Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Watch This DVD: Lost Season 1, Disk 7

It has often been said that luck is nothing more than opportunity meeting preparedness. Another way to look at that was once told to me by a mentor as, "You never know when your opportunities are going to come up." Such is the case with the genesis of Lost and the rise to nerd fame of David Lindelof, as told on the Season 1 bonus features on Disk 7 (Amazon, Netflix).

The story "The Genesis of Lost" goes like this:

  • ABC executives have an offsite at the worst Disney theme park in the United States (that would be Disney's California Adventure, trust my expertise on that one) and each is required to pitch 3 story ideas. Lloyd Braun, the head of ABC TV (not to be confused with the Seinfeld character of the same name) has the following idea: "Let's do Cast Away, the series except with more people". This brilliant insight goes to the next step i the series genesis process and has nothing to do with the fact that it's the boss' idea 8).

  • The first writing team gets stuck and since this is 2004, when there's a writing problem at ABC, the answer is to call J.J. Abrams.

  • Abrams realizes that the show can't just be about people crashing on an island, but there needs to be some mystery about the people and the island itself. So much so that the island becomes a character. He tells the executive team he's interested in working on the series, but needs help because of his other commitments. This isn't a problem except he tells them this at 6:30 pm on a Friday and he needs a head writer by the following Monday.

  • That sound you hear is the executive team flipping through their web of personal networks to find a creative writer whose personality fits Abrams' and would be available on a moments notice. The name they come up with: Damon Lindelof.

  • Making a good impression your first day with a new group of people is important. Lindelof selects a vintage Star Wars Bantha Tracks t-shirt that day that Abrams loves and they immediately hit it off. Abrams described the meeting as, "He was immediately, like, someone who I couldn't stand I didn't already know." They found their ideas for the mystery of the show to be in sync and spent the next week outlining the high points of the first 5 or 6 seasons of the show along with Abrams team of writers from Alias.
There's a ton of other good stuff on the disk, but that first story struck a chord with me. Every honorable Lost fan knows who David Lindelof is now, but that only came about because Abrams found a grain of a good idea in a less than inspired suggestion made by an executive, a personal network that made him a candidate for an assignment he had no way of knowing about, and a first impression that built a kinship with a powerful creative mind at ABC.


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 8:35 AM   2 comments


At 6:33 PM, Blogger Liz said...

Brilliant post. Your posts are getting better and better Pete. Keep it up because I love reading your blog!


At 11:46 PM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

Wow, thanks Liz for such positive feedback. It means even more coming from one of my first readers!



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