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Archive for February, 2000

The Province: Smoking guns

The Province
Smoking guns

The men behind the Lone Gunmen, that trippy trio from The X-Files, are getting their own Fox pilot. TV writer Dana Gee gets the straight goods from the Vancouver actors — along with a few new conspiracy theories

Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood and Dean Haglund make up the Lone Gunmen.

Look out Hollywood, the Lone Gunmen are taking aim at prime time TV.

Those wacky, paranoid geeks that help Mulder and Scully crack conspiracies are spinning off into their own show.

It was confirmed recently that The X-Files’ guy-in-charge-of-everything, Chris Carter, will produce a pilot based on the Gunmen.

That’s great news for the three Vancouver-area actors who portray Byers, Frohike and Langly: respectively, Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund.

As is the norm with anything to do with The X-Files the lid is on pretty tight. What we do know is if The X-Files does not return for an eighth season — don’t hold your breath — the show will air in September. If Fox can work out new contracts with Carter and star David Duchovny, an eight season will likely hit the air and the Lone Gunmen pilot will show up as a mid-season replacement sometime in January.

We tracked down the trippy trio and got them to dish on the show and life as the wildly popular conspiracy guys.

Dean Haglund A.K.A. Langly

Q. Where’s the pilot going to be shot?

A. In Vancouver, since we were all starting to look too sexy with our buff bodies and tans that we were getting in L.A.

Q. You’re not afraid of rain these days, are you?

A. Only acid rain and what happened to that? I thought David Suzuki said the Gulf Islands were supposed to be dead now unless we took drastic actions! Did we take them?

Q. What do you think the show should be called?

A. Hmmmmmm. How about, I Told You If You Make that Face it Will Stay That Way?

Q. What will your own show mean to your popularity?

A. The show will mean, when entering a large event, I will no longer be asked, “Are you with the band?”

Q. Will we see you walking next to Bruce Willis or John Travolta down a red carpet at a movie premiere anytime soon?

A. Yeah, that’s right. I am starring in a picture with John Travolta and Bruce Willis called That Long Haired Guy Killed the General’s Daughter and He Can See Dead People.

Q. What’s in your new contract?

A. Well, I fought hard, it was quite a battle with Business Affairs, but I worked it so I only have to mention my last name at the security gate to get in.

Q. How would you describe your personal style?

A. Biker from Mensa.

Q. What are some traits you and Langly share?

A. Unkempt hair. Unclean linen.

Q. Will you do nudity?

A. Only if nudity will respect me in the morning.

Q. What is the weirdest thing someone has written about you in say an Internet chat room?

A. You want weird? YOU WANT WEIRD? Oh, baby, you don’t know the meaning of weird until you have seen the things I have seen. Thus, I can’t really judge what the weirdest means anymore.

Q. If you could start one rumour about yourself what would it be?

A. That I am that deep voice you hear when you dial the wrong number.

Q. What rumour would you start about the other two Gunmen?

A. They are the women’s voices that say ‘Telus’ and ‘Next stop, Metrotown.’

Q. What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?

A. That Monica Lewinsky was a CIA operative on a mission to distract the public from the fact that the government was completely useless.

Q. If the moon walk was staged, how do you explain pictures and film footage of the astronauts experiencing weightlessness?

A. They turned the camera upside down. Try it at home.

Q. Is it true that, in the pilot, there will be a strong female role, a theorist who stimulates your intellects as well as your . . .?

A. As my what? Could you finish the question please. I am bad with double entendre. I can barely handle single entendre.

Q. Any idea on who will play that role?

A. I think I will. It’s a chance to expand my acting range to play a woman who I lust after.

Q. Who else would you like to play that role?

A. I think we should rotate the entire cast of 90210 through the part. They’ve got the time.

Q. Finish this sentence: If I were Chris Carter the first thing I would do is . . .

A. Go surfing!

Tom Braidwood A.K.A. Frohike

Q. Shooting The X-Files in L.A. hasn’t made you afraid of the rain, has it?

A. I’m born and bred in the rain. I’m a water baby.

Q. What’s the show going to be called?

A. Don’t know but I think The Lone Gunman would be good. Our name is originally singular whose mythology derives from the lone gunman referred to in the Kennedy assassination.

