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Hi all, For those able to get to it, Frank Spotnitz is in a Q&A on his career at University of Salford, MediaCityUK, Manchester, Mon, 27 January 2020 from 6.30pm. Besides of course his involvement in Millennium and X-Files he is also executive producer on The Man in the High Castle, now in its fourth season fpr Amazon, and Medici: Masters of Florence on Netflex, among many others. Tickets are free from this link- https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/rts-nw-a-masterclass-with-frank-spotnitz-tickets-75136642721?aff=eemailordconf&utm_campaign=order_confirm&ref=eemailordconf&utm_medium=email&utm_source=eventbrite&utm_term=viewevent Those in the north of the UK very very rarely get event like this so I aim to make the most of it. Any TIWWA's going let me know. cheers baz
this is taken from ifmagazine.com NIGHT STALKER producer Frank Spotnitz © 2006 Touchstone Home Entertainment Exclusive Profile: NIGHT STALKER REMAKE CREATOR FRANK SPOTNITZ TALKS ABOUT THE NEW DVD – PART 1 The former X-FILES producer brought his sensibilities to last fall's exceptional TV show remake, but he details why the show was never given its proper due By: CARL CORTEZ Contributing Editor -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Published: 5/30/2006 Send this feature to a friend. Perhaps one of the biggest tragedies of the 2005-2006 network schedule was the premature cancellation of ABC’s re-imagining of the classic TV series THE NIGHT STALKER. Developed by former X-FILES alum Frank Spotnitz (and based on the classic show from the ‘70s starring Darren McGavin, the series followed reporter Carl Kolchak (Stewart Townsend) and partner/skeptic Perri Reed (Gabrielle Union), as they uncovered the supernatural underbelly of Los Angeles. One of the best of all the new genre shows that premiered last fall, THE NIGHT STALKER was stuck in the death time slot of Thursday’s at 9:00 p.m. and after six episodes, ABC pulled the series and didn’t give it a second chance. However, in the age of DVD, cancelled shows do indeed get a second chance – even if it’s just corralling all the aired and un-aired episodes with a bunch of special features which is what Spotnitz has done. In stores today from Touchstone Home Entertainment is THE NIGHT STALKER – THE COMPLETE SERIES. The 2-disc set includes all 10 episodes, in addition to two finished scripts that were never produced. Toss in a Spotnitz featurette, deleted scenes and commentary, and you have a perfect summation of what could have been ABC’s next big hit. Last week, Spotnitz spoke with iF MAGAZINE about the series, where it was heading if it continued and the scoop on upcoming projects including the potential X-FILES movie. This is PART 1 of our four-part interview. © 2006 Touchstone Home Entertainment Cotter Smith, Stuart Townsend, Gabrielle Union, Eric Jungmann star in THE NIGHT STALKER -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- iF MAGAZINE: What happened with the series? Why did ABC prematurely cancel it? FRANK SPOTNITZ: We had three huge strikes against us. You can say, the show just wasn’t very good or not accessible or maybe these three enormous obstacles specific to success had something to do with it. Time slot. That one isn not a secret. They told us they were going to put us on Thursday’s at 9:00 opposite C.S.I., which is incredibly tough time slot to be in. The second thing, they didn’t promote the show. There was not a dime of paid advertising. It all went to COMMANDER IN CHIEF and INVASION. We were not properly promoted in a way you need to be to get people to know you exist in this marketplace. The only thing could take comfort from, we had a lead-in in ALIAS that we hoped would draw viewers to our show. When ALIAS finally came on the air in the fall, it under-performed in a big way. When research came back and said, not only were the numbers small for ALIAS, it was not compatible for NIGHT STALKER because they were two completely different audiences. Even under the best of circumstances and if you had the most amazing show ever made, we would be very hard to succeed with that set of circumstances. iF: What I liked about the show was, it brought back what was cool with X-FILES -- really cool standalone horror stories Having done X-FILES, was it hard going into something like the NIGHT STALKER because you had that sort of template in your head? SPOTNITZ: I had to spend so much time figuring out how the show would work. I didn’t realize what I was getting into when I signed up for this. I loved the NIGHT STALKER and original TV movies and I agreed to it based on my love of those old movies and the love of the character and realized all the problems there were making Kolchak the hero of a series as opposed to the TV movies. And in the original series, they never figured out how to lick those problems. The more I got into how to make it work as a weekly series, I moved further away from the original concept. I did hit upon a template that was really exciting to me and it certainly owed something to the X-FILES way of storytelling, in that it really is a different supernatural phenomenon each week. And there was a skeptic character, actually three skeptic characters in the series, the photographer, Perri Reed and the editor [played by Tony Vincenzo]. But really got me excited about the show that was unique to this version of NIGHT STALKER was the whole