Q & A with M. Night ShyamalanChats about directing The Village with the UK!
Colin Kennedy, editor Empire Magazine chats to M. Night Shyamalan, the writer, producer and director of The Village along with many people from around Cambridge, Liverpool and York.
CK: (Colin Kennedy) My guess is there might be some questions about endings later, so I want to start with beginnings. Can you just tell us how the idea for The Village started to take shape?
M Night Shyamalan: It first came from a desire to be rebellious. Itís hard to say because itís a period piece, but thereís a punk element underneath, very subversive Ė I get that way after a successful movie. Unbreakable was like a punk reactionÖ in my own ways not to sell out or to take an easy road or anything, but be absolutely vulnerable and risk taking, as much as humanly possible in that position, donít hide from a positionÖ really lay yourself out there so you canít sleep. And so that led me to saying letís make a female lead movie. So that was the first instinct. And then I was offered a movie to do from another studio called Wuthering Heights, the book - adapt the book and make it and I had two amazing stars attached. So really considered it, because that was a wonderful way to do this and fell in love with that time period and the love and that kind of knotted romance. And itís a little bit scary and stuff. But I ended up passing because I really didnít think I could express enough originality in it to feel happy after two years. But maybe Iím wrong with that decision, but it stuck with me so I kind of wrote my own love story.
CK: I saw you describe it as King Kong meets Wuthering Heights.
M Night Shyamalan: Yes. I had a King Kongy idea, I just saw this group of people that were doing chores and they incorporated these rituals of a creature to protect themselves from creatures in their chores and then just went back to their chores. And I was very interested in those people and that was just sitting there waiting to do something, it wasnít a movie, just a kind of a colour.
CK: And is it also fair to say that 9/11, a tragedy that was a local tragedy for you, flight 93 crashed into the Pennsylvania woods where this movie is set. Was that very much uppermost in your thoughts?
M Night Shyamalan: Yes. I mean Signs we shot right after that, we were all trapped there, nobody could fly because all the planes were grounded. So that was bizarre and I think that that heightened the feelings afterwards and just the sense of not happy with the world and the violence in the world and wanting to check out a little bit. And if I could go back to a simpler time and do thingsÖ that weíve lost our way a bit and do things in a simple manner.
CK: Although itís for the most part a period piece, in that sense itís probably also your most contemporary movie because itís about the culture of fear and systems of control and that loss of innocence. Was that deliberate?
M Night Shyamalan: Yes. I approach it from a very positive thing even though the colours at the end of Unbreakable and the Village are wrapped with a lot of darkness and complication, Iím coming at it from a positive place of innocence as strength, which may be an antiquated idea because if youíre innocent itís always like oh, he or she is innocent and they canít handle, but for me itís the ultimate form of strength. The supernatural in the movie turns out to be love so I really was going at it from those colours and trying to throw on all these violent events that cause catalysts for you to find some beauty inside yourself or find something extraordinary inside yourself. I mean all the four movies have that, itís a violent act that causes birth to something.
CK: Much as Iíd like to hog you all night, weíve got questions from four cities to get through and weíre going to start right here in Brixton at the Ritzy. [overspeaking] Lot of hands in the air. Right at the back there.
Unidentified male speaker: You always tend to have a twist in a lot of your movies, do you think that because audiences know really about the formulaic of plots of most Hollywood movies itís important to always have that in a movie for you to enjoy it?
M Night Shyamalan: Thatís just the way I think. If you saw short stories that I wrote when I was a kid or the short films I did, they alwaysÖ seen as revelations of the story movements, but these kind of paradigm shifts that are in Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and the Village, but not in Signs, for me thatís a different kind of movement, plot movement. And thatís the way the story came to me, like that. [spoiler removed] Whatís interesting Ė I guess what I didnít take into account entirely was that itís almost by seeing my name in the front of the movieÖ I feel now if I said Iím making a movie about two women and a vacuum cleaner, theyíd say itís not two women and itís not a vacuum cleaner. [laughter] It is a vacuum cleaner. No, thatís something else entirely. [laughter] And weíre at that place now, where I go oh my gosh, nothing I say is taken as accurate. So thatís tricky. My tendency is naturally to come and have stories like that, if this story was about me and him and he had an agenda or something, I may not tell you the agenda until later on and in fact I might tell you the opposite agenda, or make you think the opposite, make you think itís me that has that certain thing in their character. And it would come like that, like wrapped like that. So itís definitely not necessary. I didnít have it like that in Signs, for example, and thereís plenty of stories I have that donít have that and plenty that do. SoÖ I donít know if I answered your question. Iím sorry. [laughter]
CK: Iím hoping we can move straight without any twists to Cambridge. Cambridge, do you have a question for Night?