Q. What did you do to celebrate when you found out the show was a go?

A. I called my wife at home, sat on the balcony of the hotel in L.A., watched the sun set and went to bed at 10 p.m.

Q. What’s the difference between Hollywood you and Vancouver you?

A. About a two-and-a-half hour plane ride.

Q. Will we see you walking next to Bruce Willis or John Travolta down a red carpet at a movie premiere?

A. I don’t think so. Maybe we’ll be hired to clean the carpet if we’re lucky.

Q. What is one trait you share with Frohike?

A. Bad taste in clothes.

Q. What’s one trait you don’t share?

A. I’m better looking than my character.

Q. Will you do nudity?

A. Pity the poor viewing audience . . .

Q. What’s the weirdest thing someone has said about you or Frohike in, say, an Internet chat room?

A. Don’t follow the chat rooms much. But a young female fan at one of the conventions wondered if I wore boxers or briefs.

Q. If you could start one rumour about yourself what would it be?

A. That I can act . . .

Q. What rumour would you start about other Gunmen?

A. That they think I can act . . .

Q. What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?

A. Gas prices . . .

Bruce Harwood A.K.A. Byers

Q. When you heard about the pilot, did you do anything wild and crazy to celebrate?

A. No. A pilot is a pilot –which is good — but not a series. I take it one step at a time.

Q. Are you now considered A-list party material?

A. Nope.

Q. Will we see you walking next to Bruce Willis or John Travolta down a red carpet at a movie premiere anytime soon?

A. Nope.

Q. What will be in your new contract? A bigger trailer, champagne? What do you get now?

A. Sorry, private information.

Q. How would you describe your personal style?

A. Well, I don’t wear suits (like Byers) if I can help it. I prefer relaxed and pretty unstylish clothes.

Q. What’s one trait you share with your on screen persona?

A. Bookishness.

Q. What is one thing you and your character don’t share?

A. Extreme paranoia.

Q. Will you do nudity?

A. Why would anyone want me to?

Q. What would surprise an X-Files fan to find out about you?

A. X-Files fans are hard to surprise!

Q. If you could start one rumour about yourself what would it be?

A. That I was taller and better looking.

Q. What rumour would you start about your other two Gunmen cohorts?

A. That they said I was taller and better looking.

Q. Who is funnier, Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey?

A. Robin Williams.

Q. What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?

A. That the JFK assassination was a suicide.

Q. If the moon walk was staged, how do you explain pictures and film footage of the astronauts experiencing weightlessness?

A. Invisible strings.

Q. How do you explain crop circles and Ricky Martin?

A. They both describe concentric circles.

Entertainment Weekly: 'X' Posing: In time for sweeps, The X-Files morphs into Cops

Entertainment Weekly
‘X’ Posing In time for sweeps, The X-Files morphs into Cops
Tom Russo

[Typed by alfornos]

After tracking down everything from a humanoid flukeworm to a sentient pile of coffee grounds, it was only a matter of time before Agents Mulder and Scully found themselves tangling with the lowest life-form imaginable: the Cops perp.

Raising the creative bar for The X-Files 150th episode, creator Chris Carter and Co. teamed up with Fox’s 11-year-old lights-camera-handcuffs reality show. So when you tune in Feb. 20, don’t be shocked to find bleeped-out profanity, the digitally blurred faces of pushers and hookers, camera-rattling foot chases – and, of course, that trademark “Bad Boys” theme song. “The commitment – frightening as it is – is to be Cops no matter what,” says episode director Michael Watkins. “We’ve needed to strip away our show’s exotic beats and go more with visceral instinct.”

That’s why David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and the X-Files crew are spending this January night in a dicey, pack-your-pepper-spray section of Venice, Calif. In their quest to replicate the cinema verité look of Cops, they’ve staked out a shabby bungalow, armed with a simple BVW-700B video camera – to capture that classic lighting-be-damned, run-and-gun feel. And the new aesthetic is paying nifty dividends: Not only has shooting time been reduced dramatically, but Carter estimates the move lopped $500,000 off the reported $3 million-per-episode average. “I’m sure Fox would love it if we did every episode on video,” he says.

