From March 14th to March 27th, The Paley Center for Media is presenting the twenty-fifth annual William S. Paley Television Festival. The Paley Center, formerly the Museum of Television and Radio, says that the festival celebrates "television's rich and diverse programming and the creative process behind the medium." This year the festival included Chuck, Pushing Daisies, The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reunion, Dirty Sexy Money among others.
I've already attended the Buffy Reunion and Dirty Sexy Money (click above for those reports). Last night I went to The X-Files panel. For what happened during the event, read on past the jump.Let me start by saying that this panel was a replacement for Tracey Ullman's State of the Union series premiere. No reason was given for the cancellation of Ullman's panel. Her show will begin this Sunday at 10 ET/PT after The Tudors season premiere on Showtime.
And now, The X-Files...
The highlight clip for last night's event chosen by the Paley Center was from 1967's The Invaders. It was the scene where David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) accidentally goes into a secret meeting. The invaders are learning about human emotions, namely fear. They must learn how to master and manipulate this emotion so that they can destroy the human race.
After that, Barbara Dickson (director of the Paley Center in Los Angeles) welcomed the audience to the eleventh night of the Paley Festival. She called The X-Files "a true television masterpiece." She said that Chris Carter created the show, which ran from 1993-2002, based on the tradition of Kolchak: The Nightstalker. And who would have known The X-Files would win 16 Emmys and a Peabody award, it would have such a strong following, or it would have academic articles written about it?
Dickson then introduced last night's moderator, Cynthia Littleton of Variety magazine. Littleton also maintains "On the Air," a television blog and is the author of Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN (co-written with Susanne Daniels).
Cynthia Littleton spoke briefly about The X-Files calling it a "defining series of its era." Then she jumped into introducing the cast before we got to see the clip package. By the way, the clip package for the show ended with "To Be Continued" and that was met with a huge cheer from the audience.
Steve Maeda (writer, story editor, also worked on Lost and CSI: Miami)
Rob Bowman (director, also worked on The A-Team, Parker Lewis Can't Loose and Daybreak)
Paul Rabwin (post-production supervisor, special effects supervisor, also worked on October Road and Chips)
Darin Morgan (writer, story editor, "Flukeman" from season 2)
Glen Morgan (Darin's brother, co-executive producer, also worked on Millennium and Bionic Woman)
David Nutter (director, producer, affectionately called "pilot zen master," also worked on Entourage, The Sopranos, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
Howard Gordon (executive producer, also worked on Buffy and 24)
Nicholas Lea ("Agent Alex Krycek," works on Kyle XY)
Dean Haglund ("Ringo," member of The Lone Gunmen)
Mitch Pileggi ("Walter Skinner," works on CSI: Miami and Reaper)
Frank Spotnitz (executive producer, worked on Millennium, Harsh Realm, and co-wrote The X-Files sequel)
Chris Carter (creator, executive producer)
Life After The X-Files
Littleton started by asking Carter and his crew if they've missed Scully and Mulder for the past six years. Have they stayed in Carter's consciousness? Have they grown? Carter answered by first looking at the row of men next to him, "We did hire women on this show." Then he got back to the question at hand by saying he "needed distance away from the experience." However, Darin Morgan disagreed and observed he couldn't avoid the show because of its loyal fanbase.
And other panel members chimed in. Nicholas Lea described the show as "the first relationship you have." He went on to say, "you're searching for fulfillment thereafter." Howard Gordon remarked that his fourteen-year-old son now watches The X-Files. He is relishing getting to relive the experience through his son. Also, Dean Haglund said that he met an FBI agent who told him that he joined the Bureau because of The X-Files.
The moderator also posed the question of the show's spiritual journey. Did Carter learn something new about himself? The creator quipped that he "found his wife again." He explained that you get bogged down with work when you are involved in network TV. He admitted he never had a sense of how popular the show was until he attended the movie premiere. Carter said that at the premiere was the very first time he had a sense of the audience's reaction because he could literally see it from his seat in the balcony.
