Damon Lindelof, co-creator The Leftovers, Lost, writer, Prometheus
I actually knew what I was doing without realizing that I knew what I was doing. Much more often, I’m experiencing the exact opposite of that, which is, What the f*ck am I doing? And you have to go on faith and faith alone, especially when you’re telling a story over a very, very long time. And in the case of LOST, the first half of it, not knowing exactly how long, there’s a tremendous amount of, Is this all going to fit together the way that I want it to? And if you’re a writer, if you’re writing a short story or a novel, you have a lot more control over your universe. It’s just you and your pencil on the paper or your fingers on the keyboard. But when you’re collaborating on something as large as that show, it’s so much bigger than me…it’s all the other writers, it’s the directors, it’s the actors, and yes, it’s the audience. We all become a part of that journey together. And to kind of say that like, is there a moment where we all collectively say, Oh my God, nailed it! Those events were very rare but sometimes they did happen and it was magical. And it makes you suffer through all of the anxiety to get to the next one.
When you’re interested in the kind of storytelling that I’m interested in, which it can be very ambiguous, but I choose to look at it as I just want to write up to my audience and I feel like I’m not interested in spelling things out for them. I want to leave avenues of imagination that are available to them but I don’t want to say that whatever you imagine is what it is. Like, I have intent, you know. There is, in the storytelling that I do, a defined, you know, method to my madness. So, in the case of Lost, as it was ongoing, or Prometheus, which had a lot of unanswered questions and I knew that it had unanswered questions in it and this was something that Ridley was very captivated by and decided to embrace. And I was like, you should know that I have a bit of a reputation for this. You might not want to get into this bed because it’s fraught with peril. And he was like, I’ll just blame it all on you if it goes wrong. I said, I’m kind of honored by that! And so, certainly when Prometheus came out, I was trolling the boards to see what people were kind of coming up with. There were theories that were enormously imaginative but not at all what, I was like, wow, I wish I had come up with that. That’s pretty inspired.
I follow what the fans are saying very closely and although this is probably not the healthiest thing for me to do in certain cases, I feel like it’s absolutely mandatory because when you’re playing in universes–either of your own construct or somebody else’s—I think of myself first and foremost as a fan. And I will never forget what that felt like when, before, you know I was doing it myself, what it felt like to engage in somebody else’s work and that the ultimate culmination of that engagement was knowing—or feeling—that they cared about me. And I do care deeply, so it’s important to me while Lost was on to have an ongoing conversation with the fans and even now that it’s done, probably primarily most through my Twitter feed but also doing stuff like this, I think it’s important for me to hear the good and the bad and also give you guys an opportunity to hear what I was thinking or why I made some of the decisions that I made. So, very important.
I first got the call, I had finished–we had finished writing Lost in late April of 2009, I guess it was? And I went away with my family to Italy for a month and just decompressed and then I got back and I definitely didn’t want to get back into TV immediately. And so, I had been back for a week, I was driving down Ventura Boulevard in the valley in Los Angeles and my phone rang and my agent said, Ridley Scott is going to call you in five minutes, are you available? And I slammed on the brakes of my car, because that’s what you do, and then I pulled over and I figured that I would be waiting there for an hour. Then five minutes my later me cell phone rang, and it was Ridley, and he wasn’t, you know, when you’re talking to Ridley Scott, there’s no introduction. He’s not like, Hello this is Ridley Scott and perhaps you know me from, you know, Gladiator. He was just like, hey dude; I’m sending you a script. He called me dude. And, you know, I’d like to know what you think. And I said, okay, cool. And that was the whole conversation. I went, I drove back to my house and about an hour later this guy showed up and he handed me a screenplay and he said, I’m going to sit in my car outside your house and when you’re done, you can hand it back to me. And this kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me all the time, and so I read it and he didn’t tell me what it was going to be and in anticipation of this happening, even my reps didn’t know what it was. But I had been reading that Ridley was reconsidering—or considering re-entering the Alien universe, and I was like, please let that be this. And sure enough, the script that I read was by this guy John Spates who I shared a credit with on Prometheus, rightly so, I feel like the movie is just as much his as it is mine. So I read it and I’m sort of like, I now have to craft an e-mail saying, here’s what I think you think needs to happen to this as opposed to, here’s what I want to do. And so for me, I wrote them an e-mail basically saying I’m going to try and re-center the movie around David, the robot and I’m going to try to really explore these ideas of who made me and why and more importantly, what would we say to them, our creators, if we came across them and what would they do next? That was kind of my pitch in the e-mail and then I got a phone call the next morning, Ridley now wants to meet you.
Listen to Damon’s On Story® Conversation here!
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