The guy Fox can thank for this cost-cutting concept is X-Files writer and die-hard Cops-head Vince Gilligan, who’d championed the crossover for years. “I’d broach the subject now and then,” he says. “Everyone was interested, but a little reluctant.”

Carter says the series’ move from Vancouver to L.A. (i.e., Cops central) helped make Gilligan’s idea more feasible. But ultimately, he says, “it was just a question of finding the story to tell.”

Gilligan certainly solved that problem: The episode finds Mulder and Scully running into the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (and the requisite Cops camera crew) as they investigate bizarre murders in South Central, where eyewitness accounts implicate everything from a werewolf to a real-life Freddy Krueger.

The scene filming tonight finds Mulder and Scully checking up on Steve and Edy, a pair of bickering queens who are in danger of being the next victims. In classic Cops style, the agents get caught in the cross fire of a dish-smashing catfight. “He treats me with disrespect!” Edy wails. “We’re not here to get involved in personal problems,” says Mulder. As Edy continues to let loose with the histrionics, Duchovny can barely suppress a laugh.

Although they’re not straying far from Gilligan’s script, the moment has a definite improv feel. And since this is being shot – a la Cops – in continuous takes, if anyone screws up – or cracks up – it’s back to line 1. Still, Anderson says, “after you’ve rehearsed a couple of times, you start remembering what it’s like to do live theater, and it can get very fun and creative.” And, she adds, you can’t beat the result: “When you watch a scene on playback, it *looks* like Cops.”

Perhaps too much so. “I said to my mom, ‘Do you want to watch some [footage]?'” confides Gilligan. “And there’s this great scene with all the cops running up the street, sirens going. She leaves the room to go wash dishes. I said, ‘Aren’t you interested in this?’ And she’s like, ‘Well, turn off Cops and show me some X-Files.'”

Gilligan laughs. “Must be on to something.”

TV Guide Online: Chat with Vince Gilligan

TV Guide Online
Transcript from the February 17th chat with Vince Gilligan

TV Guide Online: Tonight we are chatting with “X-Files” writer Vince Gilligan about the upcoming episode entitled “X-Cops”. Welcome Vince! Thanks for coming tonight!

Vince Gilligan: Hi, everybody!

Question: In the “X-Cops” trailer…it just says Mulder + Scully are investigating a monster in L.A. and their being videotaped by “Cops”…but what type of monster are they chasing? What’s the episode really about, other than the “Cops” thing??

Vince Gilligan: Well, I could answer that, but it would spoil the show for you on Sunday night. I will tell you that Mulder and Scully think they are looking for a werewolf when the show begins, but then some questions arise… as they often do.

Question: How long had you been toying with the idea behind “X-COPS” before you actually wrote the script?

Vince Gilligan: I had wanted to do a “COPS” related episode for three years now. I pitched the idea to Chris Carter way back in season 4. We put it on the back burner for a while, but finally found the right time to do it, which was this year.

Question: Are you set to write any more episodes for the seventh season?

Vince Gilligan: Yes, in fact, the plan right now is that I will write and direct episode #21, and it will be the first time I direct an “X-Files” episode, and in fact, the first time that I’ll direct ANYTHING since film school, way back in 1989. I’m very, very nervous about directing and yet, nervous in a good way. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, and I’m hoping not to embarrass myself.

Question: Have you ever had an idea for an episode that you thought would be great, yet had it vetoed?

Vince Gilligan: Chris Carter is a great guy to work for in that he seldom vetoes ideas. Having said that, it took him a while to warm up to the idea to doing the “COPS” crossover. But that’s what I like about him. He needs to see you have a lot of enthusiasm for an idea before he gives you the go-ahead sometimes, and that makes you work even harder on that idea, whatever it may be.

Question: How does working with a staff of writers differ from being the sole writer of the project? Is it more of a collaborative atmosphere or all you all working on your own episodes?

Vince Gilligan: The great thing about my job is that we get to do both. We often write episodes all by ourselves, and often we team up and write them together. It pretty much depends on how much time we have to get the episode written. Both ways are fun. It’s great to be able to go off by yourself and write one alone, and yet it can also be a real kick to get together in a room with Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban and bang out a story together.

