Posts Tagged ‘millennium’

Wired: Frank Black is Back – A Literary Return for Millennium

Nov-01-2012
Frank Black is Back – A Literary Return for Millennium
Wired
Sophie Brown

[Original here]

Nearly every geek on the planet is at least aware of Chris Carter’s international hit show The X-Files which dominated popular culture in the mid 90s, but perhaps fewer are aware of the show’s two spin-off shows: The Lone Gunmen and Millennium. Whilst TLG was a true spin-off that expanded the world of existing characters, Millennium was a show in its own right that just happened to co-exist in the same universe that Mulder and Scully inhabited. Although it never gained the popularity of its predecessor, Millennium became a cult hit with fans and critics alike and ran for three seasons. Now Fourth Horseman Press has released a book, Back to Frank Black, exploring the series with the collaboration of many people involved with the show.

Millennium followed Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), a retired FBI forensic profiler with an uncanny gift — the ability to see into the minds of serial killers. The show takes places in the run up to the year 2000 and began with Frank working for the Millennium Group whose agenda was gradually explored as the show progressed. Season one mostly focused on Black using his gift to track down serial killers and murderers, the general tone of the show being much darker than The X-Files, in fact it was occasionally referred to as “The X-Files for adults”. As the show progressed, the sinister intentions of the Millennium Group were gradually revealed and the show’s mythology grew as the forces Frank faced became even darker and his personal life was shattered. The final season saw Frank return to work with the FBI and gain a new partner, Emma Hollis (Klea Scott) as the Group’s power grew ever stronger. Sadly for fans, Millennium never received a true finale of its own; instead Frank was brought in for a single episode of The X-Files (cunningly titled “Millennium”) during which Mulder and Scully helped him tie up the events of his own show and provide some resolution.

This new book aims to offer fans a complete look at the show with an enormous amount of new material (over 500 pages) including entries from Lance Henriksen himself along with creator Chris Carter and co-executive producer Frank Spotnitz. Also included are a number of essays by both people involved in the show and authors with in-depth knowledge, including Brittany Tiplady, who played Frank’s daughter Jordan, and Joseph Maddrey, co-author of Lance Henriksen’s autobiography Not Bad For a Human. The book is edited by Adam Chamberlain and Brian A. Dixon, both publishers for Fourth Horseman Press and consultants to the Back to Frank Black campaign which is pushing for Frank Black’s return to our screens in some form. The book itself will not be sold for profit; all proceeds from sales will instead be donated to Lance Henriksen’s chosen charity, Children of The Night.

I was able to talk to Adam about the book and the campaign for Frank’s return last month. Here’s what he had to say:

 

Millennium Series Premiere Promotional Poster © Fox via Fourth Horseman Press

Millennium Series Premiere Promotional Poster © Fox via Fourth Horseman Press

How did you first discover Millennium?
I was already a huge fan of The X-Files from the start, and so had the same sense of eager anticipation when Millennium first aired in the UK, and took to the series from its very first episode. It was not always a simple task to follow its original run in the UK as it was poorly treated in the schedules — I believe I saw most of season one either on ITV or via the VHS releases, season two on Sky One, and then had to wait for the DVD box set to see the bulk of season three! The dark tone and subject matter both appealed to me and I already had huge respect for Chris Carter’s work, so it was an easy sell, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There are a lot of crime shows out there and a lot of shows about the supernatural, what makes Millennium stand out to you?
Millennium is utterly unique in the crime genre, particularly in the way it incorporates interpretations and explorations of evil into its evolving mythology. No series before or since has really dared to explore the nature of human evil in such depth or breadth. And Frank Black is a unique protagonist: a man of deeply-rooted principles and unparalleled insight who endures the weight of the world on behalf of us all. Add to that the considerable combined talents of its writers, producers, cast and crew all enriching the tapestry of the series, and it really is a perfect storm.

Where did the idea for the Back to Frank Black book begin?
The idea to put out a book was first floated to Brian A. Dixon and I by James McLean and Troy Foreman — who run the Back to Frank Black campaign — just over year ago. We had already worked with them on a few projects for the campaign by this point, Fourth Horseman Press was well-established by Brian, and through it we both had some considerable experience in editing and publishing, so it was a good fit.

Can you tell us about the most difficult obstacle you overcame in creating the book?
Time. We were obviously eager to make the book as comprehensive and of the highest quality as possible, but at the same time the Back to Frank Black campaign has a certain momentum, of which this book forms a part, so inevitably it was a balancing act between the two. It has taken us a year to put the book together from start to finish and we are very happy with the results, but in all honesty we couldn’t have produced it any quicker!

You have forewords from Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz and Lance Henriksen — how did you go about approaching them and what were their responses to the project?
The groundwork here had really been laid down by Troy and James through the Back to Frank Black campaign. They had already established good relationships with Carter, Spotnitz, and especially Lance Henriksen, who has worked very closely with us all on the campaign for some time now. So really it is testament both to the rapport and respect between the campaign and each of them, as well as to the value they place on Millennium and their enduring interest in the series. When it came to inviting their contributions to the book, all we had to do was ask! Each of them continues to be very supportive of the campaign and the book, and to be extremely generous with their time.