Unidentified male speaker: Good evening from Cambridge. Got a two part question. We would like to know whether youíve used the same cinematographer on all these films and Dan would like you to talk about the shot, you frequently frame a shot in doorway. Talk about that.
M Night Shyamalan: Very visual question. No, Iíve actually used different cinematographers for each of them, primarily because you get kind of a colour, like if there wasÖ Unbreakable, for me it felt very European and when I was thinking of it and in its flavour, so Eduardo Serra is such an amazing cinematographer. But then I didnít feel on Signs that that was an appropriate approach to that because itís really kind of a Gothic Americana piece. So I was trying to find somebody that could do warm America and scary and so Tak Fujimoto was definitely the guy to go to for that. And then Roger Deakins, Iíve basically always been interested in his stuff and because of the Coen Brothers weíve never had a chance toÖ because they write and direct constantly too, so I have to get in the rotation at the right time. And so I got in the rotation at the right time and so Roger came and I wanted to get that kind of natural beauty that he brings.
Unidentified male speaker: Exteriors isÖ
M Night Shyamalan: Yes. Thereís a stylistic beauty like Emmanuelle Beskie[?], who makes beautiful photographs, but I tend to like B subject matters, like ghosts and aliens and monsters in the woods and things, and I didnít want to take a too non realistic a stance on those things, I wanted to go real. There was another cinematographer that I considered, Iím blanking on him, Iíve said his name a thousand timesÖ He did Eight Mile and he didÖ you guys know who Iím talking about? He did Amores Perres and all those, just an amazing young cinematographer. There it is Rodrigo, right. So heís amazing, so he and Roger were the ones I was thinking about for the Village because I wanted it to be pretty in a very real way and the scares to be as naturalistic as we could. And then what was the second part of the question?
Unidentified male speaker: About your framing in doorways.
M Night Shyamalan: Framing in doorways. I feel better when things are perfect, the doorwayís in the centre of the frame and the girlís in the centre of the doorway, somethingís going to go wrong because when everythingís perfectÖ [laughter]. And thatís actually why cinematographers all move to the right or the left, you place the person to the left because itís more comforting. And I was like why do you want to make them more comforting? This is not a comfortable situation. Yes, Iím always nudging the cinematographer going put her in the centre, a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more. Okay, thatís good. And they roll their eyes and, again, centre frame. And itís almost like hearing a barometer of tension and it goes eeeeeeeh, right when theyíre in the centre. Because if sheís dead centre and she says I want to go through the woods, that kind of thing itís the perfect conduit for power.
Unidentified male speaker: Attack from both sides.
M Night Shyamalan: Yes. I mean if sheís talking to someone and sheís right to left or something, itís softening, itís gentle. You understand that theyíre having a balanced conversation.
CK: Well, everythingís going perfectly so far.
M Night Shyamalan: You just jinxed it! [laughter]
CK: So weíre going to go north to Liverpool. Liverpool, do you have a question?
Unidentified male speaker: Good evening, Brixton. This is Liverpool. Iím afraid weíre having a few problems with the picture at the moment but finger crossed. In fact it was exactly at the same point you said everythingís going swimmingly. [laughter] Our picture went down, but we can still hear you fine. Our first question today is from Liam and he says your films deal with the enclosed world, when are you going to deal with something in the real world?