Question: On average, how long does it take you to write an episode?

Vince Gilligan: The short answer is “As long as we have.” In a perfect world, I like to have at least three weeks. More often than not, once the plot is fleshed out and the actual writing begins, I have on average about 12-16 days. It’s a tough schedule, but it’s a very challenging one, and I think it’s made me a better writer. It’s certainly made me a faster one.

Question: How difficult/different is it to break into TV writing? It seems that it would be more difficult than trying to shop a screenplay.

Vince Gilligan: It’s a good question, but a tough one to answer. The reason it’s tough to answer is because everyone who’s ever made it in either business has followed a completely unique path. Which is to say, there is no one “right” way to break into the business. Having said that, a lot of people do have success with writing spec scripts for TV shows that are in production and getting them to the right agents or TV producers. At the end of the day, it IS tough breaking in, but I have always believed that talent will prevail. If you work hard at writing and are talented, you will succeed sooner or later.

Question: Were you present at all on set, while “X-COPS” was being filmed? If so, was everything turning out how you had planned?

Vince Gilligan: Yes, I was! It was a wonderful set to visit. The crew was very happy because the shooting went very quickly. That’s because we shot it all on video, and because of that the shooting days averaged four to five hours, versus twelve to sixteen… which is how long they normally go. The other reason it was great fun being on the set was that most of the sheriff’s deputies you’ll see in the episode were REAL L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. They were a wonderfully enthusiastic group of men and women who brought a level of realism to our episode, which we could have never accomplished with actors. One deputy in particular, a man named Michael Maher, was an officer I got to ride along with during the writing process. Riding with him gave me a real insight into what the deputies do on the job. It was very exciting! Deputy Maher has since become a good friend, and I plan to ride along with him again in the future.

Question: Any official news on whether there will be an 8th season?

Vince Gilligan: I was waiting for that question! 🙂 We’re waiting ourselves. It all comes down to David Duchovny at this point. Once he decides one way or the other, we’ll know whether or not there’ll be an eighth season. He still enjoys playing Agent Mulder, and of course does a wonderful job as always, but it’s up to him to decide whether to do it another year or to move on with his career.

Question: I have a friend who still has nightmares about Leonard Betts. Have you ever frightened yourself with something you’ve written?

Vince Gilligan: That’s a good one… Actually, it does get sort of creepy sometimes, writing these episodes. I’ve creeped myself out on several occasions, writing in my office here on the FOX lot late at night. One time that springs to mind was when I was on a tight deadline to finish the episode “Paper Hearts.” It was about 4 in the morning, and I was the only person on the lot, except for one or two guards. The studio is dark and deserted at that time of the night, much like a ghost town. I remember thinking I was seeing and hearing things just out of the corner of my eye as I would make frequent trips to the bathroom. The frequent trips to the bathroom were of course brought on by all the coffee a writer needs to drink when he’s pounding away at the typewriter at 4 in the morning.

Question: Vince, Hi there. My name is Anthony and I’m a huge fan of yours. I was wondering if there is an address so fans can write you for an autograph? Thanks!

Vince Gilligan: Thank you, Anthony! The best address to send correspondence to is: Ten Thirteen Productions; P.O. 900; Beverly Hills, CA 90213 Of course, there is no official fan club for writers! If we were that good looking, we’d be in front of the camera, not behind it.

Question: What is your favorite “X-Files” episode ever?

Vince Gilligan: I don’t really have one favorite. I don’t really have a favorite movie or type of food either. It’s always so hard to choose just one. I do have MANY favorite episodes, however, some of them include: “Dwayne Barry”, “Colony” and “Endgame” “The Walk” and pretty much anything written by Darin Morgan. Glen Morgan and Jim Wong wrote some great ones too, of course…”One Breath” was a favorite of mine.

TV Guide Online: Thank you Vince, for chatting with us this evening! We enjoyed it and hope you can talk with us again soon!

