Family & Companions
Writer-producer-director Chris Carter was responsible not only for one of the biggest cult television hits of all time, but for also reviving the UFO phenomenon in popular culture. Carter gained early experience with Disney Studios scripting family friendly telefilms like "The B.R.A.T. Patrol" (ABC, 1986) and producing such projects as the short-lived sitcom "A Brand New Life" (NBC, 1989-1990). When given the chance to develop a series of his own, Carter combined his love of supernatural-suspense programs from a bygone era with a deeply ingrained distrust in authority to create "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002). The exploits of two ideologically-opposed F.B.I. agents investigating the paranormal, it became an overnight cultural phenomenon and made stars of leads David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Armed with his newfound Hollywood clout, Carter later spun-off a second series, "Millennium" (Fox, 1996-99), a doomsday-themed thriller that, while critically praised, struggled. A successful feature film adaptation of "The X Files" (1998) temporarily improved his fortunes, although further series efforts like the short-lived "Harsh Realm" (Fox, 1999; FX, 2000) and "The Lone Gunmen" (Fox, 2001) found Carter struggling to move beyond "X Files" territory. With his feature film directorial debut, Carter attempted to recapture former glory, however, the critically maligned "The X Files: I Want to Believe" (2008) proved to be yet another misfire in a string of recent disappointments. Nonetheless, Carter's work on "The X Files" forever placed him in the upper-echelon of genre purveyors in the eyes of grateful fans.
Born Oct. 13, 1956 in Bellflower, CA, to William and Catherine Carter, Carter grew up in the small suburb just north of Long Beach and spent a good amount of his youth surfing. Interested in writing from a young age, Carter attended California State University Long Beach. Upon receiving his MA in Journalism in 1979, Carter went on to write for Surfing Magazine where he worked as a freelance writer and associate editor from 1980-85. Eager to pursue a more visual, narrative form of writing, Carter began to write screenplays on his own time. Landing a career-changing break in 1985, Carter scored a deal at Disney after the company's chairman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, read one of Carter's scripts. While working at Disney, Carter wrote and produced several television pilots and series, including the short-lived comedy "A Brand New Life" (1989-1990) starring Barbara Eden.
In 1992, Carter was offered a job at Fox Television when fellow Disney alum Peter Roth took over as President of Production at 20th Century Fox. Asked by Fox Television to develop new ideas for a pilot, Carter was allowed the opportunity to write what he truly wanted: suspense. A fan of the 1974 crime thriller, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" (ABC, 1974-75) which was centered on a newspaper reporter who investigated crimes committed under mysterious circumstances, Carter wrote a pilot titled "The X-Files." At the center of Carter's script were two FBI agents, Mulder and Scully, who were assigned to a new division of the Bureau that investigates paranormal and mysterious incidents. Though the concept was a unique one at the time, Fox passed on the script. Carter still had a friend in Roth, however, who lobbied for Carter and awarded him a second shot a pitching the script. This time, Carter presented executives with data and statistics stating that three percent of the American population actually believed that they had been abducted by aliens. After much deliberation, Fox approved the pilot, which Carter went on to produce. David Duchovny was soon cast in the lead role of Special Agent Fox Mulder. Though Duchovny was quickly approved by the network, Carter had a more difficult time casting the series' female lead, Special Agent Dana Scully. Carter's first choice, 24-year-old unknown Gillian Anderson, was not the 'sexy' female lead the network wanted. With Carter's adamant support, however, Anderson landed the role and the series began shooting on location in Vancouver, B.C.
Founding Ten-Thirteen Productions in 1993 with co-producer and writer of "The X-Files," Frank Spotnitz, Carter served as creator, writer, executive producer and occasional director on the series. Intended to be more paranormal thriller than science fiction, Carter established two distinct episodic formats for "The X-Files": government conspiracy and "monster-of-the-week." Comprised mostly of the latter stand-alone episodes, the series' first season found itself fighting for ratings in its difficult Friday night time slot. The former, dubbed the "mythology" story-arc by producers, focused on the alien abduction of Mulder's sister and the government plot to cover up paranormal phenomena. It was this element of the show that drew a cult following as the series progressed into its second season. Combining episodes of "mythology" with stand-alone episodes that new viewers could enjoy, "The X-Files" steadily became one of Fox's most popular shows. The series earned Carter multiple Emmy nominations and was the winner of the Golden Globe for Best TV Drama in 1995, 1997 and 1998.
With the success of "The X-Files," Fox soon asked Carter to develop a new series for the network. Following similar themes as he had with "The X-Files," Carter's second series, "Millennium" (Fox, 1996-99) debuted in 1996. The series was centered on an ex-FBI agent and behavioral profiler, Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), who is contacted by the mysterious Millennium Group, a secret society formed to fight forces of evil believed to come about at the turn of the millennium. Though the series ran for three seasons, its darker themes did not catch on with viewers as strongly as "The X-Files" and the show came to a close in 1999. Carter remained active with "The X-Files," however, which had by that time, reached cult status. Following the series' fifth season, a theatrical film was released, "The X-Files: Fight the Future" (1998). Carter served as writer and producer of the film. Though the film did well at the box office and was a hit among fans, high production costs and an equally high promotional budget put a damper on the film's financial success for Fox. Picking up where the movie left off, the series continued into its sixth season in the fall of 1998.
Developing a new series for Fox after the cancellation of "Millennium," Carter and Spotnitz produced "Harsh Realm (Fox, 1999), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series that followed Lt. Tom Hobbes (Scott Bairstow) as he was thrust into a military-based virtual reality designed as a training facility for disaster scenarios. The series did not prove to be a success for Carter. Loosely based on a comic book by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette, Carter found himself in court after the familiar credit "Created by Chris Carter" rolled in the pilot episode. With the judge ruling in their favor, Hudnall and Paquette's names were soon included in the series' credits, though not for long; Fox pulled the show after only three episodes. Taking a shot at a spin-off series in 2001, Carter produced "The Lone Gunman" (Fox, 2001), a conspiracy-theory driven drama following a trio of geeky investigators, Frohike, Byers and Langly, who were recurring players on "The X-Files." In what turned out to be an eerie foreshadowing of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th, the pilot episode of "Gunman" (written by Spotnitz) featured a plotline that involved the U.S. government flying a remote-controlled Boeing 727 into the World Trade Center in order to boost arms deals. The nearly identical real-life turn-of-events - which took place just a few months after the episode aired - led producers of the series to express concern that the show had influenced the attacks. Though the series picked up a following from the loyal "X-Files" fan base, it was pulled from the air in June 2001 after only 13 episodes.
Carter's brainchild series soon came to an end as well. After an epic nine-season run, "The X-Files" aired its series finale in May, 2002. After the departure of series star Duchovny in 2000 (Duchovny returned to guest star in a number of episodes, but was not a series regular during its final two seasons), ratings steadily declined into its ninth and final season. Though new characters were introduced to the series, which was now centered on Anderson as star, viewers had lost interest, missing the Mulder/Scully dynamic. The series' finale proved to be something of a final chapter for Carter as well; shutting the door on Ten Thirteen productions in 2002, Carter took a five-year hiatus from the entertainment industry. Though talks were already in the works for a second "X-Files" film, scheduling conflicts and legal issues delayed the production and development of the film for six years. After settling an ongoing battle with Fox over revenue generated by syndication of "The X-Files," Fox presented Carter with an ultimatum; if a second "X-Files" film was to be made, it was now or never. Carter opted for now. With both Duchovny and Anderson on board for the film, production on the film began in 2007. Though word on plotlines was tight-lipped, it was reported that "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" (2008) would deal less with the ongoing mythology story arc of the series and would be a stand-alone plot that would appeal to a new generation of "X-Files" viewers.
Released a mere week after the record-breaking blockbuster "The Dark Knight" (2008) and under-promoted by its studio, "I Want to Believe," which marked Carter's directorial debut, proved to be far from the success Carter and his fans had hoped for. Receiving mixed-to-strongly negative reviews, the film placed fourth at the box office in its opening weekend before disappearing from theaters soon after, essentially closing the door on the possibility of a third entry in the franchise. Over the years that immediately followed, little was heard from the writer-director, save rumblings of a film production enigmatically titled "Fencewalker" had yet to be completed or given a release date.
Director (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Began writing for <i>Surfing Magazine</i>, and eventually became its editor
Received his big break when Jeffrey Katzenberg, then chairman of Walt Disney Studio, read a screenplay he wrote and signed him to development with Walt Disney Pictures
Made his TV writing debut for the ABC TV-movie "The B.R.A.T. Patrol"
TV producing debut (also wrote), the NBC adventure pilot "Cameo by Night"
Took a leave of absence from Walt Disney Studios
Scripted two episodes of the NBC musical sitcom, "Rags to Riches"; also co-produced the second season
Executive produced (also wrote) the ABC TV-movie "Meet the Munceys"
Creator and executive producer of NBC's "Brand New Life" starring Barbara Eden and Don Murray
Returned to working at Walt Disney Studios
Executive story editor for the NBC crime drama, "Midnight Caller"; also wrote several episodes
Began creating and developing television projects for the FOX network
Created his breakout hit, the supernatural series "The X-Files"; earned Emmy nominations for Directing (1998), Producing (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998) and Writing (1995, 1997, 1998) for a Drama Series
Formed the production company Ten Thirteen Productions
Made his television directing debut with the two-part "Duane Barry" episode of "The X-Files"; also scripted
Co-scripted (with David Duchovny) the "Colony" episode of Fox's "The X-Files"
Created and executive produced (also scripted) the Fox series "Millennium"
Co-wrote and co-produced the first "The X-Files" feature film
Executive produced the short-lived sci-fi drama "Harsh Realm"
Co-created the Fox series "Lone Gunmen," a spinoff of the long-running "The X-Files"
Made his feature directing debut with "The X-Files: I Want to Believe," the second feature based on the popular series
Wrote, produced, and directed the made-for-TV fantasy drama "The After"
Reuinted with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi for a tenth season of "The X-Files," to mixed results
Brought "The X-Files" back for a longer eleventh season, this time focusing more on the well-received anthology type of stories that padded out the middle of the previous season