Despite being advised that his brain would rot, Damon Lindelof spent the majority of his childhood watching television. After a brief flirtation with movies by way of a film degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Damon hopped in his car and traveled west and eventually took a job as a writer’s assistant on Kevin Williamson’s ABC Drama Wasteland. Shortly thereafter, and the show was cancelled. Damon went on to write for Nash Bridges and then moved on to NBC’s new drama Crossing Jordan. Then Damon got Lost. Within twelve weeks of complete insanity, he and co-creator J.J. Abrams managed to make a ridiculously untenable and vastly expensive pilot for ABC that centered on the survivors of a plane crash in the South Pacific. Despite this, Lost won a Golden Globe and Emmy Award in its freshman season. Damon concluded Lost, after six seasons and still doesn’t quite understand what it all meant. A life long Trekker, Damon also is a producer on J.J.’s STAR TREK reboot, which was released in May 2009. Damon is currently writing and producing the sequel to STAR TREK and the Sir Ridley Scott movie PROMETHEUS. In his spare time, Damon also wrote this Bio.
Since LOST you’ve written almost exclusively in the science fiction and fantasy genre. What draws you to the genre and have you ever thought about branching out?
I think about branching out all the time, but genre stuff is where my imagination always ends up taking me. Perhaps I will write a romantic comedy one day, but you can bet your ass it’ll have robots in it.
A lot of your projects are, by their nature, overanalyzed, freeze framed and nitpicked for details by hordes of fans. Does that level of scrutiny add pressure to your writing? How do you address that?
It’s surreal to have fans of the stuff I’m working on apply that level of scrutiny to it, but as a fan myself, I LOVE this aspect of the movies and TV shows… the idea that after viewing, I’m required to seek out other fans with different perspectives and interpretations.
It seems like since LOST wrapped, television executives have been desperate to find “the next LOST.” We’ve seen FlashForward, The Event, Alcatraz, V, etc. and none of them end up being successful. What are the studios missing? Is there such a thing as “the next LOST” and if so, what would it look like?
I think it’s an unfair label to stick on a show that it’s the “next” anything. When LOST came along, we were desperate to rip-off/steal from any existing narrative format so that we didn’t have to go home at 4AM every night, but living in a more original mindset ended up being totally liberating. My guess is that no show WANTS to be “the next LOST” any more than we wanted to be “The Next TWIN PEAKS” (even though we were massive fans of that show).
You often talk about the importance of character in science fiction and fantasy. When you start a science fiction or fantasy script, do you start by creating the characters or do they come naturally from the world you create first?
It’s a little bit of a chicken or the egg scenario where you have to think about both simultaneously. Obviously, if you don’t care about or understand what the character wants, the world becomes irrelevant… but sometimes the construction of the world itself dramatically affects/inspires character work. When it works best, you have to use pencil instead of pen on both the characters and the world so that they’re constantly evolving and riffing off each other. I will let you know when I figure out how to do this correctly, but until then, it sure SOUNDS good.
What other writers/shows/movies/books do you draw inspiration from or have had an impact on how you write?
That list is so long and extensive I don’t know where to begin. Really good movies and TV have a dual effect on me — inspiration and intimidation. When I see something as good as INCEPTION or BREAKING BAD, I am so humbled that it’s hard to look in the mirror and consider myself a writer. But in the wake of my I’m-Not-Worthiness, my brain gets completely fired up on the sheer audacity of the storytelling I’m seeing. I really do feel there are still rules to break and new ways to tell stories… and the only way to find them is to build on the foundation that’s already out there.
In your career of coming up with strange plot twists and character deaths, have you ever had to fight to keep something in a script that producers thought was too much or too out there? How did that end up?
JJ and I famously tried to kill Jack, our hero, in the Pilot of LOST. The head of the studio made a very compelling argument as to why this was a catastrophically bad idea and thank God we listened to him.
What are you most proud of having written? A particular scene, or character, or line of dialogue?
I’ll let you know when I write it. Seriously. I think I suck. (insert internet agreeing wholeheartedly here)