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Archive for January, 1997

Toronto Sun: Truth is in theatres

Toronto Sun
Truth is in theatres
Claire Bickley

The X-Files gang plan their first movie for 1998

Being kept in the dark between seasons is nothing new to viewers of The X-Files. But next year, they’ll have to move their curiosity into darkened movie theatres.

A cliffhanger set up by the final episode of the 1997-98 season will continue in the first X-Files feature film, to be released a month or so later, says Chris Carter, creator and executive-producer of the sublime scare series.

He’s hesitant to talk much about the summer ’98 movie, lest he give away plot turns in the TV episodes to air between now and then. Carter’s shows are both blessed and dogged by incessant Internet chatter.

“I’ve already appointed a Minister of Propaganda to put dummy scripts out there,” he said, and he may not be kidding.

Scripts have leaked before and bootleg tapes of his other show, Millennium, were being sold at swap meets before its premiere last October.

Suffice to say, the feature film will find both FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder investigating something spooky.

“Yes, it’s for both Mulder and Scully, played by Richard Gere and Jodie Foster,” Carter joked.

He’s eager to turn big-screen capabilities loose on X-Files sensibilities.

“The first thing I wrote on the first page for The X-Files movie was, `We have a low rumble, a THX big-screen rumble,’ and I can’t wait to take advantage of some of those things,” he says.

The movie will be made during X-Files’ summer hiatus this year and, despite a recent rumor to the contrary, Vancouver will remain its production base.

In another development affecting The X-Files’ future, Carter qualified his long-expressed opinion that the show should do five good seasons and then end, which would have seen it leave TV in May 1998. Now he says that while he expects to leave as executive producer at that time, the show will probably continue without him. Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are contracted for a sixth season.

Propelled by its new Sunday night timeslot into a Top 10 hit for the first time and having just sold existing episodes into syndication for next fall to 99% of the U.S., Fox is understandably loath to let it go.

They’ve decided to air an X-Files episode immediately after their broadcast of The Super Bowl Jan. 26, a massively-watched timeslot traditionally used by networks to launch a new series or goose the ratings of one that’s struggling.

“The X-Files is the best of what we’ve got. We wanted to give the audience a gift,” explained entertainment division president Peter Roth.

Since that means the show will air at 7 p.m. on the west coast that night, Fox is hoping Carter doesn’t deliver too gory a gift. Carter is still choosing between two episodes, but said neither is “beyond what is tolerable for the time slot.”

Meanwhile, he’s also working on an episode with sci-fi author William Gibson. Another Secrets Of The X-Files special is being considered for this Spring. Horror novelist Stephen King, who met (and beat) Duchovny on Celebrity Jeopardy, has asked Carter if he can write a script.

DreamWatch: Ratboy Droppings

January 1997
Ratboy Droppings

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY had infamous “Ratboy” Krycek picked as the X-FILES character who was going to be “disintroduced” in the series premiere. Wrong! But let’s check with NIC LEA on what is going on in his life….

It feels strange to be 34 and still be called a boy. But the nickname means people are watching you and like what you do. I think it’s great. The fans who watch the show and like the show and are interested in my character, I can only thank them and I don’t mind being “Ratboy.” I think its’ attractive , as compared to “Skippy” and “Weasel”!

My question would be, what’s he been eating [in the silo]? I think he’s just finished his jacket and he’s on to his trousers. I don’t he can get himself out of there, it’s going to depend upon Mulder and Scully. I suppose the alien is keeping him alive for some reason, but you never know what will come out of the strange and wonderful mind of Chris Carter.

I just did a guest starring role in HIGHLANDER. It was a comedic one — I played a 1920’s bank robber driving along in a 1926 Packard with tommy guns blazing. There are no beheadings but we get shot all the time, then the Highlander [Adrian Paul] comes along and digs us up and we move on and rob another bank.

We are waiting now to see if John Woo’s TV pilot, ONCE A THIEF, gets picked up as a series. Fox might take it, but I’ll do the [X-FILES] regardless of where my career goes. I’ll come back and do the show whenever I can or whenever they want me to. It’s so much of a factor in my growth as a person and as a professional that I have a great deal of dedication to these people.

People Online: People Online's first conference with "The X-Files" creator Chris Carter

People Online
People Online’s first conference with “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter

PEOPLE: Hi Chris! Our first question is from New Jersey… Chris? Just type! We can see yr response.

Geoff Gould: The Jersey Devil is a completely different entity (feel free to e-mail me and I can send you its complete legend). Also, regarding the “Newark Fluke” episode: there is *no* “Newark County” or “North Orange.” We have Essex County (in which there is the city of Newark) and Orange and the East and West Oranges. Everything but North Orange. Apart from those inaccurate episodes: I love the show and in the TVZONE I scribe its episodes (I was quite impressed with the accurate definition of Wicca in the Azal episode, btw, re-aired last Friday night). Any comments on the to-date NJ geographical inaccuracies, and will any future NJ based episode be more accurate?

