X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Daily Illini: X-Files creator speaks at University’s Fear Film Festival

Feb-25-2013
X-Files creator speaks at University’s Fear Film Festival
Daily Illini
Austin Keating

[Original article here]

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Foellinger Auditorium was packed with insect enthusiasts to celebrate the 30th annual Insect Fear Film Festival, sponsored by the entomology department.

The event was called “The Ins-X Files,” and Chris Carter, creator of the science fiction series “The X-Files,” spoke at the event and answered audience questions after screenings of his productions.

“I always try to accept all the invitations I get to stuff that honors ‘The X-Files’ because it was something I worked very hard on,” Carter said. “If people are willing to throw something in our honor, I’m more than happy to honor them by showing up.”

Other event attractions included a cockroach petting zoo, an art competition with local K-12 students and face painting.

May Berenbaum, event organizer and head of the department of entomology, said she felt a special connection to one of the screened productions, an “X-Files” episode called “War of Coprophages.”

“I was just ecstatic when I asked Chris Carter to pick from the nine or so episodes that feature insects, and he picked ‘War of the Coprophages,’” she said. “The screenwriter had used some of the books I had written as background, and when it came time to name the entomologist in that episode, he thought ‘Berenbaum’ was a good name, so he used it.”

Berenbaum said the goal of the event was to dispel the fear of insects generated by media.

“Always our goal is for people to gain a deeper appreciation of insects as they really are, which, as entomologists, we know is almost stranger than fiction,” Berenbaum said.


Hundreds of insect enthusiasts filled Foellinger Auditorium on Saturday night to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the entomology department’s Insect Fear Film Festival.

The event was called “The Ins-X Files,” and Chris Carter, the creator of “The X-Files” spoke at the event. The Daily Illini sat down with Carter to discuss the festival.

 Daily Illini: Why did you choose to show “War of Coprophages” out of all the episodes about insects in “The X-Files”?

Chris Carter: Because of May Berenbaum (festival creator), it was the obvious episode to show, and because it’s one of the best episodes of the show.

DI: What efforts did you take to make the show more realistic?

CC: We were really rigorous in our science research because, for me, the story’s only as scary as it is believable, so it’s got to start with real science, and then the science fiction is built in on that.

DI: “The X-Files” was really the first science fiction horror show of its kind. Was it difficult getting that past studio executives in the mid-’90s?

CC: It’s hard to get … anything past the studio executives. They’re always braced for failure. … I always say they dare you to succeed because most things fail, and they’re certain that when you’re making something in the beginning that you are tempting fate and failure by making whatever choice you make, so it’s a very nervous process.

DI: What was your major inspiration behind “The X-Files”?

CC: There were many inspirations. One of the big ones was a show that was on when I was a kid. It was called “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.” It really wasn’t all that much like “The X-Files,” but it was scary and I wanted to do something as scary as “Night Stalker.”

DI: There are people from across the United States who came here to see you speak. When you first started “The X-Files,” did you feel like it would become as big as it is now?

CC: No. It’s still amazing and surprising to me. It’s really one of the reasons we come to these things. Because when we were working on this show so hard for all those years, you really kept your head down. You worked really hard, and this is for me the wonderful result, a product of all that hard work. It’s a really nice thing.

DI: Not many people know that Vince Gilligan, creator of “Breaking Bad,” was a writer for your show. What do you make of his recent success?

CC: I couldn’t be a bigger fan. He’s created a masterpiece, and it’s not surprising to me because he’s one of the most original and bright minds in our business.

DI: What shows are you watching now?

CC: I’ve been watching “Breaking Bad.” I just watched the 13 episodes of “House of Cards,” which just came on Netflix. I went back and watched five years of “The Wire” recently, which was great. I just watched the pilot to “The Americans,” which I thought was good. I tend to go with something I like that’s been on before and watch it all, it’s just how I do it.

DI: What projects do you have going? What are your plans for the future?

CC: I have something with Showtime that might go this year. I’m talking to AMC about a possible television series.

DI: So what do you do with your free time?

CC: Well, I work really hard. When you’re in production on a TV show or two, you couldn’t be any busier. There’s not a moment in the day where you can goof off. So now I have moments in the day where I can kind of goof off right now, which is a luxury in my business, and I’m enjoying all those moments before I go into production again.

Austin can be reached at akkeati2@dailyillini.com.

National Geographic Magazine: Insect Fear Film Festival

Feb-22-2013
Insect Fear Film Festival: Just Like Cannes, Only With Spiders and Scorpions Instead of Jennifer Lawrence and Brad Pitt
National Geographic Magazine, Pop Omnivore
Cathy Newman

[Original article here]

When it comes to generating buzz, it’s hard to beat the Insect Fear Film Festival, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on Saturday, February 23.  The lights will dim in the Foellinger Auditorium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The screen will light up. Skin will crawl— as will a cinematic parade of members of the phylum Arthropoda, which includes spiders, scorpions and insects. One of the featured films will be War of the Coprophages” from season 3 of The X-Files, which features killer cockroaches.

