Humanitas Master Writers Workshop transcript

I attended the Humanitas Master Writers Workshop in Los Angeles Tuesday night, at which Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz were the speakers. The Humanitas Workshops are presented monthly from September through May and feature noted television and film writers as speakers. The Workshops are open to Writers Guild members and other professional-level writers. (Humanitas is an organization founded by Father Ellwood “Bud” Kieser which recognizes the writers of television and film scripts that explore the nature of human values — they present the Humanitas Prize every year to those writers.)

Following are some random notes I took. I can’t promise that any of these are direct quotes, but rather my impressions/recollections of what was said. I tried to pay special attention to what they said about the internet and the Mulder/Scully relationship. NOTE: If you’re a regular viewer of the show, there are no spoilers here.

FS on writing – it’s only once you’re in the professional world that you can know if you’ve got it – even after you’ve been doing it awhile, writing is HARD.

FS on rejection – you can either get bitter or you can figure out why you’re being rejected.

CC on XF’s origin – inspired by Kolchak: The Night Stalker and the fact that there wasn’t anything scary on in prime time – that’s how he pitched the show – how about something scary?

FS – they’re reinventing the wheel every week with the different kinds of stories they tell – his first script was End Game, part 2 of a 2-parter.

FS on story problems – Simple is Good – Hard, But Good – when it’s simple, you’re telling the truth. [He was talking about trying to figure out how to get X to tell Scully where Mulder was in that ep with the submarine tower - CC's solution: have Skinner beat it out of him - simple!]

CC on taking notes/advice/suggestions – there are lots of voices out there, particularly with the internet – everybody knows how to do your job better than you.

FS – unless there’s a reason for people to care, there’s no reason to tell the story.

CC and FS in response to the question, “how does Mulder get through the day with all he believes and all he’s seen?” – CC talked about Mulder’s quest and his role as a romantic hero – CC and FS both talked about the importance of Scully as his partner in the quest, that their shared passion fueled them both – FS mentioned Mulder’s sense of humor, and commented that some of Mulder’s funniest lines come during the scariest moments.

CC in response to a question about the mythology/conspiracy and did he have a “grand scheme” in mind to begin with – he nodded as the question was asked – said he had a big idea in the beginning but that it has played out “in ways I could never have imagined” – CC and FS said that the Season 5 opener was the real turning point for them as writers re: the mythology – this is where the choices they’d made earlier really took over and the story just started telling itself.

FS in response to a question about David Duchovny’s writing for the show – David’s notes on the scripts benefit the *story*, not just his character – CC added that both Duchovny and Anderson are very smart actors who put the story and the show ahead of their own characters [most actors don't, really - LM].

What outside writers get wrong in XF spec scripts: CC – the entry into the story; they don’t get the Mulder/Scully relationship (they’re not combative, they’re both determined); FS – Scully’s voice, Scully’s character.

CC – the show’s about FAITH, but it’s built on a foundation of SCIENCE – Mulder wrestles with his faith in the unknown, Scully wrestles with her faith in both science and God.

CC – good ideas for TV series are few and far between – the success of XF is a little miracle in that it was a series idea with a great deal of story potential.

FS re stand-alone monster stories – they try to portray the monsters in a human light – if they behave arbitrarily, they won’t be believed.

FS – write your characters as smart as possible.

CC – character development comes through role reversal [i.e., Mulder's journey in Season 5 to regain his belief in the unexplained].

CC re the internet – it “affects my happiness” – he reads a lot, takes some stuff to heart, dismisses a lot – has never taken an idea off the internet – several times, thoughtful criticism has led him to make changes in future stories.

FS re the movie – the Mulder/Scully relationship really blossomed in the movie – the scene before the near-kiss is the key scene, the relationship is the key to the movie – the relationship had to move slowly in the series because in series TV you have to go back to the status quo – it was Season 3 before Mulder and Scully could even be seen touching hands – after the movie came out, FS and CC drove around to different movie theaters in L.A. to listen to audience reaction to the hallway scene.

A woman to FS at an XF convention sometime after Season 3 – “You’ve been on three years, you must be running out of true stories.”

FS in response to a question about whether Darin Morgan would come back as a writer – Darin watches every episode and thinks about what he would’ve done – CC said that he won’t be back as a writer, he’s too meticulous, the pace of TV took a lot out of him.

FS – the mythology episodes are the ones that advance the Mulder/Scully relationship – in the stand-alones they’re too busy with the monster, and they both have so much invested in the outcome of the mythology.

Both CC and FS were extremely noncommittal on the subject of whether or not this is the show’s last season.

 
 
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