Luminary Week Day Six - Chip Johannessen Exclusive Interview!

Chip Johannessen was born in Detroit and educated at Harvard University, where he wrote pieces for The Harvard Lampoon. He later embarked on a short-lived career as a rock guitarist before turning his attention to writing. His past credits include; Beverly Hills 90210 and The Monroes.

Johannessen served as Co-Producer and staff writer for "Millennium" during its first two seasons, before executive producing the show in Season Three following the departure of Glen Morgan and James Wong. Chip is a true Luminary of the franchise: he was involved in all of the sixty seven episodes of the show and wrote no fewer than thirteen of them and was one of the few constants throughout all three seasons.

In 2009, Chip joined Season Seven of 24, serving as Consulting Producer and was also successfully elected to serve for 2 years on the Board of Directors at the Writer's Guild of America West. As Chip has never been busier it is with great gratitude that he took the time to speak to us. We thank Chip for his generosity and support and we wish him every conntinued success for the future. Read on....

MARK HAYDEN: Could I begin by asking you how Millennium came to be on your resume? Presumably there's a process of contacting individuals and their agents and outlining what the show was about?

CHIP JOHANNESSEN: Some time before Millennium, my agent got me a meeting with Chris Carter to talk about working on X-Files. I went in without story ideas, and with only the vaguest understanding of the show. Not only did nothing come of it, but Chris clearly thought I was wasting his time.

Maybe a year later I saw the Millennium pilot at the directors guild and was utterly blown away. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen, by far, and I really wanted to work on it. Despite the bad meeting on X-Files, Chris was willing to try again because he was already hiring a friend of mine, Ted Mann, and Ted was suggesting that he give me a second chance.


Not wanting to blow it again, I spent a lot of time thinking up stories, and when I went in to talk to Chris I had a lot of material to present. But Chris always surprises. He said he didn't want to hear material. He just said "I like Ted and Ted likes you. Let's do this." And that was pretty much it.

MH: Millennium fans often refer to the thematic differences between the three seasons. As one of the few producers who worked on all three seasons, what was your experience of the changes in tone and how easy/difficult was it to adjust?

CJ: I was going to say I wrote the exact same kind of thing all three seasons but that's not really true. Things got more and more magical. And conspiratorial. And complicated, not necessarily in a good way. Probably we were all feeling the pull of The X-Files, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty sure we got away from Chris's original concept for the show which was to stay based in reality (unlike the X-Files), while imagining and depicting the different ways the world might be experienced by certain evil people.

These images of the world, which Frank Black was tuned to, were not supposed to be objective reality. They were highly subjective. In fact, in script, the shots were labeled "HIS INTERNAL POV" or "HIS SUBJECTIVE POV"
Already in first season there were some speculative episodes that were terrific (Lamentation; Powers, Principalities...) but keeping a lid on this would probably have been a good idea.

MH: We've been told that the time the show was cancelled the creative team had established a strong foundation on which to forge a fourth season of the series and that a vision was in place for where to take the show next. Can you tell us how you envisage a fourth season of the show would have proceeded?

CJ: We'd had a bad start at the beginning of season three, with some personnel changes that put us behind schedule. Also, I was mad at Jim and Glen for having burned the house down with their pandemic, but in retrospect it would have been smarter to have honored where they left us off instead of trying to work around it. In any case, season three had been a scramble and by the end we were kind of tired. Ken Horton and I were basically partners running the show at that point.

We felt like we'd had some hits and some misses, but were excited about getting a good start into a more coherent fourth season. We were really trying to make sense of what it all meant, especially as we were now heading toward the actual millennium.


I wrote a ten point "manifesto" for the Millennium Group which I no longer have. But I remember the first point was "We are rushing toward an apocalypse of our own creation." I don't remember the rest exactly, but it tried to honor Chris's original idea that the various forms of evil present on this earth are connected, and that they were coming to a boil. In this, the Millennium Group saw itself as a vanguard, the only people who could see a clear path to the future. Since the group's goal was basically the protection of humanity, that might justify practically any means.

In any case, we were cancelled. What would probably have made more sense would have been to get rid of the Millennium Group mythology entirely, and do a heightened, sometimes speculative crime show. That would probably have been closer to what Chris had originally envisioned and, who knows, might still be on today.