The bug film fest was the idea of Professor May Berenbaum, head of the university’s Department of Entomology. “It’s about education,” she says, and righting the wrongs done to “the most misunderstood taxon on the planet.”  National Geographic Editor at Large Cathy Newman caught her between classes to talk about the event.

Let’s talk about how the idea of the Insect Fear Film Festival was…pardon my saying so…hatched.

I was a graduate student in entomology at Cornell University, walking across campus when I saw a sign advertising a showing of Godzilla, sponsored by the Asian Student Association.  ‘If they can have fun, so can we,” I thought. When I pitched the idea of an insect fear festival, my department head said it was undignified.

Many years later, when I was on the faculty here at the University of Illinois and established in the field, I tried again. My department head loved it.  We held the first festival in 1984.

How does it compare with Cannes?

Well, it’s not so much about film as insects. And we don’t have premieres.  The goal is education through entertainment. For our purposes a film doesn’t have to be excellent.

I imagine most insect films meet the criteria of non-excellence. Is there anything above a grade B film in the genre?

The granddaddy of them all is Them! A 1954 film about an encounter with a race of giant ants.  It was nominated for an Oscar and was Warner Brothers’ biggest grossing film that year.  Angels and Insects (1995) won an Academy Award for costumes. Many big actors got their start in bug films. Clint Eastwood appeared as the jet pilot in Tarantula (1955). Leonard Nimoy appears in Braineaters (1958).

Are there trends in insect films?

In the 1950s big bug films were popular—oversized insects made so by radiation. What causes the mutation differs with the era.  Genetically engineered big bugs came in the 1990s. In the 1970s, swarms were popular.

Is the film festival an attempt to proselytize the public and convert them to the cult of entomology?

It’s a plea for tolerance. Yes, there are bad actors in the insect world. Insects that have caused pain and suffering. Insects are vectors of disease. They consume 30 percent of the world’s crops. But there are far more good guys than bad guys. They recycle and can tackle materials not otherwise broken down. They pollinate. Without insects the world would be bleak and inhospitable.

How did you get interested in insects?

I used to be afraid of them. I would go out of my way not to cross the path of a caterpillar. But I always wanted to be a biologist and at Yale, when I placed out of introductory biology, a course on terrestrial arthropods was the only one available. I confronted my fears and here I am today.

Do you have a favorite insect? And a favorite insect film?

I’m asked about my favorite insect all the time. Do you ask an English major their favorite author?  Each has its own appeal. As far as film, it would be Beginning of the End, a 1957 film in which giant irradiated grasshoppers attack central Illinois, end up in Chicago, and drown in Lake Michigan. One reason I like it is because it starts out here in central Illinois, but it is clearly not filmed here because you can see mountains in the background.

If you have a fly or cockroach in your house do you catch and release it outside?

It depends on the fly. I know which ones pose a risk and which don’t. I have a low tolerance for mosquitoes because they carry disease. Of course there are mosquitoes that pollinate orchids. No one species is totally irredeemable.  As far as insects in the house, I’m perfectly happy to escort the harmless ones outside.

IDW Press Reelase: IDW Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products Open THE X-FILES!

Jan-28-2013
IDW Press Reelase: IDW Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products Open THE X-FILES!

[Original article here]

The Landmark Series Finds a New Publishing Outlet in 2013

San Diego, CA (January 28, 2013) – IDW Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products are thrilled to announce a partnership to publish an exciting series of works based on the legendary series, THE X-FILES. IDW’s publishing plan includes reprinting collections of the classic issues published intermittently from 1995 through 2009, as well as creating brand-new X-FILES comics to launch in June 2013.

Over two movies and two hundred television episodes, THE X-FILES, is a juggernaut of science fiction-tinged intrigue, unique characters and carefully constructed stories. The show’s popularity raged into the comic world, seeing successful series mounted by publishers Topps and Wildstorm. Despite this, new publishing has not been available since 2009’s joint Wildstorm/IDW crossover – 30 Days of Night/The X-Files – leaving fans without a venue for the continuing sequential adventures of Mulder and Scully… until now.

THE X-FILES is a classic property that helped redefine fans’ expectations for the science-fiction and horror genres,” said IDW’s President/Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein. “The possibilities for new comic stories are virtually unlimited!”

“The fans of THE X-FILES have remained loyal to the series since its conclusion. What better way to continue the show’s legacy and give back to them than through new stories in a different medium,” said Jeffrey Godsick, President of Fox Consumer Products. “IDW has worked with a number of our Fox properties, and we know they’re going to do great things with these iconic characters.”

In 2013, fans of THE X-FILES will want to believe in new comics from IDW Publishing! The home of successful kindred series like 30 Days of Night, Doctor Who, and Locke & Key, to name a few, IDW is excited to bring the enduring legacy of THE X-FILES back to comics.

“Few shows have captured the zeitgeist and fans’ imaginations like THE X-FILES, and fewer shows still have left people hungry for more in the way this one did,” said Chris Ryall, IDW’s Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief. “Our new series will be picking up where the second film left off, which will hopefully be as exciting for fans to read as it is for us to develop.”