The Cover of Back to Frank Black © Fourth Horseman Press

The Cover of Back to Frank Black © Fourth Horseman Press

Which parts of the book were you most excited about obtaining?
The forewords from Lance Henriksen and Frank Spotnitz, and Chris Carter’s introduction are clearly highlights; we are so pleased to have each of them set down in their own words the relevance of Millennium to them, both during the series’ run and now. Added to that, we were particularly pleased to be able to interview Robert McLachlan, the director of cinematography who worked on all three seasons and was so integral to the signature look and tone of the series. He is always in huge demand and invariably on one or other punishing filming schedule, but I managed to grab some time from him directly after one project finished and just before he flew out to Ireland to work on the next season of Game of Thrones. Also, with the book now finalized it is just immensely satisfying to view it in its entirety. We have a wide range of talented contributors, and probably the most satisfying thing of all is to be able to appreciate the sum total of the collaboration of everyone involved.

The cover was drawn by Matthew Ingles. How did he become attached to the project?
The cover artwork from Matthew Ingles really fell into our laps. Just as we were beginning to plan the book and before we had even announced it, Matthew posted the image to the campaign’s Facebook page, both Brian and myself saw it and, independently of one another, knew it would be perfect. As with everyone involved, he was very happy to contribute, and I think the fact he was moved to create the piece in the first place is just another example of how Millennium continues to be a source of inspiration to so many.

The book is a non-profit endeavor. Can you tell us about where the profits will go and how that was decided?
All proceeds from the book will be donated to Children of the Night, a registered US charity dedicated to rescuing children from prostitution. Lance has always been very specific about wanting to support charities that benefit children in some way; specifically this has included Children of the Night through Back to Frank Black. Previously, in 2010, the campaign auctioned off his personal collection of scripts from movies he has appeared in throughout his career, alongside a number of other items donated by cast and crew.

The Millennium Group Logo © Fox/Fourth Horseman Press

The Millennium Group Logo © Fox/Fourth Horseman Press

Was there anything you discovered in researching the book that you found particularly interesting or that surprised you?
There are two points that really struck me in this regard. The first came from researching and writing my own essay, which is about the manifestations of evil across the series. I had always maintained an interest in the subject matter — I was very much influenced to undertake a degree in psychology, including a year spent exclusively on criminology, as a direct result of Millennium — but in delving back into that darkness alongside revisiting many episodes in such detail, I deepened my respect for the series yet further and discovered fresh perspectives on its content. Secondly, and leading on from that, it is a surprise to us that there is something of a dearth of critical analysis of the series published to date. Millennium undoubtedly has an intelligence to it that cries out for in-depth study and interpretation, and yet it has been largely overlooked. It would be a mistake to view the series as merely a child of pre-millennial angst and therefore no longer relevant; if anything, it feels even more resonant in today’s violent and uncertain times. Even if we were to set aside the ambitions of the campaign for a moment, publishing this book feels to us like a long-deserved and worthy endeavor on behalf of everyone who had a hand in the series. It fills that void, and we hope it will therefore appeal to the series’ enduring legion of fans as well as to those previously unfamiliar with the series and exploring it for the first time.

Back to Frank Black is also the name for your campaign to bring back Millennium. Can you tell us more about the campaign?
The Back to Frank Black campaign was started four years ago by James McLean, and he was joined in the endeavor by Troy Foreman shortly thereafter. What sets it apart from other fan campaigns is not only in its global fanbase of support — its signature podcast earns downloads from some seventy-five countries — but moreover the level of involvement from those who worked on the series. Lance Henriksen continues to do a huge amount to support us, and a considerable number of the main cast and crew have offered interviews, donated items and offered their support in a host of other ways. That makes the campaign unique in fandom and, as much as anything else, their support and eagerness to return to Millennium is what continues to drive us in turn.

How would you personally like to see the show brought back? A new season, a movie, a comic book series?
For me, the most viable and interesting ways would be a movie — either for the big or small screen — or as a mini-series through a cable network. Back to Frank Black campaigns specifically for a movie, and this would seem the most appealing and likely format, broadening the canvas from the confines of network television. Chris Carter has already hinted at ways in which he might achieve this in a movie, which he mentions in the book.

Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
After many months working on it behind closed doors, we are just really excited to have the book out there so that everyone can read it. Millennium has been a huge influence on both Brian and myself, creatively and in other ways, and in fact both our friendship and our creative partnership are very much founded in a mutual appreciation for the series. If there was ever any production we wanted to write about or for which we wished to compile and edit a book, Millennium is it. We very much hope the book will attract more and more interest such that it furthers the ambitions of the Back to Frank Black campaign, but it also stands on its own as a long overdue analysis of and testament to the truly unique, intelligent and remarkable body of work that is Millennium.

You can order your own copy of Back to Frank Black at Fourth Horseman Press, other retailers will be stocking the book shortly and a review will be here on GeekMom later this month.

Indiewire: Chris Carter Talks The Legacy of ‘The X-Files,’ Returning to TV and Why You Have to Read The Comments

Oct-23-2012
Chris Carter Talks The Legacy of ‘The X-Files,’ Returning to TV and Why You Have to Read The Comments
Indiewire
Daniel Carlson

[Original article here]

Chris Carter is responsible for the nightmares of a generation.

As the creator of “The X-Files” and “Millennium,” he shepherded in a new wave of horror and suspense on television, and his legacy can be seen in the success of everything from “Fringe” to “The Walking Dead.” For his contributions to the medium, Carter received the Outstanding Television Writer award from the Austin Film Festival, where he appeared on several panels and presented a pair of episodes from his best-known series. Indiewire got a chance to sit down with him in Austin to talk about everything from the rise of cable to the future of content distribution.

