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Chris Carter (screenwriter)

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Title: Chris Carter (screenwriter)  
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Subject: Frank Spotnitz, Mythology of The X-Files, List of The X-Files episodes, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 – Abduction, The Truth (The X-Files)
Collection: 1957 Births, 20Th-Century American Writers, 21St-Century American Writers, American Male Screenwriters, American Screenwriters, American Television Directors, American Television Writers, California State University, Long Beach Alumni, Film Directors from California, Film Producers from California, Living People, Male Television Writers, Millennium (Tv Series), People from Bellflower, California, Showrunners, Television Producers from California, The X-Files, Writers from California
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Chris Carter (screenwriter)

Chris Carter
Carter at the London premiere of The X-Files: I Want to Believe in July 2008.
Born (1957-10-13) October 13, 1957
Bellflower, California, U.S.
Alma mater California State University, Long Beach
Occupation Writer, director, producer
Notable work The X-Files
Partner(s) Dori Pierson (1983–present)

Chris Carter (born October 13, 1957) is an American television and film producer, director and writer. Born in Bellflower, California, Carter graduated with a degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach before spending thirteen years working for Surfing Magazine. After beginning his television career working on television films for Walt Disney Studios, Carter rose to fame in the early 1990s after creating the science fiction-supernatural television series The X-Files for the Fox network. The X-Files earned high viewership ratings, and led to Carter being able to negotiate the creation of future series.

Carter went on to create three more series for the network—Millennium, a doomsday-themed series which met with critical approval and low viewer numbers; Harsh Realm, which was canceled after three episodes had aired; and The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off of The X-Files which lasted for a single season. Carter's film roles include writing both of The X-Files‍ '​ cinematic spin-offs—1998's successful The X-Files and the poorly received 2008 follow-up The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the latter of which he also directed—while his television credits have earned him several accolades including eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations. The Amazon Studios television series The After is his most recent series.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Starting in television 2.1
    • The X-Files and success 2.2
    • Millennium 2.3
    • Feature films 2.4
    • Other work 2.5
  • Accolades 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Film 4.1
    • Television 4.2
  • Footnotes 5
    • References 5.1
  • External links 6

Early life

Chris Carter was born on October 13, 1957 in Bellflower, California.[2] His father worked in the construction industry.[3] Carter has described his childhood as "fairly normal", and was fond of both Little League Baseball and surfing;[4] his surfing stance is goofy footed.[5] He attended California State University, Long Beach in Long Beach, graduated with a journalism degree in 1979. An avid surfer, he began writing for Surfing Magazine, a San Clemente-based journal, eventually becoming its editor at the age of 28. Carter would work for the magazine for thirteen years,[4] and credits his tenure there for teaching him how to run a business. It was also at this time that Carter began taking an interest in pottery, making "hundreds of thousands of pieces" of dinnerware as a hobby. He has compared the process of making pottery to Zen meditations, although he has since thrown out most of his work.[4]


Starting in television

In 1983, Carter began dating Dori Pierson, who he had met through a cousin of hers who worked with him at Surfing Magazine.[6] Pierson's connections at Walt Disney Studios led to chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg hiring Carter on a standard contract.[7] Carter began writing television films for the studio, penning The B.R.A.T. Patrol in 1986 and Meet the Munceys in 1988. These scripts led to Carter being associated with contemporary youth comedy at the studio, and although he enjoyed the work he felt that his real strengths and interests lay in serious drama instead.[4]

Carter met the then-president of NBC, Brandon Tartikoff, at a company softball game in Brentwood, California. Tartikoff and Carter began talking between innings, and when Tartikoff eventually read some of Carter's script work, he brought him over to write for the network. There, Carter developed a number of unproduced television pilotsCameo By Night, featuring Sela Ward; Brand New Life, which has been described as being similar to The Brady Bunch; Copter Cop, a science fiction series that was hampered by Tartikoff's injuries after a car accident; and Cool Culture, influenced by Carter's passion for surfing and experience with Surfing Magazine.[8] During this time Carter would also work as a producer on Rags to Riches, a job he accepted in order to learn more about producing a series.[9]

Peter Roth, at that time the president of Stephen J. Cannell Productions, obtained a copy of Carter's pilot script for Cool Culture, and although the series was never picked up, Roth was interested in hiring Carter to work on the CBS series Palace Guard. However, Roth would soon leave CBS to work for Fox as the head of its television production wing. Carter was among the first wave of new staff hired by Roth in 1992 to develop material for the network,[10] and he began work on a series based on his own childhood fondness for The Twilight Zone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.[9]

The X-Files and success

A man speaking into a microphone
Carter in July 2013.