Carter: Hiyes

Gould: What I meant (with which to begin) was that your two NJ b sed episodes were nightmarish in its geographical inaccuracies (as well as the NJ Devil legend being completely Not Done).

Carter: hello Newjersey. Sorry about the inaccuracies. What were they?

Gould: There is *no* “Newark County” or “North Orange.” We have Essex County (in which there is the city of Newark) and Orange and the East and West Oranges. Everything but North Orange. Atlantic City is not within walking distance of a primevil forest (sp?) either. It’s on a swamp. (Well, pretty much).

Carter: Sorry about the county stuff. Sometimes we cannot get the rights to use the city or county names.

Gould: How do you need rights to use public names of cities?

PEOPLE: Geoff — there are a lot of people here to ask questions…

Carter: By the way, we shoot Vancouver for everywhere, so sometimes the foliage doesn’t match.

Gould: (Sorry).

PEOPLE: From Wayne NJ comes the next question

Did you have any role models in mind when you developed the characters of Scully and Mulder (Both individually and as a team?)

Carter: Not really. They’re pretty much equal parts of me. The doubter and the person who wants to believe. I describe myself as a non-religious person looking for a religious experience.

Question from Hyattsville, MD (Carol): Will there be an XFILES movie?

Carter: Yes. There are plans afoot for a movie. More on that later.

Question from Chicago, IL (Hilary): I read recently you said next season’s episodes would get away from relationship and character development. Say it isn’t so. They are much of what makes the show so terrific. Thanks for the great work.

PEOPLE: The suspense is killing us, Chris!

Carter: It really ain’t so. I was misquoted or misinterpreted.

Question from Toronto, ON (Robert J. Lewis): Chris, your show was recently dismissed by a no-brainer/coworker of mine who said “X-Files goes too far”. Too far into what he didn’t say. Do you agree with “There are no limits!”. Or, are there limits to what the media portrays and explores, especially television? Can a writer/director ever go too far? Cronenberg says no subject is taboo. Do you agree? Could the films go in this direction?

Carter: That’s a difficult question to answer. We try to be restrained with the X-files. There are certainly taboo subjects for TV. For the movie, we will definitely try and give you something you can’t get on TV.

Question from Fairfax, VA (Matt): I saw on the sci-fi channel about an X-files convention? Planning any more, and if so, where? It looked like a pretty neat thing.

Carter: I’m answering the convention question. There are a whole bunch of conventions coming up. Call Creation Entertainment for the schedule.

Matt: Are they fun?

Carter: The conventions are pretty fun. They’re getting better and better.

Question from Dublin, OH (Sunil Karve): Hi Chris. On that terrible day when the series comes to an end, are you planning on having Mulder and Scully finally get to the “truth” (and more importantly, be able to prove it?)

Carter: They’ll be too busy jumping each others’ bones.

Question from Monrovia, CA (Rachel H.): Care to clarify a rather garbled rumor about Mulder getting a date or girlfriend next season?

Carter: David D. has expressed great interest in Mulder having a girlfriend next year. I’m holding out for a bribe.

Rachel H.: A regular girlfriend or just a date or two?

Question from Columbus, OH (Mary): Mr. Carter, we spotted you in ANASAZI — any chance of another cameo?

Carter: It hasn’t been decided. You spotted me. How do you even know what i look like?

Mary: Magazine pictures! So… any more?

Carter: No. I’m possibly the worst actor in the world. Luckily, I also edit the episodes.

Question from Morristown, NJ: (Sidney Gittler): Do you believe that we have either been visited by aliens or are being observed by them?

Carter: I would like to believe we have, but I have no proof. Do you?

Sidney Gittler: No, but you write with such conviction

Carter: Hey, I WANT to believe.

Sidney Gittler: about their existence and other phenomena. Do you have a feeling for the validity of the kinds of people you write about, their powers etc.?

Carter: I don’t have a strong feeling about anyone unless I’ve met them.

Sidney Gittler: how do you get your inspiration for you story lines

Carter: The writing staff is seriously sick and twisted.

Sidney Gittler: But wonderful.

Carter: Thanks.

Sidney Gittler: one final question is what minimum age do you think is right for “The X-Files”?

Carter: That’s tough. I think younger than eight, you should definitely be watching with mom and dad. Is there anyone else with a question?

Sidney Gittler: thanks my 10 year-old won’t w/o me, and preferably not. What do you feel about the comic books?

