J.J. Abrams Talks Preserving the Viewer Experience Through Secrecy
Some people get relatively annoyed by the lack of information revealed about any new project being produced or directed by J.J. Abrams. Whether it's TV or movies, the Bad Robot head honcho does not like giving up the game. In fact, for anyone who has seen his TED talk about The Mystery Box, he actively keeps secrets. Frankly, especially when it comes to something like the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, we're fine with at least one filmmaker staying mum on his projects, especially when the Internet does all it can to spoil anything and everything months before a TV show or film even comes out. Recently, Abrams sat down and talked about his penchant for mystery and secrecy, and he's less adamant about it than you think.
For Abrams, it's not about keeping things secret for his own sanity, but rather about giving the viewer the best possible experience when the time comes to sit down and watch. The director told EW:
"I will sit in a meeting before a movie with 80-some people, heads of departments, and literally say that all I ask is that we preserve the experience for the viewer. Every choice we make, every costume fitting, every pad of makeup, every set that's built — all that stuff becomes less magical if it's discussed and revealed and pictures are posted online. I just want to make sure that when somebody sees something in a movie they didn't watch a 60-minute behind-the-scene that came out two months before."
Now obviously we like to post featurettes and behind-the-scenes footage, but that's mostly because many readers out there like checking out every facet of a film in front of and behind the camera. But in the case of Abrams, it sounds like he doesn't like those kind of elements spoiling the suspension of disbelief. He says:
"Why do I want to see [a behind-the-scenes element of the film] if it's something I don't even understand yet? Let me experience it so I know what the movie is and have the opportunity to get sucked into that experience, and feel like, ‘Oh my god, that world is real, that ship is real, that battle is real' ... If I've [already] seen how ILM or whatever visual effects company made that look real, you're ruining it before it even exists."
We can see his point. After all, it's hard to get lost in the world of Star Trek or anything else if you know what's just a visual effect or what's real. But then again, many of us who are enamored with filmmaking and obsessed with every facet of the process understand that and still enjoy the story. Besides, there are certain mysteries that just won't remain unsolved before a film comes out, and Abrams understands that. The director says, "It's not like there are threats, it's not like we're begging them every day. We just say upfront that all the work we're doing is about making this a special experience for the viewer; let's preserve that as long as we can.” And that's why Abrams doesn't come right out and answer a lot of revealing questions.
However, Abrams isn't a fan of keeping the secrets himself as much as he likes maintaining the mystery. Abrams elaborated, “It's not fun during the experience of withholding. Because then you sound like a coy bastard … and you're sort of being a jerk. It's about making sure that when you see the movie — or the show when it airs — that you didn't read the synopsis that came out of my fat mouth because I'm answering a question that I'm grateful anyone would even ask — which is, ‘What happens?' I would rather people experience what happens rather than being told what happens and then have it confirmed.” So rather than hearing about Cumberbatch's villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, let's just see it for the first time in May.