M Night Shyamalan: Iím probably not the right person to do that movie and maybe just because Iím an escapist. My wifeís always telling me, youíve got to watch the news. [laughter]. I donít want to watch the news. [laughter] Basically Iíve just lived in a fantasy world since nine and never really stopped. Let me think aboutÖ there was a very good real movie that was offered to me that was actually an incident with a fire and it was a very, very cool story. Somehow Iíll read it in that something not real will creep in. What I mean by that is a faith in something, so immediately Iíll close my eyes and thereíll be a moment in a stairwell where he will Ė he meaning our fire-fighter Ė will go away from that moment and the fire sounds will go away and it will be like think clearly, what do I do, what I do? And an answer will come in some manner of something, like a door will come and open and close and something, and heíll go thatís where I need to go. I have to pick, I only have one chance to go and one of these routes to save someone, which way should I go? And he goes that way. Some kind of movement of belief in something thatís not there would creep in and keep creeping into that. Thatís just one moment, but it would creep in. I donít know. Iím fascinated by that kind of question which I get asked a lot from press and things like that, when are you going to do a romantic comedy and Iím confused a little by it, but I understand. Since I write them I feel more like Agatha Christie than a director. So itís like why doesnít Agatha Christie write a romantic comedy? Itís strange to even ask that. I donít really have anybody telling me what to do or not to do. The Sixth Sense was me going away and stop thinking about what people, stop thinking about anything and just going what do I like about movies? How do I want to tell a story? And that style emerged which wasnít a put-on style, but something very natural. I could do 30, 40, 50 of these kind of things if people would still be interested in seeing them. So Iím not sure. Maybe something close to the real world.
CK: How does Life of Pi fit into that?
M Night Shyamalan: Is that real life? Somewhat real life, I guess.
CK: Yes, possibly.
M Night Shyamalan: Somewhat.
CK: But it has that twist, rather than a twist ending, that little thing that moves it just outside of reality.
M Night Shyamalan: Right. And so immediately my thoughts went toÖ as this movie opened in the States and they were not watching the movie, they were watching the movie presented by me. And I was so fascinated by how they were having a different experience than if your name was on it.
CK: No one would go!
M Night Shyamalan: It would be every moment would be enjoyed, rather than a chess game going on, from beginning to end. So Iím wondering how thatíll affect Pi because as soon as you sayÖ
CK: Will you not find that liberating a little bit, that people can read the end of the book andÖ?
M Night Shyamalan: Yes, but in reality, Pi was a huge hit in the United States and a million bought it. 9 million people saw the Village last week. That audience will be gone by Friday or Saturday or Sunday and then youíll be into an audience that thinks I wrote it, as far as their concerned. Itíll say based on bookÖ and so my name being on it will say Iím not telling you the truth and now weíre in that same problem again. So I donít know how Iím going to deal with that. Itís an interesting proposition.
CK: Our final city, York, has been very patient. So, York, do you have a question?
Unidentified male speaker: Good evening, this is York. Our first question is more specifically about the Village, this comes from Andrew. Itís about the choice of colours. Did you choose red simply as a bold colour and also yellow seems an unusual choice for the safe colour. Could you talk a little bit about that?
M Night Shyamalan: The colours came from just the straight psychology of it and itís actually the same reasons why the US government has those colours of terror and all that stuff is that thereís psychological reactions to the colours. Red creates agitation, if the room was red we would be agitated and anxious and aggressive. And yellow calms us and placates us and makes us feel safe and more open to things. Those are straight psychological reactions to colours. So itís just kind of using that. And, of course, red is used a lot in danger and things like that, representingÖ when we see red itís usually not a great thing, except with regard to Valentines and things like that.
CK: And this is a movie in which love gets you into trouble in a sense.
M Night Shyamalan: Yes. I always think aboutÖ itís interesting why red is used on Valentineís Day, is love dangerous? Is that what weíre supposed to read into that? But I have a very monochromatic style of making films and these are plot colours, like the bright neon colours in Unbreakable. And actually very subtle and I didnít get to do it as much as I wanted, but there was a kind of lavender colour in Signs that represented the mother and you see that through the movie. But some scenes I cut out with that lavender, so it didnít get to float through the movie the way I wanted it to, that you would see her touches through the house represented. She was wearing that colour in the car.
