Doctor Who

Exclusive Interview: Damon Lindelof On New Release Date and Trek Appealing To Wider Audience

In part one of our interview with Star Trek producer Damon Lindelof we learned about his Trek fandom, favorites and connections to his other job, Lost. In part two we get down to details and discuss why the film release date was changed and how the change affects the production, budget and promotion. Lindelof also discusses how the film will appeal to both Trek fans and the wider film going audience. 

TrekMovie.com: Lets start with Paramount’s decision to move the release date. How did you guys hear about the change and what was your reaction to it?

Damon Lindelof: JJ got a set visit from the powers that be at Paramount, including [CEO] Brad Grey who basically hired JJ to direct the movie in the first place. And JJ emailed all of us, Bryan [Burk], myself, Bob [Orci] and Alex [Kurtzman], saying "don’t say anything about this, but they are going to move the release date from this Christmas to essentially kick off next Summer and this is a very good thing." It was being presented to JJ, and I have been hearing the same thing from the studio, that based on the dailies they have been seeing and hanging out on the set and seeing and beginning to understand what the movie is, I think that they are starting to look at it as a big summer crowd-pleaser as opposed to a very sci-fi, not-as-accessible-to a-wider-audience Christmas release. So the reason that  they have moved the release date is for their ability to market the film and sort of position it as the Pirates of the Caribbean for next summer

TrekMovie.com: So for your shooting schedule, are you still expecting to end in early April?

Damon Lindelof: Yep…well I think it is mid April, actually.

TrekMovie.com: What effect does this change have to the budget?

Damon Lindelof: On a budgetary level probably the most significant effect it will have is that we will not have to rush our post [production]. As you might imagine there are a gazillion effects shots. I have seen some of the early work being done by ILM and [visual effects supervisor] Roger Guyett and it is nothing short of astonishing. So they’ll basically have more time to render those effects than they would have if we had to release it by Christmas. So that will probably make the movie a little less expensive to produce.

TrekMovie.com: In November your friend and fellow writer John August blogged that JJ [Abrams] was frustrated by not being able to make a change during the WGA strike. Now that you have the chance, are you going to go back and make changes?

Damon Lindelof: Well until we see the finished movie and everything that we have shot, you really cannot determine if you are writing ADR [Additional Dialogue Recording], but you really are always writing ADR. A plot point lacks clarity so you write a line of dialogue after the fact or whatever. I think JJ’s frustration was a result of, even on a television show — let alone on a movie, you put the scene in front of the cameras and you see the actors start performing it and you go "oh wow, let’s just change that line to this" or "you don’t need to say all that, you can just play it in a look." That is sort of the ‘loosy goosey’ sort of improvisational quality of it. You couldn’t do that during the strike and I think that was a frustrating process for JJ.  

TrekMovie.com: Before the change in release date we have been hearing about promotional images for the crew and the full Enterprise being released in the near term. Plus a trailer showing up in early Summer. Has the change in date also changed the promotional rollout plan?

Damon Lindelof: We are still the midst of our publicity plan. Obviously the schedule is now going to change to accommodate the new release date. My guess is that the strategy will turn more into a slow burn. But at this point we also have to be cognizant of once the film is done, and the more we shoot the more likely it is to invite spoilers if we are holding everything back. So we still want to release those images. As far as for the first trailer trailer, I heard we were still on for the summer to have a full trailer for the movie. But I would not be surprised if they decide to hold that back. I don’t know the answer to that right now. 

TrekMovie.com: When the release date change was announced, Michael Vollman, the spokesman for Paramount, said that Star Trek was now in the same league as Transformers and Star Wars. Summer movies tend to be huge and those films did well over half a billion dollars each. Star Trek has been bigish, but never ginormous. So do you guys really think this film is that big?

