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Editor of TV hit ‘LOST’ speaks to students at Nashoba Tech

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WESTFORD — Students in Nashoba Valley Technical High School’s radio and television broadcasting program have been visited by Stephen Semel, the Emmy-nominated editor of the popular TV show “LOST.”

During a recent visit to the school, Semel gave the students an in-depth look at how an episode of the show is made.

Though he’s happy working behind the scenes, he said he also enjoyed making a cameo in the premiere episode of season three, playing one of “the Others” on the island.

“I had no clue what I wanted to do when I was in high school,” said Semel, who grew up on Long Island. “My parents wanted me to become a doctor.

When I went to college, there was a film program at my school,” he said. “The films were shown Saturday nights around midnight. We’d stay up and talk for hours about the movies. I decided I wanted to be part of something that could get people like me talking until 2 a.m.”

About 25 students and staff from the broadcasting program — as well as a couple of other “LOST” fanatics who happened to wander into the auditorium — learned that it takes between 200 and 250 people, from writers to the cast and crew to sound editors, to make a single episode of the hit ABC mystery about a group of people trapped on an island after a plane crash.

Students were amazed to find out how long it takes to produce a single episode of the show.

“You start with the script,” Semel said. “Eight or nine writers sit in a room and develop stories. It takes days, then two writers are assigned to write the script. That might take a couple of weeks. The script is submitted to Disney and ABC for approval. The script is then published for production.”

After eight days of preparation, shooting starts, and that takes about 10 days, he said.

“(The cast and crew) work their butts off day after week after month,” said Semel.

Though the show’s shot almost entirely in Hawaii, Semel and the production crew are based in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and three sons.

After the episode is shot, “the director and I work together three to four days, then we present it to the producers,” said Semel. “They get six days to work on it, then it goes to the studio and the network for their notes. I get one or two more days with it, then turn it over to the sound editor and music composer.”

When asked what the biggest challenge is, Semel said, “Being able to work with sleep deprivation.”

In response to a question about what motivates him, he said, “To take something that’s written on a page and create something that makes people go crazy.”

Semel started as an apprentice editor 30 years ago and was the editor for such films as “Count of Monte Cristo,” “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” and “Miracle Mile.” He also worked on several other TV shows, including “Tales from the Crypt” and “Amazing Stories.” He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on “LOST” in 2006.

Semel’s appearance at Nashoba Tech was made possible by Tewksbury-based Avid Technologies, a leader in digital media creation tools for film, video, audio, animation, games and broadcast professionals. The company has won Emmy awards, Grammy awards and two Oscars.

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