CK: Back here, plenty of hands this time. Right here in the front row.
Unidentified male speaker: Hi. I was going to ask a question about cinematography, but about your writing, Stuart Little. Bit different than Signs, Unbreakable, Sixth Sense. Where did that one come from?
M Night Shyamalan: Itís a desire to write something for my kid. My wife was pregnant at the time or weíd just had the baby and wanted to do something just for her. And, you know, the phone wasnít ringing off the hook, it was a very quiet time in the Shyamalan house. I had plenty of time to write Sixth Sense and Stuart Little. Plenty of time. So it was one of those, somebody had read something that I had done and said HeyÖ it was a dead project, completely dead. And so they were like okay, letís get a cheap writer. So I was the right price.
Unidentified male speaker: My main question tonight was regarding your cinematography, how hands on are you? Do you actually give your vision across to your director of photography or do you really get involved with it and keep telling him where to put the cameras and how to light it?
M Night Shyamalan: I think that my asset and my weakness are the same thing, which is the amount of preparation and control involved with making a movie. And so theyíre very, very, very orchestrated movies, every shot is orchestrated in there, the sets are built to the shots so that you can fly the wall so that the hallwayís big enough, so that the furnitureís in a place so I can get the camera round it. Itís all an event. Iíll come in andÖ to the point that it can get frustrating, I think, for people on the crew and they love it as well. Iíll say you donít even need to dress that wall, I will never see that wall. Theyíll say itís one wall of the house, how can we not dress it? If you want to save money and put it over here, put it over here. But Iím trying to getÖ I keep trying to hire more and more people that will just question and challenge me. Iím not going to give up that vision. I donít think you want to dilute from a point of view, I canít not have a particular way of seeing things, but I want the cinematographer to come in and challenge me, which Roger did. And he actually has a very interesting way of shooting, he puts the camera on this arm all the time, even if itís a static thing and he moves the camera until he gets it in the right position, rather than tripod or anything like that, itís on this arm all the time. And so while heís fooling around getting to the frame that I drew, Iíll sometimes go HeyÖ That happened a few times and it was very exciting. Then he and Iíll talk about it and Iíll say hey, instead of doing that, what if you came down from her to that, that kind of thing. And so we have fun with those kind of things. And theyíre small changes, but still fun. If there was a way to do both, I would. Like one of the scenes that he got free rein was the big eldersí argument behind the shed where it was hand held. And he does all the camera work, Roger Deakins does it himself. I said I want you on this line to be on this person, this lineÖ And he just glanced at me like, say another word and Iíll hit you. [laughter] And I was like you know what, just go ahead. [laughter] So Iím always whispering. There was one time he was doing a thing and I tugged his arm about when to pan and he just jerked it and reacted and he looked at me and I was like [whispers] Sorry.
CK: Weíre back to Cambridge. Cambridge, do you have a second question?
Unidentified male speaker: Hello again from Cambridge. Simon would like to know how you get such strong ensemble acting from the cast. And weíd also like to hear a bit more about Ivy, wonderful Ivy, tell us more about her.
M Night Shyamalan: I sometimes answer these questions just to satisfy myself, so forgive me. But I think that I sense a building onus that was going to happen on this particular movie as regarded it being the fourth movie that we were going toÖ I donít know, what was going to happen, I just had a premonition that we were going to get seen through weird glasses. And I had that on me from the beginning, just of I can smell whatís ahead.
CK: Did you sense they were setting you up for -?
M Night Shyamalan: I mean these things, success, it doesnít engender good feelings and when they put me on the cover of Newsweek and say Next Spielberg. Iím not going to have a lot of friends that way. Those kind of things that happen you just need to prepare yourself and so I went at it going, okay, letís assume failure, weíre going to assume failure here. And I really would tell everybody, weíre going to assume failure so letís do every step of the way so we can say to ourselves we did it the right way. We did it the absolute right way that you would be, if you had this opportunity you would have done it in this perfect way. And so we went and hiring Bryce was the first of that decision was letís go balls out and hire from gut the best actress that I think in the world could play this and she happens to be one whoís never acted before in a movie.
