Posts Tagged ‘lone gunmen’

Vulture: In Conversation: Vince Gilligan on the End of Breaking Bad

May-12-2013
In Conversation: Vince Gilligan on the End of Breaking Bad
Vulture
Jennifer Vineyard

[Original here]

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Knee-deep in edits for the final season of Breaking Bad, which premieres in August, the creator of television’s darkest drama talks with Lane Brown about violence as entertainment, the incredible pressure of bringing a beloved serial to an end, and what it feels like to have Dzhokar Tsarnaev as a fan.

How close to the finish line are you?
We’re very close—the shooting was finished April 3, and yesterday we finished editing our second episode of the final eight.

Are you happy?
I feel very happy. There was a great passage of time in the writers’ room where we were a little nervous about the outcome. Well, I shouldn’t speak for them: I was nervous.

In interviews last summer you still weren’t sure how Breaking Bad was going to end. Was this just a matter of specifics? Or had you still not decided whether Walt was going to live, die, or go to prison?
It was everything. We knew very little as of last summer. We knew we had an M60 machine gun in Walt’s trunk that we needed to pay off, and that was about it. We kept asking ourselves, “What would satisfy us? A happy ending? A sad ending? Or somewhere in between?”

You also seemed worried about ending the show badly. If you did end it badly, how would you know?
There are two ways of knowing if something ends badly: If you’re honest with yourself, you just kind of know it. And then there’s other people’s reaction to it. Right now, I am very proud of the final eight episodes. But we could put them on the air in a few months and people could say, “Oh my God. That was the worst ending of a TV series ever.” So then you’re left with that horrible incongruity for the rest of your life. You either think everyone was right, or you start to think, “I’m like the Omega Man. I’m the only one who sees it the correct way and everybody else missed the point.”

Is there too much pressure on a series finale now? Since TV dramas became more serialized and less episodic, and especially since Lost and The Sopranos disappointed everybody, the last few minutes of a show can completely change the way we think about the 60 hours that came first. By contrast, I loved The X-Files, the last big show you wrote for, but I can barely remember how it ended.
There was certainly a lot of self-applied pressure. I second-guessed myself. I was much more neurotic than I usually am, and that’s saying a lot. And there is a different pressure on ending a serialized show versus a non-serialized show. The X-Files is a good example in that it was mostly comprised of stand-alone episodes. But when a show feels like more of a character study, there’s more of an expectation that it will end in a correct and satisfying manner.

And viewers are more sophisticated than ever about storytelling now. TV recappers have made a sport of poking holes in plot work—you have to lay the groundwork for every twist or they’ll hang you. If you were ending Breaking Bad fifteen years ago, you probably could have gotten away with telling us that Walt and Hank had been the same person all along.
Oh, no. At this point, you can parenthetically insert “Gilligan goes pale.”

It helps that I’m not reading what folks are saying online. If I did, there’d be a lot of stuff I’d roll my eyes at, and stuff where I’d say, “Oh shit, we should’ve thought of that.” But the best thing to do, as a showrunner, is to please yourself. It could mean coming up with something that no one will guess. It could mean coming up with the obvious yet satisfying moment. I’m not saying what you’re going to get, but it’s probably going to be a mix of the two. There are things in these last eight episodes that are going to surprise people. There are also things where people will say, “I kind of saw that coming.” But maybe the obvious choice is the right one sometimes.

With shows about difficult-to-like anti-heroes like Walter White, Tony Soprano, or Don Draper, the ending feels extra-­important. The finale is when you, the showrunner, render a final verdict on the character and tell us whether your show is in a moral universe where bad people get punished. So, how vengeful a god are you?
I hope that if I were a god, I wouldn’t be a particularly vengeful one. I’ve realized that judging the character is not a particularly fruitful endeavor on my part, and yet I have done that. I’ve lost sympathy for Walter White, personally. Not thinking, I’ve said to Bryan Cranston things like “Walt is such a bastard. He’s such a shit.” Then I realized this might color his perception of the man he’s playing, so I found myself biting my tongue the last six months or so. And my perceptions of Walt have changed in these final eight ­episodes—I didn’t think that was going to happen.

But this is not a show about evil for evil’s sake. Walt has behaved at times in what could be regarded as an evil fashion, but I don’t think he’s an evil man. He is an extremely self-deluded man. We always say in the writers’ room, if Walter White has a true superpower, it’s not his knowledge of chemistry or his intellect, it’s his ability to lie to himself. He is the world’s greatest liar. He could lie to the pope. He could lie to Mother Teresa. He certainly could lie to his family, and he can lie to himself, and he can make these lies stick. He can make himself believe, in the face of all contrary evidence, that he is still a good man. It really does feel to us like a natural progression down this road to hell, which was originally paved with good intentions.

Why do you think audiences are so enamored of bad guys right now? It’s not just on TV—superheroes are being rewritten as dark, flawed characters.
Our viewing tastes are cyclical. Five years from now, a person like yourself might be asking, “You remember when everybody used to like antiheroes? Now they like the guy in the white hat again. How did that happen? What’s changed in America?” People want what they want, for as long as they want it, then tastes change and something else works. For many decades—and this was reinforced by the broadcast networks’ standards-and-practices department—bad guys on TV had to get their comeuppance, and good guys had to be brave and true and unconflicted. Those were the laws of the business. But people’s tastes are fickle, and now that producers of TV shows can be more nuanced than that, audiences are along for the ride.

Are there any honest-to-God nice characters on TV that you still find interesting?
SpongeBob SquarePants
is a great show, and it centers on a character that is courageously nice. Why is SpongeBob interesting? It’s because he has passion. He has a passion for chasing jellyfish. I’m very glad people love Breaking Bad, but the harder character to write is the good character that’s as interesting and as engaging as the bad guy. My hat is off to the SpongeBob showrunners. It’s like how Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backward and in high heels. That’s kind of the struggle you face when you’re writing the good guy now instead of a bad guy.

Bryan Cranston and Gilligan on set in 2011.

Your original pitch for Breaking Bad was that you were going to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface over five seasons. Have you ever felt trapped by that promise?
No. It’s one of the most inadvertently smart things I’ve ever done. I’m not typically that forward-thinking. But the thing that intrigued me about Breaking Bad from day one was the idea of taking a character and transforming him. TV is designed to keep characters in place for years on end. The best example is M*A*S*H: You have a three-year police action in Korea, and they stretched that out to eleven seasons. It was a great show, but when you think about it, a weird unreality overtakes a television series. You see the actors age, and yet the characters don’t. I thought, Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a show in which the character became a slightly different character? We’ve abided by that for five seasons, and I’ve never felt the slightest bit hemmed in. I think that viewers knowing in advance that they were going to get a free-form character that was always in the process of metamorphosis allowed them to be free-form in their expectations.

In this post-Lost world, it seems like the worst sin a TV showrunner can commit is not knowing where his or her show is headed. Telling us there was a basic blueprint probably made it possible for you to say that you didn’t know exactly how the show would end and not get pilloried for it on the Internet. It’s a little like how Game of Thrones can kill its main character in the first season and not make fans think the show’s gone off the rails, because there’s the road map of the book series.  
The Walking Dead
is another good example—there’s source material for it. The question arises every week: Are they going to stick with what I know, or are they going take another path? So there are those dueling pleasures of “I can’t wait to see something I’ve already read visualized” and “It’s going in a different direction.”

Based on what you know about AMC, do you think it would ever let Rick Grimes lose his hands on The Walking Dead, like he does in the comics?
Does that happen? I’m not up to speed. You ruined it for me!

Sorry.
There are certain realities to making a TV show, and there are the actor’s feelings to consider. If I were the star of a TV show and they came to me and said, “Hey, the comic-book version of this is that you lose your hands,” I’d be like, “Screw that. I need them to act, man. What am I going to do, wear green gloves and you’re going to erase them for the rest of the time I’m on this thing?” It sounds like a big pain in the ass.

You’re in a small club: creators of serialized TV dramas who have elevated the form to art and sustained themselves for five or six seasons—Matthew Weiner, David Chase, David Simon. What do you have in common with those guys?
I know Matt Weiner a fair bit, but I’ve never met David Chase. I guess the short answer is that we all know what we want and we strive hard to get it. I’ve always had a fairly clear picture of who Walter White was, and I’ve got to imagine Matt Weiner knows Don Draper inside and out, as if he’s looking through Don’s eyes.

The other guys all have reputations for being grouchy and difficult. You seem like a nice guy.
I’m putting it on for this interview. I’m pretty dark, as you can guess from watching Breaking Bad. I’ve had my moments where I’ve blown up, but I always feel foolish afterward, like I’ve failed somehow—which doesn’t mean I won’t turn around and do it again next week. But this job is so hard. To work this hard and not be actively endeavoring to cure cancer feels like, What the hell’s the point? Most days, it’s just easier to be nice to people, and it bears more fruit, even if I’m not feeling like it.

Why do you think TV’s been so good over the past decade and a half?
The difference now is that writers are allowed to get away with more. We’re allowed to go darker. Thank God we don’t have what they had in the fifties, which was a sponsor reading all the scripts and saying, “I don’t think this character should be black.” But we could very easily have that situation again, because TV commercials get skipped over on TiVo. Ad agencies could once again take over sponsorship of individual series, and suddenly writers will be answering to them all over again.

But the best thing about cable TV is not the ability to say the F-word or show boobs or extreme violence. It’s the idea that a series lasts for thirteen episodes a season rather than 24. It’s amazing the quality of good work that happened in the fifties when a series would have to turn out 30-some episodes a season—it’s amazing that I Love Lucy was as good as it was! Or The Honeymooners. On Breaking Bad, I get to sit and spend three or four weeks an episode, breaking an episode and taking it apart, before a single word is written. That preproduction time is everything, and cable TV allows for that in a way that network TV can’t.

You seem enormously grateful to AMC and Sony for their support. Have you ever fallen out over anything?
We fight over money—or rather, I apologize for the overages that I incur and they yell at me. But I can point to a good standoff that I lost. We had an executive at AMC, a woman named Christina Wayne, who said I used too much music in my first cut of the pilot episode—I had just brought my iPod into the editing room. This executive said, “Don’t you trust your material? Do you think you need music to sell it?” I got so bent out of shape that I wrote an e-mail to her boss, which I really regret, trying to get her in trouble with him. But in hindsight, she was in the right, and if you watch Breaking Bad now, there’s more silence than music. Show writers can be wrong just as often as anybody else, and if enough people tell you that you’re drunk—or if one really, really smart person tells you you’re drunk—you need to sit down.

One of the criticisms of Breaking Bad that keeps coming up is over the female characters. Skyler White is seen by some as this henpecking woman who stands in the way of all of Walt’s fun.
Man, I don’t see it that way at all. We’ve been at events and had all our actors up onstage, and people ask Anna Gunn, “Why is your character such a bitch?” And with the risk of painting with too broad a brush, I think the people who have these issues with the wives being too bitchy on Breaking Bad are misogynists, plain and simple. I like Skyler a little less now that she’s succumbed to Walt’s machinations, but in the early days she was the voice of morality on the show. She was the one telling him, “You can’t cook crystal meth.” She’s got a tough job being married to this asshole. And this, by the way, is why I should avoid the Internet at all costs. People are griping about Skyler White being too much of a killjoy to her meth-cooking, murdering husband? She’s telling him not to be a murderer and a guy who cooks drugs for kids. How could you have a problem with that?

We’re talking now just a few days after the Boston Marathon bombings, and I’m sure you’ve been watching the news. Did you see that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had tweeted that he was a Breaking Bad fan?
No. Jesus.

He also tweeted, “Breaking Bad taught me how to dispose of a corpse.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Oh, Jesus Christ. No, I did not know that.

Yours is a dark show on which fictional people do terrible things—how much do you worry about inspiring real-life lunatics?
Maybe I don’t worry as much as I should. Jesus. I co-wrote the pilot episode of The Lone Gunmen, which was a spinoff of The X-Files; in it, there was a plot to fly 767s into the World Trade Center. That was about six months before 9/11. I remember when that day came, watching CNN just like everyone else in America, just absolutely horrified, stunned into disbelief. I turned on the TV, and I’m looking at the smoke, and I’m like, Wait a minute. We wrote this. I have no evidence that any of those assholes that did that on 9/11 had ever seen the show. Not that many people had actually seen the show. But you have those moments. Hopefully, it doesn’t need to be said that you don’t want to inspire evil and madness and hatred in any way, shape, or form. It’s not going to stop me from writing. It’s not going to paralyze me. But those moments give you pause.

Have you ever worried that one of Breaking Bad’s violent moments might have gone too far?
The scene I had trouble watching in the editing room—I would actually avert my own eyes—was when Victor gets his throat slit with a box cutter. I found that agonizing to watch. Again, hopefully it goes without saying that moments like that are meant to do the opposite of make violence look attractive or sexy. They are meant to unsettle and upset. People could argue, and I would not argue back, that Breaking Bad is oftentimes too violent. But the only thing that would really trouble me is if anyone said Breaking Bad sells violence in an attractive fashion, like something for young men to strive for. That would hurt, but I don’t think we do that.

Do you think there’s ever a moral imperative to pull back on the violence?
I don’t think there should be any kind of edict or mandate imposed by anyone else. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a writer in my position to know where to draw the line him- or
herself. It’s up to the writer to know the difference between a dark story that is basically instructive and a cautionary tale.

Breaking Bad does seems to be responsible, or at least realistic, in the way it uses guns. On the show, guns are jamming all the time, and characters get killed by their own weapons. When Walt buys a gun, the dealer lectures him on how ineffective it’ll be in a high-pressure situation.
I’m a gun owner, and I grew up in the South. Guns are ingenious mechanisms, the product of many thousands of hours of brilliant engineering. You can ascribe to them evil or good. I’ve never hunted, but I find target shooting very relaxing. But it goes without saying guns shouldn’t be used to murder innocent schoolkids. I’m not anti-gun. I’m not anti–claw hammer either. But I am against having them in the hands of lunatics.

