Q&A with “Lost” director Marita Grabiak

By Alex Stedman

Even in Hollywood, director Marita Grabiak’s resume is nothing to scoff at. On the contrary, her reel contains clips from hit shows such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Smallville,” “Dawson’s Creek” and even “Lost.” She directed the eighth episode of the first season of “Lost,” entitled “Raised by Another,” and took some time to chat with journalism student Alex Stedman about shooting in Hawaii, the excitement of a new show and working with Hollywood giant J.J. Abrams.

Marita

What was your experience on “Lost” like?

“Lost” is a high watermark. It was wonderful working with J.J. Abrams. I also did a couple “Alias”’s. And it was new and fresh show and there can’t be anything better than the location of Hawaii. I’m the kind of person that fully takes advantage of my weekends, so I really got to know the island of Oahu quite well. It was a fabulous experience.

And then it’s always exciting working on the first thirteen [episodes] on the show because the energy’s usually high, everybody wants to succeed, everybody’s kind of just digging in and pulling together. Nobody wants to see it fail. It’s quite a different atmosphere than when you’re stepping into, say, “Cold Case,” or “CSI” in their seventh season. Every single TV show is a different blueprint and a different personality.

How creatively involved was JJ Abrams in “Lost”?

In the beginning, he was, I would say, dominate over everything.  We had lunchtime meetings to talk about the tone of the story. And when I was in Hawaii, there’s daily phone calls checking up. He would get the phone call when we wrapped and he would call and ask how was the day and discuss the scenes. Sometimes he would make comments on dailies. I would say he was extremely hands on, which is pretty typical with a very good, sort of genius showrunner/creator. He would just kind of make my bones shake being in the room because you just know you’re in the room with somebody of such genius level. He was extremely, extremely smart. You know how people can throw hissy fits and he can judge people by their inability to handle stress. He’s the kind of person to cut through the mustard with his calm and I admired him very much for that. He was involved in every aspect of the outline, the first draft, the second draft, just constant phone calls back and forth because, basically the challenge of that show was making the schedule.

What challenges came with shooting in Hawaii?

Oahu is an island where you can’t just walk in and film anywhere you want. It’s an island, so it’s mountainous and you have postal roads, and then you have a couple roads to cut through. So if you film, you have to film where you can plug in your electricity. You have to have generators to make lights, to run cameras, to park your entire caravan of all these cars. So you would look at the island and you look at the TV show “Lost,” and you think that you’re shooting all over that island, you’re  not. There’s a few pockets of places, and then to get to these pockets of places, you’re literally crossing around the whole island, which could take two or three hours.

“Lost” seemed like a pretty big risk. What do you think made it such a hit?

Because he thinks big. J.J. Abrams thinks big. You think big, you shoot high, that’s basically it. You have people that shoot low and it’s just a personality thing. He’s just a larger than life personality, so larger than life personalities who have intellectual capabilities and great artistic talents are going to think big.

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