Carter: Love the comics.

Sidney Gittler: I heard you have another show coming onto Fox?

Carter: As from the producers of the X-Files, but that would be Morgan and Wong.

Sidney Gittler: How many projects did you have in development when x-files was picked up?

Carter: I had one other project.

Sidney Gittler: What happened to it?

Carter: Sidney, you again!!!!!! It was shelved.

Question: Why so much shooting in Canada lately? I notice a lot of shows filmed there now?

Carter: They are film friendly.

Hi Chris! Will we see more UFO / Alien episodes this Season? The ones I saw last season were some of my favorites?

Carter: Yes. We will see more alien episodes. Look for the season openers. I have several faves. First season: Beyond the Sea. Second season: ??? Several.

Question from Toronto, ON (Dana Scully): Chris- I know that your idea came from watching Kolchak-Night Stalker, but how else were you inspired to create such a “daring” show as “The X-Files”?

Carter: I’m a daring guy!

Dana Scully: Chris! I’m so nervous!

Carter: I can tell.

Dana Scully: Sorry-I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks! I really love your show!

Carter: Thanks. I love your work, too.

Dana Scully: Golly-you flatter me so!

Carter: Well, you flatter me.

PEOPLE: I’m getting embarrassed watching this… Chris, were you inspired by Night Stalker? I’m always the last one to know!

Carter: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Dana Scully: What’s it like working with up and rising stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson?

Carter: David and Gillian are both friends of mine. I love working with them

Question from Minneapolis, MN (Brian Lee): Is it true that we may see Deep Throat return this coming season? And what ever happened to Section Chief Scott Blevins?

Carter: Deep throat is coming back. Blevins is not. Deep Throat is dead.

PEOPLE: Intriguing!

Question from Norfolk, VA (william r halvorsen): Thanks for the show, Chris. How is it doing in the ratings?

Carter: Much better, thanks.

william r halvorsen: Is the movie coming soon?

Carter: Not for a while.

Question from Goleta, CA (chris bonham): When will you next be appearing in person?

Carter: Right now.

PEOPLE: They have to accept that on faith though, Chris. I mean — are you really YOU??

Carter: Yes. I have aliens here with me who can corroborate.

chris bonham: We at Metro Comics are looking live and in person. Do you have a certain DoWhat do you want to drink Saturday?

Carter: Hey, Metro Comics!!!!!!! I’d like margaritas.

Question from Toronto, ON (David Faul): Question: Who will star in the movie. What will the movie be about?

Carter: Jodie Foster and Richard Gere. NOT!

PEOPLE: Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone?

Carter: Yes. Sly and the Stone!

PEOPLE: I’ll have their agents call your agents…

Question from Towson, MD (Janelle E. Keberle): Hi Chris! What is your policy regarding scripts? Do you accept submissions from new writers? Do we need to submit through an agent or can we make arrangements directly with you? If we must go through an agent, are there any in particular that you suggest?

Carter: I can’t comment on agents.

Janelle E. Keberle: Okay…what about the rest of the question?

Question from Atlanta, GA (Jonathan Somers): Chris, David Duchovny’s name appeared on the story lines of several great episodes this season. How much do David and Gillian contribute to the writers, while the teleplay is in the works as well as on the set?

Carter: David and I worked on two stories. Gillian and I haven’t collaborated as of yet.

Question from Toronto, ON (Sergio Cecchin): Hi Chris. Love your show. One of the few that challanges the mind. (Sure beats the OJ saga on CNN). My question is; Is the show based on actual FBI files? If so, just how much creative liberty do you take given, I assume, that that factual details you get are likely vague?

Carter: We try for accuracy always on our science.

Ty Burr: How about on your fiction?

PEOPLE: It’s not fiction, Ty… The TRUTH is out there, remember?

Carter: With good science we can build a better fictional story line.

PEOPLE: I know the hour is drawing to a close…but we have lots and lots of fans…

Carter: Let’s go on!

Question from New York, NY: Missed you at the con this past weekend. What did the title in Navajo say at the beginning of “Anazasi”?

Carter: The truth is out there. I can’t remember the con schedule.

Question from Toronto, ON (Robert J. Lewis): You must have read the book “A Martian Wouldn’t Say That”. I’ve done some screenwriting myself and I can’t believe what the suits demand sometimes! Any particularly weird arguments you’d care to share (c’mon, name names!)

Carter: I’ve already appeared. Unlike Hitchcock, I actually talked! Anasazi. Also unlike Hitchcock, I’m not fat!

Question from Huntsville, AL (Perry & Sharon): Any danger of losing the actors?

Carter: Their contracts are renewed.

Question from Toronto, ON (Penelope): Are you planning to make Scully less of a believer? Please don’t – the contrast between the characters is great and some of us devoted fans aren’t believers yet either.

Carter: Scully is the skeptic. Count on it.

PEOPLE: Is Scully at all modeled after the Clarice character in Silence of the Lambs?

Carter: No, but I loved the movie.

Question from Los Angeles, CA (meredith): Recently you likened M & S’s relationship to the one in the movie “Remains of the Day”. For those of us who didn’t see that movie, what did you mean? Thanks.

Carter: I just meant, I thought it was more powerful that those two characters didn’t get together. For the last time, I don’t know. But I’ll find out before the session is over. The real FBI has never really had a problem with us. I don’t think.

Question from North Syracuse, NY (Ellis): Will a romantic relationship develop between Mulder and Scully?

Carter: No romance.

PEOPLE: Ah the QUESTION…Why not?

Carter: More alien stuff is coming soon.

PEOPLE: Better than romance, I agree!

Question from Melbourne, FL (Louis Pinto): Hi Chris! It’s been known for a while that Whoopi Goldberg has been trying to get you to let her do an episode. Any chance of that happening, or any other big name actor/actress?

Carter: It could happen but not soon. Several “marquee” actors have expressed interest.

Question from Monrovia, CA (Rachel H.): Care to share the reason “Zoo” was renamed with the Blake reference? We have our theories about “Fearful Symmetry,” structural and iconic, but these all lack the stamp of authority.

Carter: It was never called Zoo. It was always Fearful Symmetry. I was last time I looked. I’m going to ignore the private messages.

Question from Denver, CO (Autumn Tysko): I have heard you state in interviews that next seasons shows will be more “plot driven” and less “character driven”, but it seems like the best episodes (Beyond the Sea, One Breath, Irresistible) center more on the characters. Why the change if this is true?

Carter: No, it’s not altogether true, but I don’t want to keep putting the characters. in jeopardy quite as much.

Question from Dallas, TX (Alan Laska): How does one submit story ideas & scripts for an episode. I have an idea & two for something. The BIG PROBLEM is getting an agent. STAR TREK:TNG has a way of fans sending in ideas by filing out a form. Any plans for “The X-Files”???

Carter: Not currently. Sorry.

Question from Toronto, ON (Deep Throat): What gave you the idea of creating “The X- Files”? I really enjoy the series and I am looking forward to the new season. Can you tell us about was is going to happen to Mulder?

Carter: About Mulder, you’ll have to wait. Sorry!!!!!!!!!!!!

Question from Minneapolis, MN (Stephen): Chris: How many scriptwriters do you employ on the X-files? What are the qualifications you look for? How does someone “break into” the screenwriting of future X-files? Thank You.

Carter: Eight writers on X-files currently. If you want to break in… write write write. This is a hard show to work on.

Question from Denver, CO (Bobby W. Jones): When is the next paperback due out?

Carter: The next book will be a Hardback, actually. By Kevin Anderson.

Question from Pittsburgh, PA (David M. Lishego): What is your favorite episode of “The X-Files”?

Carter: My fave is Beyond the Sea.

Question from Concord, CA (abby): Mr. Carter, many of my friends wanted to know what effect painting the rocks for “Anasazi” had on the environment… i just wanted to say we missed you at the Las Vegas con…

Carter: it didn’t affect the environment. Missed you, too.

Question from External Network (Sarah and Janet): calling from northern ireland..hi Chris – you said once that you wanted writers who “share your vision” – what is your vision??

Carter: Did I say that? I don’t think so. I want X-files writers to share the vision.

Question from Redding, CA (Mary Naber): How many seasons do you plan on the XFs running?

Carter: Only answering official questions. Sorry.

PEOPLE: The question about how many seasons is an official question, Chris!

Carter: Oh. I would like it to go at least five seasons.

Question from Austin, TX (Bill): Do you have an overall arc that runs through the various episodes of X-Files?

Carter: Yes. Roughly. I KNOW basically where I am going with the series. I know what the final eps will entail.

Question from Columbus, OH (Sara Davis): Will we see more development of Scully’s abduction also when will the trrds be coming out?

Carter: We will continue to explore Scully’s abduction. Coming soon , Sara.

Question from Montclair, NJ (Geoff Gould): When you hired DD and GA, were you aware their personal beliefs were “reversed” from those of their characters? (Comment): love Mulder’s dry wit! More more!

Carter: No, I didn’t know their beliefs.

Question from Denver, CO (trampy): Chris, has anyone from the FBI given you their opinion of the show? Especially any Special Agents?

Carter: Some agents have become big fans of the show.; They have been very helpful.