Damon Lindelof: I am certainly not the one to prognosticate that this movie is going to be a massive break-out hit. We were very comfortable with the Christmas release date. When we all sat down and started to talk about whether or not we wanted to take on Trek, the question was very simple and that question has remained the same: do we think we can make it good? And there is a way to make that movie where the fans will feel that literally four decades of storytelling and canon is not being ignored, but you make the movie so there is an access point for people who want to come in and hear the band for the first time, as it were. We talked about that and kicked some story ideas around and became totally infected with it. So you never know. In February last year Transformers was a joke. It was coming out in summer and people were panning it, saying "it is a toy" and "a cartoon"…who is going to want to see that movie? Then people started seeing the trailers with the robots and started to understand that this is ascending to a different level. So until people start seeing what we are doing, I have no real gauge on whether or not this movie is going to break through to a wider audience. But obviously Paramount thinks so and that is very reassuring for us. Our job remains the same. We are not pandering to make this accessible to people who have never seen Trek, nor are we pandering to the fans. We are just trying to make the best movie we can.

TrekMovie.com: I think all of the fans understand the goal of appealing to both the wider audience as well as the fans. However, in an earlier interview you were quoted as saying "this film is not your father’s Star Trek," which raised some Trekkie eyebrows.

Damon Lindelof: Did I say that? That doesn’t sound like something I would have said.

TrekMovie.com: Ok…well then let me ask you. This film is of course entirely new, but is it also ‘your father’s Star Trek?’

Damon Lindelof: Not to get into the Star Wars films, because I think they are apples and oranges on a billion different levels. But the fundamental reality is the prequels were "not my father’s Star Wars." That is to say the looked different, they felt different. Although they featured some of the same characters, like Obi Wan and Yoda, but the methodology of the storytelling was different. I am not here to talk about whether it was better or worse, but what is interesting is that my buddies that have kids…they prefer the prequels because they are faster and visually more spectacular and there is a kid who is the protagonist in the first one. So if I said that "it is not your father’s Star Trek" it is just that we are making this movie in 2008 and so fundamentally when you think about what does Trek look like and what does it feel like, especially The Original Series, this is going to be an entirely different animal. Of course the characters are the same. The characters are untouchable. You cannot mess with the fabric of Kirk or Spock or McCoy or Scotty. They are who they are. That is why when we approached this thing, doing a total and complete reboot…like ‘oh what if Scotty was a woman?’ or ‘what if Uhura was an alien?’ or ‘what if Kirk was married?’ those were all ideas that are just heretical.

More Lindelof:
Read Part 1 of the TrekMovie.com interview with Damon Lindelof…where Damon talks about his Trek fandom, his favorites, Trek/Lost connections and more.

 
Lindelof (third from left) with the Trek team: (L-R)
Roberto Orci, Leonard Nimoy, Zachary Quinto, J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Bryan Burk and Stratton Leopold (no longer on the project) at 2007 Comic-Con [click to enlarge]

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Kertrats
March 1, 2008 8:43 pm

Hmmm… sounds like there are definitely advantages to the delayed release date… Personally, I hope it turns out as amazing as the people involved think it will. I’m just happy to see Trek on the big screen again! Can’t wait!

sean
March 1, 2008 8:48 pm

Not to become a Stanky Stereotype, but I do feel reassured every time I read an interview with these fellas.

The Last Maquis
March 1, 2008 8:50 pm

I get The feeling this’ll be a really good Trek Movie, but to think that it’ll just be
sitting on a shelf somewhere for like 7/8 months. it’s not fair.

March 1, 2008 8:57 pm

Eek…

Comparing the new Star Trek to the (coughcoughhorriblecoughcoughmidichlorianscoughcoughjar-jarcoughcough) Star Wars prequels? Probably not the best idea in terms of bolstering fan confidence.

(Batman Begins or Casino Royale are probably/hopefully better examples/comparisons.)