Moviehole: Exclusive : What are the chances of an X-Files 3?

Jan-20-2013
Exclusive : What are the chances of an X-Files 3?
Moviehole
Sandi Hicks

[Original here]

For as long as I can remember, I have had one passion. It involves two FBI agents, and their tireless search for ‘the truth’. For years we watched them investigate hundreds of bizarre cases – from liver eating mutants through to alien abductions and super soldiers.

For those familiar with ”The X-Files” mythology – Series creator Chris Carter’s finale ‘The Truth’ provided a pathway and a date for the final alien invasion that would come with the end of the series movie, which would ultimately finalize the franchise. At a charity event that was held in Los Angeles in July 2011, series creator Mr. Carter expressed his eagerness to complete the project and have it premiere on December 22nd 2012.

This date has since come and gone.

Thousands of fans write to Executive Producer Frank Spotnitz, via his website biglight.com asking him about when ”X-Files 3” is happening. The resounding message that ultimately comes from Mr. Spotnitz contain three words – “Don’t Give Up” (quite often shortened to D.G.U.) which was the recurring mantra of the second feature film ”The X-Files: I Want To Believe” (2008). Speaking with Moviehole, Mr. Spotnitz had the following to say about a third movie, “It took six years after the end of the TV series to get the last X-Files movie made. I hope it won’t be another six years before the next one gets released, but I’ll wait however long it takes.”

The second feature film was thought to be shunned by audiences due to its ‘summer blockbuster’ release alongside ”The Dark Knight”, and also largely because the story didn’t follow the mythology of the series. People were expecting an “end of the world, alien movie” and instead they got a stand alone feature film, which was basically a love letter to the ”X-Files” Fandom.

Largely misunderstood by so many, the film still went on to earn over $64 Million dollars worldwide, which was well over double the cost to produce.

“The last thing I heard from Chris (Carter) was that he was in the process of writing the script.” says Gillian Anderson, speaking exclusively to Moviehole. “As exciting as that sounds, and it is exciting, the script is the first of 10 million steps. And also, script writing in itself is a dubious process. I, for one, have been working on one for a decade. But Chris is not me and he is used to turning them out and, fingers crossed, he will turn one out that (20th Century) Fox wants to throw millions of dollars into making.”

Furthermore to the question that would the franchises principal actors return for the final installment, Ms. Anderson had a comical response, poking fun at the ‘tabloid rumours’ that circulated around the internet in 2012, “The answer to the next inevitable question is yes, should the latter happen, David (Duchovny) and I (I can answer for him because we live together) would be on board to do it. Given that we haven’t split up by then which would just be plain awkward.”

During promotion of the previous film ”The X-Files: I Want To Believe”, Ms. Anderson told fans to go out and see the last movie at least 10 times via her own website, GillianAnderson.ws – and most fans did just that!

Moreover, don’t discount the various worldwide fandom campaigns that have been conducted by XFilesNews.com, the only fandom website that is officially affiliated with 20th Century Fox. The dedicated fans that run this website have made the studio very aware of the audience presence that is still out there, awaiting closure.

So what is the hold up? The writers, producers, and actors are all on board.

Given an amazing script, the return of the award winning cast, and a superb score via the musical genius Mark Snow, who is responsible for all previous soundtrack work for the show and feature films, I believe that audiences would flock to see how the franchise is wrapped up.

So, what is the likelihood of ”X-Files 3” happening in 2013?
It all comes down to 20th Century Fox.
Don’t give up! We want to believe.

BlogCritics: Interview: Catching Up with The X-Files’ Dean Haglund – Part One

Nov-24-2012
Interview: Catching Up with The X-Files’ Dean Haglund – Part One
BlogCritics
Barbara Barnett

[Original here]

Actor-comedian Dean Haglund is probably best known for his role as Richard “Ringo” Langley, a Lone Gunman member on the iconic Fox series The X-Files. The Lone Gunmen were so popular, they were given their own show, and although that only lasted 13 episodes, it had positive reviews when it aired in 2001. In the aftermath of 9-11, some of the parallels between the series and the real-life horror of the tragedy were incredibly eerie.

I caught up with Dean last week to hear about his post-XF projects, which include his long-running podcast Chillpak Hollywood Hour, his new graphic novel, the very cool-sounding documentary The Truth is Out There, and a forthcoming graphic novel. We also talked about comedy, our mutual admiration of beautiful British Columbia, and of course, The X-Files. Because of the length of our conversation, I’ve split the interview in half. Part One is largely about The X-Files; Part Two is largely not.

I was really delighted that I made the connection through Denise Dorman of WriteBrain Media. When I mentioned, among other things, that I had done a lot of writing about The X-Files, she thought it would be a nice opportunity for the two of us to talk.
Aw, that’s awesome. So you’ve written extensively in terms of critical reviews of The X-Files, is that it?

haglund-2

It was probably how I ended up writing TV criticism at all—doing X-Files reviews on the old X-Files listserves back in the day.
Oh my gosh, that’s going back, isn’t it?

