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In Conversation with Chris Carter
p. 3 of 3

          MS: These were anonymous threats?


          CC: Yeah, they were.


          MS: Was the convention going to be all abductees, alleged abductees, speaking?


          CC: Yes.


          MS: Another question I wanted to ask you about Mack is, there’s a season five episode where Scully has regression hypnosis –


          CC: – Yes –


          MS: – “The Red and the Black,” and the doctor character in that, I had the impression, was modeled on Mack.


          CC: Yes.


          MS: Did he ever respond to you about what it was like to be portrayed on the show?


          CC: I don’t recall if he responded to that episode in particular.  I actually sat in on a regression hypnosis session with him. That would have been right around that same time.


          MS: Did the way that you wrote the show change after you sat in on that hypnosis?


          CC: No, but my feeling about the abduction phenomenon was altered, because I witnessed a serious hypnotic session,  and I had no reason to doubt the person that was being hypnotized.


          MS: Did you turn to world mythology or folklore for inspiration?


          CC: Sometimes. We found inspiration in so many placesWhen you get an episode likeThe Red and The Black,” obviously that comes from literature.  David Duchovny sometimes would draw on his literary knowledge and give us something to think about – “The Grand Inquisitor” was another thing that came out of literature.

          Inspiration comes from sometimes the most unexpected places.  David Duchovny actually came up with the idea for the alien bounty hunter, too, and even though that isn’t literaryit’s interesting how the collaborations are sometimes surprising.


          MS: How did that happen – would you and he be discussing the show not on the set, and he’d say, “What if this happened”?


          CC: Yeah, right – he’d say, “What about this? I was thinking about this. I just read this.” It was an exchange.


          MS: When you were breaking episodes or writing episodes, would you start with the cold open and write forward from there? Or would you figure out the trajectory of the entire episode, and then figure out how to open the episode later?


          CC: No,  we would plot the entire episode.  We had a very low-tech approach to this: we had a bulletin board and we had three-by-five cards, and we would plot the episode,  like a mosaic.


          MS: What would inspire making [a scene] be the cold open? How would you go about writing one?


          CC: I think everything begins with a concept.  And then a group of writers would typically sit in a room, and toss – one writer had an idea, and then they would try to work out that idea, plot it on that board.  And the cold open – the teaser, as we call it – came as a result of that process.


          MS: What about thinking about an entire season?  How much of that would you figure out on the bulletin board beforehand,  and how much of it would be improvisation in the course of doing the season?


          CC: It was a really difficult process, because we were literally one to two episodes ahead of what we were shooting, and so we were making it up.  And some days, we would be writing things that we would be filming the same day or the next day.  It was a very demanding process by which we shot.  We worked on the show eleven-and-a-half months a year, took two weeks off at the end of that.  But we shot the show between ten and ten-and-a-half months a year, and we were running like crazy to keep up with the demand for those scripts.


          MS: With episodes that you didn’t write or direct, as showrunner were you still very involved in each and every episode?


          CC: In some way, a lesser to greater extent, depending on the demands on my time.  I did a lot of re-writing, I can tell you that, so I was involved in every script.  Some people didn’t need to be re-written.  Other people did.  It was, for me, literally for a decade of my life, I had to keep my eye on the ball and my head down.


          MS: Were there images from The X-Files where you can remember being like, “I really want to capture this image on film” before you made the episode?


          CC: There’s an episode that I talk about all the time that I can’t believe that we pulled off, and that was where we had a submarine conning tower come through the polar ice cap.  Here, you sit in a room at your desk, at your computerdreaming this stuff up on the page,  and you wonder if the production people are going to read it and laugh and say,  “There’s no possible way we could do this physically, budgetarily.”  And somehow, when I had dreamed that image up, somehow I witnessed it realized before my very eyes.  It was movie magic. 

          I have to say, one of the people I credit with making the show a success was Bob Goodwin,  the co-executive producer,  who really got the studio to give us the budgets we needed to make the show we wanted.  And without that money,  we never would have been the show that we became.


          MS: I’ve seen you say that you consider your career as a storyteller very indebted to Spielberg. To what Spielberg films particularly, and what about them?


          CC: He’s a master storyteller,  visually. He’s a great storyteller. There’s no one in my lifetime who has directed the range of movies and told the range of stories that he has. The person who directed E.T. and also directed Schindler’s List – this is a person who has such a depth of – I don’t know how I would even categorize it – a depth of understanding about human nature. About the stories that we want to know and hear and see.


          MS: Absolutely.

          I’m always amazed, when I think about Spielberg, how of course he made his incredible movies of the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s, and then when he was already such a legend, around 2001, he starts making movies like AI and Minority Report, and another era of great movies comes out of him. Starting with the movies that he made this century, around those films, are there any ones that particularly stand out for you?

          CC: It’s funny I like movies of his that people don’t pay as much attention to.

          I love Munich. Here’s another movie that it’s a fantastic movie, and I use it as an example sometimes when I’m talking to X-Files directors, when they’re directing mythology episodes, I say, “Watch Munich, watch where he puts the camera, watch how he tells the story.” I think that’s a movie that’s under-appreciated.


          MS: What is your relationship with David Lynch’s work?


          CC: I want to say that Twin Peaks was an inspiration for The X-Files.  But Twin Peaks is its own wonderful creation.  And I think it inspired a lot of people, but there’s never been anything else like it, except maybe other David Lynch work.  But I could have watched that show every night of the week, that’s how much I loved it.


          MS: What was the experience of writing the “Chinga” episode with Stephen King like?


          CC: He was so gracious, so kind and collaborative, that it just made me appreciate his work that much more.


          MS: I know that the show is being rebooted. At this point, do you foresee any other spinoffs of the original, or other directions that The X-Files may take?

          CC: I don’t right now, and it’s funny they asked me not to talk any more about the reboot, because they want to make a big announcement.  So I am zipping my lips.

          MS: Do you read the news and think about the kind of stories you’d be telling today?  And how do you think those stories would be different?

          CC: Darin Morgan has referred to the period we’re in as the Post-Conspiracy world, PoCo he calls it, because the world is so full of conspiracy theories now.

          And they say with A.I., the advent or I should say the evolution of A.I., that none of us will actually know what the truth is at some point, because we won’t know that what we’re reading, hearing, seeing, isn’t the product of some other form of intelligence.


          MS: My final question is – is the title hyphenated?


          CC: Yes, it is. [Laughter]. And it’s a very good question.

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Interview III: The Storyteller

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