Children are always under threat on Breaking Bad, which makes me wonder: Did you rethink anything that happens in these final episodes after the Newtown school shooting?
No. But Newtown was so fucking horrible. It’s been such a bad few months. You’re watching the news, and you see the Kardashians, and you’re like, Is this the best news people can give us? And then you have a week like this one [with the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt], and you’re like, Bring back the Kardashians!

How do you identify yourself politically?
I’m not real comfortable talking about politics. I’m probably more conservative than most folks in the business. But the best way I can put it to you is, here at age 46, I am less interested in politics than I’ve ever been in my life. Politics don’t serve a lot of good. I’m not talking about government—government serves a lot of good. But politics don’t seem to be reaping a lot of positive benefits these days.

What do you think of the drug laws in the U.S.?
I understand why a drug like meth would be illegal, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our laws. Our country is run by good people, more or less, who want the best for their own families, but as with most things that pass through the filter of politics, things get messed up. The idea of keeping illegal drugs out of the hands of little kids is a sound idea. But I don’t pretend to have any answers about how things could suddenly, instantly, magically be better overnight.

How did you settle on meth as the central drug in the show? It’s obviously not the sexiest drug.
I was on a phone call in 2004 with Tom Schnauz, who was a writer with me on The X-Files. We’ve known each other since NYU back in the eighties. He had read a New York Times article about a meth lab somewhere that was getting a bunch of neighborhood kids sick. We were trying to figure out what we were going to do next, because The X-Files had just ended and writing jobs were few and far between. “Should we be greeters at Walmart? Should we put a meth lab in the back of an RV?” It was in the midst of joking around that this idea struck home: What would an otherwise law-abiding person be doing in a meth lab in the back of an RV? That was the eureka moment for me.

And meth makes perfect sense, story-wise, for Breaking Bad. Unlike marijuana or cocaine, it’s a completely synthesized drug that needs a chemist and not a farmer to make. I liked the idea of Walt being good at chemistry and having a unique set of skills that would allow him to cook the best meth available. And it’s also just a nasty, terrible drug that destroys people and whole communities.

How did you choose Albuquerque as the setting? The Southwest is the fastest-growing part of the U.S., but it’s not often portrayed in entertainment.
It was a wonderful happenstance, but it was borne strictly of economics. Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico have been very welcoming in a way that California has not. In the first script, Breaking Bad was set in Southern California, in Riverside. During preproduction, Sony said, “What do you think about shooting in Albuquerque, New Mexico? We’ll get a 25 percent rebate on monies spent within the state.” I thought, You know what? More money on the screen. How can you turn that down? They said, “It’ll be great. All you’ll do is replace the license plates and call it California.” I said, “No, then we’d be shooting in a town where we can never look east.” We’d always have to be avoiding the Sandia Mountains! So we changed the setting to New Mexico.

Is there any product placement on Breaking Bad?
Chrysler has been great to us. Walt bought Junior a Dodge Challenger. Walt does doughnuts and then he lights the thing on fire and he blows it up. I was amazed they let us do that. Talk about product misuse.

But some of the moments that seem like overt product placement were not. We gave free ad time to Funyuns. We used Denny’s a couple of times, and Denny’s never paid us a dime. I think we had to pay for the privilege. I just love the idea of Denny’s as a place Walt and Jesse would go after having watched a guy get his throat slit. They put him in a barrel and dissolve him with acid, then they say, “Hey, let’s go to Denny’s. We’ll get a Grand Slam.” Chili’s and the Olive Garden turned us down, by the way.

What’s your obsession with fast food? There’s Gus’s chicken restaurant on Breaking Bad, and there’s Home Fries, the 1998 Drew Barrymore–Luke Wilson movie that you wrote, which was set in a burger place.
I spent a lot of time in fast-food restaurants as a kid. God, I remember the first McDonald’s in the little town where I grew up, Farmville, Virginia. When I was about 10 years old, the first McDonald’s went up, and that was like the biggest treat in the world. So I don’t know, maybe it hearkens back to that. I’m not as enamored of it now. I’ve been able to eat at the French Laundry since then, so McDonald’s has kind of paled.

In this issue, our TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz argues that TV has become a director’s medium.
I disagree. There’s a perfectly good medium for directors, and it’s called film. TV is a writer’s medium. I am chauvinistic toward writing because that’s where I came from. And when executives get excited about getting a superstar movie director to direct the pilot of a new TV show, I think to myself, That’s all well and good, but what happens after that? That superstar director goes away, and you’ve still got 100 hours to fill. Who’s the first person on the ground making those 100 hours happen? It’s invariably the writer.

Have shows like yours changed the mission of movies, do you think? A two-hour movie can’t explore a character’s psychology nearly as well as a six-hour TV series. With movies like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, you’re seeing more procedurals that dispense with backstory altogether, presumably because they can’t do the job as well.
I love movies, and I love TV. In TV, you have the time to get deeper into a character, but movies are a two-hour block of time in which we get transported to another place. We’ll always have Paris, and we’ll always have movies. But we’re going through a time, unfortunately, when the big movie studios are run by folks that are more obsessed than ever with the bottom line and who probably love movies less than any studio hierarchy that’s ever existed in my life. Back in the day, when the Irving Thalbergs and Louis B. Mayers ran the business, those guys could bite your head off. Those guys were tough sons of bitches, but they loved movies. They weren’t obsessed with counting beans. The problem with the movie business now is that it’s marketing-driven—driven by demographics, by spreadsheets and flowcharts and all this shit that has nothing to do with storytelling. But the movie itself, the structure of the movie, will always be with us. And occasionally a really great movie for grown-ups does sneak through.

It seems like it’s harder to get a green light for a smart movie than to actually make one.
I learned a great lesson from Michael Mann years ago. I was working on a script for him that became Hancock. It was a rewrite I was doing of someone else’s script, and I said to Michael in one of the first meetings, “What is this about? What’s the theme of it? What do we want to impart to the audience on a subconscious level?” He just looked at me kind of blankly and said, “Vince, come up with a good character, tell the story, and keep the audience engaged. Themes are for professors with patches on their elbows.” I learned not to get hung up on the subtext. Just pay attention to what’s going on under your nose, and the rest will take care of itself.

Which other TV shows do you watch?
I watch more TV than I should when I get home, because I need it to decompress. I invariably wind up watching non-scripted stuff. I don’t mean reality TV—I’m not a big fan of that, because honestly it’s as scripted as Breaking Bad is. I love documentaries. But put me in front of a TV that’s playing Modern Marvels, I’ll watch that for ten hours straight. Like the history of carbon and all its many uses, or tungsten, or how do they strip-mine a mountain, or how they make explosives. How It’s Made is a fun show. I love the Food Network. I love Good Eats. I don’t want politics. I don’t want characters. I want to learn how something is made, how it was created, who came up with it.

There’s also a channel, ME TV, that I watch endlessly—old episodes of Columbo and Perry Mason, which I didn’t know that well. I’ll watch Twilight Zone anytime it’s on the air even though I’ve seen it a hundred times. I’ll watch Lost in Space or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. They’ve got all these fun old fifties and sixties shows that are very well written, and yet because they’re so far in the past, they allow me to just turn my brain off and vegetate, which is something I need when I get home.

I was in a pitch meeting with the head of a network, and I started to pitch Breaking Bad, and he says, “It sounds a little like Weeds.” I said, “What is Weeds?” I’m pretty sure it hadn’t gone on Showtime yet, and regardless I didn’t have Showtime. If I’d known about Weeds, I would have never pitched Breaking Bad.

With Breaking Bad nearly over, what will you do next? How serious is the talk about a Saul Goodman spinoff series?
We’re in early discussions for a spinoff. In my dream version of it, I would help create the pilot and arc out the first season and then basically transition away and let Peter Gould, who created the character, run it.

What would the tone be?
We’re still trying to figure out whether it’s a half-hour or an hour. It’s lighter than Breaking Bad, but it’s not a sitcom. I have a hard time with most modern sitcoms because the structure is so self-limiting. You have to have a laugh every eleven seconds, which is so artificial. It’s like Kabuki theater. It’s so unrealistic to me. Not to cast aspersions toward an entire art form, I just have a hard time relating to sitcoms, except for older ones like All in the Family, which were leavened with plenty of drama.

I rewatched all 54 hours of Breaking Bad last week to prepare for this interview, and I found myself enjoying it more than I did when I was watching week to week. How do you think binge-watching changes the experience of your show?
I don’t know, because I’ve never binge-watched anything. My butt starts hurting too much. But I’ll tell you, I am grateful as hell for binge-watching. I am grateful that AMC and Sony took a gamble on us in the first place to put us on the air. But I’m just as grateful for an entirely different company that I have no stake in whatsoever: Netflix. I don’t think you’d be sitting here interviewing me if it weren’t for Netflix. In its third season, Breaking Bad got this amazing nitrous-oxide boost of energy and general public awareness because of Netflix. Before binge-watching, someone who identified him- or herself as a fan of a show probably only saw 25 percent of the episodes. X-Files fans would say to me, “I love that show. I’m a big fan.” I’d say, “Well, did you see this episode?” “No. I didn’t see that one. Which ones did you write?” And every episode they’d mention would be one I didn’t write. But it’s a different world now.

Having binge-watched, I have to ask: What can you tell me about the ending of Breaking Bad?
In my mind, the ending is a victory for Walt. You might see the episode and say, “What the fuck was he talking about?” But it’s a somewhat happy ending, in my estimation.

*This article originally appeared in the May 20, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.

This Is Who We Are: Dean Haglund and Mark Snow come to TIWWA

Aug-20-2010
This Is Who We Are
Dean Haglund and Mark Snow come to TIWWA

[Original article here]

Dean Haglund needs no introduction and in the time honoured tradition of then going on to give one that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Dean (born July 29, 1965) is a Canadian actor known for the role of Richard “Ringo” Langly, one of the Lone Gunmen on The X-Files. Haglund is also a stand-up comedian, specializing in improvisational comedy (formerly with Vancouver TheatreSports League.) Dean also portrayed Langly in the spin-off The Lone Gunmen, which aired thirteen episodes in 2001. As La La Land Records and Mark Snow have released a superb double-disc release featuring Mark’s compositions from the show I wanted to use the opportunity to celebrate a show I recall with great fondness. My gratitude, of course, to Dean for giving of his time so freely. As he would no doubt say himself, enjoy the Dean-ness.

TIWWA: If we could begin by taking you back to the time when your involvement with Ten Thirteen Productions began. Do you think that people are more or less paranoid than they were in the 1990s when the “The X-Files” was at its peak? Are there more reasons to worry now than back then?

DEAN HAGLUND: I think that we are more “informed” now than before, because of the internet providing more “information” than it did back then, but I put that in quotes because in this info tsunami we live in, any idea can be backed up by a web site that spouts exactly the same idea, regardless of how unfounded the idea to be. So therefore, the paranoid idea will have a echo back which will build it into a movement. I think of the ‘birther’s movement’ as such an example. The other side of the coin is that also individuals who know the truth can get that truth out there to a larger audience faster than before. So as more whistleblowers come forward, the worry is that one’s filter has to be razor sharp to know what to follow and what is useless.

TIWWA: When you were cast in “EBE”, along with your fellow gunmen, I believe it was the positive reaction of the fans that secured the characters recurring roles. Whilst the fans could evidently see the potential of the characters I wondered if the production team, or yourselves, realised at the time that something magical had been created in that episode? At what point did you realise (or get told) that your role of Langly would be a recurring one?

DH: We never really realized it till maybe Season 4 or 5 where we got to do “Unusual Suspects.” After Deep Throat and X were both killed off it seemed that none of the recurring characters could boast that we were sticking around. Chris Carter always kept you guessing.
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TIWWA: I was interested to learn that you disliked how the “The X-Files” subsequently developed from a cult show to something more mainstream can you explain why that is?

DH: It is not that I disliked it, so much as the pressure from executives increased as it gathered mainstream momentum. That caused the writers to battle with them instead of focussing on the stories and the later seasons seemed to be a testament that. The writers and producers split focus at that point, and it became tougher on everyone involved. I understand that is typical to all series and why some succeed is that there is a person who takes the brunt of that and gives space to the rest of the creative team.

TIWWA: Due to the success of your characters within that show you were given your own show back in June 2001. At the time the show was being developed did you have any trepidation at all about taking the characters out of their comfort zone and into new territory? Did you have any input into how the show was being developed and the direction it would take?

DH: No, we really didn’t have input on the show or its development, which is probably for the best. It is hard to have the proper perspective when you are acting day to day on a series. I was not worried at all of taking the characters out of their comfort zone because I think that we had already made incredible backstories for ourselves that it was kind of relief to finally learn what else these guys did other than help Mulder all the time.
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TIWWA: When The Lone Gunmen essentially became a quartet with the introduction of Jimmy Bond I am aware that Stephen Snedden was concerned about how this would effect the established dynamic of the team. What was the feeling amongst the three of you about the addition of a new character and how do you view Stephen and Zuleikha’s contributions to the show in retrospect?

DH: I loved them coming into the show. Bond provided the way the audience could relate to the our geek talk, and Yves’ character gave us the international scope so that we didn’t seem like we three were only affecting local politics and community actions.

TIWWA: A number of “The X-Files” cast had the opportunity to pen episodes on that show that allowed them to showcase their characters in a personally pleasing way. Was this something you would have liked to have had the opportunity to do during the run of “The Lone Gunmen” and what story would you have liked to have told with regards to Richard Langly?

DH: Had the show gone on to the second season there was a chance for us to add more to the show. Tom Braidwood was poised to direct an episode and I was talking to Pam Anderson to appear as herself in the show where she comes to Gunmen to help hide her. She was really into the idea.

TIWWA: One particularly well received episode of “The Lone Gunmen” was “Like Water for Octane” in which a car was created that was powered by water, the conspiracy theory being that the oil companies/governments had involvement. Did you like the premise of this episode and if one day a commercially available water powered car was invented, how do you think our world would change in terms of impact and how do you think the oil companies would react?