Vince Gilligan: Thank you so much for signing on! And as always, thanks for watching. P.S.: I’m sorry… I don’t know what “WEEB” is. Of course, if it’s anything Internet related, I am the WRONG person to ask. I barely know how to get my VCR to work. 🙂

The X-Files Magazine: Fate Accompli

The X-Files Magazine [US, #13, Spring 2000]
Fate Accompli
Gina Mcintyre

[Typed by Gayle]

After years of searching, Mulder finally learns the fate of his missing sister in The X-Files’ most emotional mythology two-parter to date

A nearly opaque cloud of manufactured mist fills the wide, open expanse of Stage eight on the Twentieth Century fox lot. A strong, circular light cuts through the haze like halogen beams through a night fog, illuminating a rectangular, wooden set that resembles a train car from Santa’s workshop on some exaggerated scale. While dozens of people scurry from place to place inside the considerable shadow cast by the box car, director Kim Manners stands on the other side of the stage, walking in circles around production designer Corey Kaplan and visual effects supervisor Bill Millar. Waiting for the final preparations for this morning’s scene to be completed, the forward-thinking Manners is already planning the exact choreography of a complicated camera move still days away on the production schedule, with the pair of department heads standing in for Mulder and Scully.

The whole place is a hive of activity. It’s the beginning of the second day of shooting on “Closure,” the second of a two-part episode that finally reveals what really happened to Agent Mulder’s missing sister Samantha. The shows begin with the story of a young California girl, Amber Lynn LaPierre, who disappears one night under peculiar circumstances. The case draws the attention of Mulder, who is struck by its similarities to Samantha’s alleged abduction. Driven, the agent and his devoted partner Scully are drawn deeper into the child’s case and after much searching, ultimately uncover a life-changing truth. For years, Chris Carter has indicated that his master plan for The X-Files includes the explanation for Samantha’s fate, which has been central to the ongoing narrative since the pilot episode. His quest to discover what terrible circumstances befell his beloved sister has spurred Mulder onward through countless adventures, his will resolute and unyielding. But penning the episodes that would once and for all explicate the mystery proved more challenging than Carter and his writing partner executive producer Frank Spotnitz had anticipated. In breaking the story, the pair directed the storyline onto an entirely new path, borrowing a phrase from German philosopher martin Heidegger that translates as “being in time” as the title for the first episode.

“I don’t think [Chris] thought he would tell a story that said exactly this,” Spotnitz explains. “We’re still going to the same place in the end, but I think we found a slightly different way of getting there. We kind of stumbled upon it at the last minute, honestly. We sat down to do this two-parter and these are the post-conspiracy mythology episodes, sot hey tend to be simpler. We wanted it to be a case that became a mythology episode, rather than just starting out a mythology episode. We found a way into the Samantha story and I think we ended up going further in explaining what happened to her earlier than we expected to. It was exciting to do. I think it feels very reality based, this-could-be-happening-in-your-city kind of thing, which was very appealing to us about the story. It’s always been Chris’ maxim of telling stories that seem real, and this seems very real in the beginning and it gets more fantastic.”

While the episodes unquestionably belong to The X-Files mythology, they do not involve conspiracies, aliens or Cigarette Smoking Men – even though the CSM does briefly appear. Instead, the two-parter closely examines Mulder’s emotional state, resulting in a gripping tale that afforded leads David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson the opportunity to showcase their acting talents.

“Right before they received the scripts, I called to prepare the actors for what was coming, and I think they’ve welcomed it,” Spotnitz says. “I think they look forward to scripts like this because so many of the episodes are about the cases and that honestly is what’s most interesting to us about the mythology shows. They can be about Mulder and Scully as characters more than investigators.”

Manners, at least for the time being, is more concerned about logistical issues and exacting camera work – the nuts and bolts of the operation – than how the actors will meet the emotional rigors of such sweeping important episodes. With dozens of X-Files outings under his belt and years of working with Duchovny and Anderson, the director is confident that each scene will take shape naturally under his lens.

“We haven’t really discussed it up front,” Manners says. “I think this is a story that we’re going to have to find together, David and I. As we shoot, I think that it will flesh itself out for both David and myself. It’s one of those. David, he’s not an actor that likes to plan or predict. He likes to find it on the day, which works well with me, especially in a story like this. It’s better to find it as we get there.”

“It’s a big story,” he adds. “I’m kind of excited to answer for everybody, myself included, what happened to Samantha. I’m handling it like I would any other script. I’m just trying to do my best work and tell the story the best I can.”

