Abrams started his talk by showing a wrapped box he's owned for decades. It's a "mystery package" he bought from Lou Tannen's Magic store in New York. It has a big question mark on it. He's never opened the box and never will open it because he says the mystery of what's inside the box is more interesting than anything that might be in the box. "It represents infinite possibility; it represents hope; it represents potential... mystery is the catalyst for imagination... maybe there are times where mystery is more important than knowledge."
J.J. Abrams traces his love of the unseen mystery -- the heart of Alias, Lost, and the upcoming Cloverfield -- back to its own magical beginnings, which may or may not include an early obsession with magic, the love of a supportive grandfather, or his own unopened Mystery Box.Link to video of talk | Link to a Hi-Res QuickTime | Link to MP3 file. (Thanks, Jason Wishnow!)
As a speaker, Abrams' enthusiasm -- for the construction of Kleenex boxes, for the quiet moments between shark attacks in Jaws, for today's filmmaking technologies, and above all for the potent mystery of an unopened box -- is incredibly infectious, and sure to appeal to everyone from budding filmmakers to die-hard Kill Your Televisionistas.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects