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Kodak InCamera Web Exclusives: The Cinema History Behind ABC’s Castle

Kodak InCamera Web Exclusives: The Cinema History Behind ABC’s Castle

[Original article here]

Rob Bowman has television in his blood. His father, Chuck Bowman, directed and produced hundreds of hours of prime time television, working on hit shows like Jake and the Fatman, Alien Nation, The Incredible Hulk, and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

“My father grew up in the Midwest and he used the movies as an escape,” says the younger Bowman. “He knew all the directors, actors, producers and studios, and discussing the filmmaking craft was normal dinner conversation in our house. We grew up with an awareness of how many craftspeople it took behind the scenes to make the magic that appeared on the screen. We also knew that when it was done right all that hard work becomes invisible, and what remains are the emotions and the drama of the story and the characters. What remains is the magic.”

The elder Bowman made documentaries and local commercials, and Rob tagged along from an early age, holding a reflector or loading the camera. Eventually the family moved to Burbank, and while the father became a successful television director and producer, the son hung out at the video store and became an expert on the history of motion pictures.

“My goal was to see and understand exactly what my heroes did,” says Rob. “I think the most exciting aspect was seeing how each director used the exact same tools to construct their own incredibly distinct aesthetic. I learned early on that to be successful as a director, you had to have your own signature. Otherwise, why hire one person over another? Just by watching all these movies and seeing what I responded to, I’d started to develop my own aesthetic as well. Becoming a filmmaker wasn’t the most secure ambition, so I wanted to do whatever I could to make it work and I knew that the best thing I could do was to come to it with a strong point of view.”Bowman has gone on to have a major impact on today’s television entertainment. He was a key contributor to The X-Files, and is credited with changing the way television looks. The success of The X-Files also had a ripple effect on the writing and editing styles of the TV shows that followed.

“The X-Files came at a time when television was ready to jump forward in its film look, in its film aesthetic, as well as in the storytelling and production values,” says Bowman. “Around that time, you started seeing more feature film producers getting involved in television. On X-Files, we were dealing with paranormal, supernatural themes, and sometimes what you can’t see has a much stronger emotional impact. Shadows became an important narrative part of the show and part of its whole look. We tried to take our time and be very careful about how we lit each scene.”

The X-Files brought Bowman together with Bill Roe, ASC. Their collaboration continues today on the series Castle, which stars Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, a well-known author of mystery novels who tries to overcome his writer’s block by tagging along on police investigations. Stana Katic stars as the no-nonsense detective who grudgingly admits that Castle’s imagination and ability to think like a criminal helps solve cases. Romantic sparks fly between the pair and there are occasional comedic moments.Bowman and Roe photograph Castle entirely on KODAK VISION3 500T 5219 film. They usually use two cameras, often with 11:1 zoom lenses and classical camera movement.

“The camera is moving pretty much every shot,” says Roe. “Often the movement is subtle – we call it ‘drifting.’ We use sliders, dolly track, or whatever seems appropriate for a given shot. We have a lot of dialog on Castle, so we try to spice it up with some movement and bold colors.

“Rob and I both come from a widescreen, anamorphic background,” adds Roe. “We stack things up by staying on the long end of the zooms. We like framing the actors really tight, no headroom, and keeping the camera off their shoulder instead of over their ear. When things get intense, in the interrogation room, for example, we sometimes shoot 360-degree shots that put the actor in the center of the frame with the background moving behind them.”

Roe says that his history with Bowman informs their choices on Castle. “We all learned a lot on The X-Files,” he says. “That was really a groundbreaking show. It’s not as easy as people think to shoot something very dark yet still maintain layers in that darkness. On Castle, we’re shooting eight or nine pages a day. You have to be as creative as possible within that difficult schedule. You have to have a crew that is willing to push themselves in order to keep things fresh.”

The tight television schedule is one reason Bowman and Roe insist on shooting 35 mm film. “There are two main reasons why film is right for Castle,” says Bowman, who serves as executive producer and directs some episodes. “This is a fast-paced production with a lot of setups and a lot of cuts. I wanted to be able to promise to deliver a quality show on time and within the budget. I knew I didn’t need to add more technology to the set. I needed to keep the set as simple and dependable as possible. We average 55 setups a day. Some days we do 40 and some days we do 80. From a purely practical sense, a camera that is only plugged into a battery is a better idea.

“Last year, ABC Studios did a full cost impact comparing film and HD,” Bowman says. “When they included updating archives, adding another AVID and another assistant for all the footage, et cetera, they found very little difference. Also, with film you don’t have tents on the set where everybody and their mother are commenting on the look. You’re still going into color timing in post anyway, so color timing on the set just slows you down. We just don’t have time for that. I think that digital production was sold with some numerical aphrodisiacs – numbers that weren’t really grounded in the realities of production.

“But ideally, the decision about which medium to use should be an aesthetic choice about what looks right for your show,” Bowman continues. “We feel that the dynamic range of film is superior to HD. It has better blacks and it holds the highlights better. Bill and I prefer the look and softness of film. It’s a chemical process, more like how our brains work. There’s an indescribable, warm feeling we have when we watch film. Digital has a starker look. And I think that turning images into numbers and retranslating them back into images for viewing, as is done in digital formats, has a different emotional effect on people.”

The right cinematographer, according to Bowman, is the one who will tell the story from the script, rather than from his or her own predilections. Roe fits that description. “Even though he is very unpretentious about his work, Bill really is a poet with light,” he says. “He reads the script, sees what the narrative is, and identifies the emotional values. The textures, colors and compositions grow out of that. Quite often people bring their historical baggage with them and just do the same old thing, or copy something they saw somewhere else. What’s interesting to me is telling this particular story using the pace, rhythm, locations, and the direction and nature of the light. All these are expressive tools. Bill’s lighting is not showy. He doesn’t light for light’s sake.”