Assisting in that mission are the dozens of hard-working members of the series’ behind-the-scenes creative team, most of whom are presently toiling on one of three stages on the lot. Today, first unit begins filming at 9 a.m. on Stage Eight; then the company will move to the adjacent Stage Five, while second unit work for “Sein Und Zeit,” under the direction of co-executive producer Michael Watkins, is completed on Stage Six. The day will last well into the night.

Rarely does the shooting schedule see three stages in use (generally, The X-Files uses only Stages Five and Six); most of the time, at least one unit is out on location. But this has proven an exceptional year in many ways. Even while the fate of the series hangs in the balance – no official announcement has yet been made about a possible Season Eight – The X-Files has kicked into artistic overdrive, producing uncompromising, dark, outings and quirky, imaginative tales, as well as taking the mythology into unexpected areas. Crafting such an eclectic mix is sometimes unpredictable.

“It’s been different than last year, but actually more hectic,” says general foreman Billy Spires. “I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we have to have a lot more stuff ready sooner. We haven’t had any episode with one main set. It seems like there’s eight to 12 different sets every episode that we ‘re getting ready. You don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labor as much when it has to be ready so quickly. Because of the lack of stage space, we have to take [a se] down sometimes the moment they’re done shooting either to revamp it or put something else there. “We work about 80 0ercent of the weekends,” he continues. “We’ll be working through this weekend on all the changeovers and the sets that have to be ready for Monday and Tuesday. And then we’re going to start prepping episode 12. We may have a break for a few hours but that’s only because the director hasn’t let the production designer know exactly what he wants. As soon as the prints come down to the trailer, it’s on.”

For “Sein Und Zeit”/”Closure,” property master Tom Day’s department was required to stage dozens of photographs of young Mulder and Samantha to appear at Mulder’s mother’s house, which meant finding six children to pose as the siblings at varying ages and inventing memorable poses suitable for framing.

“In this particular case, we had to go back beyond what we usually see of them into even younger and younger [ages], Day says. “In fact, one of my assistants, he has a son and a daughter who are roughly the same age relationship. We used his children as one of our groups of kids because his daughter is a 1 year-old infant. She’s got the chicken pox, right now, so it made for these really cute pictures of a big brother holding his little sister who’s got the chicken pox.”

The photographs, though time-consuming, were not the most challenging item Day was called upon to procure for the episodes. “In [“closure”], Mulder finds his sister’s diary,” Day says. “Considering how absolutely central to his entire series that relationship is and how important being able to read what she’s written is to that character, that is as huge a prop as we can be responsible for. It’s really got to be right on. That’s years worth of storylines and preparation leading up to that. As the prop department, we want that prop to be worthy of the years of build-up something like that gets.”

To find the perfect specimen, Day acquired countless diaries and journals, then headed to the show’s producers for feedback. “What I’ll do is I’ll start with Kim and say, ‘Kim, what works best for you as far as the logistics of shooting?’ Then I’ll get multiples of them and have them aged to varying degrees. We’ll do maybe one version that will have been attacked by mold and mildew, and the other version will be dusty and worn and aged, bleached looking from the elements. Once the director settles on what works for him, size and width and all those parts of it, I’ll age a few of them up to show the differences and then I will show them to Chris, Frank, and all the guys at Ten Thirteen.”

The scope of the two-parter – the LaPierre case leads Mulder to other similar cases all with a paranormal bent – is even affecting the workload of effects man Millar. Upon completing a blue screen sequence involving a young boy for the episode directed by Watkins, Millar must begin to procure the equipment necessary for the specialty camerawork featured in the final installment of the story. He, too, echoes Spires’ and Day’s sentiments about the frenzied pace of Season Seven.

“[‘Closure’] is probably the heaviest episode [in terms of visual effects], certainly of the last three seasons,” he says. “We probably have four day of motion control shooting to build [some supernatural entities] into moving plates and have them mingle with Mulder and Scully. Integrating all that is an object lesson in choreography and motion control acting and camera work. [In feature films], certain shots and scenes can take three to five days t set up and photograph, some longer than that. We’re being asked to do that kind of quality and essentially get our shots in half a day, which requires an immense amount of preplanning and a little bit of luck as well.”