Paul Rabwin, however, felt the show's popularity earlier than Carter. He said that after "Squeeze" (the third episode) people starting approaching him and asking if these were true stories. Then he realized the show's popularity again after "Ice" when he saw the relationship between Scully and Mulder blossoming.
Making a Weekly Mini-movie
The panel discussed at length the high-quality production of The X-Files and the time constraints of network TV. Carter said he was lucky to get such talented people early on in the filming. He noted Glen Morgan, John Bartley and director Dave Nutter who Carter said, "set the bar very high."
Frank Spotnitz commented that storyboarding meetings were painful. They wanted to get everything right before they brought their work to Chris Carter. The difficulty each week was coming up with a new phenomenon with its own rules PLUS a human component PLUS different visuals. A hard task, indeed.
The panel then talked about shooting in Vancouver. They described Vancouver as a very atmospheric city, with its own moods even. "Vancouver was like another character on the show," Mitch Pileggi said.
Littleton asked the panel a few questions about The X-files sequel, which just finished filming ten days ago according to Carter and will be released in theaters on July 25th. About the timing of the movie, Carter observed that Fox said "now or never."
While Carter didn't reveal much about the film, he did say that it will take place six years down the road from the series finale and thus is true to real time. Littleton asked if baby William will be normal or "lasering corn fields with his eyes." Carter replied kind of cryptically, "It will not go unconsidered in the movie."
A fan asked about the title of the movie but Carter couldn't reveal it. He did say however that he knows what it should be but FOX has their own ideas. Another fan asked about the script for the movie. Did Carter have a script ready to go at the end of season nine? The creator answered that he did have something when the show ended but the movie now is a superior story to what he had. Still, he maintained that the movie's script is "derivative of the original."
- Chris Carter brought his dog Larry to the event.
- The budget in 1993 for the pilot was 1.1 million dollars. In season 9, the budget was 4 million per episode.
- About "Small Potatoes," Darin Morgan said that the part was written for him. Then he read the script and joked, "Oh, I'm a serial rapist. Thanks."
- A fan asked if Carter had any plans for Frank Black or for World on Fire. Of the latter, Carter didn't even remember the show, "Ohh, that show. No we have not talked about that in a long time." Of the former, Carter thinks it's a long shot but has some ideas ready if the opportunity presented itself.
- The panel discussed a few anecdotes about dealing with Standards and Practices at FOX. Chris Carter told a story about "Irresistible." He was told their is no necrophilia on TV. He recounted, "I just took the word out and called him a 'death fetishist.' And they said, 'That's great.'"
- Littleton asked about the freakish coincidence between The Lone Gunmen pilot and 9/11. In the pilot, which aired only eight months before the real attacks, the characters have to stop a plane from flying into the World Trade Center. Carter said he always was astounded that people didn't ask about it. Frank Spotnitz commented about how unprepared we were for 9/11 and that many politicians said we never could have seen it coming. Spotnitz asserted that the idea was clearly out there.
- The moderator brought up a great point about The X-Files and the growth of web connectivity. Carter said that Glen Morgan would go into AOL chatrooms after the shows aired. It was so interesting at the time to receive immediate feedback from real fans. "That was the good news and the bad news," Carter joked. Morgan jested that at first fans were very polite and helpful but quickly became vicious.
- Of his first hearing the theme music, Glen Morgan said, "What the hell?" But Carter liked it right away. Morgan recounted that Carter said the music was like "whistling in a graveyard."
- Carter on not having a "bible" for the show and why having a "bible" is a stupid idea: "[The studios] can give it to someone else and fire you."
- FOX made them test "Humbug" before they aired it. The studio was clearly nervous about its scary show doing a comedy episode.
- Darin Morgan laughed about being Flukeman, "You can't move and that's the end of it." He also said that when he met David Duchovny for the first time, he was in his Flukeman suit. Duchovny asked, "Why are you doing this?"