Let’s start with why you chose to screen these specific episodes of “The X-Files” (“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”) and “Millennium” (“Pilot”).

First of all, it’s nice to be here. I’ve never been to Austin, so this is a big thrill. It was an amazing honor today to be among my other honorees, Frank Darabont and Eric Roth. Amazing.

aff
Frank Darabont, Eric Roth, Carter at AFF Jack Plunkett

The episodes I chose were for two reasons: I didn’t want to focus just on “The X-Files.” I thought that “Millennium” pilot stands the test of time. I think it’s a really good, scary episode of television, and I was very proud of it. I still am. It was very nice to see it again today myself.

The other episode I chose [“Final Repose”] was, for me, a high point during [the show’s early years], and I thought it was still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on television. It’s completely original; it was taking “The X-Files” and turning it on its head. The performances were wonderful, the direction was wonderful, the writing was wonderful. I thought it was just an excellent episode in every way.

“The X-Files,” in a lot of ways, paved the way for network genre shows, especially horror. I can’t imagine it was easy to get a show with so many straight-ahead scares off the ground in the early 1990s. Was that a fight with Fox? Was there ever any feedback from them about the content’s grimness?

The good thing and the bad thing about was that there was nothing scary on television then, so when I came in and said, “There’s nothing scary on television, and this is something that we should be doing,” they got that idea. But they didn’t get the idea of two FBI agents investigating the paranormal. That was weird to them, and they didn’t want to do it at first.

I had to pitch the idea twice to the network, and they finally bought it maybe just to make me go away. I was at 20th Century Fox Television, pitching it to 20th Century Fox network; it was kind of a no-brainer for them, because it’s one hand feeding the other. That was a fortunate thing in the beginning, not so much in the end.

Do you think any shows since then have been that scary?

It’s really hard to scare people on network television. You’ve got to be smart about it. You’ve got to parcel out the scares. I’ve seen a few really scary shows, episodes of them, but I have to say, I took a break from television after “The X-Files” was off and sort of didn’t pay much attention, but I’m back now.

What are you watching right now?

“Breaking Bad.” Love it. A little bit of everything: little bit of “Game of Thrones,” little bit of “Walking Dead.” I’m back into “The Wire.”

Has there ever been a show that’s made you say “I wish I’d been part of that”?

I admired shows like “Six Feet Under.” That was an amazing show. Never boring, always inventive, smart. Loved the characters. Completely original. Those are shows that I admire.

In terms of your writing process, how did you determine what works for you best?

It’s pretty much a regular workday, 9 to 5. That works for me. I’ve worked, believe me, from 4 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night when we were in production, so I’ve done those kinds of hours. I try to sort of have a regular life now, but I’m not in production, so it’s a luxury to have a regular life. When you do have to feed an ongoing production, you have a finite amount of time in which to do the best work possible, so you have to work really around the clock.

Speaking of productions, could you talk a bit more about the status of the project you’re writing for Showtime?

[smiling] The status is, right now, that they like it.

Any descriptions or ideas you can discuss?

I’m sort of superstitious.

You had a show, “Unique,” that didn’t go. This Showtime project is a different one?

Yeah, this is a different project.

What was the fallout with “Unique”?

There’s no fallout. It’s just a show that we tried to set up in a certain way, and we didn’t set it up, and then we took a step back, and so that’s where we are on that right now.

What’s changed in the industry and writing/production process since you launched “The X-Files”?

There are more and different places to pitch and to develop, and I think you’re looking at the obvious eclipse of broadcast television by cable in terms of content. Things that you can’t do on broadcast now that you can do on cable, which is making it feel like a superior product.

It’s not more popular, but you’re watching viewership go up on cable so that now cable is actually starting to give broadcast a run for its money. Look at “Sons of Anarchy,” look at the way “Hatfields & McCoys” performed. There are lots of instances of cable shows … what else did I see the other day that premiered to huge numbers? [We both drew blanks, but Carter was likely thinking of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” which drew 3.85 million viewers on FX.] You’re looking at a change, and that’s an exciting thing, but what it says to me is there are also opportunities to do inventive things on broadcast television and still get a large audience.

Was that what inspired you to write a cable show?

I love the idea — as do a lot of people who have done broadcast shows, where you’re doing 22 episodes a season — of doing six, eight, or 10-13 [episodes]. That is very appealing to me, and it actually allows you to attract a different kind of actor because they aren’t doing it 10 months a year, they’re doing it three months a year. That’s a benefit, too.

I want to circle back to “The X-Files,” based on some comments you made earlier today about how the show evolved to encompass procedural, horror, comedy, etc. Was there a type of episode that was the most rewarding to do?

Some of the big mythology episodes, where we did big production stuff — exploded trains. I mentioned an episode [“End Game”] at one of the panels where we trucked in tons of snow and created the polar ice cap with the conning tower. There were things we did just because we didn’t know we couldn’t. Those were really exciting times.

Then there were episodes like the black-and-white episode [“The Post-Modern Prometheus”] which were taking a whole other direction. Production design had to be switched up because you design differently for black-and-white. We filmed in black-and-white. We didn’t film in color like a lot of people do and change it. So we took some technical risks.