DH: I think of it in the same terms as Tesla’s “free energy”. At the time , the word ‘free’ worried Edison and the investors so they went out of the way to suppress the technology. It turns out that the corporate powers just had to learn how to meter and charge money for this service, and that free energy is the basis for our cell phone service. So it is just a matter of learning how to charge for water and we will have water powered cars. And just keep an eye next few years as the privatization of our water supply continues as they demonize the civil infrastructure currently in place. See my up coming documentary “the Truth is Out There” for more about that.
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TIWWA: As the show continued to air I know a great many of us felt that it wasn’t receiving the support it needed from 20th Century Fox. Were you aware of how the show was being received by the studio and would you agree with the fans that their support wasn’t adequate? I know Stephen explained that he felt they simply didn’t understand the show, would you agree with this?

DH: At that point, the tension between the executives and Ten Thirteen was pretty high so no one was doing any favors for each other. So whether they understood it or not didn’t really matter as to what filtered down to the day the day operations with other departments in the Fox building.

TIWWA: At what point did you learn that the show was to be cancelled and how was this news received by the cast and crew?

DH: I heard it from my lawyer at a Deli, so I was around the rest of the gang when I found out. By the time I saw everyone again, so much time had passed, that we never really discussed it again. In fact, the whole story is told in my comic book “Why the Lone Gunmen was Cancelled” which is available on my website – true story written and DRAWN by me.

TIWWA: Given the blow of having the show cancelled I would imagine the news that the Lone Gunmen were to be killed was another blow? I know Zuleikha and Stephen voiced criticism at the time of this decision I wondered how Tom, Bruce and yourself reacted to this news? A significant portion of fans still feel that this was a mistake, despite the decision not being something that was taken lightly, would you agree with them?

DH: No, I think that is was a great thing to do. It was better to go out in a blaze of glory that to us just help Mulder on last time and then walk off into the sunset with a hobo bag on a stick over our shoulders. Plus the show was lacking some emotional gravity at times, and this was an opportunity to give the fans a resonate episode to remember why you stuck with it for nine seasons.
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TIWWA: I’m hoping that there is some way you gentlemen can make an appearance in the third X-Files film if there is to be one as it wouldn’t be the same without you. On that note I am sure you are aware that the reception to the second film was mixed and I wondered if you had seen it and what your own feelings on it were?

DH: I think that there is ALWAYS a way for us to appear in another film. As for the second film, I tend to like a little more political intrigue in my story telling and I think that at the height of the Bush regime not to involve some of that evil skull drudgery into a story was unfortunate, but I understand the limitations that Chris and Frank were working under so I can’t fault them too much.

TIWWA: I know you have written the comic, “Why The Lone Gunmen Were Cancelled” and have gone on to express your desire to revisit the characters in other media. With Frank Spotnitz and Gabe Rotter writing another series of the X-Files comic for Wildstorm is this something you would like to pursueand are you still working on “Back from the Dead”?

DH: Absolutely. I would love to add to that, and Back from the Dead is very much alive. But that is all I can say at the moment.

TIWWA: You have a very popular podcast and continue to be active in the industry and I wondered if you could share with our readers the best way to keep abreast of your news and what to look out for in the future?

DH: The ChillPak hollywood hour is definitely the best way to hear what is going on with our production company and of course Facebook. But I recently re-did the web site and I’m trying to congeal all of it into one seamless platform of Dean-ness, but I am only one man and all my programming skills are from the 90’s. So if anyone has got any time and mad skills out there let me know.

TIWWA: May I express my gratitude for taking the time to talk to us and may we wish you all the very best for the future.

DH: Pleasure is mine.

MTV: ‘X-Files’ Producer/Director Frank Spotnitz Makes The Mythology Matter In New Wildstorm Comic Series

Oct-22-2008
MTV
Permanent Link to ‘X-Files’ Producer/Director Frank Spotnitz Makes The Mythology Matter In New Wildstorm Comic Series
Kiel Phegley

[Original article here]

X-Files comic books — in the ’90s, four color tales of Agents Scully and Mulder heated up the comics charts and nabbed scores of cash on the back issue market before the comics industry and publisher, Topps, took a turn for the worse…along with the whole “X-Files” franchise (check out Kurt Loder’s visit to the “X-Files” set here). Now in November, DC’s Wildstorm imprint looks to reignite the series’ comic popularity with a miniseries featuring something the ’90s comics never had: a direct tie to the show’s overarching mythos.

“They are connected with a part of the mythology that we introduced but did very little with at the beginning of season five,” said writer Frank Spotnitz, a longtime scribe for the series and co-writer of July’s “I Want To Believe” film. “We introduced this corporation Roush and so that was part of the mythology that we could have gone a lot deeper with but never got the chance. So the next two books connect with Roush. And I’m going to take a little break from writing comics after this and get back to my screenwriting career, but at some point I hope to get back to write more and do more with the mythology.”

But while Spotnitz’s direct exploration of the show’s most successful period will only last a few months, the series will continue for five issues after that, presenting new stories of Scully and Mulder in classic form mixing it up with FBI Deputy Director Skinner, conspiracy nuts The Lone Gunman and the villainous Cigarette Smoking Man, all of whom appear in upcoming issues.

“It’s just fun to play with again,” he explained. “This is kind of an interesting thing about the comic books – in my imagination anyway – [it’s] that they’re sort of ‘out of time.’ The situation is the situation that we found between seasons two and five of the series. And yet, they’re wearing clothes and using technology that is contemporary of today. It’s not like they’re period pieces. It’s sort of like they’re unstuck from time. I look at them as if that situation in ‘The X-Files’ were still going on today; a sort of parallel universe to the one that we have in the movie.”

With that last movie underperforming at the box office this summer, long time X-Philes will be glad to know that the creator’s plans for future comics series will continue to play in the show’s glory years with new stories focusing on various mythological elements not fully developed in the show. And if Spotnitz has his way, those tales will be penned by both past “X-Files” writers as well as some of his big name comic writing pals, including Brad Meltzer and Brian K Vaughan.

“We have some writers from the TV series who have expressed interest like John Shiban and David Amann, but they all have busy television careers. But in the meantime I’d love to see some other established comic book writers try their hand at the ‘X-Files.’ And that’s what’s great about comic book series is you’re a lot freer to explore and experiment and do things that are out there.”

And if readers get behind the expanded in-continuity comics treatment “X-Files” is getting, Spotnitz doesn’t rule out more series based on his friend Chris Carter’s universe of TV series. “I think it’s a great idea; I still love all those titles. Every single show we did with Chris at 1013 I have great affection for. Especially ‘Harsh Realm’ and ‘Lone Gunman’ I think ended before their time. And I have to tell you, everywhere I go people are always asking me if there’s going to be a ‘Millennium’ movie or something, so I suspect there’s a hardcore audience out there that’s still wanting it.”

Ain’t It Cool News: ScoreKeeper With Composer Mark Snow

Jun-24-2008 [9:49:12 AM CDT]
ScoreKeeper With Composer Mark Snow About THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE, The Creation Of The Series’ Theme, And Much More!!
Ain’t It Cool News
ScoreKeeper

[Original article here]

Greetings! ScoreKeeper here secretly sleuthing my way with what could be my favorite composer interview to date.
Mark Snow is a legend. Sure, you probably know him as the composer for the smash-hit phenomenon THE X-FILES (1993-2002), but his legacy didn’t start nor ended with that series. He is the composer for countless television series and movies including SMALLVILLE (2001-2008), GHOST WHISPERER (2006-2008), THE LONE GUNMEN (2001), MILLENNIUM (1996-1999), HARSH REALM (1999-2000), 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1997), FALCON CREST (1986-1988), T.J. HOOKER (1982-1986), and HART TO HART (1979-1983) as well as a composer for theatrical motion pictures which include DISTURBING BEHAVIOR (1998), THE X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE (1998), CRAZY IN ALABAMA (1999), and COEURS (2006) which was nominated for a César Award for Best Score.

Now the sizzling Summer of ‘08 heats up even higher as Mark returns to the world of Agents Mulder and Scully in THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (2008). Already one of the more highly anticipated films of the summer, Mark sheds tiny slivers of light on what has successfully been a very clandestine production.

Mark was a joy to speak with. His casual demeanor and passionate expression created the perfect combination for a great interview. We gabbed about the new film, the old shows, and everything in between. As a die hard fan, it was difficult containing my inner geek. So I gave up and just had fun. I hope you will too.

Enjoy the interview…The truth is out there.


ScoreKeeper: Thank you for taking the time out to speak with me today. I’d like to start off talking about THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. As a bona fide fan of the series, I am very excited about this new movie. How does it feel returning to the world of Mulder and Scully after six years? Did you miss it?

Mark Snow: I did and I knew many years ago that this project was in the works. In fact, Chris Carter called me from London about five years ago and said “Get ready. We are going to do another one…”.

Then it got bogged down and there was red tape with the studios while they were “ironing out” the contracts. But it came to pass and I was thrilled to be invited back. It just felt so comfortable.

SK: Having scored nine seasons of episodic television and a feature film, how did your approach to the new film fit within the X-FILES universe?

MS: It’s very different than the first movie. This is more of a stand alone episode while the first one followed the mythology story with government conspiracies and aliens. There is a lot more heart, warmth and tuneful music in this one – as well as all of the wonderful sound design and atmospheric things.

The idea of being able to write some great themes for some of these very emotional scenes…well, it’s really great! In the score there is this great contrast of fast and slow and loud and soft and melodic and atmospheric. There’s just so many wonderful textures.

I had my full battery of samples and synthesized sounds. I certainly bring back a few things that people might remember from the old days plus a lot of new things. I had a session with a big orchestra that just did atmospheric sound effect music. There was no music written out. I would just give the orchestra instructions like with an accent or a “boom,” or “let’s crescendo here,” or “make a funny noise here,” or “drop a pencil on the music stand,”…all kinds of real cool inventive things.

There’s a battery of percussion with these fabulous taiko drums and all kinds of things. Plus live whistlers and live singers…It’s quite a sound!

It was all very creative.

So, you’ve got that and then a big orchestra hanging out playing written out music for four days of recording. The thrust of the orchestra is mostly like a baritone to low orchestra. There are no trumpets, no high woodwinds. There is a flute solo but it’s an alto flute solo and there is one moment where there’s a high baroque trumpet playing over a very emotional scene. There are eight French horns, five trombones, and two pianos and harps…thirty-two violins, sixteen violas, twelve cellos, and eight basses…

SK: Wow!

MS: That makes a hell of a sound! It has been great.

One of the most wonderful things was I was able to get Alan Meyerson to be the scoring engineer and the music mixer. He does all of James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s stuff. His creativity is really just fantastic! His mixes just come alive.

SK: That improvised aleatoric jam session you talked about…Were you doing that to picture?

MS: No, there was no picture. I just made a tool box of all these sounds and had it at my disposal to sprinkle throughout the score. There’s all sorts of short accents and long sustained things…all kinds of drums…just really marvelous stuff.

SK: You mentioned Chris Carter said there was interest about five years ago to do a second film. At what point did the creative process begin for you? Did you receive a script during that time to start thinking about music? At what point did the compositional process begin for you?

MS: There was such incredible secrecy about this project. I did receive a script and each page had my name watermarked on it. I had to sign something saying if I gave this out then I would be killed.

[Both Laugh]

MS: So that script was going to be chained to my wrist for the whole duration so to speak.

Certainly reading it was the beginning of my thought process and I remember the most direction that I got from Chris Carter was “This is a love story with spiritual and religious overtones.”

I’m reading the script and saw a love story in it along with real good classic X-FILES weirdness. It’s a very complex story. After the first reading, I was so intrigued and I read it so quickly that I had to read it twice and even a third time. But there is still nothing like seeing the visuals. That’s when it really kicks in!

I did write a couple of themes that I thought might work and actually one of the things I wrote before seeing the picture did work out beautifully. Another piece, Chris (Carter) and Frank Spotnitz, the producer, weren’t crazy about but I was able to take it and turn it around and make a variation of it. It worked out great.

SK: What is the functional purpose behind the two themes? Do they have a symbolic relationship in the film?

MS: There are two very distinct moments. I hope you will respect the fact that I can’t say too much about it…

SK: Oh! Of course. I don’t want to know too much about it, so, yeah, don’t go into spoilers. If that’s the case, that’s fine.

MS: These two particular pieces come back quite a few times in different orchestrations and settings and they really work out great. That is what was so satisfying…to be able to write real melodic and thematic music in this movie as well as all of the great X-FILES noises on top of it.

SK: How about the iconic main theme? It’s interesting because in the first film it didn’t appear that much. I liked that you refrained from using it and composed a host new material. How does the main X-FILES theme work into this new film, if at all?

MS: Right from the get go you will probably recognize it and that’s all I can say. Then during the score, there are hints of it and variations of it. It is very subtle and it comes and goes. It doesn’t appear too frequently but enough that someone with a good musical ear will be able to pick it up. It’s not dominating the music whatsoever and these other thematic pieces actually have no relation to it at all.

SK: I find it interesting because you have such a long and fabulous career with so many different television shows and productions but it’s the THE X-FILES that has really come to define your career and help solidify your name in the scoring world.

How did your experience working on I WANT TO BELIEVE compare to nine seasons of THE X-FILES series, the previous film, and all the other scores you’ve done throughout your career?

MS: The most exciting stuff in the TV series, for me, was actually the stand-alone episodes. The mythology episodes had sort of a set palette and everyone kind of liked that. It was more of a traditional sound. The stand-alone episodes were a real free-for-all. They were like mini-movies unto themselves.

The freedom and trust that Chris and company had with me was so remarkable. I could basically do whatever I wanted and when you are given that kind of freedom it’s also a responsibility. No one was giving me notes. They would come over and they would watch every score of every episode for the whole nine years and mostly it would just be “Oh, we just love to get out of the studio and watch the music and see how it helps the picture.” There would rarely be any notes. If anything, “Oh, hit this louder,” or “When this guy jumps out of the box…smash it!” or “That’s too much…”. It was very minimal.

With the recent film, it was a combination of all the stuff that I loved so much about the series: the freedom to do what I wanted and the idea of writing these themes which turned out to be so potent and hopefully memorable.

Going from the orchestra’s reaction…the musicians were maybe thinking they were just going to be playing a bunch of sound effects. Then when all of these, dare I say, wonderful tunes showed up, it was just great. Chris, Frank, and the people at Fox would walk in from time to time listening to the cues and it was just “thumbs-up” the whole way.

