Exclusive - Five Questions to Executive Producer Frank Spotnitz - producer of the new Night Stalker series. (3/19/05)
Frank Spotnitz was kinda enough to grant us a brief interview concerning his upcoming work on the new "Night Stalker" series while filiming the pilot for ABC.
1) How did you get started in the supernatural and conspiracy-oriented genre that seems to lie at the heart of your TV career?
Frank Spotnitz: Blind luck. I was a wire-service reporter for several years before I decided to change careers and come out to Hollywood. I began studying screenwriting at the American Film Institute in L.A., supporting myself by writing for magazines and reading scripts for production companies. Upon graduation, I began writing spec movie scripts when I chanced upon an invitation to pitch stories for łThe X-Files˛ to Chris Carter. This was at the end of Season One. Chris didnąt end up buying the stories I pitched, but when two writers left the show early in Season Two, he invited me to become a staff writer. It was my first job in Hollywood.
2) What was your first experience with Kolchak? And whatąs the big deal about him, that you want to do a show about the guy?
Frank Spotnitz: I vividly remember seeing the listing for "The Night Stalker" for the first time in TV Guide. I was 11 years old, and already a big fan of "Star Trek," "Twilight Zone," "The Outer Limits" and "Night Gallery." Scary shows were still pretty rare on TV, so I couldnąt wait to check out "The Night Stalker." I was absolutely riveted by that first movie, and terrified in the best possible way. I subsequently read the paperback novel, and was even more excited when "The Night Strangler" was broadcast.
When it became a weekly series, I watched every episode. And while I loved it at the time, even then I had a vague sense of disappointment that it wasnąt as scary or compelling as the TV movies had been. The delight of the series, for me, was Darren McGavin. I loved everything about his performance, his humor, charm, irreverence. To me, Kolchak is still one of the best and most indelible characters in TV history.
Thatąs probably one of the reasons why I clicked so well with Chris when I began writing for "The X-Files." Both of us loved Kolchak when we were growing up, and those kinds of childhood influences have a way of lasting.
3) How did you become associated with the revival effort on the current Kolchak series?
Frank Spotnitz: Mark Pedowitz, the president of Touchstone Television, called me last summer and asked if I would be interested in making a new series based on "The Night Stalker." I was immediately intrigued by the idea, although not exactly sure how to go about it. As much as I loved Kolchak, I felt the first series was not successful. But after some weeks of reflection, I decided to accept the challenge.
4) How did you "bone up" as it were on Kolchak and the source material (what there is of it!) once you started on the revival?
Frank Spotnitz: I re-read the "Night Stalker" paperback by Jeff Rice, watched "Night Stalker" and "Night Strangler" again on DVD, and watched a bunch of the old TV episodes, more to help me figure out what I shouldnąt do than what I should (this series is not a remake of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," to which as I understand it -- ABC doesnąt hold the rights). As luck would have it, I actually had a complete VHS set of the series which Jeff Rice had given us back when we were doing "The X-Files."
5) Finally, what does the new Kolchak series possess, and other cancelled genre series have lacked in the past, that will keep it on the air for 5+ years, generate a big-money syndication deal, assure airings on multiple channels, get a line of novels published, etc.?
Frank Spotnitz: Right now, Iąm just hoping they pick up the pilot!
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For more information on Frank Spotnitz check out his production company Big Light Production's home page
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