TVOvermind Chats with LOST Encyclopedia Writers Paul Terry and Tara Bennett

This Monday, I was able to have a chat with Paul Terry and Tara Bennett. LOST fans have undoubtedly heard of the duo before: Terry is the editor of LOST: The Official Magazine, for which Bennett (formerly DiLullo) is a writer. Bennett is also the writer of guides for 24, Firefly, and more, and is the editor for SFX Magazine.

Terry and Bennett are currently working on the LOST Encyclopedia, an officially licensed book published by DK that is scheduled to be released on August 16. The four pound, 404 page book will be officially sanctioned by Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, and Gregg Nations, who, as any LOST fan knows, are the three main brains behind the show’s intricate mythology. I sat down with the duo on May 24, the day after the finale, to discuss what they had in store for the tome. This interview will also be posted on Lostpedia, and the version posted there will include some questions specific to the Lostpedia community, while the version posted here will include several extra questions discuss LOST‘s impact on television in general.

Sam McPherson: Thanks for joining me. The first thing I wanted to ask about was your thoughts on the finale. What were your favorite moments?

Paul Terry: Tara, do you want to go first?

Tara Bennett: Oh, okay, give it to me, funny boy. I think it was really emotionally satisfying, from my perspective. I think that if you appreciated the show on both levels of storytelling– in a very thematic way and also in a mythology-laden way– I think it answered both. I wouldn’t say that it’s a perfect finale, but I certainly would say that it really encapsulated what the show was about, as well as staying on point with what it’s always said: that there were things that were going to be broader themes that weren’t always going to be definitive, and then I think there were some absolute definitive answers about certain things that felt fine and proper in terms of what I wanted to see from the show. More than anything, I think it was very character-based, which was what the show started as, and I felt like all the payoffs for the individual characters celebrated them, gave them their respects and really heartfelt, emotional moments, and I really appreciated that.

Paul: Yeah, definitely. I’ve always loved the way that LOST sort of handled really complicated, thought-provoking, mysterious, big, pointed kind of themes, and I think the finale was incredibly brave in the sense that we’ve all seen, with the reveal and the resolution with the sideways plotline especially, that this isn’t a show which, you know, even at this stage, says, “Okay, let’s just do a big series of spoon-feeding.” It was much more content with remaining bold and mysterious, and telling the story it wanted to tell, which I really felt like, as Tara said, the themes and the characterization and the development of the journeys that all the characters have been on and all the kind of implications of the world being connected, and each other’s lives becoming important, like that great scene with Jack and Christian doing the speech. I thought it was wonderful. I cried like a baby, and I am absolutely proud to say that.

Sam: Definitely. The scene that made me cry the most was between Hurley and Jack right before Jack went into the hole. That was probably some of the best emotion that LOST has had to offer.

Paul: I agree, that was a big one. And as Tara knows, I’ve always been really invested in the Juliet and Sawyer storylines, and when they killed her off I was like, “You cannot do this!”

Tara: Yeah.

Paul: But I thought it was so beautifully done with their coming together in the sideways.

Tara: Yeah, that got me. I was a blubbering mess with that moment. And then my other moment was the moment between Locke and Ben, when Locke forgave Ben. I thought that was a good one.

Paul: Oh, yes, that was wonderful!

Sam: So how did the finale affect your writing of the encyclopedia? I know that you had probably gotten a lot of it done beforehand, so what changes? Did you know about key points in the finale so that you could write, or are you going to have to go back now and just change a lot?

Tara: We worked really closely with Gregg Nations and the LOST team, and they understood that we had to have some conversations so that we could block out what we needed to to make our deadline. So we really had very key and important conversations about a week and a half ago, just in terms of some major things that we needed to address and think about. Paul and I have always known that the end of this show was going to change a lot of what we were doing, and because of that we really finished a lot of material that we knew had already had its beginning, middle, and end, and that left open the other, bigger ones — what we consider to be our ‘A’ or ‘A+’ entries, which are just the largest entries, and which of course are the big characters: Jack, Kate, Sawyer, etc. — and so we didn’t finish those, knowing that they were going to be heavily impacted by what happened at the end. So that’s really what we’re addressing now. That’s it. The end is finished so that we could not have to do work over again.