Thomas Newman once said in regards to work, “There is war and peace. War is scoring a movie and peace is when you are between movies.” With I WANT TO BELIEVE there was no war, it was just a fabulous exhilarating experience.

SK: Take a moment to address all of the X-FILES fans out there. What is in store for them? What can they expect?

MS: All the best things of the stand alone episodes and the relationships with the characters… They will not be disappointed, I’m telling you!

SK: I’m among the many anxiously awaiting this one. Personally, this could be one of my more anticipated movies of the summer. Since hearing you describe the music in more detail, I’m even more excited.

How many minutes of music are there in the film?

MS: There’s about an hours worth. Maybe a little bit more. There are a couple of songs but really the thrust of the music really is the score.

There’s not more than three songs in the movie and they aren’t in a montage or playing during a whole scene where the sound effects and dialogue are cut out. The songs are more subliminal and more a part of the overall sound.

SK: When scoring the series you were primarily layering synth sounds without utilizing many live acoustical elements. When THE X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE came along, you had the opportunity to score with a live orchestra and again with I WANT TO BELIEVE.

First of all, how does the compositional process differ between the series and the films and to what effect did any differences outcome the music?

MS: Well, it didn’t really change at all. The big difference was when I was done with a piece, I would turn it into a MIDI file and it would go out to the copyist who would, in turn, put it through one of their programs to give to the orchestrators. They would see pretty clearly where the orchestral music was in regards to the strings, the horns, percussion, piano, harp, and they would write that out.

Sometimes my synth strings would be with the orchestral strings and sometimes not. Sometimes my percussion stuff would be plenty and we didn’t need any of the live percussion. It was a cue by cue situation. I felt very comfortable that all of my orchestral instruments would be much more fantastic with the real deal, especially with the size of that group.

SK: How do you work in the electronic elements of your acoustical scores? Do you have those planned out ahead of time or do you add them after the acoustical elements are in place?

MS: I basically hear the whole thing right from the get go. We separate every single individual synth or sampled sound on a separate track and Alan Meyerson mixes each one of those. He treats them with who knows what he does – it’s amazing to me – and then combines them all. Then it has to be mixed in 5.1 surround sound. It’s a miracle!

I do my thing and it sounds pretty good. We get an orchestra and live players and Alan Meyerson…Holy mackerel! I pinch myself listening back to these things. I said “Wow! I loved that! Holy Smokes! This is great!”

SK: It sounds like this could be a real peak for you as far as satisfaction throughout your career. Not just in the X-FILES world. It’s sounding very much like this is one of those top ranking experiences for you…

MS: I’m glad you said it because somewhere along this interview I was definitely going to say that. In terms of satisfaction this ranks the highest.

I did a movie in France with director Alain Resnais. That was also satisfying. The only thing missing was we didn’t have a live orchestra. The music for that – and there is going to be a CD coming out momentarily – was very subtle but also extremely thematic and tuneful. It’s all very emotional but in a quiet sort of sad-yearing-type of way.

It was also very satisfying in the sense that the director just said, “I’m a big fan of yours and I want you to do this. I hired you because I know you will do the right things. I don’t want to tell you what to do. Just go out there and do it.”

So I did and it turned out to be a really great experience.


SK: I received a promo copy of your score from PUBLIC FEARS IN PRIVATE PLACES (aka COEURS) and I wrote a brief preview of it on this site [HERE].
I loved it! I don’t normally review film music without having seen the film but in this case, I did. I really loved the music. You were nominated for what is basically the European equivalency of the Oscar for that score, is that correct? [details HERE]

MS: Yes, I was nominated. They call it a César Award. To get that nomination, that too, is pretty remarkable.


SK: Do you have a date yet when the score will be released on CD?

MS: It could literally be next week.


SK: I’ll be on the look out for that. The promo CD that I got only had ten or twelve minutes of music on it, so I’m definitely dying to hear more.

SK NOTE: Since this interview was conducted, BuySoundtrax.com has announced the release of PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES (aka COEURS) on their own BSX Records label. I ordered my copy immediately upon hearing the announcement. Check out their web site [HERE] for more information.

I’ve heard there is already a CD planned for THE X-FILES 2: I WANT TO BELIEVE. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

MS: It’s going to be coming out on Decca. They are bugging me, “Let’s go do some record mixes for it right away!” It will probably be 90% of the score because a lot of the pieces are just sound effect style stuff.

There is also a song by Xzibit which plays during the end credits. I think that song is going to be on the CD as well. There’s also a really great new band that Chris Carter knew about that did a remix of THE X-FILES theme which sounds fantastic. That’s going to be on there as well.


SK: What about the series? I remember when THE TRUTH AND THE LIGHT CD came out. I was very excited they finally released your music from the show. Any future plans of releasing more?

MS: I understand that there’s going to be CDs released on the other series that Chris did: MILLENNIUM, THE LONE GUNMEN, and HARSH REALM.

They’re talking about this massive compilation of THE X-FILES too. But nine years times…it could be ten thousand minutes of music! That would be a real challenge to choose from that much music but I understand that that is in the works too.


SK: That would be awesome!

I’ve interviewed and talked with a lot of different television composers and one thing that frequently comes up is we seem to be currently witnessing a genuine renaissance in television.

The various facets of television are reaching new heights in terms of quality and one of those facets is music. We are getting some absolutely fantastic scores in television these days. In the past several decades that hasn’t always been the case.

I’ve always attributed this modern boom back to THE X-FILES. Even during the nineties, television wasn’t the place to go if you wanted to hear great scores. But I very much believe it was your work on THE X-FILES that helped catalyze the resurrection of well-crafted scores for television.

It was your music, in fact, that first got me sucked into the show. I was flipping channels one night – I believe it was during the second season – and I came across a show and said to myself, “What is this music?” I was loving it. It turned out it was THE X-FILES. I tuned in the following week just so I could hear more music. The next thing I knew, I was hooked on the show.

I’d like for you to comment a little on the recent trends of television scoring because I think you deserve a lot of credit for raising the bar and improving the overall quality of it.

MS: That’s an immense compliment and I really appreciate it. I think the most important factor was that Chris and company really seemed to trust me.

First of all, there is a lot of music in the show. At first, with the pilot, they really wanted very atmospheric stuff. Not melodic or cheesy. Just supportive almost sound designed music. That’s where we started.

I felt after a while that was getting too one dimensional and so I started experimenting. Every time I did, it was encouraged by Chris and company so I just kept going and going and they kept liking it and liking it.

It’s rare that you are in a situation where you are given such creative freedom. In television, the music editor has to do temp tracks that have to be approved by the studio, the network, the producers and then those things are tweaked and changed and then it comes back to the composer and the composer is given these marching orders, “Copy this as close as you can come,” which does take some degree of one’s own creative impetus out of the process. It just depends on the show and it depends on the people that you are working for.

I think Chris Carter and Steven Cannell, Dick Wolfe, and Steven Bochco, are the last of the great singular people that a composer had to answer to. Not committees and not networks. These guys would tell us what they wanted and it was just wonderful being able to answer to just one person.


SK: That seems to be the reoccurring theme. The more creative freedom talented individuals receive the better the product is going to be. It’s not a law, but it’s definitely something common amongst the great shows of our time.

To me, I think without the success of THE X-FILES, I don’t know if we would have some of the great television scores that we are getting today. Trust begets trust.

MS: I really appreciate that but at this point in the interview I have to give credit to someone who was actually my mentor. I think this man was the absolute first composer for TV music that gave it some legitimacy and that’s Earl Hagen.

Although he did a lot of light hearted and comedy music, his more dramatic music and the range of what he could do was exceptional. He was such a hard worker. In those days there was no such thing as a sampler or a synthesizer. Everything was written out and played by live musicians. If you listen to some of the underscore of some of his dramatic shows it is so brilliant!

He was incredibly generous to young composers who were starting out. He would have this class at his house out in Calabasas California, where there is a big country club that he belonged to. He loved golf. He made a ton of money on all of the TV shows so the fee for getting into the class was a dozen Titleist golf balls.

We would have a ten week session each year. There wouldn’t be more than ten people and once a week we would sit around with him while he played some of his music and teach us about the technical side of things.

I just remember he would never kick you out. If you wanted to stay there until four in the morning, he would be right there with you and you could ask him any question, talk about stuff, or listen to all kinds of music. It was incredibly inspiring.

SK: I’m glad you brought him up. I couldn’t agree more. When he passed away a few weeks ago, I wrote a brief memorial article for Ain’t It Cool News [HERE].

When you talk about the father of television scoring, nobody can quite compare. His body of work is just legendary. That’s an amazing anecdote.

MS: Also, in a funny way, my X-FILES theme with the whistle is sort of my homage to Earl. He whistled (the theme from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) himself. I wasn’t that good of a whistler. But he did it.


SK: That’s awesome!

What I’d like to do now is take you back through THE X-FILES series a little bit. I’m going to mention a handful of individual episodes and I want you to give me some initial thoughts of reflection or an anecdote or whatever comes to your mind when I mention the episode. I’m going to start off with one of the more legendary X-FILES episodes of all time

…HOME.

MS: That was so powerful and so incredible…the idea behind it. All I had to do was sit there at the keyboard as something came up right from my gut, into my fingers and plopped down.

I was possessed absolutely with that episode. I’m telling you, when the shows were that good it was less than easy. It just flowed. It was so natural and came so easily. I don’t know what else to say. It was just so inspiring that you couldn’t miss. You couldn’t go wrong when you were just so completely mesmerized by the show and that was one of the classics. You are absolutely right.


SK: That’s TV history in my opinion. Nobody has seen anything like that since or before and it still remains one of those episodes you clearly remember where you were when you first saw it.

MS: I also thought that it was so powerful even with no music and just sound effects. Like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) and how great that was.

But (HOME) was a classic no doubt about it.


SK: The next one is one of the more beautiful and poignant scores you’ve done for the series. It’s one of my favorites, THE FIELD WHERE I DIED.

MS: There was an opportunity there. So much of the music in the first season or first part of the first year was all of this musical vapor and atmospheric sound design stuff. I knew that I just loved being able to write a melodic piece and here was an opportunity where it presented itself that worked out great.

I was a little nervous when Chris and company would hear a melody. They might think “Uh oh.” I tried to make it as honest and heartfelt as possible.

I think that actually leads right over to what I did with I WANT TO BELIEVE with these themes. Frank Spotnitz is a real straight forward, serious, but good-natured guy and he walked over during one of the recordings of one of these pieces and there were tears in his eyes. That was like, “Wow!”

I don’t want to sound like I’m so full of myself but there were so many magic moments in the scoring of this movie, especially with these themes. I think you will know what I mean when you see it.


SK: The teary eyes from any of your audience members is definitely the ultimate compliment for a film or television composer.

The episode that I consider to be the quintessential episode – if no body had ever seen the show and they said “What one episode should I see?” I would tell them to go see JOSE CHUNG’S FROM OUTER SPACE.

MS: That was such a remarkable episode. Getting Charles Nelson Riley in that was genius. He was just so quirky and perfect. That’s another thing that seemed to play automatic.

The idea…what was sort of like 50’s bebop jazz with the bongos…almost like something from Ed Wood but finger snapping and the piano thing.

Using the little jazz combo – without overdoing it – gave such an interesting flavor and again, very different from most X-FILES music.


SK: THE X-FILES is well-known for darkness and for beauty but one element that often gets overlooked was comedy. I’ve always thought SMALL POTATOES was one of the great comedic episodes of the series.

MS: There was a palette of instruments consisting of strings and woodwinds that I had for that show that in a way dictated some of the other lighthearted or comic shows. The sound relied on pizzicato strings a lot.

Nevertheless it seemed sparse enough and not over-the-top but definitely lighthearted with a lot of good space between notes. There were woodwind solos with pizzicato strings and some piano and every once in a while one of the classic X-FILES weird sounds would pop in.

Those episodes were tons of fun because it really relied on timing. It also seemed that the economy of the music was a big part of that to make it successful.


SK: One of the things I’ve always been curious about is in the episode CLOSURE from the seventh season when you finally learned the fate of Mulder’s sister, it’s one of the rare moments where you didn’t actually compose the music. They cut in “My Weakness” by Moby.

First of all, did you have anything to do with the selection of that piece and I often wondered was it at all disappointing for you not be able to score such a major resolution in the X-FILES mythology?

MS: That’s a good question and luckily for myself, I really thought that song was perfect. I didn’t have anything to do with it or the decision behind it but I felt totally comfortable.

Every once in a while, when Chris would pick out a pop song or whatever, he would always make really great choices and I thought that was a good one.

He was a big fan of Moby at the time and actually my theme for HARSH REALM was inspired by Moby where I used some snippets of Mussolini giving a speech. I used it in sort of a musical-sample way over the dark music. There was sort of a hip-hop type rhythm section I used with this Mussolini thing. It think it had a pretty cool effect actually.


SK: If somebody had told me before watching CLOSURE, that they ended it with a piece that you didn’t compose, I would have screamed “Blasphemy!”

That said, I do think it was one of the more powerful, amazing, and emotional moments in the entire series.

MS: Chris’s taste in pop music and alternative music…I’ve been right there with him.

So that’s always great. I remember in MILLENNIUM, there were some opera pieces and in the great black-and-white show, THE POST-MODERN PROMETHEUS, they took a piece from (Camille) Saint-Saëns, called THE CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS. So we have been all over the map. What’s that Johnny Cash song? “I’ve been everywhere man…”

I have been everywhere musically with the X-FILES. From harpsichord baroque, string quartets, live sopranos…the Scully theme that people talk about a lot, so…

They were talking about doing another movie after (I WANT TO BELIEVE) and I thought “You are kidding! I thought this was going to be it.” I suppose if this does big business or acceptable business they might keep doing some more. That would be incredible.


SK: Looking back on it all…the show, the two films, in your best summation, what does the X-FILES mean to you?

MS: At first it was an absolute shock! When I first saw the pilot, I knew it was good. I knew it was well done but like everyone else I had no idea whatsoever that it was going to turn into this cult phenomenon.

The magic of that time in my life was just amazing. If that happened again in my life it would be a miracle of miracles. To be a part of something where I do music for either a TV show or a movie that became another iconic thing, that would be amazing. But believe me, I am very satisfied with this one!