It is. And it led me to eventually write critical analyses of other TV shows, and the rest is history. Anyway, when I tweeted out this morning that I was going to be talking with you, I got all these tweets back asking me information on the alleged X-Files 3 movie.
There was a big push for getting that out before 2012 ended, but they would’ve had to already been shooting by now to get that out by 2012.

Hold that thought for a minute, because I want to get back to the movie. But I want to  talk about The X-Files series first. The Lone Gunmen were introduced how early in the first season?
We were just supposed to be day players back in an episode called “E.B.E.” which stood for Extraterrestrial Biological Entity. And I think it was a way to get Mulder inside a top-secret facility. They needed some guise. And at the time [episode writers] James Wong and Glenn Morgan said they saw these three guys in an airport handing out UFO pamphlets, and they were all very diverse, and they thought that was hilarious. So they created these characters, and it was just going to be a one-off thing. But I think because suddenly realized that the Lone Gunmen were the representation of the online, the early, early online fan gatherings that were happening back then. And they were happening in newsgroups. There was a newsgroup called alt.tv.xfiles.

Aha!
Do you remember that?

I not only remember it, that’s where I wrote my reviews back in the day.
That was the thing; everybody assumed that [creators] Chris Carter and Frank [Spotnitz] and [writer] Vince [Gilligan] were all lurking on the site. And in fact, they were, because they were so excited that this was the first time writers got a chance to get direct feedback anonymously. Like, you could see the feedback honestly. Because if you go, “I’m Frank, I write the show.”  Then everybody goes, “oh, I love the show,” and it’s hard to get honest feedback of what they [really] think of the show. But if you’re just lurking in the newsgroup, you can see how everybody is complaining about this, or you know, some of the ideas that the fans had back then were very, very passionate and very cogent. So Chris Carter really appreciated that, and [after] putting in the Lone Gunmen, the newsgroup went wild, going, oh, well, this proves it. And for seasons two and three, we would say lines that actually appeared on the newsgroup. So we would take an actual sentence from the newsgroup and give it to the Lone Gunmen to say.

Oh, that’s wild.
So we had this great symbiotic relationship with the fans early on, and I don’t think the Lone Gunmen would have been as popular were it not for the Internet and the newsgroups at the time.

At the time, the Internet was really sort of new. I mean, there had been newsgroups before, for a long time before, but I think that because being on the Internet had become all of a sudden fairly cost-effective, especially with AOL, suddenly everybody was online. You didn’t need like some crazy, $95-an-hour subscription anymore to hang out. There was some very serious discussion on alt.tv.x-files and alt.tv.x-files.analysis. Maybe for the first time about a TV show.
Yeah, and it actually sparked, like whole communities of debate, which I always found fascinating. But, you know, scientists would gravitate, and talk about the science aspects of the TV show, and then the [Mulder-Scully] “shippers” and the “no-romos” had their own newsgroups, and I really thought that was a great fragmentation of how you could find your own collective group and hang out with them.

And, for the most part, the discussion was very intelligent. I remember a lot of the participants were writers themselves, especially fanfiction writers, including me, and it was really cool. There was tons of X-Files fanfiction: some fairly brilliant novels, scripts, short stories…
I tended not to read a lot of that. Sometimes it delved into that slash universe that I wasn’t into, so I stayed away from it. And early on one of the executives said, “You know, if you read anything online, any fanfiction, and then that shows up in the series, and there is a lawsuit, you’re left out, hung out to dry. We’re not going to support you on that. So be careful what you read, because if it mirrors on the TV show, the lawsuit lands on your shoulders, not the Fox Network.”

Back then, writing fanfiction was a real risk, and frowned upon by the networks. And now, it seems it’s really encouraged. Over the last couple years I’ve talked to a ton of TV writers, people who write amazing scripts for major shows. These days, the writers I ask about it really appreciate it as a compliment to their characters and their own work.
Absolutely, and that was a huge learning curve too for the executives, because I remember even when you could show video for the first time, when the bandwidth increased and you could show video on your website, all the fans used to put The X-Files up there, and they would get a note from Fox saying that’s licensed stuff; take it down. And then I would get e-mails saying, hey we’re fans of the show, we’re promoting the show, we want this on our website, why can’t we do it?  And I had to then get up on the legalities of copyright law, and be in the position of defending Fox.

And that too has changed, because now they have, you know, embeds, so the studio will release something and you can just embed it and everyone’s happy.
Yes, I think that was the thing. Before embedding, they felt like it was just being released in the wild. Now with embeds and all the tracking stuff, you can still get all the metrics back so that you know exactly how it’s being used and where, and still use that to sell advertising, I think was the biggest issue.

So I have to confess, I think I stopped watching The X-Files after season seven.
Right, when Mulder left.

When Mulder left, yeah. The show changed when it came to L.A., a little bit.
It sure did.