To ensure that luck is on his side, Millar ways it is key to take advantage of the lead time he has, now nearly eight days. “Kim kind of previsualizes what he wants to do with certain scenes,” he says. “We talk and figure out the camera moves largely on paper. Kim wants to be able to move the camera though 360 degrees without giving any evidence that there was any kind of special camera in use. He wants it to look more like a hand-held shot. We figure out what configuration we need of camera and track and what kind of motion control camera we need, whether it’s a crane, whether it’s a crane built on top of a dolly, what axes of motion the camera needs to describe and how fast the dolly needs to move to get out of its own way so that when the camera turns around to photograph where the dolly was at the beginning of the shot, we’ve managed to move the dolly around to the other side of the room. All of this has to happen over and over again, and the camera has to be positioned for each pass within literally fractions of a millimeter from where it was, time after time after time in order for us to meld each of those plates together and not see any misregistration, lines or any perspective change that would five away that one of the entities in the scene was shot at a different time or place than everything else.”

According to Millar, that particular scene will take two to three hours to set up, roughly six hours to shoot and will require 40 to 50 hours of digital composting during post production to complete. It will appear on screen for less than 30 seconds.

The end result, of course, is worth the labor. Week after week, The X-Files continues to meet the standard of excellence demanded by Carter and the millions of fans who embraced the series as a watermark for television. If anything, the unparalleled ambition of episodes like “Sein Und Zeit” / “Closure” is raising the bar higher, challenging the crew to push themselves to reach new creative plateaus.

And viewers can continue to look forward to more of the same. Even though many of the series’ carefully guarded secrets have been revealed, some components of the ever elusive truth will remain out there and will take shape in even more remarkable forms. “There’s something more coming,” a confident Spotnitz says with a grin.

The X-Files Magazine: Games Without Frontiers

The X-Files Magazine [US, #13, Spring 2000]
Games Without Frontiers
Gina McIntyre

A video game takes on a life of its own in the X-Files’ second round of cyber mayhem from sci-fi author William Gibson.

Say the name “William Gibson” to a group of science fiction fans, and they will immediately think of high-concept, high-tech narratives set in a complicated future with many possible realities. Mention the author to members of The X-Files crew, and you’re likely to be greeted with knowing winks and smiles. The department heads are all too familiar with Gibson’s cyber flair, and they know when his prose finds its way into a script for the series, they’re going to have their work cut out for them.

Such was the case with the author’s second script for the show – the cryptically titled “First Person Shooter” – which has already been described by locations manager Ilt Jones as “Westworld meets the Matrix.”

“That’s actually a pretty good way to put it,” Gibson says. “It’s set in the computer gaming industry. It’s about super violent video games, virtual reality and why boys like them. We created this huge one that gets out of control and needs Mulder and Scully to sort it out.”

Filmed almost entirely on location, “First Person Shooter” sees the agents enter a virtual reality with potentially lethal consequences. Its special effects-intensive storyline made it particularly challenging to bring to the screen – the right locations had to be secured, the proper look had to be developed and, of course, the visual trickery had to be as slick as possible in order for the concept to believably spring to life. “They’re running the final tests on a sort of environment game that will be installed in malls and theme parks all over the world,” Gibson says. “It’s like a building that you actually enter that is a sort of Matrix-like environment.”

On the heels of a successful television debut with Season Five’s “Kill Switch,” Gibson says Chris Carter approached him and his writing partner, fellow sci-fi author Tom Maddox, and invited them to pen an X-Files follow-up. But the hectic schedules of the three men conspired to keep the episode off the Season Six roster. “For some reason, when we do them, it’s a very, very long process,” Gibson explains. “I think that was about nine months ago. Not that we were actually writing it the whole time. I had a novel to finish and a two month book tour, and Chris is not the easiest guy in the world to get together with. We really like it when we can sit down with him and have some quality time and talk about it. We did, but it took months on and off to get it together.”

Feedback from Carter and X-Files executive producer Frank Spotnitz proved invaluable and ultimately sent the episode in an unexpected direction, he says. We’d go into Chris with half a dozen little fragments that might turn into stories, just sort of different things we bounced them off him and he’d bounce them back,” Gibson remembers.