SK: Can you recount your experience composing the now classic theme for the THE X-FILES series?

MS: The story about the theme is so cool.

At first, Chris sent me a collection of CDs and music ranging from classical to punk rock to all sorts of things. He said “I like the guitar here. I like the vocals here. I like the drum sound here.” So to make a long story short, I did four themes before I hit upon the final one and all of them were based on material that he gave me.

They were more of what you would think perhaps a sci-fi theme would be: loud, fast, and weird. He was very cool about the whole process. I said, “Look, let’s try this…Let me just start from scratch and erase everything we have done and see what I can come up with. I’m getting to know you better and your musical sensibilities and what you have a taste for, so just give me a shot here.” He said, “Absolutely!”

I remember he walked out of the studio. I put my hand down on the keyboard and I had this delay echo effect which later became the four note piano triplet figure that repeats itself, “Da-da-da, Da-da-da, Da-da-da…” I said, “Wow! That’s a happy accident.” So keeping with the Chris Carter school of music – nothing slick or overproduced and really, really simple – I thought, “What else does it really need?”

It needed a pad of stuff underneath and then a melody and that was it. So I had the piano part. I had the pad combination of a lot of things, and then I came up with this tune.

Then it was a matter of what instrument or sound would play it and I went through everything that makes a sound from saxophone to guitar to flutes, all of the regular instruments and synthesizer stuff. I then stumbled upon this one sound.

I remember my wife hearing that whistle sound. She was out in the yard and the door was open. She came in and said, “You know, that’s pretty cool.”

I got Chris back in my studio and he’s very quiet. He hears it and he says “That’s great” in a very low key way. He kept hearing it and hearing it and he said, “I think that’s it. I think that’s our TWILIGHT ZONE theme.”

Then he said, “OK, now we have to get it approved by Fox so I want to bring it in with you. We’ll both sit there with them and play it.”

I meet him over at the studio and I have a boom box and a CD and we go in there and he looks at his watch and goes, “Oh no! I have a meeting. I can’t stay. Hey guys, this is the theme I want. Here’s Mark Snow… I have got to go.”

So I’m left with these four executives and they are all in suits and they are all very nice and respectful and I played the piece and they looked like they didn’t know what the hell happened. They couldn’t say anything.

One guy said “You know, that is really…I am telling you…” and then he would look to his friend and say “Bill, what do you think?”…“This piece…Sam?” and they would go around the room and no one would say anything. But they signed off on it.

Whatever it was, a month or two later when the show was beginning to take off and the music was getting noticed, one of these guys called up and said “Didn’t I tell you how great that was, huh?”

“OK…”

What do you day? You say “Yes Sir, thank you very much.”


SK: That very first draft that you played for Chris, is that the draft that we hear on the show?

MS: Actually there was a little more stuff in it. He said “Why don’t you just simplify it? You’ve got these three basic elements. Just take out this, this, and this.” It wasn’t too much more.


SK: Are there any particular episodes that I might not have mentioned that seem to stand out in your mind as being a favorite of yours?

MS: Oh God…


SK: Hard question, huh?

MS: That is. I forget the name of the show, but the side show circus group with this guy who had…


SK: HUMBUG.

MS: Yeah, HUMBUG, where his twin was attached to him and would crawl out in the middle of the night to all kinds of mischief. God that was amazing! I’m just at a loss of remembering names…THE POSTMODERN PROMETHEUS was a big deal. JOSE CHUNG was great. CLYDE BRUCKMAN was a great one…HOME.


SK: THE HOST…That was probably the first slap across the face for people watching the X-FILES in its debut season. They are getting comfortable in the first season and all of a sudden THE HOST comes on, it’s like, “Whoa! This is something different.”

MS: The series of shows that Micheal McKean was in (DREAMLAND and DREAMLAND II)…Just name it. They are all good. The JFK black-and-white in and out with the Cigarette Smoking Man was amazing…


SK: There’s that block of episodes in the fourth season that stick out for me, with HOME, UNRUHE, MUSINGS OF A CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN, NEVER AGAIN, THE FIELD WHERE I DIED…There are like five or six of them within an eight week period that I think represent some of the best episodes of the series. What an amazing run. I have a hard time picking my favorites too.

MS: I remember there was one where there is an Amish sect that has all kinds of crazy stuff going on in a very rural country setting.

I remember using this ram’s horn sound as a signature sound for that episode with just two notes that sounded very primitive. It also had a kind of scary religious overtone to it.

SK: Great stuff! Real quick, do you have anything planned after X-FILES 2? What do you have coming up in the future?

MS: Actually I’m writing a score now that is a completely different change of pace. It’s a kids movie, sort of Tom Sawyer meets Hitchcock and it’s really well done and cute and sweet. It’s an independent movie.

In fact, it’s directed by a guy named Bobby Moresco, who was one of the producers of MILLENNIUM of all things and he also co-wrote CRASH (2004) with Paul Haggis. He really had a love for this story and did a really great job. It’s a lot of fun going from the big X-FILES to this other thing.


SK: Well Mark, I’ve had a blast chatting with you today. I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do so. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors hope I can talk more X-FILES again soon.

MS: Thanks! It was my pleasure.


If you’d like to catch a great series of photos from the scoring sessions for THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE, check out the spread at ScoringSessions.com [HERE] and see Mark in action!

On behalf of Ain’t It Cool News I’d like to thank Mark Snow for his time. He worked in a generous hour between recording sessions for THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE in order to talk with me. Time is sparse during such hectic days for a composer and I’m very thankful Mark chose to divvy up some my way.

I’d also like to thank Costa Communications for their assistance with this interview.

There’s no doubt about it…I WANT TO BELIVE!

DVD Empire: Interview with Chris Carter

Feb-25-2005
DVD Empire
Interview with Chris Carter
Shannon T. Nutt

Since The X-Files left the air back in 2002, little has been seen or heard from the sci-fi scribe who also created such popular cult hits as Millennium, The Lone Gunmen and Harsh Realm. But we were able to catch up with Chris at a hidden location and uncover the secret projects he’s been working on. We got the chance to ask him about the impending release of The Lone Gunmen on DVD, if he had any regrets about the way The X-Files or Millennium ended, and…of course…got the latest scoop on The X-Files 2 movie!

DVD Empire: The first question everyone wants to know is what have you been up to since The X-Files left the air?

Chris Carter: I’ve taken a little bit of time for myself and gathered myself before starting something new – which I’ve done. I’m writing two different scripts for two different studios.

DVD Empire: And what is the current status of a possible X-Files 2 feature film?

Chris Carter: It’s currently in negotiations, and things are looking positive.

DVD Empire: There have been rumors on the Net about how far along things are – whether there’s a script, whether there’s not a script…can you clarify that?

Chris Carter: There’s not a script, but Frank Spotnitz and I have worked out a story. Actually, we did that quite a while ago.

DVD Empire: What can you tell us about A Philosophical Investigation? I’ve read that it’s something you and Frank Spotnitz are working on.

Chris Carter: It was a book that Paramount came to me with, and I liked certain things in it – mostly the main character. And I took it to Frank, and he read it and responded to the same things. We took our ideas to Paramount and they liked them enough that we went forward…and we hope to finish that script soon.

DVD Empire: Is that a film that may happen before you get around to the next X-Files movie?

Chris Carter: We’ll finish that script before we finish the new X-Files script. Whether it makes it to the screen…that’s ultimately someone else’s decision.

DVD Empire: I’ve also read that this is a project you’d like to direct?

Chris Carter: When we made the deal, I tied myself into it as the prospective director.

DVD Empire: Another project that I’ve read about is The World Of Ted Serios.

Chris Carter: Yes, I’m working on that and am almost finished with it. It’s taken me a lot longer than I imagined – mostly because it took much more research than I had anticipated.

DVD Empire: Is that a project you also plan on directing, or are you just on as a writer?

Chris Carter: I would like to direct that.

DVD Empire: One of the reasons we requested an interview at this time is because The Lone Gunmen series is about to be released on DVD. Looking back at the show, and the characters – Langly, Frohike and Byers – it seemed like the perfect recipe for a spin-off series, given the popularity of those characters among X-Files fans. I was wondering what your assessment was of why the show didn’t work?

Chris Carter: I love those characters…they are the creation of James Wong and Glen Morgan. They were a nice addition to the show and I thought they were a good idea for a spin-off series. The idea for a spin-off series wasn’t mine though, it was the idea of Vince Gilligan, Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban. And even though my name was on it, it was really their series and I thought they did a fantastic job. The reason the show did not make it I think had more to do with the promotion of that show and the network and studio’s belief in it.

DVD Empire: As far as the DVD is concerned, I know you’ve contributed commentary tracks on releases of your other shows…are you involved on The Lone Gunmen release?

Chris Carter: Yes. I do commentary, but as I say, I’m really an equal partner with all these other fellas who have contributed more to it originally and ultimately their contribution is greater than mine. But that’s not to take anything away from it – I think it’s a terrific series.

DVD Empire: Let me ask you this about the series. I’m sure you recall that the pilot episode featured a scenario quite similar to the events that would happen on September 11, 2001. Were there any concerns from either FOX or those at 1013 Productions [Carter’s production company] about making that episode available on this release or perhaps trimming the footage in some way?

Chris Carter: I think that there have been concerns ever since 9/11. It is a different scenario, although the similarities are clear. I think there’s always been concern.

DVD Empire: The episode from season nine of The X-Files, “Jump The Shark,” which kind of wrapped up The Lone Gunmen storyline is also included on this DVD set. Without giving too much away for those who haven’t seen it, a lot of fans were upset with the fate of the characters. Do you have any regrets about the way their storyline was wrapped up…or, for that matter, the fates of other major characters on The X-Files, such as Cancer Man and Alex Krycek?

Chris Carter: I thought everyone got their fitting end. We thought about this a lot, and we talked about it, and I think we did everything right. I have to say though that Seasons 8 and 9 were – to use a parlance from football – “broken plays,” with things we didn’t anticipate, including the disappearance of David Duchovny.

DVD Empire: Looking back at it…obviously the decision was made that the show was going to continue even though David wasn’t going to be there. I’m wondering if David’s absence – or the absence for most of that final season, since he did return for the final show – changed the way that you wrapped up the series or changed your original ideas for how the show would end?

Chris Carter: Well, although I had clear plans in my mind of how I would wrap up the series, I could not have imagined nine years of the show way back when. It’s hard to say that anything was changed – we just dealt with the problems, assets and issues as they presented themselves to us and we tried to do the best job, as we always did. So, it’s hard to say if anything would have been done differently. We did what we thought was best at the time and I’m happy with the results.

DVD Empire: FOX has also been releasing season sets of Millennium. I’d like to ask a couple questions about that show…the show started as a very gritty drama about serial killers and very much grounded in reality; and then in the second season, Morgan and Wong came in as executive producers and the show had much more of an X-Files kind of feel to it. Would it be incorrect for me to say that the show took a different course than the one you had originally intended for it?

Chris Carter: When Morgan and Wong came on, they had very strong ideas. They had done such great work on The X-Files, I entrusted them to take the show in the direction that they saw fit. The show was a big enough ratings winner to get picked up for a second season, but it wasn’t as big of a hit as The X-Files was. I was very delighted when I heard they [Morgan and Wong] were coming onto the show, and knew they would come on with very good and strong ideas, as they always do. And they basically took the show in the direction they saw fit in the second season. Then they left the show for the third season, and I came back and – as I did with The X-Files – I dealt with the problems and pieces as they were presented to me, and that’s why I think maybe you get…it’s not a discontinuity…but there were certainly thematic changes through the course of the three seasons.

DVD Empire: Following up on the same question I asked about The X-Files earlier – you probably had a good idea about halfway through Season Three that Millennium wouldn’t be picked up for a fourth season – did the show end the way you would have preferred or do you think it was a missed opportunity?

Chris Carter: I think it was a missed opportunity. I think if FOX had to do it over again, they would have kept that show on the air. I actually knocked myself out of the box with Harsh Realm. It kind of stole away from Millennium [Harsh Realm replaced Millennium in its time slot in the fall of 1999]. Millennium’s ratings were actually better than anything that appeared in that time slot for quite a while.

DVD Empire: It seems to me that given the popularity of shows like C.S.I., as well as a renewed interest in religion after 9/11, that a show like Millennium was almost ahead of its time and would probably be quite successful today. Did you ever have any thoughts about revisiting those characters in some type of format, whether it be theatrically or perhaps a television movie?

Chris Carter: Because the business is a forward moving business, I think that they didn’t want to move backwards with Millennium. But yes, I think when you look at franchise shows like C.S.I. and N.C.I.S. and people go back and watch the Millennium pilot, they’re going to see the direct connection visually and I think thematically with the serial killer stories. That’s not to take anything away from C.S.I. I think one of the problems may have been the religious element…the apocalyptic element…which C.S.I. is not encumbered with. The mythology, if you will…it’s something they benefit from [not having], and something we may have suffered from.

DVD Empire: Looking at The X-Files and Millennium and the other shows you’ve been involved with, it seems to me that the ‘look’ that you brought to television – kind of the idea of making an hour-long ‘movie’ rather than just another episodic TV program – has kind of influenced all the popular one-hour dramas we see today. Every show we see now is moody and dark, and seems to have borrowed that look from The X-Files.

Chris Carter: Thank you for saying so. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know and I wouldn’t want to take credit for it. There are so many talented people out there. If you look at the shows now on HBO and some of the beautiful shows on network television – they are all done by people that may not have been X-Files fans, so I don’t know…but I’ll tell you this – this is the secret to being a successful television show: the people that you hire. From your writing staff to your producers to your production designer to your D.P. [Director of Photography]…these are all critical positions, and I got very lucky and hired very, very good people.

DVD Empire: Because of the projects that you’ve done and the projects that you’ve been successful with, people tend to associate you with science fiction. Do you worry about forever being associated with the science fiction genre, and is there a burning desire to be successful in a totally different genre?