PEOPLE: Perhaps an episode where Scully and Mulder run into J. Edgar Hoover’s ghost…Altho William Casey is spookier…

Carter: Hey, I just got a call from David Duchovny and he’s calling from the set. I have to go, everyone. This was fun, if not confusing sometimes. See you next time.

PEOPLE: Chris, I want to thank you very much for coming here tonight and bearing with the frequent alien abductions of the moderator.

Carter: Thank you very much.


PEOPLE: And thanks to all of you in the audience… You were great. Remember: The Truth Is Out There!

Playback: Mark Snow: The X-Factor

Playback [American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers]
Mark Snow: The X-Files
Jem Aswad

[Original article here]

Mark Snow’s status as one of today’s most innovative and successful film and television composers is only the latest element of a far-reaching and eclectic career in music. While Snow is perhaps best known for his theme and scores for The X-Files and Millennium, this Juilliard-trained musician’s career has encompassed lush orchestral scoring, album production, classical performance, and five years as a co-founder of the legendary New York Rock N’ Roll Ensemble (a band he formed in the late ’60s with Juilliard roommate Michael Kamen, himself a much in-demand producer, studio musician, conductor, arranger, and film and television composer). He’s been nominated for six Emmy awards — in five different categories — and has worked on many motion pictures, as well as virtually every type of dramatic television program in existence. His best-known work also includes The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, An American Story, and Something About Amelia.

The Brooklyn, New York native began studying piano at the age of ten, then moved on to both drums and oboe. Four years at Juilliard followed, where he studied with jazz arranger Hall Overton and oboist Melvin Kaplan, as well as 12-tone composer George Tremblay and composer Earl Hagan (best known for the theme of The Andy Griffith Show).

Yet at the same time, Snow found himself bitten by the rock n’ roll bug. He found the perfect outlet for his wide-ranging talents and interests in the New York Rock N’ Roll Ensemble, which he formed with Kamen to perform both innovative pop and purely classical music (Snow played both drums and oboe — although not at the same time! — in that band).

Snow left the band in 1973 and, after a brief period in record production, moved to Los Angeles in 1974 and began working as a film and television composer. His early successes in the field included episodes of the award-winning series Family, and the theme and episodic scores for the long-running Hart To Hart. Other work included Cagney and Lacey, Baghdad Cafe, and Crazy Like A Fox, as well as many TV movies and mini-series.

Snow’s home studio, featuring a mind-boggling array of the latest electronic equipment, enables him to “audition” an entire score for producers and directors — and his very friendly dogs — in the comfort of his own backyard. It’s there that we find Mark working on the opening scenes of the latest episode of Millennium. The show opens with a meltdown-type situation at a Russian nuclear reactor, and then cuts to a scene outside the plant, where a man is murdered by a character who, it is implied, caused the meltdown.

“I don’t have a clue of what this show is about,” he laughs, “but it’s something about Chernobyl — now how that relates to Millennium, I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough. This is very different for Millennium: the music calls for an obvious Russian flavor, and this chorus sound, with the right harmonies, seems to be the thing that makes it not too hokey — just oohs and ahhs, no [does amusing impersonation of Russian choir] or balalaikas or anything. [Gestures at keyboard.] This is the Synclavier, which is my primary instrument, and this is a digital recording, uh, thing, and I just go part by part and layer the music, and just really work with the picture. I have spotting notes here that are just where the cue starts and stops, so it’s just sketching out the piece, filling in everything.”

The music heightens in volume and intensity with the action, then calms as the scene fades out, and segues into the show’s theme…

All of this equipment seems to play a pretty large role in your work. How was your method different before technology set in?

I always had a piano. I remember having an office where I had a black and white TV, a video cassette machine — those things were monstrous clunky dinosaurs back then — and the spotting notes that were like: every two seconds, plink… dialogue… ARGH! Writing it out, writing it out… that’s just the way it was done.

But now, it’s a whole other process. I remember in ’85 or ’86, when home studios weren’t all that common for this kind of work, my accountant said, “Let’s get you the best instrument there is.” I said, “I think it’s the Synclavier, but it costs a fortune!” And he said, “Beg, borrow, or steal, we have to get it.” And I think it’s probably the single best investment I ever made — I’ve still got the same one, although there have been all kinds of upgrades in the software.

Do you find that the technology can take up as much time as the music?

Not for me — I won’t let it! I have learned as much as I want to — as much as I have to — and just that. But it took a good three years to really get into the sound and the feel of electronic sounds.

Your career has had some pretty severe directional changes: you went from Juilliard to an esoteric rock band [The New York Rock N’ Roll Ensemble] to film and television composing. First, what caused the shift to rock?

The Beatles … I was 15 or 16, and they were a major eye-opener. I was at Juilliard at the time, playing the oboe, and it looked like that’s what I was going to do with my life. My father was a drummer, and as a kid I used to play around with his drums, so I gradually got to be a good rock n’ roll drummer.