Carter's new series would take its stylistic inspiration from Kolchak, while thematically reflecting his experiences growing up during the Watergate scandal. Carter also drew inspiration from his friend John E. Mack's survey of American beliefs in ufology, which indicated that three percent of the population believed they had been abducted by aliens.[11] Roth warmed to the idea upon hearing of the influence of Kolchak, believing that vampires—one of the central antagonists of the original series—would be popular with audiences given the interest being shown in the upcoming film Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, although Carter insisted on an extraterrestrial-focused series.[12] However, Carter had never been interested in science fiction before this point, professing to have briefly read one novel each by Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert A. Heinlein.[13] Basing his characters instead on those found in the English television series The Avengers, Carter took an eighteen-page treatment for his new project—by now titled The X-Files—to a pitch meeting at Fox, where it was soon rejected.[14] With the help of Roth, Carter was able to arrange a second pitch meeting, at which the network reluctantly agreed to greenlight a pilot for the series.[15]

After finding the series' two starring leads in Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny,[13] Carter was given a budget of $2 million to produce a pilot episode.[16] The series aired on Friday nights on the Fox network, being broadcast in tandem with The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. in what was perceived to be an unpopular timeslot. The series earned relatively impressive Nielsen ratings for its Friday timeslot, and was given a full twenty-four episode order.[13] The series' popularity and critical acclaim built over the course of its second and third seasons, and saw it earning its first Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama and breaking the record for highest price paid by a network for rights to air re-runs, fetching $600,000 per episode from Fox's sister network FX.[17] After Carter's initial three-year signing for Fox had ended, the success of the series allowed him to negotiate a five-year contract with several additional perks, including the guarantee of a feature film adaptation to be produced by the parent company's film studio, and the greenlighting of Carter's next television project.[18] In March 2015, it was confirmed that Carter is set to executive produce and write the screenplays for the revival of The X-Files,[19] which is set for a six-episode event series.[20]


Carter began work on a new series, Millennium.[21] The genesis of this new project stemmed from "Irresistible", a second-season episode of The X-Files which Carter had written, which focused on a sexually-motivated serial killer with none of that series' usual supernatural trappings.[21] Carter fleshed out the basis of the new show's protagonist, Frank Black, and travelled to Seattle for inspiration for a new setting. Influence was also drawn from the works of Nostradamus, and the increasing popular interest in eschatology ahead of the coming millennium.[22] The central role of Black was eventually filled by Lance Henriksen, and the series began airing in the Friday timeslot formerly occupied by The X-Files.[23] "Pilot", the début episode, was heavily promoted by Fox, and brought in over a quarter of the total audience during its broadcast.[24]

The series also attracted a high degree of critical appraisal, earning a James Wong, with whom he had previously worked on both Millennium‍‍ '​‍s first season and several seasons of The X-Files.[26] Despite its promising start, however, ratings for Millennium after the pilot remained consistently low, and it was cancelled after three seasons.[27]

Feature films

During the production of the fourth season of The X-Files, work on the first feature film adaptation of the series began. Also titled The X-Files, Carter initially began a treatment for the script over Christmas holidays in Hawaii in 1996. Series producer Frank Spotnitz collaborated on the story outline at this time. Carter would later return to Hawaii for a ten-day stint in 1997 to begin fleshing out the finished script.[28] Carter appointed frequent series director Rob Bowman as director of the film,[29] which went on to feature many of the series' regular cast, including Duchovny, Anderson, Mitch Pileggi and William B. Davis.[30]

The X-Files premiered on June 19, 1998, eventually making a wordwide gross of $189,176,423.[31] The film currently holds a rating of 60 out of 100 on review aggregation website Metacritic, based on their weighted average of 23 reviews.[32] Fellow review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes rates the film 64%, based on their analysis of 69 reviews.[33]

Ten years after the success of the first film, and six years after The X-Files final season had finished, Carter would both write and direct a second feature film, titled The X-Files: I Want to Believe.[34] Filmed in British Columbia,[35] I Want To Believe was released on July 25, 2008;[34] eventually grossing $68,369,434 worldwide.[36] The film was received poorly by critics, holding ratings of 32 and 47 on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic respectively.[37][38]