Film’s archival qualities also appeal to Bowman, which makes sense given his respect for cinema history. “Once you make archival files in a certain digital format, you know that format is going to change,” he says. “If you need to go back to that format, and there’s nothing to play it back, that product is as good as gone. Film is as universal as the alphabet. It’s always going to be there as long as you keep it safe and sound. We joke in the editing room that when you lock picture, you better be happy with it, because for the rest of your life and long after you’re dead that is the cut. Have Gun, Will Travel still airs on the Western channel, even though most of the people who made it aren’t with us any more. I don’t think they’ve really worked out a dependable solution for digital archiving. But film has worked for a long time.”

Castle earned three 2010 Emmy nominations. The third season of the series began airing in September 2010.

National Post: The Insect Files

The Insect Files
National Post

[Original article here]

It was altogether appropriate that Professor May R. Berenbaum of the University of Illinois inspired a character on The X-Files, the 1990s TV series about FBI agents who tried, week after week, to uncover the truth that the U. S. government was hiding about flying saucers and similar mysteries.

As a distinguished entomologist, Berenbaum takes great pleasure from her research into many corners of the insect world. But she’s clearly just as enthralled by what happens to the human imagination when it confronts creepy, crawly creatures. She helps run, at her university in Champaign, Ill., the Insect Fear Film Festival, focusing on movies about threats to humanity from beetles and spiders grotesquely overgrown through cosmic radiation.

In 1996, she became a surprised participant in fictionalized etymology when Agent Fox Mulder, in an X-Files episode, investigated a series of deaths caused by cockroaches. Mulder speculated that the killer bugs were outfitted with steel exoskeletons before being sent earthward from some distant planet. The scriptwriter borrowed cockroach data from Berenbaum’s books and, as a tribute, gave the name Bambi Berenbaum to the entomologist consulted by the FBI.

Some professors would find this offensive but Berenbaum was delighted. When an interviewer mentioned that long-ago TV show during a recent Scientific American podcast, Berenbaum said it did wonders for the image of entomologists. Usually they’re stereotyped as nerds with Coke-bottle glasses ( “which I happen to wear”) but the actress who played Bambi was gorgeous enough to excite students with the possibility of careers in entomology. “She was a total babe,” Berenbaum said. Hearing that, I decided May R. Berenbaum is my favourite entomologist.

Her chatty and highly readable new book, The Earwig’s Tail: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-legged Legends (Harvard University Press), unites her scholarship with her interest in the fantasies insects inspire in humans. It’s a modern equivalent of the bestiaries that excited medieval readers with accounts of the world’s animals, among which the authors frequently included unicorns and mermaids. Berenbaum also includes many an unfounded myth but crisply refutes delusions with scientific truth.

The earwig in the book’s title is named for its alleged habit of crawling into human ears and laying eggs that drive the hosts insane. Somehow the idea took hold, long ago, that the best place to look for an earwig is in someone’s ear. But Berenbaum says that a survey of research over 10 centuries yields exactly one case of ear invasion by an earwig.

She traces the story to Pliny the Elder, a Roman scientist who lived two millennia ago and believed, among other things, that caterpillars originate from dew on radish leaves.

Our belief in the ability of cockroaches to survive catastrophe appears to be equally groundless. Someone, at some point, remarked that if there’s a nuclear war, cockroaches would be the only survivors. That soon became folk wisdom but Berenbaum informs us that many other insects show greater resistance to radiation. She notes that advertising on the Internet suggests that the blood of the beetle called Spanish fly retains the reputation as an aphrodisiac that it acquired in the 17th century (one version is marketed as Kriptonite). It may indeed arouse sexual interest, but Berenbaum believes it’s likelier to produce a painful itch in those who use it, or perhaps kill them.

She writes about bees with great enthusiasm and wants her readers to know that with a brain one-millionth the size of a human’s, a bee conveys precise directions about the location and abundance of desirable flowers — by dancing! She’s among the scholars studying “colony collapse disorder,” the rapid decline of bees in recent years. But on this occasion she takes up the myth

that bees, by flying, defy the principles of aerodynamics.

I remember from childhood the appearance of that notion on a classroom wall poster. It said scientists had determined that, given their weight and wingspan, it’s scientifically impossible for bees to fly. “But, blissfully unaware of science’s judgment, the bee flies anyway.” The scientist who came up with that nonsense neglected to consider that a bee has flexible wings, unlike an aircraft, and flaps them 200 times a second. Berenbaum notes with some sadness that it was an entomologist, otherwise deservedly obscure, who wrote in 1934 that “I have arrived at the conclusion … that their flight is impossible.”

Ever since, the idea has been firmly embedded in the popular imagination. To this moment it’s used on self-help sites for inspiration and on anti-science sites to demonstrate that scientists don’t know everything.

The one fact everyone can recite about insects is that the praying mantis, during mating, kills and eats her mate. The story was first told in 1886, in a Science Magazine article by Leland Ossian Howard, an entomologist, who brought a male of the Mantis carolina to a friend who had been keeping a solitary female as a pet. When they were placed in the same jar the female began biting off bits of the male, finally devouring its head. Throughout their brief relationship the male tried desperately to achieve sexual union and finally carried it off.

Eleven years later a writer named Jean Henri Fabre elaborated the story poetically: “If the poor fellow is loved by his lady as the vivifier of her ovaries, he is also loved as a piece of highly flavoured game.”

