I Get LOST

9 May

My editor arranged for me to meet with LOST producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse to talk about the final season of LOST, as well as their personal writing and production strategies.

Damon Lindelof (left), Carlton Cuse

Shortly after passing through security at ABC Studios, I’m greeted by a production assistant from LOST. He’s tall and rail thin with straight, well-groomed red hair and fair skin. The PA’s name is Joel. He shakes my hand with a surprising amount of force and leads me to Cuse and Lindelof’s office area. We enter a crowded elevator, full of people chatting politely.

“We’re going to see The Office?” I ask, smiling.

The elevator goes silent.

“What are you talking about?” Joel asks nervously. Sweat breaks out on his brow and lip.

“The show on NB–” before I can finish, everyone in the elevator is covering their ears and screaming. Startled, I scream myself. One by one, everyone in the elevator calms down. When it’s all done, we look at each other as if none of us are quite sure what just happened. No one speaks for the rest of the ride.

Once again: Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. They have this blue screen set up in all the restrooms.

The LOST offices are on the nineteenth floor of the building. The room the elevator opens to–a standard, cubicle-laden office area–is extremely stuffy–humid even. The area is cluttered with dozens of plastic, potted plants. The lights are all turned off. Joel pushes me forward, shuts the elevator doors and vanishes.

“Waaaaow…” I hear someone trying to imitate a some kind of stringed instrument.

“Bum bum bum bum bum…” Someone else imitates a drum beat.

“Hello?” I call, stepping a bit further into the office area. The air is thick and stale. There’s no telling how long the air conditioner has been off. Condensation has accumulated on the large, floor length windows at the opposite end of the room. “Damon? Carlton?” I call out. I hear the sound of scuttling and wheezing. There follows a deep thud, like someones head hitting the underside of a desk.

“Shit!” A muffled voice screams. “Damon!”

“Who’s there? Come out!” I yell.

I run to the end of a row of cubicles and find Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse curled up together. Carlton is rubbing a spot on his head.

“Damon? Carlton? It’s uh…it’s nice to meet you.” I hold out my hand, trying to maintain as much professional composure as possible. Carlton reaches out his hand, grinning widely. Damon slaps his hand away and gives him a knowing look. Carlton quickly wipes the smile away and gets to his feet.

“You weren’t on the plane’s manifesto,” Damon says, eying me with open hostility.

“Yes. You were not,” Carlton says eying me with the vacancy of a motel that has a lot of rooms that you can sleep in [Editor’s Note: This is terrible. Please get rid of this simile].

I offer a weak attempt at laughter and hold my hand out again. “It’s a pleasure to meet both of you.”

Carlton now resists the temptation to shake my hand. He looks to Damon then averts his gaze to his feet.

“What’s your name?” Damon gets out a clipboard. At first, I don’t know what to say. “What’s your name?” he repeats.

“Kyle. Kyle Irion. I write for IronKyle.com. I was supposed to get an interview with you guys today.”

Damon scans the list. “You’re not on this list. You’re one of them.”

Them? Like the media? I’m a member of the media?”

“Don’t you know what a plane’s manifesto is?” Damon asks, leaning close to me.

“Yea, haven’t you ever seen LOST?” Carlton asks in a gravelly voice. Damon straightens out and turns to him. Carlton continues. “It’s the best.” He cracks his knuckles menacingly.

“Carlton,” Damon says.

“What?” Carlton asks.

“Are you kidding me, man?” Damon half mutters. “You j–that’s the show we’re…” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Hello, I’m Damon Lindelof. This is Carlton Cuse. We were just having a bit of fun with you. We’re so happy for you to be here.”

“No questions,” Carlton says sternly. Damon and I both stop and look at him.

“This is an interview,” I said. “I’m supposed to ask questions.”

“Yea, but not about LOST,” Carlton goes on, smiling wryly, the tips of three fingers covering his mouth. I begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with Carlton.

“Carlton, it’s a fucking interview.” Damon says. “It’s an interview about LOST. He’s allowed to ask questions.” Damon motions me toward a work room. “Follow me, please.”

In the work room, they show me the script notes for several of LOST’s hallmark episodes.

This used to be my favorite episode.

“So…this is…this is like a rough draft?” I ask.

“Yea,” Carlton says. “Isn’t it awesome?” A bit of saliva sits in the corner of his mouth. “There’s a bear in it.”

“Yes,” I say, distant, reading the page over again. “So this is serious, then?”

Damon snatches it from my hand. “Of course it’s serious. LOST is nothing BUT serious. Serious all the time. This is before the editors and writing staff shreds our work and makes it edible for the piddling masses.”

“Of course,” I say. “Shall we continue the interview, then?”

“Yes. We can do the rest in Carlton’s and my office.” I follow Damon and Carlton down the hall.

After about half an hour of Cuse and Lindelof playing “punch buggy” while watching Volkswagen commercials on YouTube, we get started with the interview.

“So,” I begin, “LOST has probably been one of the most sprawling narratives in television history. With so many plot lines, how do you keep them all straight?”

“You want to see where we keep Hurley?” Carlton asks. Damon elbows Carlton sharply. Carlton twists at the force of the blow and becomes silent.

Damon speaks up. “The writing process for LOST has been…demanding…to say the least. The thing about LOST that’s the most challenging is the sheer number of characters our story holds. Even our side characters have back stories that are integral to the story. I suppose the uniting of all these characters is the real bedrock of what makes LOST, LOST. The best way we’ve found as far as keeping track is notes, notes, notes.” He chuckles a bit.

“Write it all down,” Carlton says, struggling for breath, rocking in his seat. Damon looks directly at him as he speaks. “Write it all down. Keep it secret–keep it safe.”

The only sound in the room is the sound of a computer’s cooling fan whirring on a nearby desk. Carlton spits out something that looks like blood.

“Listen, why don’t I come back some other time?” I ask, getting up from my stool. “Carlton doesn’t seem to be doing so well.”

“He’s fine,” Damon says, his hand on the back of Carlton’s neck, first gently rubbing it, then tightening his grip until Damon sits up straight. “Ask us something else.”

“All right,” I say to Damon, my eyes staying with Carlton, concerned. “Most of the show is shot in Hawaii. How much would you say is shot here–in the studios?”

“Yea,” Damon begins. “A lot of it, actually. It’s all shot out there in that office space you were just in.”

I sigh a bit and look out the window in Carlton and Damon’s office. “Damon, I just don’t believe that for a second.”

“You don’t?”

“I don’t.”

There’s several seconds of tension where I’m not exactly sure if Damon is going to attack me or not. Carlton’s eyes dart from Damon, then to me, then back to Damon. Carlton is clearly afraid. After some time, Damon asks “Wanna see where we keep Hurley?”

“Absolutely,” I reply. “Absolutely.”

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