Other work

Carter has made several brief cameo roles as an actor—first appearing in The X-Files‍ '​ "Anasazi" as a FBI agent;[39] before portraying a member of a film audience in "Hollywood A.D.", a later episode of the same series.[40] Carter also made a brief appearance in "Three Men and a Smoking Diaper", an episode of The Lone Gunmen.[41]

In 1999, Carter began adapting the comic book series Harsh Realm as a television show, also titled Harsh Realm. Carter's friend and frequent collaborator Daniel Sackheim had optioned the comics for adaptation in 1996. However, when the series first aired on October 8, 1999, the comics' writers Andrew Paquette and James Hudnall were given no writing credits for the work; the two then filed suit against Fox to be credited for their work.[42] Harsh Realm received disappointing viewing figures,[42] and was cancelled after only three episodes had been broadcast.[43]

Two years later, Carter launched a spin-off of The X-Files titled The Lone Gunmen, a series centred on three minor characters from the former series.[44] The Lone Gunmen was cancelled after thirteen episodes, later receiving a coda in the form of a crossover episode with The X-Files.[45] Carter has since been involved with writing and directing the as-yet unreleased film Fencewalker, set to feature Natalie Dormer and Katie Cassidy.[46] In 2011, he began working to develop Unique, a police thriller television series;[47] the project was eventually dropped before completion.[48]

Carter next began work on the Amazon Studios television series The After.[49] The pilot episode was made available for viewing on February 6, 2014;[50] the series was green-lit the following month, but finally cancelled on January 5, 2015, without another episode beyond the pilot, being shot.[1][51]


Carter's work has earned him several accolades over his career, including eight nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards.[52] Carter has also received award nominations for the Directors Guild of America Awards,[53][54][55] the Edgar Awards,[56] and the British Academy Television Awards.[57]

Award Year Category Work Result Ref
Emmy Awards 1995 Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series "Duane Barry" Nominated
Outstanding Drama Series The X-Files Nominated
1996 Outstanding Drama Series The X-Files Nominated
1997 Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series "Memento Mori" Nominated
Outstanding Drama Series The X-Files Nominated
1998 Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series "The Post-Modern Prometheus" Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series "The Post-Modern Prometheus" Nominated
Outstanding Drama Series The X-Files Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards 1995 Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series "The List" Nominated
1998 Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series "The Post-Modern Prometheus" Nominated
1999 Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series "Triangle" Nominated
British Academy Television Awards 1999 Best International Programme or Series The X-Files Nominated
Edgar Awards 1995 Best International Programme or Series "The Erlenmeyer Flask" Nominated



Year Film Role
1986 The B.R.A.T. Patrol Writer
1988 Meet the Munceys Writer
1998 The X-Files Writer
2008 The X-Files: I Want to Believe Writer, director, actor


Series As director As writer As actor
Rags to Riches 1 episode 2 episodes
The X-Files 10 episodes 72 episodes 2 episodes
Millennium 7 episodes
Harsh Realm 4 episodes
The Lone Gunmen 2 episodes 1 episode
The After 1 episode