CK: You saw her in a play.
M Night Shyamalan: I saw her in a play and I said thatís the kind of not protecting yourself thing that I need to do to get through this in a way that Iíll be proud. And so from her then all the rest of the casting came because then I went and just got the worldís best actors for every part. And for me the only thing I really trust is that actors say yes to my movies and thatís for me the statement that Iím at a certain level. Nothing else, not money, box office payments, nothing like that. Just that actors, world class actors, would be willing to be in my movie and do these parts just is a great, great honour. And so one by one I asked these guys and they were all over cast for every part and what I asked them to do, all of them, every single one of them, 14 of them with large speaking parts, I asked them all to come three weeks early, not get paid extra, come three weeks early and live in a camp, no cellphones, no nothing, just completely commit themselves to this life and living together and learning the period. And of course when I brought the idea everyone said never happen, never going to happen. And every single one said yes and they all lived together for the entire movie, the entire shoot, which as you can imagine they could be staying at the Ritz or the Four Seasons or wherever.
CK: And they cooked in the evenings, took turns to cook.
M Night Shyamalan: Yes, they took turns to cook. They lived together, they eat together, they, as I said, learn the period. We had lecturers come about Utopian societies, about what conflicts would happen, how the men and womenís chores would break down. And every single thing. They asked questions and everything. And then we did our rehearsals at this camp and it was really the kind of thing that you would do ifÖ like they did on Boyís Donít Cry or something like that. When you have nothing and all you have is your love and effort, thatís all you have to punch through. And I said why should we, in the position that weíre in, not have that kind of desire and love and risk. And so they all said yes, and it was just kind of literally we were doing things that were just for the soul. Like there was a steam American Indian thing where they steam rocks and you all go into a tent and you feel this spirit and you hear this guy chanting. Things that were meant to make this not a job and it became that important to all of us. And so thatís how we bonded. At the run through, the first time we all sat together, I had already been working with Bryce because I knew the read through was going to be the big moment. The read through traditionally, if you guys have ever been or heard of a read through for a movie is the most mundane, boring thing youíve ever been to and no one risks themselves. So they go [bored voice] anyway, Iím in love [laughter] I want to go into the woods, yes. And then theyíll take their drink and then theyíll look over the next person will say their lines. And that will be that because no one wants to risk themselves. So I prepared with her and I said I want you to go in there and blow it out. Because Hayley did this at the read through on Sixth Sense because heís ten and he had no idea not to do it and it caused everyone to go insane because if this kidís blowing it out, youíre not going to be like reading your line next to him, youíre going to start and you canít help it. [laughter] And so instantaneously this girl that they had never met before starts blowing it out and everybody starts responding. William Hurt, Sigourney and itís just the tableís weeping and crying and it was like this live performance. And before we started I told them why I wrote this movie, the love and about how I feel about innocence and me being in this position and the world in general and fearing losing this innocence. No matter what they say, if someone says youíre a genius or you suck or youíre over rated, which happens literally as I walk into the supermarket I will get youíre a genius, you suck. [laughter]. Literally, so you can either go insane. You canít believe either of them and you just quietly want to go and do your thing which is at home in your room and you write your thing and you go and make your movie and everybodyís in your business and youíve asked for that. So I told them, I said please letís imagine failure so that I look back at this moment and say this was something great and you gave me something great and I gave you something great and we gave each other something. No matter what, failureís nothing, we had this moment. And they just tore it up and we all were like crying and it was just a really amazing moment. And that was how we made this movie, each moment like that. Those guys were ready to kill for me, I was ready to kill for them. So that was a long winded answer. [laughter] How did I get them to perform like that? That was world class actors committing 100%.
CK: And now I think itís Liverpool. Liverpool, do you have a question?
Unidentified male speaker: Thank you very much, Brixton. We have one question here from Tom. Tom would like to know if your personal appearances in your films are a homage to Hitchcock?