One of the episodes I’m most proud of in terms of taking a risk would be the episode called “Triangle,” which took place on the Queen Mary. 24 edits in the hour of television, so big, long takes. We would do one take before lunch. You just don’t do that in television production.

That was the one with two long shots down a hallway that crossed each other, right?

Yes, that’s right. There were big tricks in it, and it took some inventiveness.

You mentioned alternate routes of pitching and distribution. Would you ever consider online fundraising like Kickstarter or online distribution like Netflix?

It’s funny, I just gave somebody some money through Kickstarter to work on a documentary — I think it’s a really interesting way to do things. Right now, I have what I would call more conventional avenues open to me, so that’s the way I think I would prefer to work right now. But I actually like the idea of choosing these alternative methods, and people coming up with new ways to distribute content, and people taking control of their projects. I think that will be a future of sorts.

Would online distribution be a possibility for “Fencewalker,” your film in progress?

Possibly. I’ve sort of put that away right now, and I’m gonna come back to it.

Do you think you’ll revisit that in the near future?

I’m not sure.

I wasn’t actually sure of the status: if it had finished shooting, etc.

It had been filmed and was in the editorial process, and I decided I wanted to rethink some things about it.

There’s a big focus here at the Austin Film Festival about writers, pitching, getting projects off the ground, and so on. What’s the best or worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten as a writer?

It’s funny, no matter how much advice you get, the truth is that it’s kind of like “Throw Momma From the Train,” you know, “A writer writes always.” You must persevere. That’s the only way to find the gold.

You spoke at the panel about your relationship with the fan community, and how you read a fan letter in the first season of “X-Files” that influenced your approach to the show and steered you toward stories involving the relationship between the main characters. I can’t imagine what it would be like to mount a show like that today in the age of blogs, and comments, and recaps. Is that something that’s on your mind as you prepare the Showtime project?

You’re bombarded with, uh, “advice,” and with people wanting you to consider their ideas and their direction. Some of it filters through, and some of it doesn’t, so you filter a lot of it out. It comes to you in a variety of ways, and I still think I would pay attention [to it]. I’m sure every editorial writer in The New York Times reads the comments that come after, because they can be so — they are wildly varying in their meanness or sometimes insight. So you can’t disregard them. You must pay attention. It’s important. It’s a reality check of sorts. So it’s part of the process.

That seems like a tough balance to strike.

You could spend a lot of time just reading your reviews, basically. A lot of people don’t read their reviews, but I do. I read my reviews.

The A.V. Club: Philip Baker Hall

Sep-06-2012
Philip Baker Hall on The Chicago 8, Seinfeld, and Paul Thomas Anderson
The A.V. Club
Will Harris

[Original article here] (Extract only)

Millennium (1997, 1998)—“Group Elder”
PBH: Yeah, well, that… I don’t know what they were doing with that. That was an odd series. Also shot up there in Canada. All I remember is being out there in the woods somewhere, and they’d take us to some remote location, put a dead chicken on the table or something, and somebody would sayin the script, I meanall these odd words, spirits would come in, and I was supposed to be the embodiment of the spirit… I mean, to tell you the truth, it was not a show that I watched, so I wasn’t into the mythology of it or the language of it. I guess it had its fans, but I did several episodes, and I couldn’t quite… I never quite knew where they were going with it. So I never understood the character. I was the physical embodiment of a spiritual presence, but was it a good presence or not? I don’t know. I never understood it. I get these amazing residuals from there every couple of months, though. 14 cents, 23 cents, one dollar and nine cents. And that’ll be for, like, 50 showings or something. [Laughs.] Very bizarre. Pretty weird.

Collider.com: Writer/Producer Frank Spotnitz Talks His Desire to Make a Third X-FILES Movie and the Possibility of a MILLENNIUM Movie

Aug-02-2012

Writer/Producer Frank Spotnitz Talks His Desire to Make a Third X-FILES Movie and the Possibility of a MILLENNIUM Movie

Collider.com

Christina Radish

[Original article]

The X-Files writer/producer Frank Spotnitz has created the compelling eight-episode international espionage series Hunted for Cinemax, to premiere on October 26th.  The story follows Sam Hunter (Melissa George), a skilled operative for Byzantium, a secretive private firm involved in global intelligence and espionage, that may have personally been responsible for orchestrating an attempt on her life, leaving her with no idea who to trust.

While at the TCA Press Tour, Collider spoke to Frank Spotnitz for this exclusive interview.  We will run what he had to say about that series closer to its premiere, but we did want to share what his comments about whether he still wants to do a third The X-Filesmovie, why it would be a cultural crime not to finish the series, how it would need to happen pretty soon, and what he’s most happy about when he looks back at his work on the series and movies.  He also talked about what it might take for a Millennium movie to happen.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

Collider: Do you feel like you’ve closed the book now on The X-Files, or is there still another chapter to tell there?  Do you still want to do a third movie?

FRANK SPOTNITZ:  I absolutely do!  I think everybody should write to 20th Century Fox.  I’ve been saying for years now that I feel it’s a cultural crime that they have not finished the series.  The second movie did not perform the way anybody wanted it to at the box office.  I’m proud of that movie, but it makes sense to me that it didn’t.  It was released at the height of summer, and it was a story-of-the-week.  That’s not what the movie-going audience wanted.  The movie-going audience wanted the aliens.  That’s what they know The X-Files for.  And that story is not done, and it should be finished.  I don’t think it’s too late, but I think it’s gonna be, pretty soon.  I’m still agitating with everyone I can grab to say, “Let’s make this movie while we still can!”

