LOST: THE SERIES
A village of yurts, above, was built in Ka Iwi Reserve near Makapuu in Season 2, when Walt was captured and Michael tried to find him.
Location, location, location
The real inside story on "Lost" is how Oahu is transformed each week into sites from Africa to utopia
The second part of Season 3 of "Lost" premieres Wednesday (with no reruns!), and it's been so long since we last saw the castaways and their bizarre fellow island dwellers that it almost feels like a fresh start. Despite the significant plot and character changes that occurred in the first six episodes, one element that remains the same is the resourceful transformation of Oahu into authentic-looking destinations all over the world.
One could argue that creating the perfect atmosphere is the most important part of the show that viewers seldom observe.
"Lost" production designer Zack Grobler and locations manager Jim Triplett envision the ideal setting for an upcoming episode while the previous one is still shooting, often pushing their workday to 15 hours.
"There's little details that you don't notice, but you'll miss them if they're not there," said Grobler. "Nobody ever thinks about how they get there."
The cages that have held Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) this season were constructed in Paradise Park in Manoa Valley.
Remember Nigeria in Eko's flashbacks? Those were shot at Waialua Sugar Mill. Powerful fans blew dust around African kiosks, and a tinted camera lens elicited a mysterious Third World aura. And did you know that Sawyer and Kate have been held captive in cages -- constructed by Grobler -- right up in Manoa's Paradise Park? Be sure to watch for the downtown satellite city hall in an upcoming episode. Grobler's magic will make you believe it's a tube station in England.
In Episode 7 Wednesday, we will learn more about how Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) got to the island. This will likely include scenes at Camp Erdman, which became the utopian Othersville with paint, construction and copious lawn watering.
Wednesday's episode will fill in the backstory of Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), one of the mysterious Others.
Providing a canvas: Crafting the world out of Oahu is as hard it sounds -- involving complex scouting and alterations
Television is a compromise, according to "Lost" locations manager Jim Triplett. The anxious kind, where millions of dollars are at stake and every minute counts.
One thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that viewers must feel as though they've traveled the world in any given episode. Not an easy task to accomplish when the crew and actors rarely leave Oahu.
So how does the production staff manage to achieve this so rapidly, week after week?
» The process begins every 10 days, when Triplett and production designer Zack Grobler receive a 30-page outline that gives them an idea of what the 58- to 62-page script -- which endures many drafts -- will contain.
» Triplett, who moved to Hawaii in the 1970s and knows every corner of Oahu, considers places that might look like New York or Australia or Korea or England or Africa. "My job is to give options to the director and to Zack," said Triplett. "I try to provide a canvas for them to work on."
» Locations are selected and approved, and Triplett obtains permits while Grobler sketches set designs.
» Eighteen to 20 people embark on a "tech scout," which involves visiting all five to 10 locations for a particular episode in one day. Every detail is addressed and assigned.
» Meetings take place at various stages in the process. The production team reads through the script and discusses special effects -- explosions or floods, for instance -- or which background might be added digitally with a green screen, such as the Sydney Opera House. Wardrobe representatives take note to make sure no character in those scenes wears green or blue, which will fade into the background.
» It should take eight days to shoot 42 minutes. "Lost" takes 10 days. "While we're still running around filming an existing location and Jim's got the permits and I've got all the stuff we need to change and paint and furnish, we get the next episode, so we have to start talking about that one," said Grobler. "That's where things get a little bit tricky."
The reason "Lost" takes so long to shoot is because it is mostly done outdoors. The only sets housed in the Hawaii Film Studio at Diamond Head are the underwater aquarium where Jack has been held captive (and the operating room where Ben's fate is in Jack's hands); the interior of Juliet's house, where she held her book club meeting; and the Pearl Hatch (which was discarded last season and rebuilt when more scenes appeared this season). The scene where rushing water threatened Jack and Juliet was filmed in the studio water tank, with fire hoses manufacturing a current. Triplett said they worked hard to repair and clean the tank that had not been used since "Baywatch."
Cabins at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia stand in for the meticulous Othersville, where characters like Juliet and Ben lived before the survivors' plane crashed.
» The crew's call time is usually 6 a.m. Grobler said he'll often work until 9 or 10 p.m. "I've been known not to go home," he said.
» Grobler has up to 50 people working for him, including art directors, film architects, set designers, painters, sculptors, carpenters, prop and set dressers, translators and researchers. If Sun and Jin have a scene in Korea, Triplett finds the place to shoot it, and Grobler makes it look genuine. What do the signs on streets and taxicabs and hotels say? How do they look? What about vehicle registration? Magazines a character would read? Architecture? Grobler designs and builds everything from scratch, and "we want to make sure we don't get those wrong," he said. "Sometimes we find perfect locations that have everything ready, but often it's a just a shell."
» When an office building or private home must be dramatically altered, Grobler and his team take meticulous photos of the original arrangement. Then they remove everything, paint, put up signs, furnish in a way that's appropriate to the era and characters, and shoot the scenes. Just as rapidly, the crew will undo the alterations, repaint the walls and replace the furniture and decorations. Grobler has even constructed a hospital in an empty office building for a day, which was easier than moving the crew to an actual hospital. All of this happens in two to three days.
» When they choose a location, such as Times Supermarket in Kahala, Triplett posts dozens of "no parking" signs a day or two in advance. "Finding a place to park the circus is one of our biggest problems," he said.
Another example of creative use of resources: The Hawaii Convention Center was transformed into an airport in Australia.
Representatives from that particular location must agree to confidentiality. Crew members have signed such strict confidentiality agreements that they are not even allowed to tell family members about the show. Bystanders may observe, but can't take photos.
» After trailers and cables and lights and 100 people have traipsed through a home, office or outdoor area, one would expect it to look worn. But the "Lost" crew takes pride in the improvements they leave. At the Others' yurt camp at Ka Iwi Reserve by Makapuu, they spent two weeks cleaning graffiti off the rocks and removing two dozen abandoned cars and building Mongolian-style huts. Two weeks of preparation resulted in two days of shooting. After the yurts were broken down, said Triplett, "the place was better than when we found it." Camp Erdman even won a community award for its dramatically enhanced appearance -- thanks to its transformation into Othersville.
Managing all of this is as difficult as it sounds. Recent storms washed away Sawyer's tent at the survivors' camp at Police Beach on the North Shore, and last week the crew was busy rebuilding it. There's always something.
"Television is moviemaking in turbo mode," said Grobler. Even more so when you're in the middle of the Pacific. But so far there are no plans to do it differently.
"'Lost' is Hawaii," pure and simple," producer Jean Higgins said last year. "It's the location. It's the island. It's where everything is. You don't have these looks on the mainland."