Invited by The Writer’s Guild to their theater in Beverly Hills, on Thursday night we paid $10 (student rate) to see the writers of LOST speak about the show and what life is like “in the writer’s room.” There were three of us USC Film MFA students. We were in about the 15th row, which were pretty great seats.
Those on the panel were:
The moderator was Robin Schiff (far left), the producer of “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” Quick Fun Fact: the director of “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” was David Mirkin, who is a producer on “The Simpson’s.” We saw him speak a few weeks ago at a “Conversations with…” Podcast recording at USC (find it here -- hopefully it will be posted soon!). He’s absolutely hysterical!
The panel started at 7:30pm and right at the start their senses of humor were coming through. Each member of the writing crew had a unique personality and fit right in with the rest of the group.
They started the talk with how they structure each episode of LOST and what they do to prepare an entire season of the show. They began with something they call “the blue sky” which is what the overall story is they are trying to tell. Then they move on to the pieces of the story that will make up the plot. They also give stories an “A, B or C” label to know how much they will focus on each one. The A story is the more important story, such as Locke trying to get into the hatch. The B story would be the flashbacks he experiences while doing this. The C story is the story of those trying to hunt for food while Locke is trying to get into the hatch.
As far as the flashbacks go, the writers said they were trying to use metaphors on the island to represent these peoples’ past lives. This got harder once LOST entered into “flash forwards.”
The writers talked about their favorite characters to write. Damon likes Locke – in fact, he referred to Locke as his “cherry Starburst candy” … the candy that he loves the most out of the Starburst packet.
As they were talking about the various aspects of the plot, especially the first season, a soft rumble was felt all through the floor of the theater. Then a grumbling noise came from outside. Everyone went silent and looked around. Damon, who was in the middle of a story, yelled out “What was that? An earthquake?!” Everyone was still silent. Then he said, “It is the monster!” This got a huge uproar of laughter, because in the first season of LOST a monster terrifies those who live on the island. We then heard more sounds and the entire audience was convinced the black smoke monster from the TV show was outside of the theater!
I loved hearing their inside jokes about the show. One in particular was the interaction with the television network. For example, the network felt that the show was, at times, very confusing and asked the writers to tone it down for a few episodes. And that is why we got the episodes: Season 1 “Tabula Rasa” where Locke makes a whistle and Season 3 “Stranger in a Strange Land" where Jack gets a tattoo. If you are a fan of the show, you will understand. Those two episodes were quite ridiculous and it’s great to know the writers thought so as well! They told us how they had another inside joke called “stand-off” because for four episodes straight they began it with the stand off between Locke and Desmond in the hatch. The new writers that season, Eddie and Adam, would come into work, ask what was going on in the new episode, and the response would be, “stand-off.” Now a funny joke they tease each other with!
Ben, probably one of the best characters on the show, was never originally supposed to be an important character. Michael Emerson, who plays Ben, came in for only a few episodes but because he played the role so well and held such a screen presence, they brought him back numerous times until he became a main character in the show.
I had such a great time seeing the LOST writers. They were so much fun with each other and with the audience. They freely joked about the show and about how ridiculous it can be. They refused to tell us anything about Season 6 but certainly teased us!
When the panel discussion was over, all the writers went out into the lobby so they could talk to us one-on-one and sign our DVDs (or sheets of paper…). A friend of mine, Dave McCracken, had a LOST DVD to be signed. We worked our way around the room to get each writer to sign the DVD. We talked to Damon Lindelof. He signed a sheet of paper for me right after signing McCracken’s DVD. We found Carlton Cuse and got a picture with him. At first we took two pictures and neither one turned out very well. So I pulled out my camera, asked politely if Carlton would take another, and then took a very nice picture with him. We found Damon again and got a picture with him. It was awesome! Just for those of you who don’t know, he is also the producer of the new Star Trek movie!
One thing that I now find interesting is that I am more excited to meet the creators of television or movies I like, rather than the actors. There are only a few actors who I would be thrilled to meet (Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel McAdams, Tom Hanks…) but meeting the people who work in my aspect of the creative process just gets me so excited! These people are the creative minds who develop the plot of a show I change my schedule to watch every week! Well, that’s true for when I attended UNC as an undergrad…now that I am a grad student at USC I don’t get much of a chance to watch anything!