And it wasn’t just the move to L.A., I think the whole show just sort of changed, and I’m not sure if I could put my finger on why, but it just…
I know Chris Carter originally, said “we’ve got a five-year plan for this series, and then at the end of five years, we can go and do movies”—that kind of thing. And of course when you sell your show to a network, the network tells you when it’s over, so…  That’s sort of changed now too. I mean, there’s a way of ending series properly, but back then, because it was so successful, the network demanded more seasons than perhaps the writers wanted it to continue.

Right, right. And I think the fans kind of picked up on that.
Yeah. At that point everybody kind of burnt out. We were doing sixteen-hour days, every day.  Nobody saw a Saturday towards the end of the show because you were shooting all day and Friday night, and just slept all day Saturday. Sunday you did some chores and then Monday you’re back at work. And so it burnt out a lot of people for sure.

And after awhile the conspiracy got kind of crazy after a while as well, don’t you think?
Yeah, it became more and more—It got larger and larger, and it was a large—any time you brought it up there was a lot of strings that you had to keep—a lot of plates you had to keep spinning on the poles, as it were.

Right. Was there ever even a Bible for the show?
Not originally. In fact, it was just going to be sort of an anthology of monsters of the week—

I remember.
Absolutely. And then Gillian Anderson got pregnant and had to sort of be written out for a couple episodes, so they just wrote in an abduction story that arced over three episodes, and then from that became, well why was she abducted? Now the conspiracy, now the alien-hybrid thing, all of that started because she was pregnant, so—

Wow.
Yeah, I know, right?  If that didn’t happen, the series would have just continued on as a crime-of-the-week kind of thing.

The conspiracy arc was actually pretty compelling, until it got really convoluted…
We kept adding different layers; the layering of the onion, sort of was working in two directions. So I think, yeah, around season three, they sort of arced out a Bible, but definitely in the beginning there wasn’t one.

Unfair question time: Do you have a particular favorite season or a particular favorite episode or episodes?
Wow, so, yeah, difficult. I guess my favorite season is… Well, no, there’s no favorite season because some of the shows stood out so great without a season, that you couldn’t really connect them. The truth of my favorite episode, I still think is [Darin Morgan’s] “Humbug” with the Jim Rose Freak Circus—

What a fabulous episode that was: pathos and comedy rolled into one.
I saw them live in a bar when I was in college, and I thought the show was hilarious, Enigma and all of them in the show, acting and doing what they do as well. And I thought that was so cool.

So they were a real act, then?
Yeah. Oh, yeah, there was a live stage act. It was almost like an old throwback to a big circus that you would see on the road in the south or something like that, and each person would come up and they would do something horrific or bizarre. And there was one guy who wasn’t in the show, and I don’t know what happened to this guy, because it was the most amazing act I’ve ever seen, but he would step off the stage to the pool table that was in the bar, and he’d put in some coins and release the balls. And then he’d take all the solid colored balls, you know, one through eight, and he would swallow them. And then he would say, call up any number, and people would shout out ‘five’, and then he’d sit there and wriggle his stomach, and he’d bring up, out of his mouth, the five ball.

That is very strange and bizarre.
I know. How do you keep track? How do you do that?  How do you train for that?  How do you not throw up everything you ate all day?  I mean, like, there were so many questions. And then everybody—It was so stunning that the applause was just a smattering, because you couldn’t believe what you were seeing. And I never saw that act again. I don’t know what happened to that guy. I don’t know, but it was the most amazing bar show I’ve ever seen, so, So Humbug is my favorite.

I can imagine. Darin Morgan wrote some really great episodes in addition to that one.
Oh, yeah. He was so good. I loved Clyde Bruckman’s Return. He’s a brilliant writer.

And he didn’t start out as an X-Files writer, as I recall.
Well, no, he came because of his brother, Glen, and acted in one episode. (He played the iconic Flukeman in the early season two episode “The Host.”) He’s the guy with the tail [in the fourth season episode “Small Potatoes].

And then, of course there were the various “shipper” camps. I have to confess, I wasn’t really a Mulder-Scully shipper, I was more of a Mulder-Scully USTer.
I was a Noromo myself, frankly. I appreciated a relationship that was based on respect and intellect, even though they didn’t agree on their points of view, and that they could be working together and not have to make it all kissey-gooey, so I was disappointed when it became kissey-gooey, as… Yeah, and it’s not just the tension, but it takes out the idea that you could work with somebody on a professional basis and still call that a relationship, you know? And have it as satisfying, and not be boyfriend-girlfriend or whatever, cohabitation thing. So when the second X-Files movie came out and you know, they’re just in a cabin together…  Just wrote me out of the movie.

Oh, yeah, well, in the first movie, there was that infamous “almost-kiss.”
Yeah, well, you know, there were a lot of executives involved in how that movie needed to play. So, yes, you had to answer everything from season four, and it had to be a lead-in to season five, and it had to be a stand-alone so that, for people who had never seen the TV series, they could watch the movie and still get it. And so, because of all of these demands put on that movie, I was surprised it was as good as it was.