Fabre claimed he saw the same female use up seven males. This was a great moment in the history of metaphor. My guess is that it has often provided a nice scientific touch in otherwise arid arguments between men and women. Certainly it enriches fiction, particularly screenplays. And why not? As Berenbaum says, “How many other metaphors evoke sex, murder, decapitation and cannibalism?” She doesn’t condemn it as false but points out that while there are 2,000 or so species of mantis, this bizarre sexual performance has been reported among only a few of them. Moreover, it’s seldom observed in nature: It could be something that happens mainly among nervous and underfed animals in labs, where scientists may not be aware of the minimum daily nutrients their mantids require.

Still, the metaphor retains an element of scientific truth. Berenbaum can’t deny that female praying mantises have been known to eat their mates. But she wants us to know that they don’t do it often.


Access Hollywood: Celebrities Uncensored: David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson

Access Hollywood
Celebrities Uncensored: David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson

[Original article here]
[Youtube version here]


TheDeadbolt: X-Files Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson "Want to Believe"

X-Files Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson “Want to Believe”
Jordan Riefe

[Original article here]

After waiting for an eternity for Mulder and Scully to reunite for another “X File”, fans of the popular supernatural sci-fi series can now head to the theater for the second feature film in the franchise, X-Files: I Want to Believe, which opens this Friday, July 25. At the film’s recent press junket, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson got together to revisit the series, delve deep into the new movie, and look ahead to a possible third movie in 2012 to coincide with the end of the world on the Mayan calendar.

There’s a legion of fans who are anxious to return to Scully and Mulder’s world. How about you guys? Where you anxious to slip them back on again? How much arm twisting did it take?

GILLIAN ANDERSON: I wasn’t anxious.

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I wouldn’t say arm twisting.

ANDERSON: I think it was something – I’ll speak for myself – that I was interested in if it was something that was going to become an eventuality. I was on board for it. I was less active than I think David was in helping it come to fruition, but it was always something that I was enthusiastic about should it see the light of day.

DUCHOVNY: Yeah, you know, it seems like a long time. You know people are asking me, you know, 10 years, which is the last movie – but I think of it as 6 years since the show ended. And when you think about like a 9-year run for Gillian and Chris and then I think the burnout will take you at least 3 years to get over, honestly. And then you’re talking about trying to develop a movie – it’s really not that slow when you think about it. It’s actually kind of on the heels of what was possible given the amount of work we did on it over that decade.

ANDERSON: Good answer.

A lot of fans would say, “On the show, Mulder was always saving Scully…”

DUCHOVNY: Oh, that’s not true.

ANDERSON: No, I saved his life sometimes.

Well, certainly in the movie, though it’s a nice turn around.

ANDERSON: Did I save you? Okay, then didn’t I pass out and then you saved me?

DUCHOVNY: No, that’s the first movie.

ANDERSON: Oh, in this movie – oh, you’re talking about this movie. Oh, I forget you’re part of the new league of people.

DUCHOVNY: The only ones who can… we can speak to them. They know what we’re talking about.

ANDERSON: But you saved my life in the first movie, then you pass out. I’m sorry.

DUCHOVNY: I just saved your life in general. Spiritually, I saved it.

What surprised you most about the script when you got it?

DUCHOVNY: I thought I was kind of intrigued by the kernel of the idea that we wanted to keep secret for a long time, which Chris was protective of because he thought – not because he thinks – if you see the movie, if you know it before you see the movie that it’ll ruin the movie. But I think he was afraid that it was something that could be copied and get out there before our movie got out there, and that would take the wind out of our sails. So we effectively got around that. But it was that idea that I’m not talking about that was kind of fascinating and disgusting and horrifying and interesting. I’m speaking about me with my shirt off.

ANDERSON: And I was surprised by the relationship, I think. And how much a part of the mood of the whole film the relationship is. Somehow it’s, it’s just – it’s there. It’s almost another presence and it’s set up very early in the film. You get to witness very early on that the weight of the history, in a sense. And I feel like this script and also the film itself carries that with it. And it’s tangible, and I like that.

DUCHOVNY: And when you think about the kinds of movies that you might compare our movie to, you say it’s a thriller. You say it’s kind of a horror movie. You say it’s an intellectual – we’ll just say it’s an intellectual caper, whatever. But at the heart of it is this relationship between Mulder and Scully, which is like a real adult relationship; two people trying to figure out their relationship while they’re doing their job, which just happens to be a very heightened reality of a job, you know. And so if you think about any other movie, all other movies, like, in this genre, there’s never an actual relationship in them. There’s never actual – it’s usually a loner. If it’s a couple, it’s kind of rudimentary, you know, meet. So I think that what’s. . . no, not ‘m-e-a-t’.

ANDERSON: It’s either meet or meat.

DUCHOVNY: They meet and then meat. So then that’s what I find kind of interesting, and the balancing act that Chris was able to pull off is that while this horrifying stuff is going on, or interesting or thrilling stuff is going on, you’ve got these two people, not quite bickering but trying to figure out where they’re at, which is, I think, a potent combination.

What do you think it is about “The X Files” that six years after the series finale that people are anticipating more?

DUCHOVNY: I don’t know. I think we’re just lucky in a way. I think the characters were drawn as complimentary of one another so they kind of fit very well like puzzle pieces and became another entity. I know that people used to yell, “Scully” at me all the time. And I’m sure people yelled “Mulder” at Gillian. And we were kind of interchangeable in that way even though very distinct. So I think we’re kind of a romantic idea of a marriage of true minds, you know, of a real marriage even though we were never married. And I don’t know – did we ever have sex? I don’t know? Did we did? We did.

ANDERSON: Yes. I can’t believe you don’t remember. But also I think that because we weren’t married and we weren’t actually in a relationship. We also got to keep the respect for each other…

DUCHOVNY: Because you never respect the person you’re married to.

ANDERSON: You never do. You know what I mean? There was something different. It was like we were like a married couple and yet we saved each lives. We would do anything. We would stop a bullet for each other, which you don’t find in most marriages.