MH: Ten years later...a campaign is in full swing, appreciation for the show has never been higher, the thirst from the cast to revisit the franchise shows no sign of abating nor does the esteem with which the show is regarded. Are you surprised by how enduring the franchise is and can you conceive of the possibility of it returning in some format?

CJ: Anything that Chris writes and Lance is in would be awesome.

MH: How much did life change for you when you were appointed Executive Producer for Season 3? Did you have more responsibilities for budgets, meetings with Fox executives and similar considerations?

CJ: Running Millennium was a vastly bigger deal than my second year involvement, which was writing a few scripts. Shortly after we started third season I rented an apartment a block from the studio because I was leaving so late every night, then coming back early the next morning. For a while there, I never really got home. That said, the nature of the work didn't really change because of the unusual way that Chris runs shows.

Unlike most shops, he really encourages writers to step up as producers. If you're willing to be as obsessive about quality as he is, he gives you a lot of freedom. So by the time I was Executive Producer I already had experience with most aspects of making tv thanks to Chris.


MH: Can you tell us anything about Virginia Stock, with whom you co-wrote Bardo Thodol? Millennium fans are particularly appreciative of her work and that episode yet the internet is peculiarly non-informative?

CJ: Virginia Stock is my wife of 20+ years. We have a daughter named Martine; one of her first words was ouroboros. Bardo Thodol started with an image Virginia had -- the tiny hands discovered in a cargo hold. She contributed to many other episodes, but I think that's the only one with her name on it.

MH: 'Luminary' is an episode that garners a high degree of admiration and appreciation from fans of the franchise. Could you provide us with a synopsis of the evolution of that episode from the concept to the screen? When we spoke to Tobias Mehler he implied that his character was an 'angel' and many fans have debated whether it was Alex's 'organic' body that Frank Black found floating in the water for example.

CJ: Luminary has a lot of influences and makes my short list of favorite episodes. So I'm going to make this longer than you probably want. At the time, I was working on a pilot called Vanishing Point with John Hulme and Mike Wexler. It was based on a series of radio plays they had done about an odd dropout culture hidden in plain sight. Our "bibles" were books like Blue Highways and Into the Wild, which was at that point relatively unknown. So the character in Luminary was not supposed to be angel. He was a seeker, abandoning material possessions, looking for a more magical existence.

Ken Horton suggested this kind of guy could be the basis for a cool episode.
That was the foundation, but there were other influences. I had dinner with Megan Gallagher who turned me on to the whole astrology convergence theme. She asked if I could possibly fit it in somewhere and as it turned out it was just what I was looking for.

Other elements are taken from an organization I belonged to in college -- the Harvard Lampoon. Also, Darin Morgan gave me the younger brother with the telescope, and for some reason insisted that when the plane flies off with the injured boy at the end, that Frank had to squat at lake's edge. Finally, I was reading some book at the time whose title I've forgotten, but I'm pretty sure that the idea of the stars matching to houselights on earth came from that. Other stuff, too.


So there were a lot of thoughts floating around and I was up in Vancouver on a location scout for some other episode, and I was obsessing on that kid, and when I stepped off the bus I thought of those lines he says toward the end about what you should do with your life. Something like -- think if you could drop into a past life, what would you like to find yourself doing there? What would charm you, make you proud? Then the question of what to do in this life becomes simple -- just do that same thing.
Anyway, when that thought appeared it was time to start writing. The production was mainly charmed (though Lance can tell you the water was crazy cold). The weather forecast said storms but when it came time to land the seaplane there were beautiful sunny skies.

Normally I leave Mark Snow to his own devices but I was listening to a Finnish women's vocal group at the time which felt perfect for the piece. He graciously adapted it for the score.


MH: Could we ask what fans of yours can keep their eyes and ears open for with regards to the continuing career of Chip Johannessen?

CJ: Right now I'm on 24 with other alums of 1013 Productions: Howard Gordon (who's running it), Alex Gansa and Patrick Harbinson.

MH: Please accept my thanks on behalf of all the fans of Millennium for taking the time to talk to us and for making such an enjoyable and respected contribution to something we cherish!

CJ: My pleasure Mark.

If you've enjoyed this interview, and this week of themed Blog entries, please do the most important thing you can to display your appreciation and support for the campaign and the cast and crew like Mr. Johannessen who have so graciously given of their time. Send this postcard to Steve Asbell at 20th Century Fox and make a difference, today. This is who we are!