Plus, when I was in high school, I was the best oboe player in New York City, and I went to Juilliard thinking I was so cool. When I auditioned, everyone was warming up waiting for their turn — which is unnerving in itself — and they were all so good that I got badly psyched out. I just barely [passed the audition] — and I started to rethink the whole thing, that maybe it wasn’t for me. And also, being in an orchestra, part of this huge thing, I felt so swallowed up by it.

Was it your first band?

Yes – my only band! I was in it for five years, and I got the full Spinal Tap deal! Everything in that movie was what our band was like: there was the English girlfriend coming in and screwing things up, there was the management fighting with the record company, all the asinine, egomaniacal B.S. We didn’t have all the props and smoke that they did (laughs), but everything else was pretty similar!

What was the band like?

It was primarily based around a bunch of us playing weird instruments. Kamen and I were roommates at Juilliard, we were best friends in high school and Juilliard, and in the band we both played oboe; he was also a keyboard player and I was also the drummer. The bass player [Dorian Rudnytsky] was a cellist and he was also from Juilliard, and two guitar players [Brian Corrigan and Clifford Nivison]. We played a Halloween dance, and literally two weeks later we got signed to Atlantic Records because they thought we could be a real cult thing. Ahmet Ertegun said, “You guys are gonna be bigger than the Rascals!” (laughs). Of course we never even came close.

It was an interesting idea — going from playing kick-ass rock n’ roll, and then switching instruments and playing this all-acoustic baroque music — and people went nuts when we played live, but it did not translate to records: there was no really great singer, and the songs were just too eclectic. But it was a great visual thing, and on the strength of that we were together for five years. We played every major college venue — the Fillmores East and West, the Avalon Ballroom — and we opened up for Sly and The Family Stone, the Turtles, Janis Joplin, so it was fun. But after five years, I’d had it. The college kids just came for a good time, and as long as you played loud they’d go “YEAH!” It just got repetitious and boring and not fun.

And what got you into film and television from there?

I’d always had a thing about movie music, hearing it and thinking, “That’s like the stuff I really like,” because it was like Stravinsky, Ravel, the modern composers. There was one score in particular: Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet Of The Apes, which was so atonal and avant-garde and non-melodic. For me it was just terribly exciting, and that got me into it. Glynn, my wife, said, “Let’s go to California, my family can introduce you to producers and directors,” and that’s what happened: my wife’s sister is Tyne Daly, her brother is Tim Daly, their father was James Daly, they introduced me to people, and six months after I landed, I got my first episodic show: The Rookies. I didn’t do the theme — Elmer Bernstein, of all people, did it, and it was pretty hokey, too! It was an Aaron Spelling show, so I did a lot of work for him, then Doug Kramer came in with The Love Boat and Dynasty and all that.

Well, I kept doing [scores] this one way, which I thought was the right way, and which I thought they all liked. Well, Kramer didn’t like it at all, and he said “Get rid of [Snow], this is terrible!” So they did. At first it felt awful, but looking back, it was the best thing that ever could have happened to me, because then I realized that there are more than 8500 ways to do a score. Once you’re locked into one way all the time, it’s a disaster. And I know composers today who just predictably do the same thing, and it really pigeonholes them, and that’s something I wanted to get away from.

Then I heard these scores where sounds became part of the music, and technology started to become a part of it — although none of this stuff [gestures at equipment] was invented at the time — and it just opened my eyes: there are millions of ways to write a score, and be effective at the same time. This was in the late ’70s. I listen now to things I did before — like the Hart To Hart theme — and it’s painful! This wah-wah guitar, fours on the bass drum and a disco beat…

Mark Snow in his studio
Photo by Chris Barr

But isn’t that what your employers wanted?

That’s what was happening at the time. I think a lot of people don’t believe that I’m the same guy who did that and The X-Files and Millennium. I’m very lucky that The X-Files came along, because even though I had the equipment and the studio, I think I was pegged into more of a traditional role, and luckily for me, it’s grown from that.

Aren’t you often forced into a situation where you’re just giving people what they want and not challenging yourself artistically?

That’s a great question. If you can do both, you’re very lucky. Mostly, you’re right, it was about doing the job, and a lot of that music doesn’t sound very impressive by itself, without the pictures. Things like the theme from Out of Africa or Cinema Paradiso or Patton or Star Wars sound amazing on their own. There’s a lot of underscore that composers can really relate to, but producers and directors just react to [how a piece of music] will work for their project.

Do you feel that The X-Files was a breakthrough creatively as well as commercially?