What’s the back story, were you pregnant in the show?

ANDERSON: Well, I actually forgot that I had a baby. When we started shooting somebody had to remind me.

DUCHOVNY: William.

ANDERSON: Yes, William. Yeah, apparently we gave him away.

DUCHOVNY: We had to give him away because as I recall there were forces that were going to take him and do horrible things to do him, so… Actually in the last episode when I came back, or right before the last episode, the one I directed, actually, yeah, Gillian gave him away; made a horrible choice, a “Sophie’s Choice” to give the baby away so that he could live. So he’s still out there and waiting for…

ANDERSON: … the next movie.

Did you guys have a chance to give input for this movie? What was your participation as far as scripting?


DUCHOVNY: None, really. I mean, my only involvement would have been in a discussion with Chris for – to throw my two cents in, that it should be a stand alone. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the alien mythology and show, really be a movie that somebody who’s never seen an ‘X File’ can enjoy. And Chris had already made that decision, so… that was really my only– my only point of view on it.

That said, how important are the tips of the hat to people who do know the mythology and can recite every line in every episode?

DUCHOVNY: I think it’s just like sprinkles on the top in this movie. You know there’s a bunch of kind of winks at the audience. And Chris was very kind of into, you know, having these winks. Not so much me because I always feel like that’s not part of the realism or the drama, you know. You don’t know we’re winking at anybody, but it’s something that fans, I think, enjoy. And I can’t remember any that are actually in it.

ANDERSON: Well, I think the impression was, you were saying yesterday, that the previous movie was winking. But in fact, it was mooning. You know, there was an attempt to hint at little areas of stuff that had to do with the mythology to get people involved enough who were previous fans but still attract people who weren’t. And it was actually much further in that balance than this one is by any stretch.

If there is another one – and supposedly 2012 is the year the world ends according to the Mayan calendar. Would you like to see a further film go back to the black oil and the aliens?

DUCHOVNY: Sure, I mean I think that’s like the bread and butter of the series, and it’s kind of a natural for 2012. And I think that’s what Chris and Frank are thinking of. Yeah, bring on the aliens.

Going back, it’s one thing to read the script. It’s another thing to be in front of the cameras that first day. Was it a little surreal?

DUCHOVNY: It felt like, in a way, I was there two weeks before Gillian just running my ass off and pulling a muscle. And none of it is in the film, which is fantastic.

ANDERSON: Is that – really?

DUCHOVNY: A little bit, you know, it’s just ridiculous. But then after, then we broke for Christmas and then came back and I started working with Gillian almost immediately, and, you know, in a weird way it felt like absolutely no time had past because we were in Vancouver. It was– it just seemed like we’d come back from summer hiatus or something, which was kind of terrifying sometimes to think about. But for me, in terms of getting back into the character it really was – when I started working with Gillian was when I started to discover Mulder again, for real instead of kind of faking it. I was running so it doesn’t matter how Mulder runs, really.

ANDERSON: But even for me, the first couple of days that I worked were, were in a particular scene with Billy Connolly and, you know, 6 years on and never addressing, you know, having an experience with that character before and jumping into some big emotions on the first day that have nothing to do with the grounding of the show, which is the relationship between Mulder and Scully was kind of hard and really disconcerting. And I felt like I had nothing to grab onto, that I was, I kept trying to hang my coat on something that felt familiar, and there wasn’t. It felt really odd. And it wasn’t, again, until, I think it was day 3 that we got to work together that I was kind of like, “Oh, I forgot. This is what it is.”

DUCHOVNY: It was a real relief.

You were talking about working with Billy Connolly whose sense of humor is so infectious. Were there moments between takes where that would come out?

DUCHOVNY: Oh, yeah. There were no moments when it didn’t.

ANDERSON: Well, just the few seconds when he was on camera.

DUCHOVNY: No he’s a really – he’s a really talented actor. And he goes back and forth very quickly, and, you know, he’s a restless mind and if he wants to talk… He doesn’t really want to entertain so much. He really wants to have a conversation, but wide ranging and odd and interesting, always.

In the interim you’ve obviously you’ve grown as people but presumably grown as actors, too. And I’m wondering were you able to bring experience to the roles now that you couldn’t back then?

DUCHOVNY: Oh, yeah. When I have the misfortune of catching one of the early shows, like from 1993 or something, and I see myself or that version of myself, I just think, “Thank God that I got the chance to continue to work and figure out what kind of an actor I am.” Because the guy that I see up there in ‘93 is just barely hanging on. And that gives it a certain kind of tension and earnestness and eagerness to please, which kind of works, but it was not intentional. It was just panic. So yes, I mean, now, 15 years on, it’s a whole different ball game, completely. It’s night and day the way that I work and the kind of things that I want to do. But still you have to honor the character and you can’t just change him. So it was interesting to have the same box and to fill it up with different stuff.

It seems like there was a rowboat scene at the end of credits. How did that come about?

ANDERSON: Not ours.

DUCHOVNY: Well, you know we were sitting in a tank in a lot in Vancouver.

ANDERSON: With a crew around us.

DUCHOVNY: And towards the tail end of winter, and I was shirtless, and Gillian was–

ANDERSON: –in a bikini.

DUCHOVNY: In a bikini, and it was really silly. But it was very important for Chris that that be. Because to him the movie is about the relationship that the final image be, you know, two people together alone on the wide open sea. And that’s his image of this relationship, you know.

You’ve said, “Vancouver is one of my favorite places.”

DUCHOVNY: Vancouver is one of my favorite places. Unfortunately, yeah, no one believes.

Can I ask you a couple of Hank Moody questions, cause “Californication” has become a real guilty pleasure. . .