SPB
March 1, 2008 8:57 pm

I WASN’T A FAN OF THE MAY ’09 RELEASE DATE/MOVE AT FIRST…

…but when I go back and see what a disservice Paramount and Co. did by rushing THE MOTION PICTURE and GENERATIONS into theaters, I’ve steadily grown more confident in this move. I still think Christmas ’08 would have been just fine (I think ultimately it would have played longer in the theaters, as they run the risk of a sharp drop-off in the summer), but as long as the extra time helps them make a bigger, better, stronger TREK film, I don’t care if it ends up being the #1 or #15 movie of the year.

Just make it GOOD.

Dr. Image
March 1, 2008 9:17 pm

I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

March 1, 2008 9:19 pm

Just keep the steady flow of news coming please , we love it!

VOODOO
March 1, 2008 9:27 pm

I’m glad that they feel the new film has the potential to be a blockbuster, but I am concerned that the move the May might take away from the films box office momentum.

Star Trek had December all to it’s self. While on the other hand a May release will offer much stiffer competition at the box office.

Films like X-Men/Wolverine, Terminator IV, Angels and Demons, Night at the Museum II, may cut into Star Trek’s box office.

Is it possible that Star Trek (even if it is a great film) gets overlooked against such stiff competition?

DavidJ
March 1, 2008 9:30 pm

5

Nowadays it’s not about how LONG a movie plays. All that matters is the opening weekend, and with all the millions of people going to the movies every weekend during the summer, May is just a much better month to release a movie.

March 1, 2008 9:32 pm

Very substantive responses from Lindelof; that’s groovy and in many ways a milestone in what we’ve had so far (we’ve had friendly and even extensive responses but this guy seems less interested in dodging questions … plus he sounds like a nice dude).

Some of what he says worries me a teensy bit (the studio’s praise for the dailies), but I’m glad to hear it spelled out honestly and with what seems like genuine enthusiasm and pride on his part. That can’t be a bad thing. Hopes remain high, and if you drop by to read: thank you so very much, Mr. Lindelof, for taking the time, and I hope I spelled your name right (I keep wanting to add another h …)

ShawnP
March 1, 2008 9:36 pm

Excellent interview, Anthony. As always, thank you for your efforts!

SPB
March 1, 2008 9:41 pm

#8 Anthony –

If TREK XI turns out to be more like “Lost” and less like the STAR WARS Prequels (story and script-wise), they I don’t think we’ll have anything to worry about.

Just knowing that the creative team behind “Lost” is helping to guide Orci & Kurtzman’s script thrills me to no end! Again, I don’t really care if TREK XI gets a little lost in the Big Summer Shuffle, as long as they make a film that’ll stand the test of time and please both the fans and the general public. The TREK film franchise really only has one dyed-in-the-wool classic in its arsenal… we’re long overdue for another one.

SPB
March 1, 2008 9:48 pm

#10 –

Maybe, maybe not. I seem to recall plenty of summer movies from the past 10 years having huge opening weekends, then plummeting 60% or more the next weekend and ultimately disappearing from view (THE HULK is a classic, egregious example).

Word of mouth is still everything. Sure, TREK XI will undoubtedly have a huge opening weekend, and it most assuredly will have a steep drop-off once the next big summer movie is released, but hopefully the new TREK will be so good that it will continue to earn STEADY business throughout the summer and not fade into oblivion by June.

If its run is over and done with after 3 or 4 weeks, Paramount may have a hard time convincing itself to greenlight a STAR TREK 12. It NEEDS to have a good, long run.

March 1, 2008 9:53 pm

I just noticed the INFOCOM shirt J.J. Abrams is wearing in that picture, and just physically felt my odds of seeing this movie rise.

Well, I’m _pretty_ sure that’s what I felt rising.

Irishtrekkie
March 1, 2008 10:19 pm

‘oh what if Scotty was a woman?’ or ‘what if Uhura was an alien?’ or ‘what if Kirk was married?’ those were all ideas that are just heretical

scotty a women ? no !
Uhura an Alien , lame !
KirK married , ahahahahahahahhahahahah never !

thank god for those ideas never been used

Harry Ballz
March 1, 2008 10:30 pm

When I hear some of the ideas they bounced around I’m reminded of the outlandish and stupid Superman script penned by Abrams just a few short years ago. It’s irrelevant that he was commissioned to write it by someone else, the point remains that, for a price, he was willing to screw around with the Superman mythology………let’s hope he hasn’t done the same with Trek!