“We kept bouncing until something stuck. I think we started by trying to develop a story in which Mulder and Scully go on the set of a really popular television show. We were trying to play with that television within a television show thing. It didn’t really go anywhere, but when we shifted it to computer game development it got very weird and interesting very quickly.”

Although the hard science fiction element that serves as the foundation for “First Person Shooter” does bear some similarities to the cyberpunk roots of “Kill Switch,” Gibson says he and Maddox made every effort not to repeat the same concepts. “We tried to do something very different but it does take for granted a kind of very, very high tech computer world that isn’t too far off reality,” Gibson says.

Just as on the earlier episode, however, Maddox served as go-to guy for technological accuracy. From computer lingo to the behavior patterns of those in the industry, Maddox’s techie knowledge provided the script with a sharper insight than it might have otherwise had. “He’s very good at keeping it on track with the actual culture of computer gaming,” Gibson says of his partner. “He was able to give us the language [of the industry] and also the language f the stock option deals and things that they have in that business that I don’t even understand and is so very important to the plot in this. The bad guys are motivated by a very contemporary kind of greed.”

And just as with “Kill Switch,” Gibson says he plans to visit the set of the series to see his vision realized – which should be quite a treat considering that “First Person Shooter” marks the first time X-Files guru Carter has stepped behind the camera to direct this season. “I’m going to take my daughter down and try to see some of it. She’s 17 and a huge X-Files fan,” Gibson reports. “Apparently – I have this second hand through Tom – Chris has found a really great building to use for the location. Tom said Chris was talking about using motorcycles indoors for a kind of Mad Max effect. Of course, I’d love to see that. I don’t know if [Tom will be there]. He’s got a day job now doing something around computer securities so I don’t know if they’ll let him get away. Since my day job is writing science fiction novels, I’m more flexible.”

The X-Files Magazine: The Next Files

The X-Files Magazine [US, #13, Spring 2000]
The Next Files

The X-Files Official Magazine: Is this the final year for the show?

Spotnitz: I still don’t know. I’m waiting to hear. As I’ve said before, we need to act like this is the last year in case it is. If it turns out it’s not, all of us will need to figure out how to adjust. I think about it every day. It’s kind of weird. You don’t know whether this is the end or not. It’s odd.

Magazine: How would you say Season Seven is shaping up so far?

Spotnitz: I think we’ve returned for the most part to the kind of quintessential X-Files type episodes, which are scary, solid paranormal mystery with some humor. That seems to be what we are interested in doing again this year. There have been some departures from that, “The Goldberg Variation” and an episode called “The Amazing Maleeni” are funny and lighter, but I think both of those are very clever. I think “Millennium”, “Rush”, “Signs and Wonders”, “Orison” they’re the kind of episode that won us an audience in the first place.

Magazine: Is it true that episode 12 will be Vince Gilligan’s homage to Cops?

Spotnitz: Vince has been wanting to do that episode for three years and we’re finally doing it. We’re shooting on videotape, which is kind of scary, and it’s going to appear like an episode of Cops. Vince is a big fan of that show and knows it well, so there’s a lot of conventions from Cops that are in this. It’s fun. It’s exciting to do because it’s a real challenge to tell a story that way. David [Duchovny] wanted to direct it, but he ended up being so heavy in the two preceding episodes that we’re filming that there was no time for him to take off as a director. He’s going to direct something later this season. I think something he’ll write.

Magazine: Will there be any mythology episodes before the season finale?

Spotnitz: I think there will be one more more traditional kind of mythology episode. I’m working on the episode with Cigarette Smoking Man [William B. Davis] actually. This is the year of the actors. He had an idea that I think is great, and I think he’s going to write it. We’re trying to work that out now, but it’s got Cigarette Smoking Man and Scully and Mulder and Krycek. It’s really going to be fun. It will be something you’ve never seen before. I can tell you that. [It will air] probably in March or April.

Magazine: Do you have any idea how you will wrap up the year?

Spotnitz: It depends on whether it’s the last year. If it’s the last year I have an idea, otherwise I don’t know.