What did you think of the second movie?
See, now here was the harder issue. I mean, already you had the romance thing. They’re already cohabitating in a cabin. And then, aside from the [2007-2008 Writer’s Guild] strike, they had a lot of restrictions. The writers’ strike was coming; they couldn’t do re-writes, so they basically had the script that they had. And I didn’t realize this, but they had written another script, and they had it in story notes, and Frank moved production offices and that shoebox went missing. So they basically had six months to write that script, and then had no opportunity for re-writes because of the—

Strike.
The writers’ strike, right. So that was a really tough position to be in. And then, for my taste, you know, a lot of the conspiracy of the government stuff [in the second movie]… I mean, here you are at the height of the Bush administration with, you know, Karl Rove and all these guys, and then you write about Russian head transplants. It just seems like you missed a real opportunity to explore conspiracy in the government.

I mean, when we had our own real-life insanity going on, real time, how do you not…?
Exactly, I know. You had this opportunity to do—Even if you couched it in some other thing, you know, different names and stuff like that, you could’ve still explored all of these ideas, and instead chose two-headed dogs, you know?

Yeah, yeah. That was a missed opportunity.
I agree.

So do you think there is going to be a third movie?  You think they’ll get a redux, or a do-over?
A do-over?  Well, you know I talked to Frank that—He moved to London, and he said he’s into it. It’s just once Chris comes up with something that his heart’s really into, then there will be a third movie. But right now it’s all resting on Chris Carter’s shoulders and his impetus to come up with a really great story.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Den Of Geek: Frank Spotnitz interview: Hunted, the BBC cancellation, The X-Files, and more…

Nov-21-2012
Frank Spotnitz interview: Hunted, the BBC cancellation, The X-Files, and more…
Den Of Geek
Louiza Mellor

[Original article here]

On the eve of Hunted’s final episode airing on the BBC, we chatted to its creator about the HBO spin-off, The X-Files, and more…

Frank Spotnitz’s eight-part spy drama Hunted, starring Melissa George as Sam Hunter, a female spy in the Jason Bourne mould, comes to an end on the BBC tomorrow evening.

Originally a co-production between the Beeb and HBO, it was announced last week that the BBC would not be renewing Hunted due to it not reaching the desired viewer figures, but that HBO was to develop a spin-off based around Sam Hunter. In the divorce settlement, so to speak, Spotnitz and HBO were given custody of Sam’s character, but the new show will have to be just that, a different incarnation of Spotnitz’s stylish, slightly bonkers vision of the life of a private-sector spook.

We chatted to Spotnitz about the process of moving from Hollywood to the UK to make Hunted, the public response, the BBC cancellation, and his plans for the Sam Hunter spin-off. Being Den of Geek, obviously we couldn’t not also check in on the status of The X-Files‘ third film, and the possibility of a small-screen return for Mulder and Scully…

You followed some of the audience reaction to the first episode of Hunted on Twitter didn’t you?

Yes absolutely.

That’s a brave move…

[Laughs] I can take it, I’m strong.

There’s always that one snarky comment or offhand remark that needles though isn’t there? Was there any specific criticism that got to you?

Well it’s funny. No, I can’t think that there were any specific remarks that have stuck in my memory thank goodness, but you can read a thousand nice things and then there’s the one or two nasty ones that really hurt and the nice ones just go right past. You know, I think I’ve learned that’s just the nature of discourse and not to be too bothered by it.

Moving from Hollywood to the UK, you’ll have noticed the sizeable difference in TV budgets. Were there things you wanted to do with Hunted but couldn’t because of money constraints?

Well, in the beginning I was looking at a pretty major rewrite of the script because we just didn’t have the resources. Actually when HBO came on, it doubled our budget so we were actually able to do pretty much everything I wanted to do. Not that I wasn’t pushing against the budget every week, I was, and in truth we probably went a little over, but I’d say it was one of the best financed British productions ever, outside of a costume drama. We had a pretty healthy budget.

It shows, especially in the first episode with those fantastic locations…

That was really exciting for me. To be able to go to Morocco, and write those scenes for Scotland and then actually go there and take it outside of London. I think you can tell the difference, the audience can tell the difference, so that was really exciting to do.

There’s been some talk, whether it has any basis in truth, of the UK/US collaboration having been “creatively stifling”. Was that your experience or is that just hot air?

No, I mean I know where that perception is coming from, but that wasn’t the case at all. I had a fantastic relationship with both broadcasters both with the BBC and HBO and honestly, they saw eye-to-eye on their notes throughout the series.

I think what’s being talked about there is that Hunted is going to go on in another form after this year without the BBC, and when you make the decision to go forward just with HBO, it means you can go full-throttle for that audience, and you don’t need to be concerned with serving the general audience. So I think it’s a liberating move but it’s not an indication of frustration in any way with the BBC, who were great.

Tell us more about the new Hunted we’re going to see from HBO then, are you keeping the name, the same settings, the cast?

Well, I know it’s going to have Sam Hunter in it! [laughs] Actually, I have a pretty good idea where we’re going and what we’re going to do but I’m not free to say just yet. I’ll be saying something in the near future on that.