Cagmar
March 1, 2008 10:31 pm

That change in pace for modern audiences is what dragged down Voyager and Enterprise. Let me point specifically to Seven of Nine, or the death of the instrumental theme (in favour of a flaky pop song) for Enterprise. I’m even a fan of the model ships over the cgi ones, which did not have the same sense of weight or texture in space — and that goes for Star Wars, as well.

They can make more twists and make XI more explosive — but please don’t put a laser fight in where a good conversation used to be.

Sisko Is The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him
March 1, 2008 10:45 pm

I am sorry but Voyager and Enterprise’s ham handed attempts and modernity are not relevent. Putting in a bimbo and a theme song are not exactly new forms of story telling. Lets face it, the problems with Voyager and Enterprise is that they were actually too much like shows from a decade past. Bermage didn’t know how to compete with X Files, West Wing, 24, Alias, Lost, etc. The way shows worked evolved and they kept telling the same stories the same way with a few gimicks.

The only show in the trek pantheon to get it recently was of course DS9

Clearly the guys behind Lost and Alias understand modern storytelling…and clearly Berman and Brage do not.

Morn Speaks
March 1, 2008 10:46 pm

I think the movie will do $150 million domestically.

Bobby
March 1, 2008 10:49 pm

#18
JJ DID NOT WRITE THE MOVIE!

This has been stated over and over again by Roberto Orci.

Sisko Is The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him
March 1, 2008 10:50 pm

i meant Braga not Brage

Sarah Connor
March 1, 2008 10:52 pm

“18. Harry Ballz – March 1, 2008

When I hear some of the ideas they bounced around”

um….clearly he wasn’t saying they ‘bounced those ideas around’ he was making a point that they were not interested in doing a ‘reboot’…it is amazing how people just twist things

Cagmar
March 1, 2008 10:52 pm

#20 Granted. All I’m saying is that Berman and Braga said the same things about modernizing their show. It’s a very disquieting thing to hear ST producers say.

Sisko Is The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him
March 1, 2008 10:56 pm

25

disquieting?

how? Abrams Lindelof and the boys are clearly in a whole different league than Berman and Braga. Plus Berman and Braga were right when they realised Trek needed more modern techniques…the problem was they were not talented enough to do it and they let all the talented people like Ron Moore and Bryan Fuller go.

change is good if it is done right.

Cagmar
March 1, 2008 10:59 pm

True. But like I said, even the CG ships in place of models… look like CG. Even that has been a problem for me in recent years. I mean, there are ways even well-intentioned people can over-modernize. I recall Jonathan Frakes refused to CG his explosions for First Contact, and that was one of the best things I’d heard from a ST director since TNG took over the films.

Ban An Appeal
March 1, 2008 11:04 pm

Early effects work “nothing short of astonishing”? I really, really hope so. Here’s hoping that ILM raises the bar for Trek effects, and that story and characterization also reach that level.

I’m counting the days (not literally, thanks to Anthony’s ticker).

Gary Seven
March 1, 2008 11:05 pm

I see Anthony’s point about how Lindelof may have been using the Star Wars prequels in a constructive way. I hope that Anthony is correct in his interpretation.
I say this because I thought the Star Wars prequels were terrible and far inferior. They were boring, with poor characterizations, and mere special effects extravaganzas. I realize I sound old, so maybe it’s just a generational sensibility. . But then again maybe they were just were movies with poor characterizations and poor scripts with good special effects, and that is what audiences want nowadays. I hope Star Trek accomodates to this new, modern sensibility to a degree. It must adapt to survive. Yet it should accomodate but not assimilate to it. I really hope that is not going to be assimilated into it. If it does become assimilated into these modern sensibilities it will no longer be good Star Trek. But it may be popular. That is a poor trade off in my point of view.