When you look back at the time you spent making the show and the movies, what are you happiest about, and are there things you still wish you could go back and change?

SPOTNITZ:  Oh, yeah, always!  Unfortunately, my personality is that way.  It’s true with Hunted, too.  I’m like, “Oh, that’s good, but this wasn’t good enough.”  I just look to what I consider failures.  Other people might be like, “Oh, that was great,” but I’ll be like, “No, to me, that was not.”  I’m sure with The X-Files, there are plenty of things that I wish had been better.  But, The X-Files was the central experience of my professional life.  It was my first job in television.  It taught me everything that I’ve taken with me since, and it was a huge success.  I just feel so blessed to have something like that in my life.  How many people get to be a part of something like that?  I really made a lot of close friendships, with Chris Carter and Vince Gilligan, and I’m still friends with a lot of the actors.  I still see Gillian [Anderson] and talk to David [Duchovny].  It’s a treasure and a blessing to have something like that. 

Lance Henriksen recently talked about his desire to make a Millennium movie.  Is that something you’d like to go back and revisit?

SPOTNITZ:  I would!  It’s a harder case to make for Millennium because Millennium was one of those shows that was a critical darling, but never found the mass audience that it deserved.  But, I get asked about that.  There are amazing fans for both series.  The Millennium guys are publishing a book this summer.  They’re really clever about trying to make this happen.  If they knocked on my door and we could do it, I would absolutely do it, but it’s a tough sell.

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

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

[Original article here]

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

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

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

Source: Anastasia Hansen and heART

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

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

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

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

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

Please tell us about your current projects.

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

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

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

How did you become involved in The X-Files?

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

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

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

How important is the relationship to the fans for you?

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

What makes the relationship between Mulder and Scully so unique?

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

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

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

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

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

Big Light, Frank Spotnitz’s production company

Big Light, Frank Spotnitz’s production company

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

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

Only over a drink, and off the record.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Is Who We Are: Patrick Harbinson interview

Sep-19-2010
This Is Who We Are
Patrick Harbinson interview

[Original article here]

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Writer Patrick Harbinson manages to juggle writing duties in both Hollywood and the UK. An ex-soldier, he served his writing apprenticeship penning episodes of Soldier Soldier and Heartbeat before moving out to Hollywood in 1995. Writing gigs followed on Millennium, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, E.R., James Cameron’s Dark Angel and 24. Patricks’s most recent TV credits are for the ITV firefighting drama Steel River Blues, Red Cap and the world-wide British born success “Wire In The Blood”. Patrick agreed to talk exclusively to TIWWA about his time on Millennium and I know you will all join with me in expressing your gratitude to him for taking time out of his busy schedule.

TIWWA: You remained with “Millennium”, in some capacity, for the three seasons of its existence and three seasons which saw a number of changes to the shows thematic as well as the coming and going of characters and showrunners. How do you view the experience of Millennium as a whole in retrospect and what were the notable successes of the show in your opinion?

PATRICK HARBINSON: was only on the ‘staff’ of Millennium for its third and last year. I wrote – co-wrote in fact with Bobby Moresco – an episode in the first season, but I wasn’t on staff then. I had worked with Bobby on a short-lived but critically successful drama series called EZ Streets, created and run by Paul Haggis (Oscar winner for Crash). When EZ Streets died, Chris Carter hauled Bobby onto Millennium and Bobby then called me and asked if I had any ideas. I did. So I wrote one episode in that year, and then, as I said, came on staff for the third year.

Changes? My impression of the first year was of a show struggling for identity after its extraordinary opening. I remember someone (who was closely involved with the show) saying that Millennium’s initial success on the back of massive publicity – new show from the creator of the X-Files, etc. – was the worst thing that could have happened to it, because it created an expectation of great things – among fans and Fox executives – that few shows could have sustained. So by the time I turned up with a story about horses they were quite glad to have something that wasn’t about serial killers – though of course it was. I had nothing to do with the second year so can’t comment on that. Third year, once Chip Johannessen took over the reins fully from Michael Duggan, the series became a gentler, more mysterious, more enquiring animal. If any TV series could be said to have aspired to magic realism it was Millennium.

Most of this change – in year 3 – was down to Chip. Once I found my feet on the show, I loved what I was able to write – what Chip encouraged me to write – and it is still one of the highlights of my career.

TIWWA: Many members of the cast and crew hold “Millennium” in high regard and consider it to be a particular high-point of their careers. It has been espoused that people knew they were making ‘something special’ at the time. Do you concur with this and what do you believe it was that made “Millennium” such a unique experience?

PH: Yes, it was an unique experience, but I don’t think that, at the time, I realised quite how unique. I certainly haven’t had the same freedom to experiment in anything I’ve done for US television – for any television since.

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TIWWA: You wrote the first season episode, “Broken World” which is widely regarded to be an episode that attempted to explore the boundaries of what could be achieved within the remit of “Millennium” as well as being evidence to counter the ‘serial killer of the week’ label which some critics attached to it. Was it a conscious decision to play with the format a little and how easy was it to be creative with the format and were writers encouraged to do that?