Absolutely. It was [due to] working with people like Chris Carter, who, although he had very limited experience with underscore music, knows what he likes. When we did the theme, he came over with stacks of CDS: classical, alternative, minimal, everything. He would take each one apart and say, “I love this guitar sound, I love this percussion figure, I love this sustained note here,” so I went off and wrote four themes, and for each one he’d say, “I love this! It just needs…” Finally, after the fourth one, I said, “Let’s just start from scratch and see what happens.”

So I put my hand on the keyboard. There was an echo-delay machine on, and this arpeggio went off and he said, “That’s cool.” He’s really into sustains and organic, atmospheric-sounding stuff, so I came up with a simple melody… now what? I went through every sound in the room and finally came up with this whistle, and I thought, “This is The Andy Griffith Show of the ’90s or something!” And he dug it — although it was way off from the original ideas we had. The first bunch of themes were sort of hard and bangy — much more what you’d expect from a scary show — and I thought maybe it would be more effective to be subtle and have a lighter touch.

We went over to Fox and played it for a room full of executives, and they didn’t know what to think. And much to his credit, Chris said, “Well, that’s our theme. Hope you all like it — I’ve got to go to a meeting.” In retrospect it was great, but at the time it was nerve-wracking: I was sitting there with all these guys and they’re going, “Well, it’s nice… it’s nice…” They were completely unsure. And then a month later, after we’d gotten this great response, they all said, “I KNEW it was great!” [laughs]

I think The X-Files music has changed through the years. I look at some of the early shows and it’s really fun to see how it’s grown. It was very atmospheric at first, and it still is, but it’s much more melodic, more Mahler, or sort of impressionist — I know that sounds a little pretentious — and [the producers] are just going right with it. That’s why this collaboration is so great: every little left or right turn I make, they’re right with it.

What are some other breakthroughs you feel you’ve had in your career?

Hm… there was a mini-series — with a very long title — I did four or five years ago called The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. It was a pure orchestral score with no electronics, and there were some really great melodic pieces and lovely violin solos. I think when people heard that, they started thinking of me on a more elevated level. Up until then it was mostly TV movies — some were well-known, others not, but it was enough to have people interested in using me for TV movies.

It’s hard to get into feature [film] work, and the longer you’re in TV the harder it gets, but my work with The X-Files and Chris Carter and Millennium has been so satisfying and so much fun, it’s like doing a mini-movie every week, the quality of these shows is so excellent. So it’s taken my frustration at not doing movies from an 8 out of 10 to maybe a 2 or a 3.

Are you still frustrated at not doing features?

Not as much, because I love this, and the quality control is so much better. For every episode a group of men come over — whether it’s Chris and the writer and the producer/director or some combination. And it’s mostly like a party, but every once in awhile, “Can you hit that harder?” “Sure.” “I don’t think we need that there.” “Fine, it’s out.” Very minimal changes, but it gives them a chance to get out of the studio, and talk about the cuts for the show as well.

How much time do you have to score each show?

Anywhere from three to six days — remember, The X-Files is about 38 minutes of music per show. It’s do-able, I’ve gotten a method of working that fits right in with the schedule. I don’t work well at night. I can get up at 6:00 or 7:00 and jump right into it, cut out at 4:00 or 5:00, and that’s a good day… a long day, but a good one.

You must have to write volumes of suspenseful music.

Yes, but I keep on learning, every day there are a million new ways to do it. There are so many approaches: you don’t have to telegraph what’s going to happen, you can just let on a little bit, and arc it up every bar or so. Like this show [of Millennium]: at the beginning it’s completely simple, but I know there’s gonna be sound all over the place — bells and whistles and people and stairs and [bangs on table] — so I don’t want to be too busy. And then, when it cuts to the outside for the first time, there’s going to be less noise, so I can open up the music more, and make it more melodic.

And then you have to segue into the theme, right?

Yes — no! I’m glad you said that, because this was one of the few times, just by accident, that the key of the last note of the underscore before the theme was the same key as the theme. But a lot of the time it’s just odd relationships, and that’s not bad, because when the theme kicks in, it’s like “Woah!” — a real kick. The beginnings of shows like these are usually a killing of some sort [laughs, then carries on sing-song in an amazingly accurate approximation of the rhythm of a scary television show]: Like there’s a beautiful young woman, riding a horse at night, and she rides into the stable, then she hears something, and the horse whinnies, and she starts poking around, then she goes into another stable, and there’s a dead horse, and she’s terrified, then you see feet, and the feet come closer, and it’s some bad guy, and he’s got a knife — cut to the outside of the barn, pull back, scream, music underneath. They often seem to have a similar rhythm — they start off placid or benign, and everything’s fine, and then you have to cleverly ooze into weirdness.