M Night Shyamalan: Theyíre actually not, but I think you always get the kind of labelling of some kind because itísÖ This movie obviously had restrictions and so I was going toÖ itís not like I could just pop up in the Village. [laughter] Or play Noah or something, it isnít going to work. Some deep explanation had to go on.
M Night Shyamalan: But this one wasÖ in a way this one didnít matter to me so much because I couldnít do something that was important for me. Like it would be somebody else doing it, so just to stay involved, I didnít want to go two years without trying, spending my time thinking about that part of the art form. But for me it was much rewarding to do Signs, the one in Signs, because thereís always some part that means a lot of me. Like in Sixth Sense, the father that finds the videotape, that was the part that I really, really loved and connected to. And so I write in a very emotional way, I direct in Ö you start to get a sense of how I direct, itís very, very emotional and connected, thereís no kind of you doing it and Iím doing it, weíre doing it together kind of thing. So it makes the movies much more personal. I really do think about these movies as if Iím making independent movies. As much as anyone does, Spike Lee, Woody Allen or any of these guys, I really think I have this opportunity to make very personal movies and so I do that and then theyíre sold in a very big way. But itís important for me. I wouldnít do more than a supporting part because itís very hard on the directing, itís very, very hard on the directing. And also this is a small personal thing thatís important to me, which may not be important to anybody, but that the movies arenítÖ theyíre unique in their international flavour that is, in some small way, breaking down stereotypes. Bruce Lee said one of the things that motivated him more than anything was giving the world a non-white hero. And as soon as I heard that I understood completely why he did everything did and why it wasnít just Kung Fu movies and why he stood out. He found meaning in something that could be meaningless, which is fighting. But he found a great honour in that and for me, no matterÖ the world is racist, some of it, and some of itís not or anything, it doesnít matter. If your familyís racist the 13 year old kid still loves coming to my movies and so thatís just in the smallest way to break down that. And Iím not playing an Indian in these movies, thatís the really most important thing. Iím just playing the neighbour, that kind of thing. I remember on Sixth Sense, because I was in the Sixth Sense and this other Indian guy was in it and they were like ďwhy are all these Indians in here?Ē [laughter] Thereís too many Indians in this. That was their remark on the Sixth Sense.
CK: And the same inÖ some critics in Signs, they said what would an Indian be doing in the mid west, which seemed really to have missed the point.
M Night Shyamalan: Well, my uncle was from the mid west, itís ridiculous. What are we? Itís ridiculous. [laughter] so it has a lot of meaning for me and itís also another way to risk. Anything that Iím scared of doing and anything that puts me at risk is good because you want to take that punch straight to the face, get it over with in the middle of the fight because as soon as you take that hit and you go hey, Iím still standing, then the opponent loses all their power and you just become like Superman. And so itís like hit me as hard as you can and Iím still standing. Thatís what Iím going to do now, go write another fucking movie. So thereís that juice that comes through you and you go Iím not going anywhere. Keep pounding away. Itís good, itís good to kind of not be safe.
CK: Now I think weíre at York. Do you have a question at York?
Unidentified male speaker: Firstly, just on behalf of everyone weíd like to say thank you for the opportunity this evening and our second question comes from Jane and Luke which is about the directing of your own films. Does that change your approach when youíre writing them?
M Night Shyamalan: Itís been more and more becoming a director writing. It used to be a writer that got a chance to direct and now I think itís a director whoís leaning over the writerís shoulder and saying this would be visual. Iím not sure thatís healthy by the way, because you end up doing very visual things when reallyÖ the director shouldnít even be hired yet. Go away and let the writer do his thing. Because I tend to do everything as minimal as I can, least amount of words, least amount of cuts, least amount of area colours, least amount of everything. The simplest swing that you can do to hit that home run over the fence. But the writer should just be allowed to write and have fun with that whole process. Every time I direct, when I direct it becomes less funny, more austere, more formal, it always does that. Like knowing that that personís coming into the table the writer should be going that way to compensate, but if the directorís in the room then all that starts coming out and so itís probably Iím going to try on this next one just let the writer have the rein.