PH: I walked into Millennium rather innocently, having seen the pilot and a few episodes, but not really having much idea of its political or creative currents and stresses. What I did have though was a rough story based on some particularly nasty crimes that were happening in England around that time – I guess it must have been 1995, 96? – which involved the mutilation of horses. I was a. appalled, b. deeply curious, as to the ‘why’ of it all. Then I discovered, as any crime writer soon will, that according to the rubric, cruelty to animals is one of the indicators of a potential serial killer. So I thought what if Frank Black is drawn to this crime (non-human victims notwithstanding) because he recognises the darkness in it.

Then, researching deeper, looking to relocate it to the US, I came across the pregnant mare farms, the whole PMU thing, and I thought, bloody hell, this really is weird. And from that an episode emerged, which I pitched to Bobby, then, with his support, pitched to Chris Carter, and after some of the usual story struggles, Chris said Okay, write it. If I hadn’t been teamed with Bobby M at that stage I doubt Chris would have let me go with it on my own, so without Bobby it would never have happened. Also, I think – though I don’t know – that they were beginning to struggle for stories, so this idea was something of a relief.

Did it encourage others to be creative with the format? I don’t know. It certainly showed me how elastic the show could be, and it taught me the invaluable lesson that the deeper you dig into a story the more you’re going to learn, the richer your script is going to be. Broken World eventually won a Genesis Award. I was proud of that.

TIWWA: I know various statements have been made over the years that Fox desired thematic changes to the second season of the show and Glen Morgan and James Wong did their best to accommodate their dictates whilst fighting against some they didn’t agree with. Is it difficult for a production team to work on a show that has established a format but is facing outside interference in terms of its continuing direction?

PH: Yes, it’s a nightmare when you and the network have different ideas about the show, or different expectations, But I thought some of what Morgan and Wong did – I didn’t watch the whole Season – was extraordinary. The trouble with Millennium is that the format was/is somewhat limited, and the arc of Frank Blank ‘seeing his way’ through crime after gruesome crime could become familiar – to the writers as much as the audience. If you consider a show like Criminal Minds which functions in the same arena and has had enormous success for – I think – at least six years, twice Millennium’s run, you’ll see that the creators have stocked the show with a large regular cast so that the interplay of character and relationships among the regulars becomes as important for the viewer as the actual crimes those regulars are investigating.

TIWWA: When production began on the third season of the show, Michael Duggan was the showrunner but he left fairly early on into the third season leaving Chip Johannessen to pick up where he left off. Is it easy for a production team to adapt when a show loses ‘the hand at the rudder’ and do you recall the transition from one showrunner to the other to be a relatively seamless affair?

PH: Not entirely seamless for me personally in that Michael had brought me onto the show, and by the time he left I hadn’t really developed a relationship, personal or creative, with Chip. So once Michael had gone – he’d only wanted to be a transitional figure anyway – there was, for me, an uneasy couple of months as I tried to establish myself, and work out Chip’s story-telling style. As it turned out my sensibilities were much closer to Chip’s than anyone else I have ever worked with, but that was not immediately apparent – to either of us. In fact, Through a Glass, Darkly, my first script, was sliding alarmingly down the filming order, and it was only when Chris Carter – rather arbitrarily – threw out another script and asked what else was ready, that my script got onto the schedule. But after that it was all fine and dandy.

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TIWWA: “The Sound of Snow” is rightly considered one of the finest episodes “Millennium” and fans have often wondered why it took so long to resolve Frank and Catherine’s story considering the state of their relationship when Megan Gallagher left the show. Was it a bitter-sweet experience to know that Megan would be returning albeit for a single episode and a daunting one considering the level of anticipation there would be for such a story?

PH: I had no idea it was thought of so highly, that’s nice… But this episode arose entirely out of my efforts – almost literally – to go into stream-of-consciousness story-telling and just see where it ended up. So I started with a girl driving down a forest road and she puts a tape in the tape deck – it was the 90s – and there’s this gentle hiss, and then it starts to snow, and she drives on thinking how pretty, but then she starts to hear the flakes hitting the windscreen, and it’s weird, and then scary, and they’re getting louder, and louder, and then one cracks the windscreen, and… etc. etc. I was doing stuff, coming up with stuff, just to see if I could keep Chip (and Ken Horton – Ken was always there) listening, not interrupting, waiting to see what would happen next.

If someone were to analyse seriously the genius of Chris Carter’s story-telling, it’s that: keep your audience suspendeded in the dark waiting to see what happens next. Anyway, after that came the struggle to make it all mean something, relate it to Frank, find an episode in it. And I realised, after several weeks’ uncertainty, that these mysterious cassettes were a kind of consciousness-enhancer, sending their listener into a quasi-hypnotic state where the past became physical, real. So I asked Chip and Ken if we could bring Megan back, and they said okay, and we had our story, and I was able to resolve one of the big unanswered questions of the series. Was it daunting, the Megan part of it? If I’d been asked to write an episode specifically resolving the Megan/Frank relationship, that would have been daunting, but as it was, coming at it backwards, as it were, it seemed simple, logical, and right. I was simply finding closure for her, for us.

TIWWA: Another particularly well received episode is “Darwin’s Eye” which is a superb concept that really toys with the viewer in making them perceive a conspiracy, in true “Millennium” style, when no conspiracy exists. Could you give us some insight into how you conceived of the story and what the inspirations behind it were?

