, either.

Thank you for the interview! If you want to learn more about Frank Spotnitz and his production company Big Light, check out the homepage for the latest news. And until December 2012 comes around: Never give up on a miracle.