But it would be great if I fret about nothing and Anthony’s interpretation is right. It often is.

Can't Wait for May 2009
March 1, 2008 11:43 pm

Im really hope that Paramount does a good job marketing this movie to non fans. Like many people have stated before this is make or break for Star Trek. And we really need the new blood to keep it going. If I was Paramount I would at least put out something new with Indiana Jones this May. Maybe a teaser where we actually see some of the cast. Then release the 1st trailer by December. And also put a commerical in during the Super Bowl next year. And then one final trailer in March of 2009. Now if the story is good then I don’t think the movie should have a problem definitly making over 100 million. But in order to really make a profit from this movie it has to make over 200 million domesticly and over 100 overseas. So here is to keeping my fingers crossed that they do not mess up marketing this movie. And also im keeping my fingers crossed the movie will be released in IMAX!

Iowagirl
March 1, 2008 11:55 pm

– Did I say that? That doesn’t sound like something I would have said. –

Damage control.

– ‘what if Kirk was married?’ those were all ideas that are just heretical. –

This idea is not as far-fetched as Lindelof might think, as Kirk actually was married once. See, this happens if you don’t get involved in the matter really thoroughly. (Wasn’t he also the one who accidentally forgot Bones?)

The Last Maquis
March 2, 2008 12:08 am

# 18. Harry Ballz
Hey Harry, Was JJ really gonna screw With the Superman Storyline?
that Sucks. though I’m more of A Batman….”Man” my self.
It’s Too bad they wont Do it, but I’d love to see Frank Millers: “the Dark knight Returns” as a movie, God That’d Rock!! with films like 300 and Sin City, the Part where Bats Squares off Against Supes alone Would be Worth the Admission.

nyxtreme
March 2, 2008 12:16 am

Paramount is known to have good marketing skills. Star Trek is one of their “core” franchises. After 10 films, for them to decide to bring it to a “blockbuster” level is at best, respect for the franchise it should deserve, or at worst, the most opportunistic for profit squeezing.

March 2, 2008 12:18 am

I grow more hopeful everyday with these gentlemen at the helm.

Prologic9
March 2, 2008 12:29 am

Cookie post. COOKIES!!!

Gary Seven
March 2, 2008 12:57 am

#31-
Kirk was married? Really?
Do you mean Carol Marcus? Or what?

Headless Redshirt
March 2, 2008 12:59 am

That INFOCOM t-shirt is a great thing to see. It scores extremely high on the “geek cred” meter.

For those of you who don’t understand it, it means, “I played computer games back when they were all text and you had to type.”

Of course, if he wore a Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle or Sam & Max t-shirt, that would be cool too. Just different geek cred.

Paul
March 2, 2008 1:00 am

Didn’t read all of the posts so assumptions i will apologize for in advance, mea culpa.

i’ve noticed a negative trend here since i’ve started visiting, and i have to say that it is beginning to have an affect on me. the final blow has to be the move to May 09. on one hand i am so glad that they have the extra time now to make a great, well rounded movie, as well as have the extra time b/c of the strike. but i hate having to be patient!!! i was soooo excited to log on on Xmas Eve and see the countdown clock wind down past 365 days. and then having to endure the move to Summer 09. i was afraid i was gonna break down but then i remembered the paraphrased words of a legendary actor who was a legendary Starfleet captain “ITS JUST A TV SHOW!!!”

LISTEN UP (and i’m only doing the all caps thing right here to get attention and then i’m done) YOU HAVE TO HAVE A LITTLE FAITH THAT STAR TREK 08 WILL BE GREAT.

If the bigwigs think that Trek can hang with the best of em, they finally hopped in my boat. i think my college graduation present is gonna be a private screening of Star Trek.