CK: Has the writer in you ever wanted to smack the director and say whereís my gag? That was funny.
M Night Shyamalan: I feel so sad. The humour always gets cut out in service of the tension, which is sad because I was telling my wife this morning, I felt like thereís not enough touchstones in the movie. Touchstones are when the group laughs together, the group jumps together and so you feel tied like from a connecting of the dots, whereas if Iím being so gentle in my story telling, especially because my name is on it and you start leaving to do the chess game. And Signs had much more humour and things like that which kept you in the moments and touchstones, going from here to here and you felt more of the kind of weíre all together on this journey kind of thing. But I love quiet, so the director always fights with that guy.
CK: I think if we move quickly we can do one more circuit of the UK.
Unidentified female speaker: Hello. I just wanted to ask you if you have final cut and if you donít, doesnít that bother you in terms of youíre not sure whether your film is going to come out the way you want it basically?
M Night Shyamalan: No, I have final cut. [laughter] Actually even when I sold Sixth Sense I had final cut and I gave it up. I had it onÖ This is my theory about final cut by the way, I had it when I sold Sixth Sense screenplay thatís because there was a bidding war I drew up these things as mandatory things and they said youíre green lit with final cut at $13 million or less and if you go over that budget you lose all those rights and everything. And I voluntarily chose to go over that brink and hire Bruce to do that movie. Again, as soon as you have the safety I wanted to get rid of it. The point was to make my point and to get rid of it. But I believe that you come into the dance with these people and there is no scenario where I would put a movie out where they did not understand where I was coming from, not that we have to agree, but that they wouldnít understand, that I couldnít logically defend my position. For me, itís just my own personal thing and so you can yes, now I have final cut and all for all these movies, but I donít believe that there was anything that we would have done differently if I didnít because if they had a problem with something, I would listen to them until I figured something in a way to please both of us or they understood where I was coming from. If anything I err towards them to make sure that Iím being responsible. The last thing I want to do is go into a bubble, but itís still the gun sitting on the table, but I would never use it. I canít imagine good times or bad or anything like that because I need to be able to vocalise my position. If I canít articulate it in an intelligent fashion to William Hurt, to Roger Deakins, to the studio, thenÖ My job is about communication, so if I canít inspire and communicate to somebody then Iím not very good at my job. Obviously Iím doing more aggressive things than are normally done in mainstream cinema, but Iím stillÖ audience is important, very, very important people, their point of view is just the audience. So itís an important conversation to always have. Itís not always nice, but itís one that I think is important so that I donít start floating away and writing songs that only I understand and care about.
CK: Okay, weíre going to go straight to Cambridge. Do you have a final question, Cambridge?
CK: Weíre going to straight to Liverpool.
Unidentified male speaker: Thank you very much, Brixton. Weíd also like to thank you very much for a hugely enjoyable evening, weíve all enjoyed ourselves here. And Anthonyís question is how do you sleep at night? [laughter]
M Night Shyamalan: I get very agitated as we get closer to the release. Very, very, very, very uncomfortable, which is terrible because really you should be an artist and whatever happens, happens and be strong, especially in the way we made the movie strong. But Iím a fairly weak and spineless dude ultimately and so I donít sleep very well when I knowÖ itís something I ask for by taking all these risks. I felt when I was doing Signs, and I know Signs did differently here and around the world than it did in the United States, but there wasnít as much as risk on Signs and so I slept better. Because I was safer. Iím not very safe right now, which is what Iím supposed to do.
CK: Youíre not always looking for monsters in the woods or the monsters under the bed, I think maybe theyíre wondering [overspeaking] [laughter]
M Night Shyamalan: Yes, I can spook myself definitely. I can immediately go if I wanted to get in this house, how would I do it? [laughter] And then you start running through all the scenarios, I could come in, I wouldnít even be heard until I was right, you know, [screams]
CK: And didnít you used to tell scary stories to your family?