DUCHOVNY: Don’t be guilty. Don’t be guilty.

How much of a reflection is it of the reality, or is it just pure satire?

DUCHOVNY: Well, it’s not satire so much as it’s really a character study. And it’s not, it’s our goal on the show is not realism. It’s, you know, we’re making a comedy, and that’s always what we’re trying to do. And we’re trying to make the comedy real, and we’re trying to make the real comic. So that’s always what we’re thinking about. It’s not really satire in that way. It’s really just an extreme character sketch of a guy who has no censor.

Gillian are you working on anything right now?

ANDERSON: Well, the first thing actually is How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which is with Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst. And that’s about a book, or it’s an adaptation of a book by Toby Young about his experience as a writer at Vanity Fair, as a Brit writer at Vanity Fair and his inappropriateness in the world and also not having any censors. And Boogie Woogie is a satire about the art world. It takes place in London, and I think it’s very funny.

Fortean Times: Frank Spotnitz on 'The X-Files Essentials'

Fortean Times
Frank Spotnitz on ‘The X-Files Essentials’

[Original article here]

X-Files producer discusses ‘The X-Files Essentials’, out now on DVD. Interview courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

Q: Let’s start with who you are and what your role was on The X-Files.

Frank: I’m Frank Spotnitz. I was an executive producer and writer of the show. I did that for eight years of the nine years that the show was on the air. And I was a co-producer and co-wrote the story for the first feature film and co-wrote and co-produced the new movie.

Q: We’re talking about the new “Essentials” set. Two discs containing eight episodes, picked by yourself and series creator Chris Carter, which give audiences a greater insight into the series before seeing the new movie. Let’s go through each episode. The first is the pilot episode.

Frank: We really wanted eight episodes that were essential to the series. The truth is, you can see the movie without having seen an episode of the television series. Very much by design we wanted it to be a movie that worked for people who had never seen The X-Files before. But if you were so motivated you could go back and look at these eight episodes and really get an idea of the breadth and scope of the series. So the best place to start was the pilot, which is really unusual because it’s an excellent pilot. And I say that because if you look at a lot of TV pilots, you can’t believe what the show became afterwards. Often a pilot is very different from the series that follows it. And The X-Files pilot is unusual in that it’s exactly what the series was. It really nailed it and hit it out of the park. It’s critical for understanding the world of the series. A world where aliens may or may not exist; where proof is always elusive. Mulder is this brilliant profiler who has sacrificed his career with the FBI in order to pursue his obsession with paranormal phenomenon. This is fuelled by his belief that his sister was abducted by aliens when he was eight years old. And Scully is this brilliant medical doctor who is assigned in the pilot to spy on Mulder. By the end of that first hour, because she’s a character of integrity, we see that she is not going to fill the role that they intended. In fact, she serves as a great asset to Mulder, bring her science and skepticism to bear on all of his investigations.

I remember watching the pilot when it first aired and thinking I had never seen anything like that on television before.

It was so unusual, not just because it was so good, but because TV in those days rarely did anything like The X-Files. There was nothing scary on television. And Chris Carter was inspired by something he had seen on TV when he was a kid that scared the socks off of him, which was The Night Stalker, and ABC TV movie of the week. He said “I’d like to do something like that.” He very cleverly found a way to create a new television series that would allow these characters to investigate different monsters every week. And what he did that I think was so smart was a couple of things. First, he created this believer/skeptic dynamic, which is a great storytelling device for supernatural stories. And the other thing is that he tried to make it realistic. He tried to make it seem like it was really happening. And I think that’s one of the things that made The X-Files so successful. It feels like a police procedural. It just so happens that the bad guys are monsters. One of the philosophies of the show has been: It’s only as scary as it seems real. And that’s something we did throughout the series and the movies as well. We try to make it seem as real as possible.

The next episode is also from season one. It’s called “Beyond The Sea.”

Frank: “Beyond The Sea” was written by two writers who were very important to the development of The X-Files, Glen Morgan and James Wong. It was an important episode in a number of respects. It was the first episode that switched the dynamic. This was an episode where Scully, normally the skeptic, found herself tempted to believe. While Mulder, the believer, became the skeptic. They got to switch places, which was really interesting. And it played on the death of Scully’s father. That’s what made her vulnerable and able to believe in this case. So it’s a very interesting reversal and very powerful emotionally. And I think it’s a tuning point for Gillian Anderson. She was a very young actress at that point and hadn’t done a lot. And as good as she was, I think that was a turning point for many people, not just viewers of the show but at the studio and the network, to see the range that Gillian has as an actress.

The way that both the actors embodied those characters was a major component in the success of the show.

Frank: You’re absolutely right. I don’t think you can overstate how important David and Gillian were to the success of The X-Files. It was brilliantly conceived by Chris, very well written and produced, but it still wouldn’t be successful were it not for David and Gillian. What they did with those characters was so rich. And then their chemistry that they have together, also one of those things that you can’t predict. It’s really a kind of magic, the power that they have together on screen.

Q: The next episode is from season two. It’s called “The Host.”

Frank: “The Host,” I have to say to this day is one of the most talked about episodes we ever did. It just hit on something, a primal fear that people have of something entering your body. And it’s a great urban myth, the snake coming out of the toilet bowl kind of thing. There’s the scene in the port-a-potty that people just can’t get out of their mind. That’s when we felt we had done our job well, when people had a hard time turning off the lights that night after the show. That was early season two, and we were still on Friday nights by that point. It was one of the defining moments in the history of the series, one of the ones that helped cement our audience. It creeped people out so badly.

Q: From season three we get “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.”

Frank: Darin Morgan wrote the episode and won a well-deserved Emmy. Darin was also very important to the development of The X-Files in that he brought comedy, flat-out comedy to the series. In season two, he had written a script all by himself. He had been very secretive about it, and then he presented it, finished. It was called “Humbug.” It was about circus freaks and it was laugh out loud funny. And the studio was kind of afraid to make it. But Chris believed in the script and produced it. And not only did it instantly become one of the most popular shows we had done, because it showed we could laugh at ourselves, it also showed that David and Gillian had amazing comic timing. So “Clyde Bruckman” was Darin’s follow-up and my sense was that he wanted to show he could do a more classic X-Files story, one that wasn’t so funny but was more dramatic. It still has an awful lot of humor in it, which is wonderful, but it’s also got a great deal of pathos. It’s very sweet and touching and melancholy. It features an incredible performance by Peter Boyle. The irony was that Peter Boyle was not our first choice. We actually wanted Bob Newhart to play the part. It was written for Bob Newhart, and we couldn’t get him. So we went through the list of available actors and finally landed on Peter Boyle, who we hadn’t seen do anything in a while. He was fantastic; he won an Emmy as well. And I think it really helped reignite his career. Subsequently he was cast in Everybody Loves Raymond and everybody knows what happened there. It was an important episode for him and for us.

Peter Boyle was fantastic in that role. I can’t imagine anyone else playing that character.

Frank: He really made it his own. I don’t think he knew a thing about The X-Files, but he sure did afterwards. And I remember years later my wife was a big fan of Everybody Loves Raymond, so for her birthday I took her to a taping. When they introduced him, they mentioned him having been in The X-Files, and he raised his arms, cheering for the show. I was very proud of that.

The next episode is from season four, “Memento Mori.”

“Memento Mori” is my all time favorite mythology episode. It’s very unusual, because it’s a single hour story. Usually mythology episodes were two-parters, sometimes three-parters. It’s also unusual because there’s no new science fiction element introduction to the story. Usually mythology episodes were an opportunity for us to add another chapter. And the only chapter added here was that Scully had developed cancer. It was actually a very controversial move on the writing staff. Some people thought it was cheapening the show to have her get cancer, that it was sort of the typical TV melodramatic thing to do. But we felt that it was earned, and that it had been set up by other episodes where other women who had been abducted and had these chips put in their neck subsequently got cancer. So we thought it was sort of mandatory, in fact, that Scully contract cancer and deal with it. It was an episode that almost never was. It was season four and Darin Morgan had left the show, I believe he was writing for Millennium, but he was going to contribute an episode to The X-Files that season. He had been working on it and working on it and finally called us and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m just not able to do this. I’m not able to crack the story. I’m not going to be able to do this for you.” So suddenly we had an opening in our schedule and we didn’t know what we were going to do. So we scrambled and I think in about two days we broke the Scully getting cancer story. And that was lightning fast for The X-Files, which typically involved a very rigorous writing process. We got a rough script together that the people in Vancouver could prep. Then everyone went away for Christmas vacation, and over the vacation Chris Carter took the script and unified it as one. And we got nominated for an Emmy award. And it’s one of my favorite episodes, one of my favorite mythology episodes. But also, I think it’s one of the best episodes from David and Gillian. Gillian, not surprisingly, is fantastic, and there’s a lot to play. What surprised me was how good David was. You’d think he has the thankless role; he’s not the one developing the disease. His response to Scully is so moving. You can see, in his refusal to accept her diagnosis, how much he loves and cares about her. I thought that was very, very powerful.

Without that episode, the vector of the mythology would be entirely different. I remember seeing the episode when it originally aired and remembering how momentous the whole thing felt.

Yes, it felt that way to me, too. It happened a lot on The X-Files, I have to say, where things turned out better than you imagined. Sometimes it would turn out far worse than you imagined, but it would often turn out better. That was one of the high points for me.

Q: From season five, the next episode is “The Post-Modern Prometheus.”

“The Post-Modern Prometheus” is probably Chris’ all-time favorite episode. It’s got another funny story behind it. Separately, Roseanne Barr and Cher both came to Chris and said that they were big fans of the show and would like to be in The X-Files. So we thought about it and came up with this really offbeat story about a monster and his mother. And this monster loves Cher. As it turns out, when we were ready for production, neither Roseanne nor Cher were available. So we had to cast someone else as the mother, and we got a Cher stand-in. It’s a very strange and specific tone that is struck in the episode. It’s shot in black and white, and is a homage to the classic James Whale Frankenstein movies. It’s very sweet and touching. It’s one I remember working on over and over again, editing it down to the frame, to make sure everything was as perfect as it could be. And I never got tired of watching it.

Q: Also from season five is “Bad Blood.”

Frank: “Bad Blood” is a personal favorite of mine, too. After Darin opened the doors to humor, a number of writers on the staff tried their hand at comedic episodes. Vince Gilligan was extremely good at it. What I loved about “Bad Blood,” coming as it did in season five, was that it was able to take the Mulder and Scully characters and have a lot of fun with how they saw each other. It’s got a “he said/she said” structure, which was borrowed from the original Dick Van Dyke Show. There’s an episode where Rob and Laura relate their events of what happened, and the humor comes from how exaggerated Rob’s perception of Laura was and vice-versa. So it was a lot of fun to figure out how Mulder and Scully would see things differently. We had the benefit of casting Luke Wilson, who had been in a movie that Vince had written called Home Fries, so he agreed to do the show. It was just a ball.

Q: The final episode on the set is from season six, called “Milagro.”