notion of good and evil and was Kolchak what he seemed to be. That was the biggest disappointment of the show being canceled was that notion not being played out. iF: These guys are not cops, did you have to find ways around them not carrying guns? SPOTNITZ: Not having a gun was not that big a problem. On X-FILES they always had guns, because they were FBI agents, but in reality, a gun doesn’t work with a supernatural villain. There were a couple of times, the network and studio would raise their eyebrows about Kolchak or Reed go into a situation without a gun, but that wouldn’t help them. I didn’t perceive that to be such a problem. To me, the bigger problem when your heroes are reporters, was "why does it matter?" Who cares whether a reporter goes and writes a story or not, how is going to change the outcome? I think that’s why you don’t see shows about reporters. Does it matter whether the story gets written in the newspaper? I answered that, by having them be investigative reporters. They’re investigating stories no one would investigate unless they didn’t do it and having them change the outcome. Each week, because of their investigation, somebody lives or dies who wouldn’t live or die if they hadn’t got involved and the fact that Kolchak is willing to answer these questions, when no one else is, changes the outcome of the story. iF: Was there an episode where you feel you finally hit your stride? SPOTNITZ: Of the episodes that were broadcast, "Five People You Meet in Hell" was very successful. I felt it was not like anything else that had been done and it was really scary and entertaining and it embodied so many things I want the series to be. The show that I really felt, "we got the series now," was "The Sea," second part of the two-parter which never aired. That was the one I felt we finally had everything in place in terms of the characters, their voices and the way they relate to each other.They really began to gel as a family of characters and it was frustrating IF MAGAZINE: Before the officially cancelled you, why didn’t ABC at least take the show and put it on another slot to see if there was an audience for it.FRANK SPOTNITZ: We were very actively lobbying the network for that very thing. The studio, Touchstone, was enormously supportive of the show and really believed in it and people at the network were supportive of the show. We were begging, just repeat us after LOST one week, anything, to let people we’re on the air , but we couldn’t get a yes.iF: Were you trying to wrap things up with the last episode filmed -- "What’s the Frequency Kolchak?" – knowing the writing was on the wall and the show would likely be cancelled? SPOTNITZ: Until the last night, I continued to hold out hope it would prevail. So many people at the studio and network really believed in the show and were passionate about it and were trying to find ways to give us another chance. The ratings were at about the level they said they had to be at in order for us to stay on the air. And they took us off the air for a week, and brought us back on and no one knew we were on. I continued to believe they were going to recognize the value of the show they had and find a way to stick with it until the day they cancelled it. I wasn’t shocked that they cancelled. I wasn’t expecting it. iF: If you had the time to wrap the series up, could you? SPOTNITZ: There was no way I could and there were enormous amounts of questions I had set up in those first few episodes. I don’t know how I would have tried to make it feel like an ending, I certainly couldn’t resolve everything with a finale. iF: Did you have an idea how the season would have wen if you had a full 22-episode order? SPOTNITZ: I had so many twists and turns with Kolchak’s character Agent Bernie Fain (John Pyper-Ferguson). In February, I was introduce the other person who had the mark on the wrist, who was actually the person standing outside of Emily Gale’s house in the pilot. It was not Kolchak, it was this other guy with this mark on the wrist. He was going to tell Kolchak what the mark meant, that "you and I were meant to fight evil and not a role we asked for in life, it was what we were born to do, that’s why you have to do what you’re doing." And as the season went on and we went into Season 2, we become suspicious of this guy, and distrustful of him and sure enough we would find out in Season 2, that this guy is evil. What he said the mark means, is exactly the opposite of what it means. It means that you’re born evil and Kolchak was born evil. There were a lot of twists and turns and just when you think he’s a good guy, he’s suddenly a bad guy. iF: Would Kolchak have turned really bad? SPOTNITZ: To me, what you would have realized in Season 2, everything he’s done has in fact been bad. It didn’t seem like it, because good outcomes came about, but he was doing it for the wrong reasons. That was one of the things that was so fascinating to me about this whole idea of good and evil, I think what the series had to say, was you need to be aware, you need to open your eyes, because you can serve evil thinking you’re doing good, unless your eyes are open. That was going to become interesting for Perri Reed especially. She was the character of light and good in the series. And that’s what I thought would be increasingly clear to people. When they first saw it, it was the believer/skeptic thing like X-FILES, but more than