Respecting that, am I right that you won’t have acces to some elements of Hunted because of the departure from the BBC?

Yeah, it’ll be a different series. It has to be a different series. That’s where the risks of co-productions come back and change your plans unexpectedly sometimes. Because of losing the BBC as a partner, we had to do a different show, we couldn’t do the same show we did this year.

So will you be taking more advantage of HBO’s reputation for nudity and violence now?

I don’t think so, no. I think that the storytelling we did this year was one long serialised arc and I don’t think we have to follow that form now, so that’s the kind of difference in format I’m interested in.

When did you first hear the BBC announcement that they wouldn’t be continuing with the show?

Well, it’s been weeks, but it was a discussion. We were trying to see if there were terms we could reach where we could still continue with the co-production, but it just didn’t work out.

I’ve just watched episode eight and with all its revelations and things coming full circle from episode one, it made for very rewarding viewing by the end.

Thank you very much, I’m delighted to hear that.

So we’re chuffed that HBO will be taking it on.

Thank you, me too. I’m very, very happy about it.

You said in a previous interview, “Americans will watch British people, if they’re spies” presumably thinking about John Le Carré and Bond etc. How far were you making Hunted for a US audience?

Well, first I should say I said that with a smile in my voice, you know.

Americans are famous for not watching other people’s television, and pretty much just watching American television, which puts the rest of the world at a huge disadvantage economically, because the rest of the world buys American television, but Americans, until recently, wouldn’t buy television from anybody else. I was very interested in breaking through that wall and finding a way to get more European television in America, and not just in a niche, not just on PBS – which is great by the way, I love PBS and fully support it – but I wanted to reach a wider audience with European talent and storytelling and I thought the spy genre is something where Americans are used to seeing spies with British accents, you know, John Le Carré and James Bond, take your pick, The Saint, there are many excellent adventures so that was very much in my mind.

Having said that, I was also fully aware that you can’t do a show in Britain, and certainly for the BBC, and have it not be a British show. It has to have that integrity, it has to be designed for this audience first and if it isn’t then this audience is going to smell it and nobody likes that. Nobody wants something that’s been jury-rigged for commercial purposes, it has to have artistic and creative integrity and I wanted to please the British audience first.

Would you call Sam Hunter’s emotional unavailability a kind of British character trait then? A version of the stiff upper lip cliché?

I didn’t really look at it as being particularly British to be honest. I mean, my starting point with the series was, you know, ‘If Jason Bourne was a real person, what would he be like and how would he have got that way?’, and I just thought probably, that if you’re someone who lies and kills for a living, then you’re pretty damaged.

It becomes – as you’ll know, having seen all eight episodes – the things that happened to Sam as a child that are now catching up to her are really the centre of the series. She’s going to have to go back and face these traumatic events if she wants to stay alive. I thought, that’s so ironic, because for a character like Sam it’s easier for her to kill people than to go back and look at her childhood traumas, so that was in my mind more than any cultural stereotypes.

Do you think if Sam was less of a snow maiden, viewers would have found her easier to make an emotional connection with, and you may have kept a wider UK audience?

I don’t know. I think the audience the show found really connected with it, and I’m really pleased with the reception the show’s got. I think the ratings were good but not great, and it was just one of those calls, we just didn’t have a commanding argument in our favour to make the case for renewal. But I don’t know, I think that was sort of the character she needed to be and it wouldn’t have been truthful to soften her up just to win a larger audience.

SPOILER WARNING

I have to ask this. I read that you deliberately didn’t use certain real-life spy gadgets in Hunted so that it didn’t become, in your words, “silly”. How then do you explain the six foot rabbit in episode six?

The rabbit? I thought that was very funny. To me, that was very funny. The darkness of that, having that poor man dressed in a rabbit suit, yeah there were many times in the writers’ room – I developed these episodes with three fabulous British writers for six months – and we were crying with laughter at some things in that series. [Laughing] To us, they were very, very funny.

There is a dark sense of humour running through the show isn’t there? I loved the Communist being beaten to death with a statue of Karl Marx…

Yes! The Karl Marx thing, and then you know, when Fowkes retrieves the shoe…

Hassan’s boot, which he then keeps on his desk!

Yes, from the place where they’re incinerating the body. We thought we were very funny at least.

Do you think some people just didn’t get the jokes?

You did at least.

Something that struck me about Hunted, which may explain why some viewers found it hard to follow, was how even very late on, even in the final two episodes, a number of new characters were being introduced in each episode. Even in episodes seven and eight, we were still meeting people for the first time. Were you laying the ground for future series by doing that?

Absolutely, and I think that will be one of the things in the changed format, the spin-off, is that I’ll be eager to reward those who’ve seen this series and give them the answers that those last two episodes demand.

Just between you and me, that woman on the bridge in episode eight… is Sam’s mother really dead?

Oh, I can’t say. [Laughing] “Just between you and me”, you’re funny. Oh, you’ll have to watch, you’ll have to watch.

Okay, we will.