Frank: “Milagro” is, to my mind, an underappreciated episode. That’s why it’s there. It’s also, for us, somewhat autobiographical. By season six of the show, we had spent so many hours thinking about Mulder and Scully and fascinated by them and every aspect of who they were, that we could identify with the writer character, Milagro. And it’s really about the power of writing, and the power of fiction. In this episode a fictitious character actually becomes real and is capable of operating in the world. It’s about how what you write reflects who you are. It’s so personal, in fact, that the cards that are on the writer’s wall are the same format that we wrote The X-Files in. We would use those same cards when figuring out stories for the series. And those cards are in my handwriting because the prop guy couldn’t do it as well as we could because that’s really the way we did it. It’s a very emotional love story and it’s really about our love for these characters as writers.

Taken collectively, what is it these episodes bring in terms of knowledge for someone who wants to see these before watching the new film?

If you know The X-Files, and you watch these eight episodes again, then you’re going to be reminded of the incredible depth and range of the series. It will put you right back in that headspace where you might not have been for six or eight or ten years. But if you don’t know The X-Files, and you’re going to see the movie, or you’ve seen the movie and want to know more, I can’t think of a better place to start. These episodes show you all the things The X-Files was. There’s certainly a lot more. I think we could do multiple sets like this, and every one of those episodes would certainly be called essentials of the show. This is just a starting point. It’s a great starting point for understanding what made The X-Files such a unique show.

Music from the Movies: Speaking the Truth – Mark Snow on reopening The X Files

Music from the Movies
Speaking the Truth – Mark Snow on reopening The X Files
Michael Beek

[Original article here]

Strange things are happening… again, this time in the snowy wilderness of Virginia, where a series of mysteries invite many questions and very few answers. While the FBI scratches its combined heads, a couple of familiar faces are drafted in to help find the truth…

The X Files have been re-opened on the big screen six years (can you believe it?) after ‘The Truth’ was told and the curtain drawn on nine years of paranormal investigations, personal tragedies and an all consuming search for answers. The show, which was a phenomenon in itself, made icons of the names Mulder and Scully, not to mention the sight of flashlights in the dark. It also made international superstars of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, who return to the roles that brought them to the public conscience and together make us want to ‘Believe’ all over again.

One of the series’ strengths, aside from a raft of fine storytellers and actors, was its music. Despite a lengthy career in film and television prior to 1993, it was six notes that made Mark Snow’s name around the world, not to mention week after week of emotive, exciting scoring and all achieved with his own fair hands in his studio. As the years flew by, the music continued to scare, hearten and amuse audiences and in 1998 fans were treated to the first movie, Rob Bowman’s The X Files. The film offered the composer the grand opportunity to engorge his music with a full orchestra, delivering what remains an exciting and wholly listenable score on album.

Ten years later and Mark returns with Mulder and Scully to the silver screen for The X Files: I Want To Believe, and once again he’s been let out of his studio to play with much bigger toys and paint his music with an enlarged palette of sounds. The result is again a stunner, with its roots firmly in the weighty emotional textures and that melody we’ve known and loved for fifteen years.

I was able to catch up with Mark Snow recently to speak with him about returning to old friends and creating new music for the reopening of The X Files

Mark it has been over 6 years since you scored for The X Files; has it been a welcome return to familiar ground?

It has indeed. I guess the most exciting part of it is that this movie is basically like one of the standalone episodes from the series, which has always afforded me much more creative space and I’ve been encouraged to experiment as much as I want, while the mythology stories are more of a classical sort of traditional film music genre. But this one was really exciting because, amongst other things, I got to write some really beautiful melodies – which is not really something The X Files music is known for.

It’s quite an ensemble you assembled I gather?

There was a marvellous combination of two different kinds of orchestras, an aleatoric orchestra where there was no music but I basically gave the orchestra verbal instructions to do certain effects. Whatever seemed right we made variations of and sprinkled those on the large orchestra, which by the way contained no trumpets and no high woodwinds. I just wanted a little darker sound and also all the midi samples and synths stuff on top of that, plus some singers – especially this counter tenor, this male voice that sounds like a female mezzo soprano which is a very eerie sound and used so much in renaissance and medieval music – and then there was a percussion sampler. So all of these elements together was really such a marvellous grab-bag of tricks and stuff to employ in the score – and I had this great mixer Alan Meyerson who did The Dark Knight and all the Pirates movies, so that was great. So it was great having all these things at my disposal and having people pat me on the back and smile at me saying ‘come on Mark you can do it, you can do it…’ (laughs).

It must be great to be able to give your music that kind of brevity once in a while given that you’re usually locked away in your studio on your own!?

Right, you know and the thing is that I’ve been practising my stand-up comedy routines for a while and being in front of the orchestra you know -seriously, just to be out in public for Christ sake – is always a brilliant thing (laughs).

Did you ever think you’d be returning to these characters again?

I never thought I wouldn’t; I always thought it was a distinct possibility and I remember probably about five years ago Chris Carter calling me from London and saying ‘hey we’ve got another one coming so get ready, sharpen your pencil…’. So I said okay and then there were some legal matters he had to work out with Fox that finally got settled and then the stars’ availability came into focus and away it went.

What is it about The X Files that you think gets people so excited, even all these years later?

That’s a very good question. I think it’s sort of knowing that from week to week on the series there were so many unexpected things; even with the standalone shows you’d wonder what kind of monster would it be, would it be a monster, would it be some vapour, would it be a child speaking in tongues and then turning people into Rabbits – who knows?! And I think that’s part of the excitement of this one; and also for the fans, wondering where the relationship with Scully and Mulder is headed.

That relationship is a complex one at times – they’re together, they’re not together – what challenges or inspiration does their chemistry offer you as a composer?

Well there are some marvellous moments, as I said earlier, of being able to do some melodic music and, as corny as it sounds, dare I say a ‘love theme’ that’s sometimes unrequited and sometimes successful. So there’s variations of that, with their complex on again/off again relationship.

Now the plot of I Want To Believe has characteristically remained a secret – I don’t suppose you can tell us anything about what we can expect from this film?

