‘Watchmen’ Damon Lindelof Explains His Process – Variety


Variety’s new weekly sequence, “Hollywood How-To,” will deal with all issues writing, with conversations about every part from crafting characters to navigating the author’s room. 

There are few writers working in tv right this moment who’ve had a extra diverse (and commemorated) profession than Damon Lindelof. After engaged on the writing workers of CBS’s “Nash Bridges” and NBC’s “Crossing Jordan” within the early 2000s, Lindelof went on to co-create a grand sci-fi journey sequence (i.e. ABC’s “Misplaced”), an unsparing human drama about grief and loss (HBO’s “The Leftovers”), and a wildly formidable extension of an acclaimed mid-1980s graphic novel about costumed vigilantes (HBO’s “Watchmen”).

Suffice it to say, together with work as a blockbuster screenwriter (2012’s “Prometheus,” 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “World Conflict Z”), Lindelof’s profession has run the gamut. So to assist launch Variety‘s new “Hollywood How-To” video sequence on writing a script, we requested Lindelof to speak by way of a few of his course of as a tv author. Right here’s what he needed to say.

1. Determine The Who

A very powerful component to writing an episode of TV, Lindelof says, is to determine “what are we going for right here? What is that this episode going to be about?” Answering that query boils right down to determining who is the focus of the episode.

“The viewers is on the lookout for a surrogate once they’re watching an episode of tv,” Lindelof says. So when you determine which character or characters you can be following for that episode, you possibly can then start to determine what they need, and from there start to type out the story.

2. Map It Out

In tv, Lindelof works with a writers room, a gaggle of fellow writers who meet and speak out each component of every script, particularly story beats — i.e., “the issues that we need to see within the episode.” By the tip of that course of, he says, he can have a 30 to 40 web page doc “of each single scene that’s going to be within the episode.”

It’s all designed to make the work of really writing the script for the episode a lot much less daunting.

“It doesn’t really feel like a clean web page anymore,” Lindelof says. “It looks like I’m simply cooking prepackaged elements with a really detailed recipe.”

3. Don’t Pressure Themes

“The story has to all the time be in service to the characters and the themes,” Lindelof says. “In any other case you’re simply type of doling out plot.”

Determining what the themes are takes a substantial amount of dialogue. Lindelof talks at size about how he and his writing staff sorted out the central themes of “Watchmen” — specifically, race and justice in America. Then, he says, the job was to search out situations the place their story can lock into their themes.

4. Defying “Write What You Know”

Each new author is instructed “write what .” On its face, after all, this is smart.

“Our job as storytellers is to make the fake really feel actual,” Lindelof explains. “That’s the spirit of what ‘write what ’ is meant to guard.”

However with “Watchmen,” Lindelof was drawn to deal with problems with being black in America — constructed round the actual life bloodbath of black residents in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 — that don’t have anything to do along with his personal lived expertise. Which triggered Lindelof to flip the “write what ” maxim on its head.

“It’s a name to motion to do analysis on what you don’t know,” he says. “The problem needs to be write what , however we must always be capable of reply the query, Why do you care? Why this? Why now? And if you will discover that factor and articulate it to others, then you might be writing what .”

5. Shut Up and Hear

Lindelof’s preliminary inspiration for “Watchmen” got here after he learn concerning the Tulsa ’21 bloodbath in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” piece for “The Atlantic,” and realizing that he had by no means heard about it earlier than. And the one manner he may study was to ask questions and pay attention.

“As I started to precise my emotional expertise with studying about Tulsa to individuals of shade who have been type of like, ‘Yeah, I’ve identified about this my total life,’” Lindelof says, “that was my manner of claiming, ‘I don’t know what I’m speaking about, however I need to speak about this. Can we speak about this?’”


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