Chris Carter: No, I don’t feel pigeonholed at all. Really, it’s up to me to show people with my work the range of my abilities. It’s up to me to succeed or fail, to be honest. And so I don’t worry about that at all. I never considered The X-Files to be a science fiction show in the beginning, I considered it to be speculative science show…more of a science show than science fiction. But, you know, people call it science fiction. I think the supernatural does interest me…and people are going to label you no matter what.

DVD Empire: For my final question, I wanted to give you the opportunity to tell our readers about The Carter Foundation – which is a scholarship you set up for students who want to pursue the study of science.

Chris Carter: My brother, who is a scientist, and I put together this foundation and we selectively have given monies to people…kids…who would not normally have access to these funds for the pursuit of their education.

DVD Empire: Chris, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us, and wish you all the luck with your future endeavors.

Chris Carter: Thank you.

Dreamwatch: Lone Star

Apr-??-2004
Dreamwatch
Lone Star

As one third of THE X-FILES loveable geek squad, The Lone Gunmen, Richard ‘Ringo’ Langly will forever be remembered for his flowing locks, huge IQ and love of Dungeons & Dragons. More than 10 years after he first stepped onto THE X-FILES set, actor Dean Haglund recalls his role as Langly and tells Kate Lloyd why he wasn’t *too* disappointed when THE LONE GUNMEN spin-off series was cancelled…

DW: What did you enjoy most about playing Langly?

The wardrobe! Seriously, I didn’t have to change a thing. The hair was real, I would just come in my jeans, change my T-shirt and I was ready to go. Everybody else had to wear leather or put on a suit or something, but I was in and out in a minute and a half. It was nice.

DW: Looking back, why do you think TXF became as successful as it did? Was is simply a case of right time, right place?

It was the right time. I believe the Germans call it zeitgeist. There was a moment in history where the Berlin wall had come down, there was an Israeli peace accord and there was no war on terror. For this 7 to 10 year gap there were no enemies. You could just sit in this kind of peaceful silence and go, “Oh yeah, up in space there are enemies. Oh, and I don’t trust my government.” And you had time to really enjoy this story. Now, if you came up with the idea of an alien hybrid invasion with your government against you, everybody would go, “Oh God, not again. Do I have to hear this?”

DW: As someone close to the show, did you have any idea where it was heading in terms of its mythology?

They kept that really under wraps. I think in the press they said they had a long, rich plan, but I don’t think it was that laid out really! [Laughs] It was sort of, “Well, we should eventually get to there, I guess, but in the meantime let’s just try to make crazy stuff.” So I really had no idea!

DW: Were you disappointed when TLG spin-off series was cancelled?

Not really, I think it was a great amount of time. I know the writers were particularly hurt because they were just laying out the groundwork of what they were planning to do, which was going to be *really* cool, and so they were like, “Aw, what a shame!” It ended too early for their part, but for me I was just thankful that we got to do 13 episodes.

DW: Why do you think the studio pulled the plug?

It was the year everyone was watching WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE, which was showing five times a week in America. I don’t know, these game shows!

DW: In the end, the Lone Gunmen went out in a blaze of glory in TXF season 9 episode, “Jump the Shark”. Was that a good way to go?

I thought so. If they hadn’t ended it that way we’d probably have been walking into the sunset with a stick and a bag in search of another adventure. And that wouldn’t have been the smart way to go …

DW: What was the atmosphere like on the set of the final XF episode, “The Truth”?

There was this sense of relief because the show was really long and hard to do. Some of these guys would see the sun come up every Saturday morning because they’d worked all Friday night, for months on end. They were thrilled to finally get their lives back. So while it was sad to see it go it was also like, “Thank God, we can go shopping at a normal hour again!”

DW: Do you think it was the right time to end the show?

I do. I think it could even have ended with season 8. But, at that point, those are the decisions that the network makes and one is powerless to argue against. Plus, the writers still had some cool ideas, and didn’t really want to fully wrap it up and get that Smoking Man …

DW: Season 8 of TXF is coming out on DVD this month. Where does that year rank for you?

This was the year we were filming the Gunmen spin-off, so it became quite the ordeal logistically because we were in Vancouver shooting the spin-off and TXF was filming down in LA. We either had to get on a plane and film an episode, or they would send scripts up and we would shoot these extra scenes and they would be cut it. It was very confusing trying to keep track of the storyline. One minute we were at Mulder’s funeral, next there was a baby. But it was a lot of fun!

DW: What kind of reaction did you get from fans to the last few years of the show?

I think round about season 8 a lot of people said, “No David? I’m out of here, see you later.” And so those two last years just sort of hung on. Because of [Duchovny’s absence] some fans sort of went, “Oh dammit!”

DW: Do you have any favourite XF episodes?

Oddly enough, my favourite ones are the ones the Gunmen weren’t in. Maybe this is my taste but I really like the Jim Rose freakshow circus episode, “Humbug”, just because it was those guys and I’d seen them in the bar doing their act and always enjoyed it. Oh, and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. From a Gunmen standpoint, I liked the flashback episode, “Unusual Suspects”. That set up how the Gunmen started and how we introduced Mulder to the concept of conspiracies. That was a lot of fun to do and that was the first all-Gunmen episode, so it was a real thrill for us.

DW: You guys were a big hit with fans. Was there ever a time when you were getting more fan mail than David Duchovny?

No. [Laughs]. He got a *lot* of fan mail. He would get all these girls painting him pictures — you know, ladies in sweaters and that kind of thing …

DW: What are you working on at the moment?

Where shall I begin? I did a movie called SPECTRES with [STAR TREK actresses] Marina Sirtis and Linda Park. I’m doing a lot of standup comedy and I’ve also invented a way to speed up your laptop computer without installing any hardware or uploading any software. It’s called the Chill Pak. It’s a simple little thing. It goes in your freezer and then you just whip it under your computer and it draws the heat directly away from the CPU. Time Warner Cable had just heard about it so they’re taking it to their regional meeting. We’ll see what happens.

DW: Finally, how likely is a second XF movie?

Well, Chris Carter is off surfing and climbing the mountains of the world at the moment, so I think the last thing on his mind is sitting around his computer. So it might be a little way off. I think they’re going to give it a little time so that fans can forget the Brady Bunch episode and move on!

DW: But it’s not a definite no?

It’s not a definite no. In fact, I know some executives at Fox are really looking forward to a second movie. So if they are the ones who have the wallet, then they make the decisions…

The X-Files Magazine: Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood

Apr-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood

It’s the last night on the set for actors Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood. There is an air of impending sadness, because this could be their last night of shooting on any episode of The X-Files. So far, however, the mood is light. The actors and crew stand in clusters, chatting and laughing, as they wait to begin filming another scene. Several crew members ask for pictures with the cast of The Lone Gunmen. But later, the tone of the set will switch, as the cast and crew shoot close-ups for the trio’s final scene, which just happens to be the characters’ death scene. The script reads: Jimmy slowly lays his hand on the glass. The Gunmen do the same… three hands side-by-side opposite Jimmy’s, whose eyes now well with tears. This is goodbye. Reactions are mixed among the three actors. They all agree that the deaths of Frohike, Byers, and Langly while sad are fitting. “I’d already mourned the fact that the show was ending,” says Bruce Harwood, who plays John Fitzgerald Byers. “The fact that we were being killed, I don’t think made too much of a difference to me. It doesn’t surprise me that we go out this way.”

“Isn’t that how we all want to go?” remarks Dean Haglund, who plays Langly. “Well, maybe not so painfully,” he laughs.

Tom Braidwood, who plays Melvin Frohike, was not enthusiastic about the ending at first. “I guess I was a little disappointed,” he admits. “I don’t quite see why it had to happen.” Braidwood, who worked on the Vancouver set of the series as an assistant director for Seasons One through Five, is able to see the producers’ need to wrap up The X-Files characters once and for all. “In the end, it’s right for them,” he surmises.

Choosing to have the Lone Gunmen die at the end of “Jump the Shark,” did not come easy to co-writers of the episode, executive producers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban. “It was actually a really hard decision to make,” explains Spotnitz. He exposes his fondness for the Gunmen, saying, “It’s funny, because they’re fictitious characters, and the show is coming to an end, but we really have a lot of affection for them.”

Spotnitz says that he, Gilligan and Shiban wanted to give the Gunmen a special ending, one that could only be achieved with such a dramatic climax. “It felt like the right thing to do,” he says. “We could really make them into big heroes and give them their moment to shine.”

Although they did not, at first, know how they wanted the Gunmen to meet their fate, the writers had definite ideas about how it should play out. “We just knew that we wanted it to be unequivocally heroic,” Spotnitz wholeheartedly.

Chris Carter’s announcement that this season of The X-Files would be the last came just as the writers were plotting out this one storyline. That was when they knew what they had to do. “It gave us the impetus to do this kind of ending,” Shiban says. Although a bit traumatic to comprehend at first, Shiban found himself excited at the story prospect. “If it is done well, there is no more heroic thing to do a character,” he says. “It seems just like the perfect end for the unsung heroes of the world.”

The producers did consider the effect on loyal Gunmen enthusiasts. “The ending is going to be challenging for fans of the Lone Gunmen,” guesses Gilligan. “It makes part of me sad, but it’s hopefully a noble end.”

Shiban has his own rationalization. “They die to save the world, and that to me is a fitting end.”

The guest actors in this episode are also well-versed in the Gunmen mythology, appearing in both The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen series with the conspiracy-debunking cabal. Stephen Snedden and Zuleikha Robinson make a reappearance (see ‘Shooting Co-Stars’ box-out), while Jim Fyfe also returns, having played Jimmy the Geek in The X-Files episode “Three of a Kind” and also dead Jimmy’s twin brother, Kimmy the Geek in The Lone Gunmen. Fyfe recalls his fondness for the three actors, as well as their on-screen counterparts. “I love them,” he says. “As guys they’re great, and as characters they’re great.”

When Fox canceled The Lone Gunmen in 2001, executive producers Gilligan, Shiban and Spotnitz were sure that they still had a story to round out. “It was such a big cliffhanger sitting out there,” Gilligan explains. “And we knew we wanted to resolve it.”

The ninth season of The X-Files was the obvious place to tie up those loose ends. “Within the X-Files context, we sort of vowed to ourselves to make this work,” states Shiban.

The return of this plot meant that they had to wait a whole year from the last episode of The Lone Gunmen to write the resolution. Gilligan admits to having some trouble when he actually had to sit down at the computer. “I spent a lot of time building it up in my head,” he says. “The whole time saying, ‘This has to be the greatest episode ever. This has to serve two masters – The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen series – and marry them together perfectly. It has to be beautiful.'”

While crediting Spotnitz with making sure that the episode would get done at all, Gilligan still toiled with developing the plot. “It’s taken me the longest of about any episode to work my way through,” he says. “It’s been a tricky one.”

The writers agreed that they could not simply make this show a continuation of The Lone Gunmen finale episode, “All About Yves.” “I was thinking along those lines,” Gilligan acknowledges, “but Frank rightly said we can’t exactly do that because this is a whole different television series – one that we’re using as a platform to finish this story.”

The writers also had to bear in mind that many X-Files fans may not have tuned in to the Lone Gunmen’s series. “It would have thrown The X-Files audience too much,” says Spotnitz.

The three put their heads together to figure out just where exactly the audience would find the Gunmen and their cohorts after a whole year. The story they came up with reunites the Gunmen, Jimmy, and Yves with arch nemesis Morris Fletcher (played comically and astutely by Michael McKean) was pivotal to The Lone Gunmen finale. Fans of The X-Files will also remember the character from the “Dreamland” two-parter and “Three of a Kind,” both in Season Six. In “All About Yves,” Fletcher orchestrated a dramatic con job, kidnapping Yves and leaving the Gunmen in a secure, underground bunker. Naturally, the Gunmen are none too thrilled to encounter Fletcher again.

In “Jump the Shark,” Fletcher first draws Agents Doggett and Reyes into Yves’ case by teasing them with the claim that she is a Super Soldier. The agents then bring in the Gunmen. The episode moves quickly out of the realm of Super Soldiers and into that of international terrorism, biological agents, and shark cartilage. Yes, shark cartilage. Sharks were incorporated into the story after the title of the episode was chosen. “Jump the Shark” is an entertainment web site launched in 1997, named for the famous Happy Days episode in which Fonzie jumps over a tank full of sharks on his motorcycle. The creator of the website, Jon Hein, christened the term to portray the moment in a television series’ run when its originality has begun to go downhill. Spotnitz calls the title, “a funny joke at our own expense.”

Gilligan agrees. “I kind of like it when a show ribs itself, and the idea of jumping the shark is sort of fun.”

The producers arranged for Hein to have a walk-on role in the episode, but unfortunately, his schedule did not allow for the appearance. Hein, however, was delighted to hear of his creation’s use as the episode’s title. “I thought it was great,” he declares enthusiastically. “The X-Files has always ‘got the web’ and actively incorporated it into the show with a great sense of humour and cleverness.” The X-Files is the site’s second most popular vote-getter. Most of Jump the Shark’s voters feel that the show has never, in fact, “jumped the shark.”

After the writers secured their title, they looked for ways to incorporate sharks into the episode. Gilligan recalls that the writers liked the image of the shark in the first shot of the show. They came up with the teaser that features Fletcher on a boat in the Bahamas.

“We threw out the teaser for a long time because it felt, at first, that it got us off to the wrong start,” says Shiban. After several sessions of working out more traditional X-Files teasers, they came back to the original, more comedic one.

“We wanted to start it off and truly tease the audience in the classic sense of a teaser, to get them intrigued,” Gilligan opines. “Michael McKean does that.”

McKean is a favourite of the show’s producers. “When an actor exceeds your expectations, it’s great,” says Spotnitz. “He is a surefooted actor, period. Be he’s also a great comedic actor, with great comedic timing and instincts.”

“He’s just a delight. He so embodies this character that it’s scary,” Shiban gloats about his guest star. “One of the reasons he’s such a good fit with both The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen, is because, as comic as he is, he carries himself with such a sense of reality.”

Also praising McKean, Gilligan says simply, “He so gets it.”

The Lone Gunmen themselves are also exciting about reuniting with McKean. “We’ve been talking Spinal Tap, and I switch from fellow actor to annoying groupie,” jokes Haglund.