M Night Shyamalan: Yes, when I tell bedtime stories I have to restrain myself. Restrain. [laughter] Theyíre just like you guys, ďtell me something scaryĒ, and Iím like you donít really want to hear something scary. ďWe do, we do, we doĒ. And then I go okay and then I go pull back, donít traumatise them. [laughter]
CK: Do we have a final question from York?
Unidentified male speaker: The final question comes from Ross. Itís about when youíre writing and working on one of these projects, do you start from a theme or a twist? So do you think of something and think God, that would make a great film with that bit in it, or do you start with a theme and think okay whereís this twist going to come in? Or is it just an organic process?
M Night Shyamalan: Always different, the process if always different. I think my problem is that I donít approach itÖ not my problem, letís not do it that way. The things that put me at jeopardy, especially being released as a big, big movie in the summer, however theyíre releasing the movie, is because I donít do it like the studio system does it, which is this many car chases, this manyÖ weíre making a spy adventure so thereís this many things that need to happen, there are 18 things that need to happen, things like that. Itís usually like thatís a beautiful scene where the sister asks permission for the other sister, thatís not going to get you anywhere, but thatís like I love that scene and I put that down. And thereíll be like a bookful of these scenes that I love and I find out how to put them in a certain order so that I guess my point is my problem is that because itís so much about emotional colours that are important to me, the order of it becomes dangerous in its episodic nature, which is fine for an independent movie, but the way they come out is not independent. So Iím always trying to find sequences where I can put the emotional scenes together in a sequence.
CK: Do you want to take one final question from here?
M Night Shyamalan: Sure.
CK: I definitely think itís a better movie the second time around. Anyway, thatís all weíve got time for. Iíd like to thank our audience here and also inÖ One more question. Why not? Iím not in charge.
Unidentified male speaker: Thanks a lot. Itís actually to do with Sixth Sense.
M Night Shyamalan: Heís dead at the end! [laughter and applause]
Unidentified male speaker: I actually saw that film there and thereís was one scene in particular in the car with the kid and the grandma and the rest of it. That film for me had a lot of authenticity and you talk about story telling and stuff like that. How much of that film was based on experience as opposed to a story?
M Night Shyamalan: As you can tell I have this kind of belief in magic in a general and thereís something magical in the air that you can grab. I donít know, pinning a label to it, but I would love someone to come here and show me evidence of the supernatural. Hereís a picture of a ghost. And I would go I knew it. [laughter] I would love that to happen. So thatís the truth in it. I donít if you guys heard about the documentary that was made about me in the US and what happened was all this controversy and all this stuff, but they wanted to make a documentary about me and I said, that will be really boring and a lot of people wanted to make a documentary and I said itíd be kind of cool if you found out that something supernatural was being hidden about me and then go back to regular documentary. And they were really up for it, so this documentary in the United States was released, hopefully itíll come here. It looks like a straight documentary but then they uncoverÖ this question that everybody asks me, Yes, I do see dead people! [laughter] Aliens? Yes. You deal with that kind of thing because in a restaurant, if I go to a restaurant youíll get some lady who goes [whispers] I was abducted by aliens. [laughter] And Iíll be like [whispers] Really? [laughter] But they want me to go Me too, what ship were you on? [laughter] So just an openness to those kind of things. I thought I saw a ghost once, but maybe I was imagining things. My brother in law always busts me about that because heís very clinical and scientific. But, yes, it comes from just generallyÖ the emotional stuff is very authentic, like cold, hypersensitivity to people, I felt that way as a kid, very hypersensitive to the kid that was suffering or whatever it is. So you remember that and you start thinking like a child in that case a new mum, and Toni Collette was like a single mum and so worries about parenting and things like that. And then Bruce Malcolm and his wifeís issues about work and all was a sense of like I was just starting to do this for my job and making sure that your wife knows that you come first over work. Those kind of issues are each film, are very, very personal. So the alien attack isnít necessarily my beliefs, but him kneeling down and telling the story of his childís birth to his child is absolutely something I would do if I didnít have another moment left.
CK: Okay. Sadly, that really is all weíve got time for. Iíd
like to thank everyone here and also in Cambridge, Liverpool and York. And most
of all to our very special guest, M. Night Shyamalan.