What are most difficult emotions to convey musically?

Umm… [long pause] vacillation! [laughter] Probably confusion, subtle confusion.

Do you think electronic gear makes it harder to evoke emotions that might be easier for an orchestra?

A couple of years ago I would have said yes, but now, no. There are a couple of things I’ve done recently that if I told you came out of this machine — modestly — you’d be impressed. The producers and everyone thought it was an orchestra. But there are different kinds of emotion: this thing I’m talking about is a big Puccini-esque piece with a full-blast John Williams-style emotion. But on the other hand, the small ensembles, the simple little duets and trios, just a string pad and a solo piano and an interesting instrument can have a real honest, emotional feeling.

You’ve been an ASCAP member for long time.

“Yeah. I switched from BMI at least 25 years ago. I’m very happy — you guys have been great.”

Apart from Oscars, Emmys, and ASCAP Awards, are there really any other awards for film and television composers to win?

“Academy Awards, Emmys, and ASCAP Awards — that’s really it! You always feel a little funny — I mean, I played a part, but I didn’t make The X-Files a hit! The music doesn’t make these shows a smash. The Emmys feels a bit more legit because you’re being judged by your peers just on the music — it has nothing to do with popularity or how much music was written or anything like that. Having said that, when you put the time in and you do the work and you get an award, it’s very gratifying. And the Awards shows are always a blast. [At the ASCAP Film & TV Awards], at least ten people came up to me and “Hi how ya doing? You gave me my first cue for this or that,” and that’s kinda neat. Because [composers] are so isolated all the time, when you go to these things and people say, “I really love what you’re doing with The X-Files, the theme is great,” or some big shot will come over and say “Hey, great job,” it’s wonderful.”

What advice would you give to people trying to break in?

“The most important thing is to be yourself. That sounds very cornball, but if you pretend to be what you think they want, it’s a horrible mistake. You have to be as comfortable with yourself as humanly possible — that’s number one. Then it’s about exploiting as many possible little cracks of openings of relationships as you possibly can. Whenever I do classes, the big question is, “How do we get started? How do we get in?” It’s just about relationships, and meeting people, and anybody you know who you think maybe can get you an introduction. And when the class is over, “Thank you,” they clap, and then BAM! They’re all over you! “HERE’S MY TAPE!” But that’s exactly what I told them to do, and that’s what you have to do.

A lot of times at the beginning, the talent isn’t as important as the perseverance. It really isn’t. Because this business is literally something that can’t be taught in a school. You listen to as many experienced people as you can, you practice, you have classes, you start writing out things, whatever. But until you’re in it, and you start hearing and seeing how the music works, that’s when you start learning: “That was too busy, that was too loud, I can see how this can be better.” At first, I would always over-write: I was trying to impress the composers, impress the musicians — wrong! It’s about impressing the people that you work for first of all, and if you can happen to write good music on top of it all, god bless you!

It’s important to recognize how well a simple approach — and there are different variations of that word simple — can work. When John Williams does a big, sweeping score, it just transports you and carries you away. On the other hand, a single, sad Irish fiddler playing by himself can be equally potent. I tend to feel more comfortable with the simpler approach, but there are so many ways, so many approaches, and so little time!”

Film and television composers’ music is often as recognized — and recognizable — as top ten hits, if not more so. Do you feel that this is seriously recognized as an art form?

“I’ve been extremely lucky, because The X-Files and Millennium — those shows are a different deal. The X-Files theme was a smash single in Europe — there’s a four-minute version of it — and what’s fascinating to me about that is, nothing really big happens in the song: it stays in D-minor, there’s no singing, drums, or guitars… and it was a smash hit! That’s pretty wild.”

The music creates the feeling of the show and its ideas.

“Yeah, well, it turns out the Hale-Bopp people were listening to The X-Files a few days before…”

How does that feel?

“Uh, a little spooky!”

One final question: you went to Juilliard with [legendary classical instrumentalists] Itzak Perlman and Pinchas Zuckerman — were you friends with them?

“Yeah. It’s so funny how they’ve changed. Perlman was always basically the same: just a sweet, nice guy, amazing talent, always smiling. Pinchas Zuckerman, who I think is just a spectacular player, with so much power and emotion and energy and technique — was a real hood! Cigarette, cigar-smoking, pool-playing wise guy — “Get outta my way, I’m the best thing that ever happened!” And now he’s turned into a refined gentleman. But he was a real bully, almost. He’d get into fights and get drunk, but it matched his playing, that character, that personality of his was so confrontational and fiery, and that’s how he played. It really came out. And he was able to calm his personal life down and keep the fire in the music. Where I don’t think Perlman has that real killer instinct, and it reflects in his personality. I think that’s very true of people.”