PH: Once I’d finished an episode I would immediately start the area into odd areas of research, odd reading, to try and find the germ of the next idea – you see how far we’d come from serial killers. At the time of Darwin’s Eye, I’d just finished – entirely by chance – a biography of Darwin, and I’d come across the fact that Darwin was worried about the eye – that it didn’t quite fit with his theory of evolution, And pondering all this – without smoking anything – I found this voice saying: ‘So you start with the primal ooze… and you end up with Hitler, Mozart, me…’ Anyway, I put a face to the voice and the whole thing just snowballed into this story of a paranoid girl – victim or psycho, who knows? – and her journey towards justice, or retribution. And I married this exercise in (false?) paranoia with Klea Scott’s story of (true?) paranoia – origami, wooden boxes, her father folding her sister’s face into flowers, palms in the nuclear wind. I really wasn’t smoking anything, but it was for me one of the most exciting and surprising writing experiences I’ve ever had. Ken Fink directed brilliantly. Tracy Middendorf was great. Does it actually add up to anything? I don’t know, but it was a wonderful ride and couldn’t have happened on any other show.

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TIWWA: When you approached the script of “Via Dolorosa” were you aware at the time that you penning the beginning of the end, so to speak, and how conscious were you of affording the fans closure if that was the case? Am I right in thinking that people were still unsure as to the fate of the series until relatively late in third season?

PH: I don’t remember a lot about Via Dolorosa which I wrote with another friend Marjorie David. But I think we felt that the show was coming to an end. Though the fractured free-form style of Season 3 led to many lovely episodes, especially Chip’s, it could be confusing, indeed irritating, to the audience. So, by the time we were writing Via Dolorosa, yes, I think we thought it was heading for the finish.

TIWWA: I was a huge admirer of “Wire In The Blood” and I know “Millennium fans” who appreciate the series consider it a British equivalent of “Millennium” in the sense that there were tangible similarities between the two shows and a similar high quality of story telling and production. Did you as writer perceive the similarities in the way some viewers did and how do you compare working on a “Wire In The Blood” script to penning an episode of “Millennium”?

PH: If anyone’s read Val McDermid’s Wire in the Blood novels, the first of which is The Mermaids Singing, they’ll see that the Tony Hill (Robson Greene) character is quite serious, quite dark, quite flawed. It was the awareness not only of Robson’s last big English role, Touching Evil, but also of Lance’s character in Millennium, that made me change – or argue that we should change, and happily people agreed – the character of Tony Hill and make him, well, funny, clumsy, muttering, almost autistic, in everything except his perceptions, his analyses.

I knew how funny Robson could be as an actor, so I knew he could do it, and I think this humour was a big part of the show’s success in the UK and abroad. So Millennium was really important in that it told me I couldn’t hope – didn’t want to – replicate Frank Black in a UK context. As far as I remember, in the first script I had very little – if any – of Robson ‘seeing what the killer sees’ – those Frank Black flashes that were a signature of Millennium. What I replaced them with was genuine forensic psychology, which led to crash courses in criminal psychology for me, and much horrible trawling through crime scene books, true crime stories. To be honest, I was deeply uncertain as to whether Wire in the Blood would succeed; it had a gothic gore to it that was even beyond what we’d done on Millennium, and I wasn’t sure that Robson and Hermione would be enough to lift it. But the series was beautifully made by Coastal Productions, and could be more daring in its direction, its editing, its use of sex and violence, than Millennium.

Compare writing experiences? Once I knew what I was doing, could do, on Millennium it was actually great fun. Writing Wire in the Blood was always tough – partly because it’s 100 plus minutes rather than 43, the stories had to go a bit deeper and a bit darker into uncomfortable places – if they were to be any good, that is. Also, and this might not seem significant but it was: Millennium was intensely visual as a writing experience, we’d almost challenge each other to go for pages without a word of dialogue – partly because Lance was so powerful as a non-verbal actor, partly because it was just cool. Whereas Wire in the Blood could be – at least in my scripts, at least in the Robson scenes – literally crammed with words: I wanted Robson almost never to stop talking, even to himself – not that it couldn’t be visual too, but words were more important: our lead character was a doctor, I wanted him always to be wrestling with words, trying to explain the inexplicable.

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TIWWA: “Prayer of the Bone” (“Wire In The Blood”) and “Through A Glass Darkly” both share a similar central theme in that the audience, and the protagonist, initially believe an innocent man to be guilty of a crime and deserving of the punishment that has been dispensed. One thing I enjoy about your writing is that the viewer can never be complacent with the narrative and the truths of it are often subverted a number of times during the course of our journey to understanding it. Do you enjoy keeping viewers on their toes and dealing, often, with moral ambiguities?

PH: Yes. See my comment on Chris Carter: Keep the audience in suspense, then surprise their expectations, reverse the narrative flow. What I think (hope) I’ve discovered since is that if I can also confound our prejudices, our instinctive rushes to judgement, then the story really becomes interesting, not just an exercise in narrative trickery. Prayer of the Bone, Through a Glass, Darkly, even Wounded Surgeon (another Wire in the Blood) are all about suggestibility: the vulnerability of the criminal – who most of the time is, to put it mildly, educationally challenged, not the hyper-cunning serial killer – to the tender mercies of the police, the lawyer, the doctor, the psychiatrist. I just wanted – want – to be able to remind people that even when they think they know, they don’t.

