J.J. Abrams on Story, Technology, and “Mystery Boxes” – Lunch w/ TED

Our “Lunch with TED” feature is back—and here to stay. (For the uninitiated, see Dustin’s original TED post here.) To commemorate this momentous occasion (and, frankly, the return of Lost, now in its sixth season) I chose to highlight a TED Talk by one of my favorite filmmakers—J.J. Abrams, a producer of hit films and TV shows including Lost, Alias, Fringe, Cloverfield, Mission Impossible III, and Star Trek.

In this TED Talk filmed in 2007, Abrams explores the relationships between mystery, story, creativity, and technology. In stories, he explains, the withholding of information is often more interesting than the revealing of it. Mystery and possibility tantalize us and keeps us coming back for more.

This, in part, explains my household’s addiction to his television shows. After all, half the fun for fans of shows like Lost or Fringe is spending spare moments between episodes puzzling over what happened in the previous show and speculating about what’s coming next. Shows like these have the singular ability to not only provide entertainment, but wonder—a rare thing in a rapidly disenchanting cultural landscape.

Our ever-evolving technology is a great boon in as much is it helps to tell stories that create wonder. Though we often over-consume and abuse the gifts of technology (Is there ever a moment when our devices cease their whirring?), its rapid evolution is a gift for storytellers in a variety of mediums. It has leveled the playing field so that essentially anyone with creativity and gumption can easily produce quality work.

There is no excuse for you, then, young artist. In the words of J.J. Abrams, “Go make your movie!” ‘