“Micheal’s great,” agrees Braidwood. “He’s a character and a very funny man. He’s a lot of fun to work with.”

Gilligan likens the character of Morris Fletcher to Louie DePalma from the television series Taxi. “He’s the guy you love to hate,” Gilligan laughs. “But you don’t really hate him. Deep down you sort of love him.”

After Fletcher’s humorous entrance, the story gradually becomes more serious, culminating in the Gunmen’s touching final scene with Yves and Jimmy. Balancing humour is something The X-Files writers have done numerous times throughout the series’ nine seasons, especially when the Lone Gunmen are on hand. In this episode, however, it was especially challenging.

“In the writing, we did a number of revisions around that very issue,” Shiban states.

“The world in which [these characters] live is not funny,” Spotnitz elaborates. “We had to make it more real.”

Over the course of writing The Lone Gunmen series last year, the producers, according to Gilligan, found the show “worked best when there was actually a little more drama rather than a little less.” He thinks they achieved this tone best in the series finale. “That episode struck a nice balance between comedy and sort of high stakes seriousness,” he recalls wistfully. “We tried to strike that same tone in this one.”

Admittedly, this episode hits both ends of the spectrum. “It is a balancing act, and we’re watching dailies every day and walking that tightrope,” Shiban confesses.

Another challenge was the actual melding of the two shows. Once they got into the writing of it, it became very difficult to merge the two series together. Spotnitz refers to the combination of the two shows, something they have done before with the Millennium series crossover in the seventh season X-Files episode, “Millennium,” as a “massive headache.”

Shiban remarks that it was difficult to communicate the complicated back-story that would have become The Lone Gunmen mythology had the series continued. “We kept running up to these moments where the three of us would be working on the script,” he recounts, “when we asked ‘Does The X-Files audience need to know this? Is the back story too complicated?’ You have a whole world for a series, but this is just one episode.”

The writers were now faced with the daunting task of communicating this world to a viewing audience that may not be familiar with The Lone Gunmen series. Calling it a “necessary evil,” Gilligan explains that they tried to keep exposition to a minimum.

Another challenge to writing this episode was, as Spotnitz puts it, “striking a balance in screentime between the Lone Gunmen and Doggett and Reyes.” Add Morris Fletcher, Jimmy Bond, Yves Adele Harlow, and Kimmy the Geek to the mix, and you’ve got a full plate for any writer.

“It’s an exercise in trunk packing,” says Gilligan. “You have to use every little bit of available space.”

Shiban, while discussing the difficulty of working Agents Doggett and Reyes into the initial story, says that he found it just as problematic as having to incorporate the characters into the X-file into any script. “The X-Files is a hard form to master,” he muses, “which is partly what I think makes it so good when it clicks. But we struggle every week.”

“We realized very early that our Act IV would mostly be the Gunmen, because we’re doing a story about how the Gunmen are unsung heroes,” Shiban says. “We want them to be heroic in the climax. Therefore, we knew that [Doggett and Reyes’] role would be diminished at some point, and that made it easier in some ways.”

The producers are happy with the final script as a tribute to the Gunmen, but they understand fan reaction will undoubtedly be mixed. “Some will hate us for it,” predicts Shiban. “But I bet the ones who say they hate the idea will cry when they see it.”

“At the end of the day, if the fans of The Lone Gunmen series are the ones pleased, that’d be enough for me,” sighs Gilligan. Although he hopes that all X-philes will enjoy it, Gilligan offers up some morsel of completion for the fans of the canceled series. “They stuck with us through thick and thin, and I wanted to see something resolved for them.”

As the late night on the set draws to a close, the actors reflect on the end of the Lone Gunmen, bringing up feelings about the end of The X-Files series as a whole.

“I’m really sad to see it go,” says Fyfe of The X-Files. “I think all successful shows become a part of the culture in a way. I’ll miss it.”

The cast and crew once again laugh together between takes. Although the sentiment of the episode is bittersweet, everyone on set is having fun with the one last go around.

“What I’ll miss are the people, because they’re all great to work with,” Braidwood reflects. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and that’s what I’ll miss the most.”

The X-Files Magazine: Frank Discussion

Feb-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
Frank Discussion

The X-Files Magazine: Before we get into the specifics of how and why there’s a season nine, were you among those rooting for the show to return?

Frank Spotnitz: Yes, I was. I thought Robert Patrick was such a home run last year and I was excited about Annabeth Gish and what her character could be. I believed in the show and what the show could be this year.

The X-Files Magazine: What did you make of the prospect of doing the show without Chris?

Frank Spotnitz: For some time we didn’t actually know if we had Chris and we worked for, I don’t know, four to six weeks without him this year. It was actually Chris’ idea; he encouraged the rest of us to signup without knowing whether or not he was going to come back. I never would have done it unless he wanted us to do it and encouraged us to do it. I made it clear to him that I hoped he’d come back. So I guess I felt we could do it without Chris Carter and that we would do it, that we’d do as great a job as we could, but I was hoping all along that he would decide to come back.

The X-Files Magazine: Some people feel that the show itself is about Mulder’s quest for the truth. And those people argue that without Mulder there is no X-Files. How big a hurdle is that, in your mind, for the show to overcome?

Frank Spotnitz: The show has been Mulder’s quest for the truth. It was that for seven years and part of the eighth year. But I really think that with the introduction of John Doggett last year, the TV series started to take on e a new dimension. A baton was passed, almost literally. There was a scene in “Vienen” where Mulder literally handed over the X-Files office to Doggett. It’s always a question mark whether or not the audience will accept huge changes like this, because the characters are so important and so much of why you watch a TV series. But, having said that, I think The X-Files is a very strong idea for a series with an almost inexhaustible supply of stories. If you can find other characters that are strong and other actors who people like and want to watch. I think there’s potential for the show to go on indefinitely.

The X-Files Magazine: Were you pleased with David Duchovny’s final scene?

Frank Spotnitz: Yes, totally. That was one of my favorite scenes in the series. It moved me, so I was delighted with it.

The X-Files Magazine: Let’s talk first in broad strokes about Season Nine? To your thinking, what’s the big picture story wise?

Frank Spotnitz: It’s very interesting because Season Nine is sort of a three-lead show. It’s Scully and Doggett and Reyes. As you’ll see early on, it begins the way it left off last year, with Doggett and Ryes on the X-Files. Scully has a new role to play. She’s now a forensic investigator assigned to the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. So you’ll have these three legged investigations all season. It’s a different way to tell the stories, which is exciting for us because it makes the show fresh and new again and not things we’ve done before. That became a challenge late in the Mulder-Scully era, how to keep ourselves really interested and excited when you’re up to the 175th episode, the 180th episode. When you’ve done that much, how do you keep Mulder and Scully’s investigations feeling new? That’s not a problem anymore for anyone. We’re on our toes every week because we’ve never done this before.

The X-Files Magazine: Let’s hit specifics. What will Scully’s role be? Will she be off at Quantico, communicating with Doggett and Reyes by cellphone and in separate scenes with baby William, or will we see her with Doggett and Reyes?

Frank Spotnitz: Well, there’s no standard format for it. Sometimes she’ll be primarily at Quantico and sometimes she’ll be out in the field. Sometimes it’s focused on her, and Doggett and Reyes are in the background. There will be different shapes to all of these different stories. It really is a three-lead show in that they’ll all have individual moments to shine as characters and actors. And there will be quite a few scenes of the three of them together. That’s really interesting to what, because not only do Gillian, David and Annabeth like each other personally, but they have great chemistry together. We’ve got different dynamics on the show that we’ve never had before. We’ve got scenes with two strong, independent, professional women together, which we’d never played like this. The other interesting thing is that all three characters are heroic, but in different ways, and they’ve all got different crosses to bear as characters.

The X-Files Magazine: Take us through the various character interactions in S9.

Frank Spotnitz: Doggett has kind of declared war on Deputy Director Kersh. He’s accused him of complicity in his alien conspiracy or super-soldier conspiracy as Knowle Rohrer claimed it was. So that’s really where we’ve picked up this season. It’s a very awkward thing to do when you’re an FBI agent–accuse your superior of corruption, essentially. Agent Reyes is by his side. Agent Scully has other issues to deal with, like what is her baby? We’ve said that Mulder and Scully consummated their relationship and that Mulder appeared to be the father of the baby. That’s what Mulder and Scully believe, but we haven’t answered the question, how a barren woman could become pregnant. We haven’t answered the question of why all these aliens, if that’s what they were, surrounded Scully at the Desert Hot Springs in Georgia and then left her untouched. So there are some deep, personal mysteries that Scully has to deal with and solve. As she said in the season finale last year, the X-Files has become personal and have become her life. It’s not a case. It’s not something she can walk away from. It’s her child.

The X-Files Magazine: And Skinner?

Frank Spotnitz: For many years Skinner was this kind of Hamlet-like figure. He was torn between his responsibilities as an Assistant Director and his sympathies for Mulder and Scully. What was fun for us last year, and I think for Mitch as well, was that the character finally took sides and went with Mulder and Scully all the way. That’s still pretty much the role he plays this season. He’s much more of a character of action than he’s ever been before. And one of the reasons he’s able to be such a partisan on behalf of The X-Files is that there are new antagonists that have developed within the FBI, like Deputy Director Kersh and Assistant Director Follmer, who ranks the same as Skinner.

The X-Files Magazine: David Duchovny is gone, but how long a shadow will Mulder cast on the proceeding? Will he be a ghost lurking around the X-Files office?

Frank Spotnitz: Yes and no. A lot of people on the Internet, at least the louder, more strident voices in chat rooms, kept saying, “Mulder is the absent center.” And the other people were saying, “He’s not the absent center. Look at all these episodes that went by without even a mention of Mulder.” I think that’s the fundamental misunderstanding of the X-Files TV series and has always been. If you look at any of the seasons leading up to last season, you had these mythology episodes that really bring us up to speed on the personal lives of the characters and on the alien conspiracy. Then you’ve got these stand-alone episodes that rarely touch on the personal lives of the characters and are really separate, discrete installments of life on the X-Files. You’ll see Mulder dealt with or mentioned in depth in certain episodes, like we did in the first two episodes this year and like we will in other mythology episodes later in the season. Then you’ll have cases that are cases, that investigate monsters and other paranormal phenomena. It’s very hard to shoehorn the search for Mulder or the disappearance of Mulder into stories like that, and we really don’t try. But having said that, I think the fact that Mulder defines the X-Files, Mulder turned the X-Files into a unit, is hard for anyone to forget. He does come up a lot. His name is mentioned because of the spirit with which he investigated these cases. I also think what’s appealing about Doggett and Reyes is how much respect they have for Mulder. They very much respect and honor what came before them.

The X-Files Magazine: Simply put, will there be an episode that explains why he’s not there anymore?

Frank Spotnitz: Yes. That’s the biggest question we faced, how to gracefully address that while being true to the character because, obviously, we just don’t have David Duchovny. We wanted to come up with a worthy explanation for why he’s not there anymore. It was a big question going into the new season and it was partially explained by the end of the second episode. It’s a question that will come up again and again in the mythology episodes this season.

The X-Files Magazine: David Duchovny has said he’s willing to do another movie. Chris Carter has said there will be another movie. Do you have to bear a potential movie in mind while doing the day-to-day work on the show? And if so, isn’t that a pain?

Frank Spotnitz: It was a pain in the ass, but we’ve figured all that out, I think. We know where we we’re going this year .We have a very clear idea about this season will end for Scully and Mulder’s characters. There’s an anticipation that this is Gillian’s last year whether or not it’s the last year of the series, so we have prepared ourselves for that and have a master plan.

The X-Files Magazine: Let’s switch to the Lone Gunmen series. What went right and what went wrong with the show?

Frank Spotnitz: I thought a long more went right than went wrong. I wished very much the network had brought back the show for another year. There was a mighty campaign internally to keep it on the air. There was a lot of support for the show among the studio executives and some of the network executives too. I think they just took a gamble that they could do better. But I think The Lone Gunmen was a really good show. I was really proud of it. I’m very proud of the work the guys did and that Zuleikha Robinson and Stephen Snedden did. I think that the biggest curveball we threw the audiences was how comedic, how blatantly comedic the show was. And I don’t think people we’re expecting that from the people behind The X-Files. If I had to do it over again I might have tried to make the transition more slowly. Having said that, I think if the show had come back for another year it would have had a chance to settle in and find its audience. It’s a great disappointment.

The X-Files Magazine: After all of your years with the show, how would you define your contribution to The X-Files?

Frank Spotnitz: That’s a really hard question to answer. I was a neophyte coming into this show. I started as a staff writer. It was my first job, not only on TV, but in Hollywood. So much of this show is the singular vision of Chris Carter. He’s got a very very clear vision and I think everybody who has worked here has come to appreciate and respect that vision. Once having understood his point of view about storytelling I think we’ve all tried to bring our best work to it. And so it’s been a very collaborative atmosphere. This is my eighth year on the show, my seventh year with John and Vince. That’s a long association, a long time for a group of people to work together. I look at all of these episodes-I flip and see them on FX or in syndication on weekends-and I have memories of pieces of me and pieces of them in virtually every show. We’ve all poured our hearts and souls into it. I don’t think people generally understand, nor do they need to, particularly, how hard you have to work on a show like this and how much of your life is devoted to it. I’m very proud of it.

The X-Files Magazine: You directed your first episode in S8. How did Alone come about?

Frank Spotnitz: Season Eight was one of my best years, if not the best year, I’ve had on The X-Files. I wrote a lot of stand-alone episodes. The whole Lone Gunmen experience, though it ended, was a joy. I loved the show and I loved watching dailies every day. The directing was something I was kind of dragged into, kicking and screaming. I didn’t really have a great desire to do it. But I was convinced by a number of people, including David Duchovny, to do it before the chance went away. It was a bad time for me to do it in a way, because there was so much work to do as a writer and producer. We were still trying to figure out the season finale. My show went prep and I had no idea how it was going to end because I hadn’t finished the script. So I was extremely stressed. I had all the issues outside of being a director, plus the pressure of directing for the first time and not being entirely sure how that would go. But nobody told me how much fun it is to direct. You’ve got all these people who are trying to help you succeed. The actors were so good. I was thrilled with Robert and David and Gillian and also Jolie Jenkins, the guest actress who played Leyla Harrison. I was very proud of the show.