Well the interesting part was, when I read the script the first thing I got out of it was deep, dark complexity and I spoke to Chris Carter afterwards and he said ‘what do you think?’, I said ‘man, it’s so complex and dark and mysterious’, and he said ‘and it’s a love story with religious overtones…’ Okay! He said ‘just keep that in mind’ and you know I re-read it and I got what he meant, and then seeing the movie I certainly got what he meant. Besides the Mulder and Scully relationship there are some other very very emotional, intimate if you would, moments there that do add spiritual and religious weight to it. And that’s where this counter tenor voice comes in and it felt like such a great fit for this sort of ecclesiastical sound; but very intimate, not a big broad choir sound, just a soloist singing over some very modal and transparent music.

So amongst that have you been able to add in some of the Mark Snow ‘sound’ that we would recognise?

Oh certainly, absolutely. There’s the naked X Files theme that happens three times in the movie and each time it seems such a completely dissimilar place and sometimes it’s actually hilarious, sometimes it’s scary and sometimes it’s extremely tender and heartfelt. There are also variations of the theme and using two or three of the notes as little motifs throughout the score so as not to have people forget where they’re at.

So it’s quite a versatile theme then in that sense; you can get quite a lot out of it?

Right, that’s what you get when you’ve got six simple notes (laughs)

Is it difficult to retain your sound when thinking orchestrally though? The style we’ve become accustomed to is very much a synthetic one – is it an evolution of your sound maybe?

No, I mean the orchestra can only do so much actually, as well as all the synth things, and when you combine them it’s great, but especially for The X Files. Plus I had the ancillary orchestra, which were almost like sound effects in and of themselves.

You mentioned using the X Files theme; are there new thematic threads in this new score?

Well there are and I’m trying to figure out a way how I can describe them without giving away plot points (laughs). But definitely one is a very heartfelt, tender and intimate theme and then there’s a love theme and they both get really great treatment so I’m just gonna have to let you see that when it happens…

You mentioned the religioso aspects to the music, but I’m sure this film has a few traditional spinetingling moments too. Do you enjoy working in the shadows and creating dark stuff?

I do. You know when I was a student in New York at Julliard and I was an oboe player, I was very much into avant garde, contemporary music. So The X Files was the first project where I could really delve into my past, my sort of beloved younger days as a music student and do this music that I felt so akin to, so close to and so personally part of my musical background and fabric. And so to be able to exploit it here… I thought ‘oh my god are these guys gonna get it?’ and they might not have intellectually understood it, but they certainly emotionally got it and that was all important.

You mentioned the love theme etc. Those pieces must be a breath of fresh air in a world of darkness and shadows?

Right, and I’m really looking forward to you listening to this. If I could mention that on the CD, I’m not sure what number the track is, but there’s a piece called ‘Surgery’. That’s particularly sort of one of my favourite pieces in the score…

I was going to ask if you had a favourite moment…

Right, well that’s one of them anyway! You know there’s other contrasting things, but that really turned out beautifully. That’s not a typical X Files sound whatsoever…

I see… well one of my favourite cues from the first film is ‘Crater Hug’ – would that be in a similar mould?

Yeah that’s a good point, it is but this is a little more intimate and is in its own way you know slightly baroque and medieval, so to speak. It’s a little quieter and a little more intimate, while that was a bigger, more expansive piece.

You obviously wrote a lot of music for the original series’ – will any more of that become commercially available do you think? It seems a shame that it won’t be heard outside the series…

Well I’ve got good news on that; I think they’re going to be doing that, releasing another CD…

That will be great – who’s doing that?

Well certainly through Fox, but I think it’s going to be on the Decca label that this soundtrack is on.

And will you have input in its production, selecting pieces and such?

Yes indeed, I will…

In which case you have to include the vocal theme you wrote for Scully in one of the later seasons!

Oh right! Yeah certainly… That’s a good point because that ‘Surgery’ piece and that Scully thing, there might be I think a similar emotional feel. But the ‘Surgery’ thing is much more detailed and much more colour and much more going on.

So is the last we’ve seen of Mulder & Scully on screen do you think?

You know, this movie, most of it takes place in a snowy cold climate and after the movie was mixed I overheard Chris talking to Frank Spotnitz the producer and saying ‘we gotta do the next one in Hawaii, this is ridiculous!’ So I think really what it boils down to is if this one makes money and does well there would be no reason not to go onto another one.

Well let’s hope so…

I do…

Well this certainly isn’t the last we’ve seen of you… What’s coming up for you?

Well oddly enough Chris Carter has just directed another movie, but it’s something he’s financed himself and it has nothing to do whatsoever with X Files themes or any subject matter of that ilk. It has all unknown actors and they’re all just brilliant and it is kind of slightly autobiographical – he shot it in the town in California that he grew up in, which is Bellflower near Anaheim and Disneyland. So as I say slightly autobiographical, you know, accent on slightly

Bit of surfing involved then..?

(laughs) well no there’s none of that , but all I can say is think Blue Velvet… and that’s as much as I can tell you about that. Again with him secrecy is everything.

So in terms of television, you’re still attached to Smallville?

No I’m finished with Smallville. They’re going on for one more year, but they cut everyone’s budget way way down and I thought it was time to go; all the producers left and they have sort of a skeleton crew. It’s definitely the last year and I thought it was time for me to go on that. I’m doing the fourth year of this Ghost Whisperer show and hopefully I’ve got some other irons in the fire; there’s a movie in New York that I might be doing – but I don’t wanna talk about it, don’t wanna jinx it!

The X Files: I Want To Believe is in cinemas now and Mark’s score is available on the Decca Records label.

My thanks to Mark Snow and to Melissa McNeil at Costa Communications.