Damon Lindelof and Graham Yost at ATX TV Festival

Two hours ago, I ducked out the back of a Leftovers Panel with Damon Leindelof (Lost), Tom Perrota (novelist) and Mimi Leder (Deep Impact, Peacemaker) to go sit in a “Big Breaks” panel with Graham Yost (Justified, Sneaky Pete, Boomtown), Dave Andron (Raines, Justified), Julie Plec and Carina MacKenzie (both The Originals).  If that bountiful plethora of talent doesn’t get you excited, you have a lot to learn about television and film.  And if you don’t appreciate the irony of walking out the back of a panel with monumental names in entertainment, to go sit in another panel with one monumental name and several rising names, then you don’t empathize with someone trying to make it.

The panel on the Leftovers discussed all seasons of the show.  The main theme on this panel was story telling and taking the audience on a journey.  Mr Perrota wrote the novel on which the show was based.  He talked about long form storytelling on television versus short form on film. Mr Leindelof and Ms Leder talked about expanding the scope of the story beyond what Mr Perrota laid out in his novel.  Mr Perotta’s novel discribed a world shattering event from the perspective one family.  In the television show, Mr Lindelof added more families and more locations.  Ms Leder talked about the visual aspects of story telling.  Ms Leder talked about how the vistas of Texas and Australia became like characters. She also described the need to go from the intimacy of actors and monologues to the breadth of plains to give the audience time to process the prior monologue.  All panelists described how the reaction of one actor listening to another’s monologue represents the audience and needs just as much screen time for reactions as the one speaking. Expanding and visualizing the storytelling combines to take the audience on the journey of the Leftovers.

The panel members on “Big Breaks and First Gigs” talked about what it takes to make it as a writer in television.  Mr Yost and Mr Andron talked about the story of how Mr Yost discovered Mr Andron coached him into success.  Ms Plec and Ms MacKenzie described a similar story about how Ms Plec found and hired Ms MacKenzie.  Recurring themes included hard work, scut work, humility, talent and being willing and able to go all out to make it.  Mr Andron told the story of how his hockey coach and his father knew someone who knew Mr Yost.  Mr Andron had moved to Los Angeles and was living on credit cards whilst writing spec scripts for television shows he enjoyed and a film script.  The friends of friends got the script to Mr Yost who recognized Mr Andron’s raw talent.  Mr Yost hired Mr Andron as a junior writer on his short lived NBC show Raines with Jeff Goldblum.  But that was the door that got Mr Andron into the writers’ room.  Ms. Plec found Ms MacKenzie on twitter writing recaps for her show the Vampire Diaries.  Ms. Plec saw that Ms MacKenzie really understood the show, its characters and her own creative voice.  Ms Plec hired Ms MacKenzie as a writers’ assistant and later promoted her to staff writer.  All panelists emphasized the love of writing and the willingness to humble yourself to take lunch orders and mimic other writing in order to get the opportunity to get in the room where someone who already has a name will recognize your talent and offer you a job.

Keep it here for continued coverage of the ATX Television Festival.

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