The X-Files Magazine: Last question. If this would be the last year of The X-Files or your last year with the show, what would you do for an encore?

Frank Spotnitz: This is the first time in six years where I’m only doing The X-Files. I’ve always been doing The X-Files and Millennium or Harsh Realm or The Lone Gunmen or Fight the Future. That’s been a great. But now I’m waiting to see what comes next, to see if Chris develops another series. If this is the end of the X-Files for me, I may go do something else, develop another show or write a movie. I don’t know what I’ll do next. But it’s kind of an exciting time.

The X-Files Magazine: One of a Kind

Feb-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
One of a Kind
Joe Nazzaro

[typed by MarieEve]

Long-time X-Files writer/executive producer Vince Gilligan chats to Joe Nazzaro about the future of the show, his personal favourite X-Files episodes, the cancellation of The Lone Gunmen, and much, much more.

For the better part of a decade now, writer/executive producer Vince Gilligan has been trying to push the envelope as far as what could be done with an X-Files episode. “Hungry” came from the idea of telling a story completely from the bad guy’s point of view; the groundbreaking “X-Cops” is a letter-perfect homage to the pseudo-reality show “Cops”, right down to the cheesy production values and bizarre camera angles; and “Bad Blood” managed to combine Rashomon-style flashbacks with a goofy vampire parody.

Gilligan began writing for The X-Files with “Soft Light” at the end of Season Two, eventually landing a staff position and working his way up the show’s production hierarchy. His episodes range from the terrifying (“Unruhe”, “Paper Hearts”) to the comedic (“Small Potatoes”, the aforementioned “Bad Blood”). More recently, his time has been divided between script rewrites on The X-Files and working on the short-lived spin-off series The Lone Gunmen, the unexpected cancellation of which still dismays and puzzles him to this day.

This season, Gilligan has written the psychological thriller “John Doe”, and is preparing to write and direct episode 18, the first time he’s directed for the series since Season Seven’s “Je Souhaite”. And finally, he’ll be teaming up with fellow staff writers frank Spotnitz and John Shiban to tie up some of the threads from The Lone Gunmen, which means the next several weeks are going to be rather busy. Just before sitting down to write episode 18 (a story he couldn’t reveal), Gilligan sat down to talk about his work on the series…

Do you find the current season easier to write because you’ve got new characters and situations to work with, or is it more difficult without the Mulder/Scully dynamic ?

In some ways it’s easier, and more difficult in others. It’s easier to come up with new ideas and new situations to put our two new characters in, by virtue of the fact that they’ve been in so few episodes compared to Mulder and Scully. And it’s challenging and exciting to come up with ideas for them because they’re such interesting and original characters as far as I’m concerned. I absolutely love the character of john Doggett, and the way Robert Patrick play him. The same goes for Annabeth Gish who plays Monica Reyes. They’re two very unique characters, and they have, in my mind, a lot of striking differences from Mulder and Scully, so it’s great fun to write for them. On the other hand, with every X-Files episode we write, that’s one less idea that we can no longer go to when it’s time to come up with another episode. So it gets trickier with every episode we write, to come up with something new plot-wise, but on the other hand, yes, it’s easier in a sense to write the new characters.

Do you think the X-Files concept is strong enough in Season Nine without Mulder and Scully ?

I believe so. I know for a fact that there are many fans who would disagree with that, but in my mind, the basic idea of The X-Files is more than sound enough with a different cast. Provided the two new characters are just as strong and interesting as the old ones were, that is. At the end of the day, I think the show can be just as interesting with a new set of characters.

Is it easier concentrating your energies as a writer on just one show right now ?

To my mind, the only goof thing about The Lone Gunmen being cancelled is that we have half the work to do this year. Last year was the roughest single year I’ve had working on this show, because we were doing double duty on every-thinking, ‘Boy, I don’t want to get cancelled, but how the heck are we going to do this again next season ?’ Fox solved that problem for us very abruptly by cancelling the series, and I can’t tell you how disappointed I was. I enjoyed the show and its characters, and truly loved writing for it. Having said all that, I don’t know how we would have got through another year, because if we’d been doing it this year, we would have had 20-22 episode order, and we barely got through 13.

Why do you think the Lone Gunmen show didn’t catch on ?

That’s the question I’ve asked myself every day, because I’d love to know the answer. Maybe this was a show that had a specific time it should have come out and we missed that window. I don’t know what that window would have been, but I’ve got to think there was enough interesting plots and humor, and the characters were likeable and noble enough. In my mind, and I’m the most biased person you can ask, my thing was always, what’s not to love ? Maybe there wasn’t enough sex or sexiness or something. Maybe three guys hanging out together in a basement, maybe people need more romance; I don’t know what it is.

Tell us little bit about tour latest episode, “John Doe”.

This episode went through a lot of permutations, and wound up being a story about memory loss and amnesia. It’s about a character who can suck people’s memories right out of their head. In the teaser, Agent Doggett wakes up in this abandoned warehouse, where a crack addict is trying to steal the sneakers right off this feet. Doggett chases this guy out in a very bright landscape that turns out to be a Mexican border town, where Doggett promptly gets arrested, and we realise that our hero has absolutely no memory of who he is or he got here.

The bulk of the episode is about Doggett trying to remember who he is and falling in with some characters who lead him to believe it’s probably in his best interests to lay low and not to go back to the US where he imagines he’s from. It’s a different sort of episode. At the heart of it, the one little glimmer of a memory that keeps coming back to Doggett is something to do with a little boy who comes and wakes him. He imagines this little boy is his son, and that’s the emotional part of the episode, because as fans of the show know, Doggett lost his several years before he joined the X-Files unit, so that’s the key to him getting his memory back.

So it’s more of a psychological piece ?

There’s a fair bit of action to it, but it’s definitely a psychological piece, and not your standard X-Files. It was interesting to write, because the teaser and the entire first act is just Doggett in Mexico. We’re wondering the world, but it takes until act two for us to catch up with our other heroes in Washington and see what’s going on there. I always like to try and construct a different kind of structure, and “John Doe” is a different kind of story.

What made you decide you wanted to direct again this season ?

I feel like I’ve been lucky my whole life in that I’ve always knows what I wanted to do, even since I was a third grader. I always wanted to make movies, and in my mind, I wanted to do everything – I wanted to write and direct them, I wanted to do the special effects and make the costumes, and all these years later, I’ve been very lucky to have seen that dream fulfilled. Writing is a wonderful career, and I feel very blessed to get to do it, but I wanted to try directing as well. The first time I directed (on “Je Souhaite”), my plate was already full, and I was really nervous. In the back of my head, I thought, ‘Maybe I should call this off, what if I screw this up terribly and waste 20thCentury Fox’s money ? What if everyone just thinks I’m a fool and completely screw me up ?’ But something kept me going, and I guess it was the self knowledge that if I didn’t take this golden opportunity when I had it, I would forever be looking back and kicking myself in the butt for not having at least tried and failed. Now that I’ve done it, I’ve still got so much to learn, and that’s one of the reason I want to do it again.

So you’ve taken some lessons on board from that experience, which you’ll be using when writing and directing ?

Yes, and hopefully I can come up with something good. I’ve got a bit of an idea, but I really need to nail it down, because the clock is ticking and I need to get going on that script. I’m hoping to get going on that on that one sooner that later so I have time to polish it and make it the way I want it. That’s always our concern, are we going to have enough time ? Somehow it always works out, although there’s a lot of nervousness and a lot of ulcer-causing stress related to this job, but I guess we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Are you looking forward to tying up the threads from The Lone Gunmen later this season ?

As I said, I was so disappointed when it was cancelled, and I want to do right by the fans and the characters, so I hope we do it justice. It’s so hard to wrap something up perfectly in just 42 minutes and 26 seconds, which is all the time we have in an episode, but I hope we do a good job. I really don’t want to disappoint anybody, including us, and I don’t want to disappoint Bruce or Dean or Tom, our three Lone Gunmen, because all three of them are great guys, as are Steven Snedden (Jimmy Bond) and Zuleikha Robinson (Yves Harlow). All five of them are wonderful actors, and wonderful people to work with, so I hope we don’t disappoint them either.

What do you look on as your strengths as a writer on The X-Files ?

Well, I can tell you where my strengths don’t lie. I definitely don’t have a facility for the mythology episodes. There was only one that I was actually involved in as a writer, and that was the quasi-mythology episode, “Memento Mori”. I’ll be honest, I love watching the mythology episode, but I watch them as a fan. I don’t have that much to do with them. They’re a different king of story-telling, and a very good kind, but one I don’t feel particularly equipped for. If I had strength on the show, it would be for the stand-alone episodes that don’t deal with the mythology or the over-arcing mythology of the series. That would be both my strength is the actual sitting down and writing of an episode. I say that because we as producers have a lot different hats to wear during the course of production on an episode. We have to come up with a story and beat it out brick by brick before anyone starts writing. And then we have to cast the episode and edit it and listen to the music, give input into the visual FX producers, and all of these things are part and parcel of our job. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about those aspects, but I guess my strength lies in actually taking a finished ‘board’ – which is the hashed-out beat by beat plot of the story – and turning it into a finished script. If I have a strength, that’s where it lies.

Looking back over the many episodes you’ve written for the series, are there any particular favourites that come to mind ?

That’s a good question. The truth is, I don’t really have a favourite. I’ve never been the kind of person who had a favourite food or soft drink or a favourite anything. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to pare anything down to one favourite, and that goes for the episodes I’ve written. As far as episodes I’ve written but just enjoyed as a viewer, I’d be hard-pressed to say which one is my favorite.

Do you have a shortlist ?

Of mine ? Well, “Bad Blood”, “Pusher”, “Paper Hearts”, “Hungry”, “Je Souhaite” just because it was so much fun, along with “X-Cops”. One that I was actually really proud of is “Folie à Deux”, which I don’t think was as enjoyed by the fans as I would have hoped, but to this day is still one of my favorites.

Any you’d like to forget ?

I feel very fortunate in that the episodes I’ve worked on or rewritten, there are some I’m not as proud of. But I can honestly say there’s not a single episode of this series that I would abscond with and bury in the middle of the woods. I’m just so proud to be a part of this series that was great before I got here, and to this day, nine years later, is still great. It was a show I was a fan of before I ever had anything to do with it, and I’d still be a fan of it today if I’d never joined the staff. I think it’s a strong show regardless of anything I ever did, but I’m also proud of what I’ve done while here as well. I’m very proud of this show, and I’m biased I’ll admit, but I hope it’s going to have a place in TV history.

Zap2it: Duchovny Likely to Return for ‘X-Files’ Finale

Jan-25-2002
Zap2it
Duchovny Likely to Return for ‘X-Files’ Finale
Kate O’Hare

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) – “I don’t really think we’ll be sad until it’s the last day,” says “X-Files” executive producer Frank Spotnitz, “and we realize that we’re not going to see these people we’ve seen for so long. That doesn’t happen often in television, where you work with the same group of people for so many years.”

“But, it’s scary, slash, exciting, disappointing and the right thing to do all at the same time.”

In a two-part episode, set to shoot in early April and air on May 12 and 19 on FOX, “The X-Files” bows out after nine seasons. Some may argue that it was one season too long, but Spotnitz isn’t sure what caused the decline. He is sure, though, that it wasn’t competition from ABC’s “Alias,” starring Jennifer Garner as a secret agent, in the Sunday, 9 p.m. ET time slot. “That’s silly,” says Spotnitz. “I’ve heard many, many theories about the show this year, but I don’t think there’s anything to that. If you look at the numbers for ‘The X-Files’ this year, in the very first episode, there was a significant portion of our audience that just didn’t come. They just weren’t there.”

“I could give you six different theories, and I don’t know which one it is. Is it because we started in November, and these other shows had weeks on the air to build an audience? Is it because we were up against ‘Saving Private Ryan’? Is it because Sept. 11 changed the zeitgeist of the country? Is it because people didn’t know we were on because there was so little promotion? Is it because David Duchovny left?”

“At the end of the day, from where we’re sitting, we just don’t know the answer.”

Spotnitz also doesn’t see a connection between FOX’s pickup of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon’s science-fiction series “Firefly,” and “X” creator Chris Carter’s subsequent announcement that his show was over. “No, it’s just a coincidence, because the decision really was Chris’, and the timing of it was Chris’. He came to them. He had thought about it over the Christmas vacation. We delivered two really strong episodes at the beginning of January, and the audience wasn’t any bigger. He said, ‘Let’s get out while we’re ahead. We don’t want to limp out.'”

“I’m sure they have high hopes for ‘Firefly.’ Joss Whedon’s very talented, and I’m sure their hopes are high, as they should be. But ‘X-Files’ has been such a strong performer for so long, it’s got to be a little scary for them too, even with our ratings this year being lower than before.”

As for the rest of the season, Spotnitz promises a resolution to the cliffhanger finale of the short-lived “X” spin-off “The Lone Gunmen.” “We are going to clean up their finale, have Michael McKean in a great episode. Burt Reynolds is going to be in an episode written and directed by Chris. That’s episode 14, airing in April.”

And as for Duchovny returning to play Mulder in the finale, Spotnitz says, “I think it’s pretty likely. The irony is, he was going to come back to write and direct an episode before the season got announced.” Asked if questions will be answered, Spotnitz says, “I just want to say right away, we’re not going to answer all the questions. Anybody thinking we’re going to … you couldn’t possibly answer all the questions, you just couldn’t. We’ll do as much as we can.”

Of course, there is still the question of the second “X-Files” feature film, to which Spotnitz says, “Whatever the movie is, it’ll be a new beginning. What we’re most concerned about is finishing the series properly. We’re not really worried about whether there’s something left over for the movie. In all likelihood, the movie’s going to be a stand alone Mulder and Scully investigation anyway.”

Asked what’s next for him, Spotnitz laughs. “Frank doesn’t know. I know I’m going to do the next movie with Chris, but I don’t know if I’m going to go onto another show, create my own show, write another movie. It’s a very exciting, scary, weird time.”