Social media a key 'barometer' for fans and creatives
When celebs like Ashton Kutcher started embracing Twitter several years ago, others in Hollywood, such as writer-producer Damon Lindelof were left confused about the power of the tweet.
“I’m not as cool as Ashton Kutcher,” said Lindelof as his reason for not using the platform at first.
Yet since “Lost,” which Lindelof co-created, ended its run, Twitter has become a “therapeutic” way for the scribe to connect with fans of his films and TV shows.
“Ultimately, it’s probably a waste of time, but it’s critical to my brand,” said Lindelof at Variety’s Entertainment & Technology Summit, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey, during a keynote discussion with Variety film editor Josh Dickey. Since “Lost” ended its run in 2010, Lindelof has focused on film projects, including Fox’s highly anticipated “Prometheus,” which opens June 8.
“There is this kind of pop culture zeitgeist that’s being funneled through Twitter,” he said, calling messages that get posted a “barometer” of whether to watch a particular TV show or movie, for example.
If there’s a downside, it’s that Twitter is “a time suck,” Lindelof said. “You feel like you’re going to miss something” if you’re not always reading the latest messages. At the same time, he feels he needs to stay away from it on Sunday nights, for example, when he’s trying to catch up on the night’s popular lineup of TV shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” or “The Amazing Race” in order to avoid spoilers.
“You become beholden to the idea that you have to structure your life around it,” he said.
But the benefits are hard to ignore.
“There’s an immediacy to (Twitter),” he said, that enables users to “discover more niche-y content.”
And for content creators, it’s key to let audiences know producers are listening to them, he said.
Lindelof began posting his first tweets after the finale of “Lost,” paying more attention to the platform while on vacation in Italy. He would retweet negative posts about the finale and comment on them to let viewers know, “I hear you,” he said. “It started becoming therapeutic for me. The idea of acknowledging that sentiment” can be a powerful tool to connect with audiences, he added.
Lindelof’s latest foray online has been through viral videos he helped create with Ridley Scott’s team while producing “Prometheus,” with ties to the “Alien” franchise.
One involved Guy Pearce giving a presentation at the TED conference while in character as Peter Weyland, while a more recent video is a fictional commercial that revolves around Michael Fassbender’s android character, David, with the hope of explaining to moviegoers why the robots in the film look like humans before seeing the pic.
Lindelof shied away from specifically calling “Prometheus” a “prequel,” but did address why it’s been difficult to describe the sci-fier as one.
“My definition of a prequel is A to Y, with the original being the Z,” he said. “The problem with a prequel is there is an inevitability to them. You know how it’s going to end. There’s not really a lot of room for innovation.”
Through the viral videos, “Prometheus” has been able to “excite an audience whose entry into ‘Alien’ is ‘Alien vs. Predator'” and tell additional stories through character reveals using the stars of the movie.
“It has to be innocuous enough to make sense if you haven’t seen the movie,” Lindelof said. “Fundamentally, it’s marketing at its core but it has no effect if it’s not cool and fun to watch.”
New content is key to keeping moviegoers happy now, Lindelof said.
The first approach to reinventing a franchise like “Star Trek” or “Alien” is “don’t screw it up,” he said. The second part is “you can’t play it safe. The audience expects you to try something new.”
When expanding upon new ways audiences will watch content, Lindelof wasn’t concerned over the reaction to “The Hobbit’s” footage Peter Jackson shot in 48 frames per second and screened at CinemaCon last week.
He recalled the reaction to James Cameron’s first publicly shown sequences at Comic-Con.
“The reaction was that they looked like big blue CG things and I’m underwhelmed,” he said. It’s hard for viewers to wrap their heads around “seven minutes” of footage and understanding the whole experience, he said, comparing it to riding in an airplane where the loud engine noise dies down during a flight. “I will put my money on Peter Jackson.”
Lindelof doesn’t believe that the theater-going experience will dramatically change anytime soon.
“Fifty years from now, we are going to get a baby sitter, buy popcorn and sit in a movie theater,” he said. “Watching content in a community is important.”
He cited videogames as one media the industry should pay more attention to, especially “what it’s doing to our brains.”
The increased success of games and the evolution of the business is changing the way younger auds look interact with entertainment.
“It will be harder for us to have a passive role when experiencing movies,” Lindelof said. “They’re saying you can no longer be a passive audience. You must be a participant. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is going to be part of the conversation and the next evolution of entertainment.”
Lindelof has no interest in revisiting “Lost” anytime soon.
“It’s been two years (since the series wrapped) and we told the story we wanted to tell,” Lindelof said. But he admits ABC might look for ways to bring back “Lost” in some form. “I do feel like the world has not seen the end of ‘Lost,’ but I’m not going to have any involvement,” he said.
Lindelof isn’t bitter about the idea, however.
“It would be hypocritical for me to say I’m going to do ‘Star Trek’ but I don’t want anyone to touch ‘Lost,’ ” he said.