Fiction Gets Real: Lost
Real Art’s Video Team Lead, Andy Nick, talks about the show’s impact on creatives, it’s addictive storytelling, and how it forever changed the landscape of entertainment.
On September 22, 2004, Oceanic flight 815 crashed, scattering passengers and debris across the beach and into the jungle of a mysterious island. That crash was only the beginning for its survivors, but back in the real world, the impact of that plane crash caused a whole other kind of shockwave. Over six seasons, Lost became a cultural phenomenon that redefined how a story could be told.
On the 10th anniversary of Lost‘s premier, we talked with Real Art’s motion design expert and resident Lost fanatic, Andy Nick, about what the show really was, its effect on creatives, and how it transformed storytelling in the digital space.
Real Art: When did you start following Lost? From the beginning?
Andy Nick: Not at first. I heard about it from friends, but never watched it during it’s first season. After the season 1 finale, all the talking amplified. Everyone was discussing it in the office. “Who were those people?” and “what do you think’s in the hatch?” I couldn’t tell from the talk whether or not the show was any good. No one was talking about things they saw during the show. They’d just keep asking each other questions. “What’s the monster?” “Who are the others?”
I didn’t have a TV at the time. I only had a projector hooked straight up to my XBox. I’ll be honest, I took pride in not watching television. To me, it was all reality shows and crap. In 2004, American Idol was the juggernaut of primetime television, and Desperate Housewives was ABC’s main attraction.
But Tom Immen finally convinced me to watch the pilot. After it was over, I made two purchases: the entire 1st season from iTunes and an adapter to feed my iPod’s video straight to my projector.
RA: What hooked you most? The characters? The story?
AN: At first, definitely the story. But as time went on, I became just as interested in the production of the show. Definitely by the second season. Fans will remember that sometimes ABC would advertise a “brand new episode of Lost”, but when you tuned in, it was a rerun. People were pissed! Turns out, production of the show was just taking too long, and they fell behind schedule.
Learning this was a pivotal moment in how I related to the show. I realized that this “megacorp” ABC was human. I had never considered that the people producing Lost were anything like me at my job. Once I realized that these guys might live in the same world as me, I became ultra interested in the details of how Lost was made and what the people making it were thinking.
Jean Higgins was the producer for duration of the series. She’s the one responsible for getting a dismantled Boeing 777 shipped by boat to a beach in Hawaii. Just thinking about the logistics of that are amazing.
But still, Lost was just a whole bunch of really talented people working together to execute a single vision. It wasn’t magic.
RA: What part of the production interested you specifically?
AN: The Logistics it must have taken to film a single season are mind-numbing. Get your story written. Scout locations in Hawaii and get your crew down there. Set the cast up with living arrangements on the island. Shoot the show over the course of weeks and months in the jungle. Fly the undeveloped film back to LA. Edit an episode.
I liked learning about the smaller problems too. Evangeline Lilly was a Canadian, and I remember that she had work visa problems after she was cast at the 11th hour—she didn’t even make it to Hawaii until after the pilot had begun filming. And then, a reel of undeveloped footage was pushed through an X-Ray machine at the airport, ruining an entire chunk of that week’s episode.
Later, I started learning about the impact that a production like Lost had on the island of Oahu. It was a huge boost to the local economy. Hawaii demands respect for it’s land—the crew had to be extra careful about the footprint they left on their locations.
Every little detail of Lost had to be figured out. I think about productions like this and I’m just overwhelmed. A show this massive is a creative effort on a scale that I can only imagine.
RA: When the show was running, what was it like to be a huge fan?
AN: It was a blast. I grew up with great television like Star Trek and Quantum Leap, but I learned about older shows too. I never watched The Fugitive, but the concept was amazing—tell a long, twisting story over the course of a television series.
I think Lost was our generation’s Fugitive. But Lost wasn’t just a serialized drama, it was a mystery that needed to be solved. Every clue along the way was a step in the right (or wrong) direction.
There was so much information in every episode that it paid off to be a huge fan. The show gave you more puzzle pieces in every episode than you could possibly digest during the hour that it aired. The internet community spent days pouring over screenshots, researching references, and formulating theories on what they’d seen. It was a really unique thing to be a part of.
I could set a timer after the episode ended. I knew exactly what content would become available when. Screenshots came first, then the live discussions via Talkshoe, an online call-in platform. A few hours later, the first reaction podcasts would go online. A day later, a rush of information was available.
If an episode premiered on Monday, Thursday was the most hardcore day. Enough time had passed that every screenshot had been processed, every anagram solved. Now the only things left to discuss were the big theories behind the show. That was always my favorite.
RA: So how far did your fandom go?
AN: January 16, 2008 was the date of the season 4 premiere. I took my wife to Hawaii hoping to attend “Sunset on the Beach,” a public event for anyone on Oahu to watch the first episode of the season on a huge outdoor projection screen right on the beach as a thank-you to fans and locals who supported the show. The writers usually flew down from Los Angeles and a bunch of the actors would attend.
It was just bad luck that after my trip was planned, the 2008 SAG Writers Strike happened and Sunset on the Beach was cancelled. Woulda been cool.
I never participated in the various ARGs, although I followed them closely. I was really into the Halo ARG “Ilovebees” from ‘04, and it was an eye-opening experience in how passionate an internet community could be.
RA: I heard you had a Lost tattoo!
AN: My secret Dharma logo! My man Tom Davis is a member of the video team, but back then, after-hours he was also a tattoo apprentice. He said he would love to do a UV tattoo, but since he’d never worked with the ink, he didn’t want to take it on as a paid job. So, I volunteered to be his guinea pig.
Tom inked me up some Lost love in true Lost fashion. In homage season 2’s “Lockdown”, I got The Looking Glass’s logo on my ankle, a dharma logo with a bunny in the middle, a reference to Alice in Wonderland’s trip down the rabbit hole. The tattoo is only visible under blacklight. Honestly I forget I even have it most of the time.
RA: Think anything else will ever be like Lost?
AN: No, nothing will ever be like it. But since it ended, I’ve learned a lot about where serialized television and super-elaborate storytelling like that have come from. I watched Twin Peaks and was downright shocked that a story that Sci-Fi was accepted by the general public back in the 90’s. That show was even more out-there than Lost!
Also, the writers of Lost (Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse) had specifically stated that they got a ton of inspiration from Stephen King’s series “The Dark Tower.” I was curious enough that got all 7 books on audiobook and powered through the whole thing. It was amazing, and the similarities with Lost were awesome.
RA: Any other thoughts about the production?
AN: You can read stories about how the lead writer, Damon Lindelof, was absolutely terrified to hear that the pilot had gotten some amazing ratings. It reminded me of when Chris Milk, director of like 1000 amazing music videos, said that he threw up on the first morning of every video shoot he directed. These people are human, and doing something new and crazy is just as scary to them as the rest of us.
RA: So how did Lost inform your work at Real Art?
AN: It’s the perfect example of when an idea is key. If a team has a great idea, they can make it come to life. If you make something that people wonder about, that conversation can go a lot further.
In terms of production, it’s given me a whole new appreciation for how far people will go to see a good idea come to life. Lost could have been mediocre in so many ways, but every single part pulled it’s weight.
Got you hooked? Here’s more:
The Origin of Lost
The show came perilously close to never being made
The Cosmology of Serialized Television
The beauty and danger of building a show through myth
10th Anniversary Q & A
Lost alumnae reunite and answer a few burning questions