Luminary Week Day Five: I'm an Animaniac!

Having been more than impressed by the wonderful work that Josef has done for this campaign (and let me tease you that his next project is one to really get excited about) I felt a little guilty that I had not created a video of my own since way back in the early days of the campaign. I'm not adept at video editing, truth be told I'm not adept at very much at all, but I can find my way around Photoshop and came up with a little something to add to our Youtube page - all in the name of Luminary Week.

video

I really wanted to show you guys that you don't have to be particularly clever, or even talented, to cobble something together that will help to spread the word and recruit more soldiers for Franks Army. A music montage, a little promo piece like mine, a talking head style clip featuring your passionate plea for a return of Frank Black: anything helps the cause and Youtube is such a powerful tool for promotion when all is said and done it cannot be ignored.

So get your thinking caps on and remember, every little thing you do for this campaign is greatly appreciated by us. Nothing is too big or too small.

We do hope you guys have been enjoying the week so far and we urge you to check back tomorrow for what is the true highlight of this week, an exclusive interview with Chip Johannessen who reveals which member of Millennium's cast influenced the story of Luminary, why Glen Morgan and James Wong angered him and why he wasted Chris Carter's time. Intrigued eh? Thought you might be....

Mark x

LUMINARY WEEK DAY FOUR: Here's Dirt's Thing

Ladies and gentlemen it's time, once again, for our masked avenger, wrestlemaniac and super powered reviewer DiRT to cast his x-ray vision upon another episode of Millennium and direct his considerable following in our direction in the process.

As you no doubt know, DiRT has already cast his expert gaze over Luminary, and we urge you to check it out, but in the spirit of Luminary Week he has taken something of a departure and revisited that very episode again responding to the comments you guys posted before and bringing a fresh opinion to the table.

Luminary exemplifies what Season Two of Millennium sought to achieve. Glen Morgan and James Wong were passionate in their belief that Millennium had room to grow and flourish and were urged to tinker with the format by 20th Century Fox in light of declining ratings. They set about reshaping the original vision in the hope of adding an further dimension to an already exemplary show. Over the years the fans have found much to enjoy in each of the seasons, all with their differing flavours, and as DiRT looks once again at Luminary we also want to know what you guys think of the season as a whole. The Old Man, Lara Means, Roedecker, Owls, Roosters, Marburg and much, much more....anyhow, Luminary redux: here's what he made of it.


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So is he right or is he wrong? Tell us your opinion of this oft debated epsiode and it's season and don't hold back, we're big fans, we can take it.


As always, every new video we add to Youtube, or is added to Youtube for us, reaches out to a whole new audience and may find a Millennium who never knew of our campaign in the process. Don't forget, keep sending those letters and postcards to Mr. Steve Asbell. Frank's Army Fights on!

As always, lend your considerable support to the man and go visit his own websites and find out what it's all about. Remember, every video made for the this campaign is an indispensable way of reaching out to a potential new campaigner.

Mark x

  • To visit his website and enjoy the numerous things he has on offer, click here!
  • To check out his Youtube channel and view more reviews from the man himself, visit here!

LUMINARY WEEK DAY THREE: The Stars Converge!

As you will no doubt be aware, Lance is a supporter of many charities and has asked BacktoFrankBlack to set-up a charity auction with proceeds to go to an organization that looks after the well-being of children.

BacktoFrankBlack contacted Caileigh Scott from charity organizers IBG, a group inspired themselves by the charity work of X-Files actress Gillian Anderson, and have begun work on an event which will use Millennium merchandise to raise money for a children's charity.

The event will be held online at www.ebay.com on the 9th December 2009. Bidding will open on the available items from 9am PST/12pm EST/5pm GMT.

BacktoFrankBlack has contacted many of the cast & crew of the Millennium TV show to aid us in acquiring items to auction and the response has been excellent. Highlighted items that will be up for bidding include Lance Henriksen's two Saturn awards and one of his three Golden Globe nominations for his role as Frank Black on Millennium!

Lance will also be offering autographed scripts from his extensive career. Also in the auction will be the Millennium theme sheet music signed by composer Mark Snow and autographed photos from actresses Sarah-Jane Redmond and Klea Scott. There will also be show props and crew memorabilia being donated. A list of all items and their donators will be made at a later date.