  1. ^ a b Ng, Philiana (July 12, 2014). "Chris Carter Modeling Amazon's 'The After' With 99-Episode Goal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 20, 2014. 
  2. ^ Lovece 1996, p. 2.
  3. ^ Lowry 1995, p. 7.
  4. ^ a b c d Edwards 1996, p. 9.
  5. ^ Spencer, Russ (April 28, 2000). "A close encounter with Chris Carter".  
  6. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "Chris Carter - Movie and Film Biography and Filmography".  
  7. ^ Lovece 1996, p. 3.
  8. ^ Lowry 1995, pp. 8–9.
  9. ^ a b Edwards 1996, p. 10.
  10. ^ Lowry 1995, p. 9.
  11. ^ Edwards 1996, p. 11.
  12. ^ Lowry 1995, p. 10.
  13. ^ a b c Lovece 1996, p. 4.
  14. ^ Lowry 1995, p. 11.
  15. ^ Lovece 1996, pp. 3–4.
  16. ^ Lovece 1996, p. 47.
  17. ^ Lovece 1996, pp. 6–7.
  18. ^ Lovece 1996, p. 7.
  19. ^ "The X-Files" Chris Carter is returning to the helm, will pen the scripts and will also serve as an executive producer on "The X-Files" revival.
  20. ^ X-Files Limited Series
  21. ^ a b Order in Chaos, 00:03–00:45
  22. ^ Order in Chaos, 00:48–01:51
  23. ^ Genge 1997, pp. 8–9.
  24. ^ Adalian, Josef (October 11, 1998). "High-profile dramas skid on Fox, ABC". Variety Magazine. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  25. ^ "People's Choice Awards 1997 Nominees".  
  26. ^ Soloman, Harvey (September 18, 1997). "Fall Watch; 'Millennium' takes new turn".   (subscription required)
  27. ^ Wen, Howard (September 9, 1999). "It's not the end of the "Millennium," after all".  
  28. ^ Duncan 1998, pp. 4–5.
  29. ^ Duncan 1998, pp. 5–6.
  30. ^ Duncan 1998, p. 18.
  31. ^ "The X-Files (1998)".  
  32. ^ "The X Files Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More".  
  33. ^ "The X-Files - Fight the Future".  
  34. ^ a b Wheeler, Jeremy. "The X-Files: I Want to Believes - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast".  
  35. ^ Schaefer, Glen (March 12, 2008). "Filming of the X-Files sequel wraps".  
  36. ^ "The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)".  
  37. ^ "The X-Files: I Want to Believe".  
  38. ^ "The X Files: I Want to Believe Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More".  
  39. ^ "X Cyclopedia: The Ultimate Episode Guide, Season 2".  
  40. ^ Shapiro 2000, p. 241.
  41. ^  
  42. ^ a b Rutenberg, Jim; Bogdanovich, Peter (October 18, 1999). "Comic Book Geeks Fight Chris Carter Over Harsh Realm".   (subscription required)
  43. ^ Adalian, Joseph (June 7, 2004). "Carter series in Fox realm".   (subscription required)
  44. ^ Moore, Frazier (March 16, 2001). "Conspiracy of One".   (subscription required)
  45. ^ Fraga 2010, pp. 218–219.
  46. ^ "Report: Carter Helming Secret Film".  
  47. ^ Rose, Lacey (September 29, 2011). X-Files' Creator Chris Carter Plots Return to TV With Police Thriller"'".  
  48. ^ Jeffrey, Morgan (April 20, 2012). "'X-Files' creator Chris Carter's 'Unique' series 'not going forward'".  
  49. ^ O'Neal, Sean (October 4, 2012). "X-Files creator Chris Carter trying again with another new sci-fi show that sounds like a lot of other sci-fi shows".  
  50. ^ O'Neal (February 6, 2014). "Amazon has put up 10 new pilots for your enjoyment and judgment".  
  51. ^ Grow, Kory (March 14, 2014). "Amazon Greenlights TV Shows by Jason Schwartzman, 'X-Files' Creator".  
  52. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The X-Files |".  
  53. ^ a b "Awards / History / 1995 - 48th Annual DGA Awards".  
  54. ^ a b "Awards / History / 1998 - 51st Annual DGA Awards".  
  55. ^ a b "Awards / History / 1999 - 52nd Annual DGA Awards".  
  56. ^ a b "Edgar Award Winners and Nominees Database".   Note: Database does not allow direct linking to results. Use the drop-down menus to select "Best Episode in a TV Series" with the "Winners & Nominees" field checked for results. Results can be filtered by year, using "1995" for both year fields will narrow results to the precise year.
  57. ^ a b "Awards Database - The BAFTA Site".  


  • Chris Carter,  
  • Duncan, Jody (1998). The Making of The X-Files Movie. HarperPrism.  
  • Edwards, Ted (1996). X-Files Confidential. Little, Brown and Company.  
  • Fraga, Erica (2010). LAX-Files: Behind the Scenes with the Los Angeles Cast and Crew. CreateSpace.  
  • Genge, N. E. (1997). Millennium: The Unofficial Companion. Century.  
  • Lovece, Frank (1996). The X-Files Declassified. Citadel Press.  
  • Lowry, Brian (1995). The Truth is Out There: The Official Guide to the X-Files. Harper Prism.  
  • Shapiro, Marc (2000). All Things: The Official Guide to the X-Files Volume 6. Harper Prism.  

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