J.J. Abrams defends secrecy: 'You're ruining it before it even exists'
Ever wonder why writer-producer J.J. Abrams is so ultra-secretive about his projects? And how he’s able to keep literally hundreds of cast and crew members from spilling details online?
Abrams (Fringe, Star Trek) was taking questions from a few reporters following his TV press tour panel in Pasadena on Sunday for NBC’s Revolution and the subject turned to his oft-noted penchant for secrecy. The filmmaker passionately explained why he’s so reluctant to share details about his movies and TV shows, how it can be frustrating to be evasive with fans and reporters, and how he’s able to keep lid on so much information in today’s online-driver spoiler-centric media universe.
“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,” Abrams says. “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 [video] that came out two months before.” Yet Abrams says he doesn’t bully and nag his teams on the subject. “It’s not like there are threats, it’s not like we’re begging them every day,” he says. “We just say up front 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.”
As a movie and TV fan, the director says he doesn’t quite understand why somebody would want to be spoiled in the first place, such as on his upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness. “Why do I want to see [a behind-the-scenes element of the film] if it’s something I don’t even understand yet?” Abrams says. “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.”
Yet as much as Abrams believes in secrecy, he dislikes having to be so vague in the months leading up to a project’s release.
“It’s only fun to keep things quiet when it finally comes out as scheduled, because then you feel like, ‘Oh I didn’t just spend six months ruining the movie for people,’” Abrams says. “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.”