All proceeds will go to the organization Children of the Night (http://www.childrenofthenight.org) - an organization devoted to helping children forced into prostitution.

As we gather items and information, we will pass on when and where the auction will take place. Please keep checking our website and IBG's website for more information.
http://www.backtofrankblack.com
http://www.childrenofthenight.org
http://www.ibginc.org/

Luminary Week Day Two: EXCLUSIVE COMPETITION!

Many of you will be aware that Chip Johannessen's inspiration for this episode began with the real life experiences of Chris McCandless. Like Alex Glaser, the disillusioned McCandless abandoned all of his worldly possessions to take a new name and immerse himself in the Alaskan wilderness. Ultimately, mounting perils and misfortune caused McCandless to die of starvation on August 18, 1992.

Into the Wild
(the book and inspiration for Luminary) was made into a feature film in 2007, directed by Sean Penn and starring actor Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless and has become a firm favourite of those Millennium fans who have had a chance to view it. It is powerful and emotionally challenging film and any fan of Luminary will enjoy the considerable overlap between the two stories.

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Now here's your opportunity to own a Region One DVD of this movie by answering a simple question and sending an email to info@backtofrankblack.com. The questions is this:

In the episode Luminary, 18 year old Alex Glaser changes his surname and ventures into the wild, prompted by a spiritual calling, and all we want to know is the surname that Alex chose for himself in the episode.

Please note: this competition is now closed and the winner has been notified by email. Congratulations to the lucky winner and our thanks to all those who entered. Look out for more competitions in the near future!

Mark

Please remember to send those postcards to Steve Asbell at 20th Century Fox - that's what the fun and games are for when all is said and done. Use this week to make another push to bring back Frank Black!

Luminary Week Day One: Ride Of The Luminary!

Time, once again, for MusicMonday™ and our foray into the world of Millennium Musical Montages and what's more it heralds the beginning of a week devoted to the magic that is Season Two's Luminary.

Luminary continually ranks as one of the most appreciated and enjoyed episodes of the whole three seasons, due in no small part to the superb script of writer Chip Johannessen. It didn't come as much of a surprise to me that this episode blew away the competition when it came to you guys selecting the next subject of our themed week of events.

So it's time for the popcorn and soda as we settle back for another of Josef's fine video creations and despite my constant assertions, he just gets better and better with each passing week. An episode as philosophical and beautiful as Luminary deserves a montage treatment every bit as precious and it has certainly gotten just that. Enjoy folks and try not to think of the word 'mesmerizing' as you watch this, it's impossible, I tell you.

As always, we thank our resident video alchemist Josef for taking this campaign and continuing to plug it in the vast abyss that is Youtube. especially in light of the fact that Marburg has infected his usual editing software and the poor chap has had seven and one years of trials and tribulations trying to get it together. I hope he realises how much everyone appreciates his hard work.


So please keep your eyes on the Blog for a week of 'this and that' all in honour of your favourite, and mine, Luminary. With a Luminary panel podcast, interview with Chip Johannessen and an exclusive competition and more besides there is certainly much to enjoy this week. On with the show!

Mark x

To visit Josef's Youtube page and check
out his own collection of videos, click here!

To check out his myspace page and listen to some of his original compositions, click here!

To read BackToFrankBlack's exclusive interview with Luminary star, Tobias Mehler, click here!

As promised, each music new release from Josef will be accompanied by a postcard that we urge you to send to Steve Asbell at 20th Century Fox. Making 20th Century Fox aware that we are here to stay and active in our support of a Millennium Movie. Let's be as inspired as Alex was during this episode and follow our dreams, against the odds, despite the hardships and bring Frank Black back to the screen where he belongs. I know you guys won't let us down.
To see the address you need to send this to as well as a range of others you might like to send, click here!

Millennium Group Sessions Podcast: Updates!

Just a brief announcement to inform those of you who are awaiting a new Millennium Group Sessions release this week that the gents are taking a very well deserved rest after a recent flurry of activity. Rest assured, business will resume as usual next weekend with a podcast dedicated to your favourite, and mine, Luminary.

The following weekend will be something of a special event with the lucky winners of the competition to appear on our podcast given their chance to shine on the airwaves and discuss all things Millennium with Troy and Jim.

So till then, enjoy Luminary Week which begins tomorrow and be sure to check back next weekend for the latest Millennium Group Sessions Podcast.

Mark