that, it was good and evil and here is a character who is selfish and an egotist, really only interested in what matters to him. And here’s a character in Perri Reed, who is not selfish, who is an idealist and wants to do the right thing and is challenged because she is partnered with this guy whose agenda is much darker than that. iF: What happened to Kolchak’s wife? SPOTNITZ: He didn’t actually kill his wife, but he was aligned with the forces that did, and he was probably used by those forces, to drive out onto the highway that night and get her killed. He was not the agent of her death. All his life he was headed in this direction, serving evil, and he wasn’t aware of it yet. iF: That would have been a tricky balance to turn your hero into a villain. They’ve done it before, like on ANGEL, but it is challenging. SPOTNITZ: My intention from the very beginning, before ABC picked up the show, they made me write up a five-page document, answering everything I set up in the pilot and saying what the last episode of the series would be. And when Stuart Townsend signed on for the role, I said he’s actually bad and Stuart loved that and got very excited. You’ve never seen that before. That to me, the design of the show, someone who was suspected of killing his wife and when you find out he really is evil and then you’re forced to re-evaluate Agent Fain. He comes off as a bad guy in the early episodes, but is he really a bad guy if the guy he is pursuing is actually evil. To me it was really rich all the things you could have done with it. iF: So what would have been the last episode of the series if you continued on? SPOTNITZ: In the audio commentaries on the DVD, I try to reveal as much as I can, but the one thing I don’t do is tell how the series would have ended, simply because you never know. iF: You had to tell the network? SPOTNITZ: I did, but it’s a secret. I don’t expect the show to come back and you never know and if it ever should come back in any shape or form, I would sabotage myself irreparably if I revealed what the last show would be? iF: Did you look for another network for THE NIGHT STALKER after it was cancelled? FRANK SPOTNITZ: When the show got cancelled, we had discussions with a number of people about continuing the show on another network. The problem was an economical one, it is not an expensive series. It just didn’t work financially to produce it at another network. I don’t think we could do the show in the manner which we were ding it on another network. iF: The two scripts that are featured on the DVD – are they the final shooting scripts? SPOTNITZ: We just started shooting "Ascendant" the night we got cancelled. The 12th episode, "The M Word" was written by Darin Morgan, who wrote so many of the funniest and best episodes of THE X-FILES. iF: What are they about? SPOTNITZ: "Ascendant" is a stand-alone mystery about people who are dying after horoscopes predict their deaths and why that is happening. "The M Word" I was really excited to produce, because it is a flat out comedy. It is a very funny script. If you listen to the commentary and you hear about the difficulties we had with ABC about the whole subject of monsters, they really didn’t want monsters on the show at all, the title of Darin’s episode takes on an added significance. The M Word, the words you can’t say – monster. It’s very clever and funny and one of the reasons why I wanted to include scripts on the DVD, a certain segment of the audience would really enjoy it. iF: Such a great medium to be able to archive things that would never see the light of day. SPOTNITZ: It’s great way to see the show. Not only is the video and audio quality superior to watching it on broadcast, you can watch it at your own pace and without commercial interruption. iF: Did you think of putting that footage of "Ascendant" on the DVD? SPOTNITZ: We were only shooting for a few hours, when they pulled the plug. I never even saw the dailies from that day. iF: As much as I loved the original series, when I bought the DVDs last year, I didn’t realize how dated the show feels. SPOTNITZ: I got a lot of flak, which I knew I would from NIGHT STALKER fans about how different it was from the original series. I wanted to say, go back and look at that series, it really doesn’t age that well. Darren McGavin is wonderful, but the series itself was kind of silly and certainly would not survive in today’s television landscape. iF: You were a journalist before you became a screenwriter. How did it help being a reporter when it came time to write THE NIGHT STALKER? SPOTNITZ: It gave me great comfort, because I felt I understood this world without having to do research because I knew it first hand. We went down to the L.A. Times, to see how a newsroom operates today, because it’s been ten years since I worked in a news room. I ran into six people I knew, because it’s my past. Unlike, people who are writing shows about lawyers who have never been in a law firm, if you’re writing about reporters and have been a reporter, you have a sense of what the politics of that job are. What you would ask and not ask. So it makes it much easier to write the shows. IF MAGAZINE: What’s the X-FILES movie status? FRANK SPOTNITZ: My deal has been done for a really long time and David Duchovny, Chris Carter and Gillian Anderson all have deals. There are legal issues between Chris and the studio relating to the old show that are holding everything up. It has nothing to do with the deal with the movie, it has to do with the TV series. The movie will not happen until and unless he resolves those issues I’m hoping he will soon so we can get to work on it. We would all love to do it still. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- iF: Do you still think there is an X-FILES audience? SPOTNITZ: I would like to think if you do good work, people would come out and see it. Those are such great characters and David and Gillian are so perfect in those roles and we have a really scary story for those characters to operate in? iF: Does it deal with the "M" word? SPOTNITZ: It’s not an alien mythology conspiracy type movie, it’s a stand-alone movie. I’ve never pretended I can handicap commercial success in anything I do, all I can do is do good work and hope that we find an audience. iF: You’re relaunching a franchise so to speak, like a James Bond movie almost. SPOTNITZ: Obviously we need to catch up where the characters are in their lives now, what they’ve been doing since the series ended. It could easily be a series of stand-alone movies, and that’s what I would love it to become. iF: Would you still have to deal with messier aspects of the John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) since they were so pivotal in the last two seasons? SPOTNITZ: We haven’t figured out what we were going to do there. I would love to include those characters and pay homage to the past of the series, but the thing is, you don’t want to encumber the movie with a lot of expository stuff you’ve got to put in there to allude to the old show. As much as possible, I would like to honor the series without encumbering the movie. iF: Okay, so even though you have a deal, and everything is still up in the air, if this happened, when would it happen or is it a nebulous thing? SPOTNITZ: They might never resolve the issues and so the movie might not ever happen. I would think that if they resolve the issues, we would go immediately. iF: What about the STAR CHAMBER remake you were going to direct? SPOTNITZ: That’s going to be a feature film for 20th Century Fox. iF: I thought that was going to be for TV at some point. SPOTNITZ: It actually began as a TV movie. I was going to direct. It’s a long story, but the script came in late, there was a regime change at the network and it ended up finding new life as a feature. iF: Are you still going to direct? SPOTNITZ: I don’t know. At this point, I’m just producing it, and I don’t even know if I would be able to direct it when the time comes. iF: How different is it from the original movie? SPOTNITZ: I think the central idea is the same. It’s one of those movies, where I always felt the idea was better than the execution, which is why I think it’s a great candidate for a remake. It’s not like you we're making something that was perfect the first time. The original if you watch it now, it really feels dated. It’s a Reagan-era diatribe against the ACLU and the rights of criminals. That doesn’t apply to the world we live in now. Now, thematically, it’s about pursuing justice at all costs, which really relates to the world we’re living in. I think it can be a much better movie than the first time around. iF: What is AMPED? SPOTNITZ: AMPED is a pilot Vince Gilligan and I wrote, that Spike TV has bought. iF: Have you shot the pilot? SPOTNITZ: We’re waiting for a greenlight. Their hope is to shoot it in summer and broadcast it some time after that. It’s another scary show. It’s set in a police precinct. The idea is the world outside of this precinct has changed, that a certain percentage of the population has begun mutating in all kinds of different ways. It depends on your individual DNA, what form your mutation takes. So these cops go out into the world every day and they literally don’t know what they’re going to encounter every day. It’s scary and has a lot of humor in it and it has allegories for terrorism, racism and all sorts of other things. I’m really excited to do it. iF: What else are you working on? SPOTNITZ: I just re-upped with Touchstone Television, who I did NIGHT STALKER with. I’m supposed to develop new series for them. That’s a two-year deal. Right now, I’m just dreaming up what I want to do. iF: Do you like the freedom of the TV world versus movies? SPOTNITZ: Television is too much of a good thing. You get the order and once you’ve gone through all those incredible hoops of getting the show on the air, you’re just doing the work at that point. There is no time for a lot of other nonsense. You just have to make the show and that’s fantastic. The thing I don’t like is that it’s so much work, it’s overwhelming, you’re doing 24-hours of television, it’s really a brutal workload and it’s not a lot of time to do all that television and do a great job, so you find yourself, killing yourself to get the work done and to do as good a job as you can. I love how big the canvas is on television and how long you can tell these stories and all the different permutations they go through. I really like getting to know the actors you’re working with and writing to their strengths and discoveries you make about theme in the course of doing a series as well as the relationship you develop with everybody, behind the camera as well. It’s a wonderful thing in many ways. It’s also unique as a writer. You get to be the producer and the decision maker. That’s a big advantage TV has.