Have a plan, but leave room to manoeuvre
In a long essay, Javier Grill–Marxauch looks back at his experience as a writer for the TV series Lost (“The Lost Will and Testament of Javier Grill–Marxauch,” http://okbjgm.weebly.com/lost, 24 March, 2015). The essay contains so many interesting blurbs about ups and downs of the creative process that we wanted to share a few:
“[…] we were paving the way for the good ideas by coming up with a lot of bad ones. Very bad ones.”
“[…] inspiration is always augmented through improvisation, collaboration, serendipity, and plain, old, unglamorous Hard Work.”
“[…] in television there is only one way of doing that: have great characters who are interesting to watch as they solve problems onscreen.”
“What I just described was only one of a continuum of very interesting, ongoing, moments in which improvisation—coupled with a strong conceptual foundation of previously generated ideas—provided crucial watershed events for the series.”
This long piece is packed with insights that can’t all be applied to our experiences on this comic, if only because the collaborative aspect is much more restricted here. So there is something for everyone to pick and choose from among his ideas.
But the idea of having a long-term plan and, at the same time, leaving room for short-term improvisation is something we apply in all our story lines. Here are a few examples:
Blascovitch was supposed to die much later on in the series, but we found this new timing quite appropriate. He’d made his major contributions, and his death opened the door for changes in the dynamics between Valasquez, Markham and Wood.
In the story “Going All Out—Part II,” Valasquez was supposed to let Gypsie go after torturing her. We decided to have her escape instead, as it was a good demonstration of her strength of character.
Votan—or at least Travis—was also supposed to die much later on in the story arc, but here again, the details were fuzzy. By getting rid of him earlier—and mainly via Cesar, who was egged on by his wife—we opened the story up to new interrelationships, whose potential we can sense even if we don’t yet have a clear picture of all the coming ramifications.
Going beyond duality: The experience of Lost
Columnist Davin Faraci gave his analysis of comments made by Javier Grill–Marxauch about his writing for the TV series Lost. Faraci ends on this note: “Unfortunately the ways the show dealt with these topics—like the Manichean battle between good and evil—simply weren’t up to the level of what was happening in seasons one through three.”(“Walt Was Psychic: An Amazing Look at the True Development of LOST,” http://birthmoviesdeath.com, March 24, 2015). In our view, this is partly accurate, but the series’ greatest shortcoming was in the psychological development of the Man in Black. One episode uses flashbacks to try to show his motivations and his relationship with Jacob and his mother. It shows a man who really wants to leave the island, but whose dreams are crushed by his mother. Because of this, he kills her, and his brother seeks to destroy him. From a man who craves freedom, he evolves into a creature of destruction with only a single motivation. But his origin story showed a more nuanced person. And his brother, Jacob, wasn’t a compassionate character. In short, the series, rather than developing a more nuanced relationship between the two, adopted a classic Manichean duality, where the viewer cannot feel any compassion for one party. This was a missed opportunity for a much richer ending to this TV series that had otherwise taken so many risks during its run.
Are We Playing with Flashbacks?
One of our readers asked about the link between Wally’s death and the story of when he arrived at the Bunker. He wanted to know if our use of the flashback technique was a nod to “Lost,” a TV series we’ve said that we admire. It’s a good question. We see one main difference between our temporal framework and the use of flashbacks by “Lost” scriptwriters. While they mainly used flashbacks to feed a given episode, we see all of our stories as part of one mosaic, which we hope to eventually reveal in its entirety. The order in which the various stories are published is not linear and, naturally, we want to keep some areas of our story shrouded in mystery.
Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse
We just received a copy of the Lost Encyclopaedia, so this seems like a good time to bring up again how much we admire this TV series. It’s popular culture at its best. We make the distinction of popular culture because some people say the series wasn’t as good as The Sopranos or Mad Men. We agree. But these two series were broadcast on specialty channels and were aimed at a more specific audience. Lost was broadcast on a major network, which imposed certain restrictions on the series. But those restrictions didn’t stop the two executive producers from making their narrative as complex as it was, which also made it denser and richer. They managed to balance emotion and action. They included all kinds of references into their stories without beating us over the head with them. We’re not saying it was perfect, and only time will tell if it will age well, but for now, let’s call it excellent scriptwriting.