So, TPTB, gonna need a test audience? (Had to ask that was obligatory, and i will sign whatever oaths of secrecy. just sayin…. it was worth a try)

Decius is Stonn, Stonn is Decius
March 2, 2008 1:22 am

what, these guys are all, what… 5 foot 9? 5 foot 8?

i have a feeling they’re just punks, and don’t have the chops for ST, period.

Captain Robert April
March 2, 2008 1:25 am

Does the name “Miramanee” ring a bell?

Decius is Stonn, Stonn is Decius
March 2, 2008 1:26 am

and, uhm, 38, the “bigwigs” greenlit Nemesis, Enterprise, etc. It’s also a wonder that the whole thing didn’t end with the first couple of seasons of TNG because that motherf*cker (even WITH G-Rod involved) was BAD ACTING, BAD WRITING, BAD DIRECTING. I mean, any time I see Riker with his arms folded, barking that bad dialogue again I’m going to puke. like a bunch of talk radio hosts doing community theater.

Captain Robert April
March 2, 2008 1:27 am

In any case, they’d better be taking a step back and thinking long and hard about what they’re doing to the ship, and the possible blowback they’re gonna get.

Decius is Stonn, Stonn is Decius
March 2, 2008 1:29 am

yes, 40, miramanee was stoned to death (she was NOT kirok), and Capt April’s big appearance was as a cartoon character. nice obelisk, though.

Gary Seven
March 2, 2008 1:39 am

Miramanee was not married to Kirk. She was married to Kirok. Kirk wasn’t married, was he?

Iowagirl
March 2, 2008 1:39 am

#36
Miramanee.

noirgwio
March 2, 2008 1:47 am

I’m Encouraged By What I’ve Read On This Flick. I Think We (trekkies/ers) Will Be Happy In The End. My Worry Is That I Hope It Will Find That Mainstream Acceptance As With Transformers And Casino Royale… And IMO, TOS & ENT Were The Best Of All The Series’. While DS9 Was The Most Innovative, And TNG & VOY, Were Moreover Entertaining In A Multitude Of Ways.

AJ
March 2, 2008 1:49 am

15: I, too, noticed JJ’s INFOCOM T-shirt. It, too gave me hope, but then reminded me of all the girls I didn’t meet in college because I was spelunking the GUE or trying to gnusto spells and defeat Krill. Best games ever devised.

This film needs to break Trek internationally outside of its few traditional EU markets. Over half of Transformers’ revenue came from overseas, where the old cartoon/toy line may not have had such a fanbase. Trek should be marketed as something new and shiny, and not as an old friend with a new paintjob. The current campaign, if you can call it that, resonates with us fans, but does nothing for those who have had no exposure to Trek. For many, this will be the first time seeing our favorite ship and crew, so it must be done without reliance on nostalgia or recognition of the iconic Big E.

Also, it’s funny that Damon references the SW prequels. They were different in terms of pacing, and they packed more of a visceral punch. That was not the problem. It was the writing. Hearing Padme and Anakin speak with one another was like nails on a blackboard, as was hearing Samuel Jackson slowly barf out his lines as a Jedi Master.

Iowagirl
March 2, 2008 1:50 am

#44
Gary Seven, I was posting before I saw your post 44. Kirk IS Kirok. He was suffering from amnesia, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean they are two different persons. Lindelof has put the “Kirk being married” example in one line with Scotty being a women and Uhura being an alien. I think this is inappropriate. Kirk maybe would not have married under “normal” circumstances because he considers himself as being married to the Enterprise, but the fact that he was married when not being aware of the strain of responsibility towards this ship and his crew demonstrates that being married is in line with his emotions and stance as a human being.

Harry Ballz
March 2, 2008 1:51 am

Miramanee can visit my teepee anytime!

Gary Seven
March 2, 2008 1:55 am

#44 Iowagirl:

OK. I see ur point even though I have a different point of view. So why don’t we agree to respectfully disagree. But you know, how a man and a woman handle disagreements is the key to a successful marriage. So…………….
Iowagirl, will you marry me?

wpDiscuz