August 14, 2009

Frank Spotnitz' new projects

Source: Daily Variety

Frank Spotnitz is peering into the future for his next batch of TV projects.

The "X-Files" alum has pacted with HBO to develop two drama series, both with futuristic themes.

"Humanitas" is described as being set in a time when major advances in medicine have created dilemmas for doctors and fanned fears that a devastating pandemic is imminent. Spotnitz just turned in the first draft of a script that he is exec producing along with Gavin Polone.

HBO suggested it was interested in a show with a medical-thriller theme when Spotnitz met with execs there more than a year ago. That set him off on research about the cutting edge of medicine and the ethical and moral dilemmas raised by science's ever-advancing ability to manipulate genetics, which forms the heart of the show, Spotnitz told Daily Variety.

"You don't have to invent much for this topic to be terrifying," he said.

The threat posed by infectious diseases -- organic and man-made -- is also staggering. "Viruses can mutate so quickly," he said. "This is a war without end."

He's also adapting for HBO a smallscreen rendition of Robert Silverberg's famed 1971 sci-fi novel "The World Inside." Book revolves around a grim vision of the future where overpopulation has run amok, and people live in carefully controlled urban centers where frustration and anger are eliminated, sex is rampant and fertility is the most prized human attribute.

Spotnitz is co-writing the "World Inside" script with Adam Rapp. Rapp and Spotnitz will exec produce along with Carolyn Strauss, Vince Gerardis and Ralph Vicinanza.

"I'm not usually attracted to dystopian stories, but the more I read this novel the more I saw its relevance to our world today."

Separately, Spotnitz is penning a pilot for FX, "Arc," based on the life of a real person involved in the covert ops world.

"It's sort of about what would happen if Jason Bourne decided to leave the spy game and try to fit into normal life," Spotnitz said. "It's a character piece and it's very reality-based."

Project hails from Tony and Ridley Scott's Scott Free Prods. and CBS Television Studios. Spotnitz is exec producing with Bazzel Baz.

Spotnitz, repped by WME, was Chris Carter's right-hand exec producer on "X-Files" for most of that show's nine-season run. More recently he's been focusing on feature projects, including a remake of 1983's "The Star Chamber" set up at 20th Century Fox. He also co-wrote last year's "X-Files: I Want to Believe" feature.

Spotnitz was the showrunner on ABC's redo of "The Night Stalker" in the 2005-06 season, and he worked alongside Michael Mann on the gritty CBS cop drama "Robbery Homicide Division" in 2002-03.

Six years ago, Spotnitz launched a website,, that of late turned into a bustling social network for "X-Files" fans, among other sci-fi/fantasy fare, and a wiki about the various pics and TV series that he's worked on.

August 09, 2009

The genesis of 'Breaking Bad'

A pal mentioned a news story to Vince Gilligan. It's now 'Breaking Bad.'

By Josh Gajewski
August 3, 2009
Source: LA Times

The best person to tell this story may be the man to Vince Gilligan's right. His name is Tom Schnauz, but on this day he's known as "New Guy." That is, the new guy in the writers' room of "Breaking Bad," the Emmy-nominated AMC drama about a terminally ill schoolteacher who raises money for his family's future by cooking and selling crystal methamphetamine.

Gilligan created "Breaking Bad," the drama series nominee and critical darling that pulled in an average 1.3 million viewers this season. He also worked on the script of last summer's " Hancock," a film that grossed more than $600 million worldwide.

But Schnauz knew Gilligan when the two worked in the basement of the NYU film school in the late '80s, renting out cameras to fellow students. "Occasionally, he'd do some things that were strange, would do things just to try it out," Schnauz says. "I remember him bringing golf balls into the work-study place, and he wanted to know what was inside, so he started cutting them open. Once, this white powder shot up into his eyes."

That "inquisitive but semi-warped" mind, Schnauz says, is what made Gilligan successful. "I mean, what kind of mind would come up with a show about cooking crystal meth?"

Answer: the mind of a man who grew up in Virginia but had his eyes trained on Hollywood ever since he saw " Star Wars." Many years later -- after NYU, and after Gilligan and Schnauz both wrote for "The X-Files" -- the two spoke by phone. Schnauz had just read an article about mobile meth labs. Gilligan joked that when their respective writing careers dried up, perhaps they could do the same, drive around the Southwest in an RV with a meth lab in the back.

"He called me back a week later and said, 'Remember that idea? Mind if I use that?' " Schnauz recalls. "I said, 'Of course.' I mean, I'd never think to write a story, let alone a whole TV series around the idea of a mobile meth lab. But lo and behold. . . ."

Gilligan created Walter White, an ordinary man thrust into an end-life crisis, and now here we are: in Burbank on a Tuesday, having a hamburger with the bespectacled Gilligan just down the street from his writers' room. "Frankly, I don't know why we're here," he says. "I don't even know why I bothered to pitch this show, except that I was really inspired by the idea."

After lunch, he returns to his "dream," the nondescript writers' room where the key phrase is "What if . . . ," the key ingredient is caffeine and the key goal is to surprise. The talk always revolves around how a character might be expected to react and then, how that expectation might be turned on its head.

Several hours and maybe a hundred ideas later, Gilligan is ready to adjourn. "I feel like we're close to something, something that's right in front of us," he says to the room. "There's something we still haven't thought of that would change everything. Let's open up our minds."

And so will begin another round of what-ifs.

August 08, 2009

'Fringe' plans 'X-Files' homage


"The X-Files" is returning to the small screen.

No, don't freak out, the show isn't being remade a la "90210" or "Melrose Place." Instead, the season premiere of "Fringe" will simply include a wink -- or two -- to the show it so often gets compared to.

"Yes, it is true," showrunner Jeff Pinkner confirmed to Zap2it. "[There will be] an homage to 'X-Files.' In fact, there are at least two in the episode."

Jeff told us "Fringe" regularly pays homage to other things and people they love in more vague ways, but when it comes to "X-Files," there won't be any doubt about it. "It'll be obvious [to everyone]," he said. "Both of [the nods] are obvious."

While Jeff was hesitant to give us details on their little tributes, series star John Noble (Walter) shared that at least one of them is pictorial. Hmm...