TIWWA: For admirers of your work, can we ask what the future holds for the continuing career of Patrick Harbinson?

PH: Murder and mayhem, probably.

TIWWA: I wanted to conclude by thanking you for taking the time to speak to us and we wish you every continued success in the future.

PH: Thank you! Best wishes to all.

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.”

Zone Horror: Exclusive Interview With Millennium Co-Executive Producer Frank Spotnitz

Sep-28-2008
Exclusive Interview With Millennium Co-Executive Producer Frank Spotnitz
Zone Horror

[Original article here]

On October the 4th cult television series Millenniun comes to Zone Horror. This terrifying drama series horror in its purest form with a leading man that really knows how to make the skin on your neck crawl, Lance Henriksen. Here we speak exclusively to Executive Producer Frank Spotnitz about his involvement with a series that changed TV drama forever.

Zone Horror: Is it true you began your working life as a journalist?

Frank Spotnitz: Yes. I was editor of my college paper at UCLA, then went to work for United Press International, first in Indiana, then in New York City. I later wrote for the Associated Press in Paris and freelanced for a number of magazines, including Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone.

ZH: How did you get into television work?

FS: I decided I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore! I moved back to Los Angeles from Paris so I could study screenwriting at the American Film Institute. The X-Files was my first job in Hollywood.

ZH: When did you first meet Chris Carter?

FS: By chance. I met Chris in a book group shortly after I moved back to L.A. This was years before he created The X-Files.

ZH: How did you become involved with Millennium and can your recall your reaction when you first heard the basic outline for the series?

FS: I was very flattered that Chris asked me to work on Millennium as well as The X-Files – flattered and, in short order, exhausted! It was very tough doing double duty on the first season of Millennium and the fourth season of The X-Files. I remember that I only vaguely understood what Millennium was going to be about before Chris let me read the pilot script. I read it on the laptop computer in his office right after he finished it. I was, quite simply, blown away. I still think that pilot is among the very best things he’s ever written.

ZH: Is it true Lance was the first choice for Frank Black? If not who else was considered? (Personally I can’t think of anyone else who could bring his quiet intensity to the role)

FS: Yes, Lance was Chris’ first choice. There were other actors considered for the role, but I don’t want to risk making them uncomfortable by giving their names.

ZH: What was it like to work with Lance Henriksen and Megan Gallagher, two very different actors?

FS: It was great, although I have to say I didn’t really work “with” them very much. On Millennium, nearly all of my work was done in Los Angeles — breaking stories, writing scripts, editing episodes and so on. Occasionally, I’d fly up to Vancouver to help prep an episode, but usually I’d only see Lance and Megan when they were in Los Angeles (or during crew parties!).

ZH: The two leads brought so much depth to their respected roles, which other actors that appeared on the show stand out for you?

FS: Terry O’Quinn was, of course, amazing, just as he now is on Lost. I also thought Birttany Tiplady was an astonishing little actress, Sarah-Jane Redmond was fantastic, as always, and Klea Scott is one of my all-time favourite actors, period. There were too many wonderful guest stars for me to mention.

ZH: As Millennium was based totally in the real world how did you approach writing your episodes, as they were far different to what you were creating for The X-Files?

FS: It was very easy for me to get in touch with my fears on Millennium, because the things that scare me most are things that can happen in the real world. The challenge for me was finding interesting ways to involve Frank’s family in the stories. And I was also always looking for ways to find hope amid all the darkness. The things I would say The X-Files and Millennium had in common were our focus on tight plotting, and wanting to find interesting reasons for why the bad guys were doing what they were doing.

ZH: Why do you think the series has continued to generate interest and debate with the viewing public?

FS: I think it’s because it was very intense and uncompromising. That turned off some viewers, but the people who liked the show, really liked it. I remember the earliest meetings with the network concerned how dark the show was. They kept asking us to lighten up, to find more humour. But Chris had a vision for the series, and it was pretty intense. I also think the show touched on something fundamental about life – the split between the darkness of Frank’s work, and the lightness of his family and home life. Frank struggled to protect his family from the darkness – of the killers he hunted, and inside himself. That’s a very powerful idea to me, and I think it resonates with a lot of other people, too.

ZH: I know some critics disliked the show for its violent content but do you agree it needed to show the horrors of real life in such a graphic manner?

FS: I think there’s an even greater danger when you sanitize violence, or make it less disturbing in some way. I think the most responsible way to depict violence is to make it horrific, because that’s what it is in real life.

ZH: Do you have a favourite episode of Millennium?

FS: The Pilot episode and Lamentation. Among the ones I wrote, Sacrament.

ZH: There’s a legion of fans waiting the return of Frank Black, is there any chance?

FS: I’d say a small chance, getting smaller every year. We’d still love to revisit the character, but at this point I think someone would have to light a pretty big fire under the Fox executives to make it happen.

ZH: Congratulations on The X-Files – I Want To Believe, an intelligent and refreshing break from predictable CGI drenched blockbusters. Can we expect more?

FS: It’s too soon to say.

ZH: What other projects are you working on at the moment?

FS: I have a couple things in the works I’m very excited about, but the deals aren’t done, so I can’t announce them yet. Soon, hopefully!

ZH: Frank Spotnitz, thank you very much.

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.