Paul: Yeah, it’s basically going to be a really busy week [laughs], because as Tara said, although there may have been an awareness of certain things that this show obviously, you know, they really got to the deadline of their editing schedules to make sure they got the great show, the one they want on air. So the broadcast that airs, that’s canon, that’s the one that is the ultimate reference, and so I’ll certainly be watching it another couple of times and sort of making some key notes. A lot of those will be on the visual things, because of the visual language of the program, so things that may have been conveyed in conversations, you can never really compare that to seeing the final, definite article of the episode.

Sam: So how much of the finale did you know going into it? Were you aware of any key scenes, or were you told any at all?

Paul: I don’t know whether we should get into, like, the semantics of it so much, but I would say it was, to repeat what Tara was saying, more about an important awareness of certain beats that we would be required to be prepared for, for this stage of writing the book. Getting into the specifics of the scenes might do some dishonoring toward the chance that we had.

Tara: Yeah, the LOST creative team has never wanted to be adversarial. We’ve all been partners in this project, and so there was no way that they wanted to, at this stage of the game, go “Oh, gotcha! Everything’s changed up!” So they’d been softly preparing us for certain things that we needed to know to just help ourselves stay open, so that we wouldn’t cause any kind of mass hysteria on our end with the writing of it [laughs]. So, it’s not so much a scene or a”What did they tell us?” kind of a thing, it’s more of a collaborative, thematic sort of structure for our writing.

Paul: Yeah, it’s much like the broad strokes between the key things that season six was about, and things of course like the sideways is an element of that.

Sam: So how much of the mythology of the show that was not covered in the actual context of the series will be explained further in the encyclopedia, such as where the statue came from? Will we have more mysteries answered by this encyclopedia?

Paul: A lot of people have been asking that question, and it’s a perfectly valid question to ask, as a fan. If I removed myself from this project, I’d be completely intrigued as well to know what this book was going to be conveying. The way we sort of phrased it is that this is essentially the story that Damon and Carlton were wanting to tell. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly detailed. We’ve been killing ourselves for the longest time doing this book, but as far as revelations that weren’t seen on the show or mentioned on the show, all we can say is that the book will contextualize things that people may have misunderstood; it will clarify some things if people were going somewhere else with their theorizing. So within that, there may be things that could make the fans go, “Oh, I misunderstood that, I see what they meant now, completely.” There may also be things that will remain open to interpretation, part of the mystery.

Tara: Yeah, I think that something that fans will have to understand when they read the book is that we’ve had lots of years to be able to speculate about things, and fandom has sometimes made some things canon in their minds that was actually never intended to be canon, so you may read through the encyclopedia and you may go, “Well why isn’t that there?” It’s not because we forgot it, it’s because Damon and Carlton don’t consider it the canon of the show. Everything is filtered through that veil. The thing that we want to be clear about is that, maybe Lostpedia may have other information, may have stuff about some of the ARGs. Sometimes those ARGs were merely for entertainment for fans, and weren’t meant to be canon, and so when they’re not meant to be canon, they’re not in this book. If there were elements that were part of canon, then they are in the book. We really pared out the material that sometimes was marketing-oriented or sometimes for pure fun, maybe it was an offshoot. So if it’s not seen, then that means that it really was something that was apart from what Damon and Carlton intended for the show, and while it will exist in a greater fan community or Lostpedia or somewhere else, or maybe somebody has a blog talking about something specific, if it’s not there it’s because Damon and Carlton didn’t write it and they didn’t mean it to be part of what they were writing. So that’s something that fans hopefully will understand when they’re reading the book, and that is that it’s very much a clarification, a connecting of the dots. The one thing that we can say, that we can hint at, is something that they’ve already talked about in some interviews: there will be supplemental information that they shot specifically for the DVD releases, and that will be canon, and will be included in our book as well.

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