The X-Files Lexicon's exclusive interview with Gabe Rotter, author of "The Human Bobby" and Director of Development at Ten-Thirteen Productions.
Interview conducted by Matt Allair (08/20/2010)
Page editor: XScribe
For long standing fans, Gabe Rotter is well known as Chris Carter's right hand man for the past decade, and helped fill the shoes left by the departure of Brad Folmer several years ago. Gabe's assiduity awarded him his current position as the Director of Development for 1013. Originally a native of New York, Gabe attended USC, which lead to an internship with Fox. That lead to an opportunity to work at Ten-Thirteen, initially starting as Production Assistant at the end of the seventh season, then moving into the role of Writer's Assistant, then Personal Assistant, and up to his current standing as the Director of Development and co-producer.
His trajectory follows the ideal route for anyone who aspires to turn their passion into a career, and while it's a fairly common route in Hollywood, it needs to be acknowledged that it is achieved through hard work, patience, and perseverance. One could liken Gabe's career to the character of Charlie, from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a boy who wins a golden ticket, and through diligence, wins the keys to the factory itself. But Gabe is also a novelist in his own right, and has just published his second novel, following the publication of the more humorous, Duck Duck Wally. His new book, however, has a darker tone.
The Human Bobby is set in Los Angeles. It is interesting to point out, as a side note, how often Los Angeles has been such fertile ground for inspiration. Author Clive Barker has built the entire second phase of his publishing career on novels based in Los Angeles, and Frank Spotnitz used Los Angeles as the backdrop for his re- imaging of The Night Stalker.
I found Gabe to be gracious, realistic, humble, and unassuming, with a light touch, during our interaction. Our interview proceeded as follows...
Matt Allair: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It's an honor to speak with you.
Gabe Rotter: Happy to do it.
Matt Allair: In your formative years, which writers, either screenwriters or literature, had the greatest impact or influence on you?
Gabe Rotter: Well, I guess when I was a kid I adored everything that Steven Spielberg did. I can remember watching E.T. for the first time and being knocked out by the story and the imagery, and I think I can probably credit that as sort of the impetus for making me want to go into the business. Later on, I would say [that] the writers [that had] the biggest influence on me would be the Cohen brothers, because I have always sort of devoured everything that they've made. I think that they're the most brilliant storytellers of our time. The books that I first started reading were the Hardy Boys, and embarrassingly enough, the Nancy Drew books. Then I started reading Dean Koontz when I was probably about eleven or twelve-- maybe a little too young to be reading horror books. That's really where I started getting addicted to reading books. Then I moved on to writers like Bret Easton Ellis, Kurt Vonnegut, Elmore Leonard, and writers like that.
Matt: Was there any particular television shows, growing up, that made you want to work in the business?
Gabe: You know, I was really more into movies when I was a kid. I didn't watch a ton of TV. I really had more of a voracious appetite for reading and watching films. Like I said, Steven Spielberg movies like E.T. and Indiana Jones; movies like Back To The Future, that really changed my life, because it made me realize that you could do just anything. You can tell a fun emotional story and also serve brilliant storytelling techniques, and make something magical.
Matt: How did you break into the entertainment business?
Gabe: I went to film school at USC, and while I was there, I got an internship at Fox, just sort of collating scripts, and running errands--stuff like that. But I worked my butt off. I really worked hard there, and then about the time I was graduating from college, I got a call from someone at Fox -- a woman named Mary Astadourian* who was the president of Ten-Thirteen Productions -- who was looking for a Production Assistant, and she had heard from a person that I interned for a spot, that I would be graduating college soon, and asked me if I wanted to come in for an interview, so I did, and I got the job. Again I worked my butt off as a PA, and got promoted, following a season, at the end of season seven, to Writer's Assistant.
Matt: To segue into that, what was your impression of the Ten-Thirteen production offices when you arrived there? Was it intimidating?
Gabe: Yes, it was very intimidating. The whole movie lot thing was very intimidating. I got a taste of it as an intern. Walking in there for a job interview really freaked me out. It was a packed office, tons of action, everybody running this way and that, I'm sure you've heard it before. They used to call it the Big House--everybody on the crew and the cast. It had that feel of, "this is where the important people are," but everybody there, I quickly found, was so nice and so happy to have me there working, and appreciative of the work I was doing, it made it a lot easier.
Matt: So, tell me a little about what The Human Bobby is about?
Gabe: The Human Bobby is a rags to riches to rags story about a guy named Bobby, who sort of came from nothing, became a doctor, and had everything he could want in life--a beautiful wife, a flourishing medical practice, money, a house, cars in the driveway. There's sort of a series of strange, and tragic events, and he winds up homeless, and it's the story of how he got there, and how he tries to dig himself out of it.
Matt: Is there a more serious tone to Human Bobby, compared to your first novel, Duck Duck Wally?
Gabe: Definitely. Duck Duck Wally was much goofier than this. It was more of a fun, silly, comedy. This, while it still does have moments of levity, get's pretty dark.
Matt: How long did it take you to write Human Bobby?
Gabe: This one took me about a year. Duck Duck Wally took me longer; that took me two years, and I think I sort of knew what I was doing this time around.
Matt: I have seen that Chris Carter has paid some high compliments about your work. Has Chris been acting as a mentor? Has he been helpful in offering input as your writing has developed?
Gabe: Yes, Chris has definitely been a major mentor to me, and he's always great about reading my material, and giving notes. Obviously, he's probably the smartest guy I know; his notes are always very keen. You know, there's been a lot learned by watching Chris, having worked for him now for ten years.
Matt: I'm always fascinated by others' creative process. Regarding your fictional work, to what degree do personal experiences influence the kind of work that you produce?
Gabe: Well, [the way] this book came, I have never been homeless, and I'm not a doctor, but I live in Santa Monica, which has very liberal homeless laws, and you see a lot of homeless people walking around the street here, and the seed for that idea just came from that. When I have seen homeless people, I can't help but wonder about their backstory, and how they got [to this point]. What brought them to this unenviable place. That was the process of this book.
Matt: Now that this book is finished, and you're in the middle of promotion, what do you plan on doing next?
Gabe: Yes, well, I'm partly shopping the film [and] TV rights for this book, which is exciting. That would be fun and it would lend itself well to see it on the big screen, and I am writing another book, and I'm probably about forty pages into my next one.
Matt: Do you have any television shows in development as well?
Gabe: Yes, I'm working on the TV adaptation of my first book, Duck Duck Wally. I'm working with a well known director and producer.
Matt: Are you surprised by the continuing interest in all of the shows that Chris Carter has developed or worked on?
Gabe: Not at all. It's been a long time now that they have been off the air, but if you watch them, they still all just really hold up. They're brilliant, you know. We watched Harsh Realm, the entire series last month, and it's just so good, it's not surprising that it resonates with people; I think all of Chris' shows were way ahead of their time.
Matt: Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me.
Gabe: Great! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Thanks so much Matt.
We wish Gabe Rotter the absolute best of luck with his career, and the further publication of his future works, and we also wish him the best with his continuing efforts as the Director of Development to help insure that the future work of Chris Carter's can be enjoyed by the public. To learn more about Gabe Rotter's influences and his background, please visit his biography page, and blog.
*) Mary Astadourian was Chris Carter's assistant, as well as the vice-president of Ten-Thirteen from 1997 to 2002.
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