SDCC 2012 Nerd HQ — Damon Lindelof and Seth Grahame-Smith Panel Recap & Gallery

Conversations for a Cause at SDCC 2012 was a selection of panels hosted offsite at Nerd HQ, which raised money for the international children’s charity Operation Smile. Money was raised through the $20 panels, photo ops at the HQ, and spontaneous auctions. It has been reported that around $140,000 was raised.

If you would like to join the cause and donate to help a child gain something we take for granted every day — a smile — you can do so here.

Damon Lindelof’s Twitter feed lately has been rather self-deprecating. In between offering his availability to let fans come yell at him and re-tweeting harsh criticisms of his talent ending with suggestions that he go kill himself (no, seriously), I knew it was going to be an interesting panel considering how obvious he’s made his head space. Prometheus, widely panned by both critics and fans alike as a mess of unfocused storytelling, was fresh in everybody’s minds . . . especially Mr. Lindelof’s.

That said, right off it was obvious that this panel was not just going to be interesting, but would also be very different from all the others at Nerd HQ. Instead of opening the panel up to audience questions immediately, Lindelof and his buddy Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) who joined him up there took control of the mic and didn’t relinquish it until it was nearly time to move them out and the next panel in. My impression wasn’t that they were trying to keep the audience from turning on them with their questions, though (they insisted that any question-askers not shy away from getting combative), but that Lindelof was taking this friendly atmosphere and using it to be able to have his say in response to all the heat he’d been getting. The heat, he explained, that he was unable to let simply roll off his back.

About halfway through the panel, Zac Levi — who had been seated in a director’s chair to the side of the stage, listening raptly — got up to take the mic and explain to the crowd that this was something special; conversations like this, with no spin and honesty and a true vulnerability, are rare in this business.

The full panel is archived below our photo gallery (courtesy of Break.com), but here’s what I thought were the highlights of Lindelof and Grahame-Smith’s somber conversation:

  •  Lindelof explains that he feels very lucky, despite everything, and there will be “no bitching from us!” . . . but because they consider themselves fanboys, they simply cannot ignore what other fans are saying about their work, and how the day can be shaped by the first tweet they see in the morning.
  • Grahame-Smith says writing a book is a complete distillation of the author’s own voice, but working on adapting it to a screenplay changes that to working with the director’s voice in mind. He had issues with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because the movie got away from him and changed so much that he didn’t even know how to do some of the changes. This is what led to him eventually leaving the project and Simon Kinberg coming in.
  • Lindelof tackles the question of how much of Prometheus, the final movie, was there in John Spaiht’s original script that Lindelof received when he came into the project. Lindelof discusses this at length. Some interesting parts: he was given no direction, but the original script was indeed an Alien script (titled Alien: Zero) and the alien badassery started about forty-five minutes in. So Lindelof’s big contribution was telling Ridley Scott that he’d flip the percentage of origin story versus alien mythology. That’s how we got a focus on David the android. He called himself a sellout in the sense that he was working for Scott’s vision instead of his own, and he feels like that’s part of the reason why the movie suffered — there were parts he didn’t understand and there was discourse over certain parts where they didn’t agree on plot points. He likened it to his experience with Cowboys and Aliens, using a metaphor where there’s a child raised by eight different parents who had never met each other and each had different parenting styles, and how that child would be a “fucking nightmare” and be very confused. (He also mentioned that the first time he met Ridley Scott, Ridley was naked and wearing a sword . . . but then, Lindelof was admittedly drinking through this panel, so take that with a grain of salt!)
  • Seth Grahame-Smith said the title of the panel is “The Art of Being Despised”, and talks more about the intricacies of reconciling his work with the fact that they actually care about how the work is received outside of how much money it makes. He says by no means are they, through this conversation, trying to get out of the blame for their failures.
  • On to audience questions: No, Lindelof has no intention of ever revisiting the island again. He does encourage the idea of someone taking the baton and running with it, down the road when it would make sense for a reboot or for an expanded story relating to that universe.
  • Lindelof, after Seth Grahame-Smith talks about his upcoming work producing on the two feature film adaptations of “IT” that are being done, tells a great story about Stephen King and how he met with him to discuss LOST and what King liked and didn’t like. The punchline of the meandering story (which finds them going to King’s house and then going to a movie with him): he finds a lottery ticket on the floor of King’s car and asks King if it’s his. King confirmed it was. “You never know when you’re gonna get lucky!”

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