SPOILER WARNING ENDS

You mentioned being pleased with the audience the show found. The BBC non-renewal statement said that Hunted “…hasn’t found the mainstream audience it was hoped”. How important was reaching a mainstream audience to you?

You know, it’s one of those things that you don’t really get to decide. I always want to reach as many people as I possibly can, and I think I was spoiled by the experience of The X-Files because we got to tell exactly the stories we wanted to tell and we reached huge audiences all around the world but that’s not something anybody can predict. You just make the show you love and put everything you have into it and you just hope for the best, and a lot of it is luck too, a lot of it is stuff you just can’t possibly anticipate.

Going back to the online response, did you find the comparisons to shows like Spooks or Homeland fair or frustrating?

I understand totally why people make those comparisons, though I don’t think they’re particularly valid comparisons. I mean, I don’t think Hunted is anything like either one of those shows, nor was it ever intended to be. When we started out, Spooks was still on the air and nobody had any idea that it was going off, it was 2009 that I first started writing Hunted. And with Homeland, we’d already shot and edited the first two episodes of Hunted before I even saw Homeland, so the audience’s perception of these things is not in sync with how long it actually takes to develop a TV series.

If you wouldn’t compare Hunted to those two shows then, is there another touchstone you would compare it to?

Well I really tried to make it unlike anything that I had seen because I do love the genre so much – and by the way, I love Spooks and Homeland too. I tried really hard to honour some of the shows I loved, like Mission: Impossible or I Spy or James Bond or the Bourne movies, but not to ape them. I think there are deliberate nods and winks to those franchises in the show, but I tried very much to make it feel like its own unique self.

What kind of nods are you talking about? Were there specific shots or scenes in which you’ve paid homage to those earlier shows?

I think that the opening of episode one feels very Mission: Impossible. It’s similar because it’s twist after twist after twist in the very beginning in Tangier, and the idea of going to Tangier at all was sort of Jason Bourne. I Spy was this phenomenal series in the sixties where they amazingly travelled all over the world on locations, and then, James Bond for me is the greatest cinematic spy and just casts a shadow that no one will ever completely escape, and happily so.

All of those characters and movies and TV series were in the back of my mind, but I was always trying to find a way to do it differently or reflect the character of Sam. I think that the perfect story has the character and plot intertwined, you know? That story can only be happening to that character, and there were many things I think about this first series that I hadn’t seen before. I hadn’t seen a character quite like her before, and I hadn’t seen a world that was quite the same world as the one in which she operated, so it just created a whole bunch of interesting dramatic questions for us to answer.

Are more exotic locations in the pipeline for the HBO Hunted spin-off then?

Yes. Yes. I mean, none of that’s been decided as I speak to you today, but that’s definitely my ambition.

Hunted’s cynicism was a really defining feature with this first series wasn’t it? Its suspicion of corporations and capitalism and the moral murkiness of it all. There’s no sense that anybody’s doing anything good, ever.

Yeah, yeah. Well, I hate to say it, but I think that’s pretty much the way I feel [laughing].

You’re jaded.

To me, it makes goodness all the more moving, when you set it against an assessment that honest and that bleak of the way that most of the world operates. Because I do believe that there are good people in the world who want to do good things, and I’m enormously moved by those people, so I think it just sort of heightens the heroism of somebody like Sam, to see her do good knowing that there’s no reward for it, knowing that in fact you pay a cost for doing the right thing.

Can I just move on to The X-Files briefly, just as we’re running out of time. We’re as keen as you are for The X-Files film trilogy to finally be completed. Do you have a script for the third film in place?

No. No I don’t. I mean I’ve known for many years what I would like the movie to be and I’ve been talking to Chris Carter about it for many years, but there is no script.

Is it still the big alien invasion movie you want to do?

Yes, it’s the climax of the alien colonisation story that began the series.

Do you foresee The X-Files ever pulling a Star Trek and returning to the small screen in a different incarnation?

I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I mean, I don’t think I would have anything to do with it but you know, for better or for worse, these things are titles of big corporations , like Star Trek belongs to Paramount and The X-Files belongs to Twentieth Century Fox and it’s a huge asset in their libraries so I can’t imagine they would let it sit languishing forever.

Mulder and Scully: The College Years?

Anything could happen. I just hope that if they do it, they do it well, that’s my only request.

Returning to Hunted, what do you think you learnt making it that you’ll take into future work?

Oh well, this was my first production in Europe and the way television is made here is completely different from the way it’s made in Hollywood. The whole thing was a huge learning experience and I got to work with so many amazing people. The actors I think are second to none in this country, the crew is incredibly dedicated and talented and the directors I had, starting with SJ Clarkson, who did the first two and ending with Dan Percival, who did the last two. You learn something by working with great people, so it was a great experience.

We haven’t scared you off then, you’re going to stick around in the UK?

I’m not going anywhere, not yet anyway!

Frank Spotnitz, thank you very much!

Hunted’s series one finale airs on BBC One this Thursday at 9pm and the series one DVD and Blu Ray is being released by Entertainment One on Monday the 26th of November.