PHOTOS COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMEN T
Night at the
M. Night Shyamalan
Philadelphia high school
teacher Elliot Moore (Mark
Wahlberg), his wife Alma
(Zooey Deschanel, right) and
Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez), a friend
of the couple’s 8-year-old
daughter, flee New York City
when a strange and deadly
disease breaks out in The
Happening, written and
directed by M. Night
By Will Fifield
WHEN THE SIXTH SENSE came to theaters in
1999, many people discovered a new source of
movie magic in filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan.
This film marked the beginning of much critical
acclaim and commercial success at the craft he has
been devoted to since the age of 8, when he got his
hands on a Super- 8 camera.
Shyamalan (pronounced SHAW-maw-lawn)
followed up The Sixth Sense with Unbreakable in
2000, Signs in 2002 and The Village in 2004. This
string of hits established Shyamalan, who turned
38 in August and prefers to be called Night, as a
favorite with movie lovers and Hollywood.
Characterized by plot twists that often have deep
spiritual themes, many of Shyamalan’s films are set
in or around Philadelphia, where he was raised and
now lives with his wife and two daughters. To date
he’s written, directed and acted in eight major films,
including The Happening, which boasts international
box-office earnings of almost $152 million and will
be released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc this month.
The Connection recently caught up with
Shyamalan to discuss his approach to the art of
The Costco Connection: In the early days of experimenting with filmmaking was there anyone who
helped you develop in the craft?
M. Night Shyamalan: No, I just did something for
which I had no training. And did it very badly. Later
I went to the NYU [New York University] film program. It’s not like you can be taught art. But you can
be taught the process, which was wonderful. It’s
painful when you feel something and you want to
express it and you’re unable to express it. Or you
miss it. You want to eradicate the pain by figuring
out the building blocks of the storytelling.
CC: Your movies often have strong spiritual elements
MNS: I don’t know where it comes from. It’s not an
agenda. I think the more you write, the more you
become aware of who you are, in ways that are surprising to you. I went to Catholic school for 10 years
and my parents are Hindu, so I have a lot of different
influences [that are] sprinkled inherently in the storytelling. But you wouldn’t know it to hang out with
me. There’s nothing very overtly spiritual about me.
CC: What are some of your writing habits?
MNS: I’ve written or thought about my screenplays
every day since I was 12 years old. I usually like to
use the mornings, since I live on the East Coast;
Hollywood doesn’t even open until noon. I am a
moving target. I have four desks in my office. It’s
superstition, of course, but if I’m getting stuck in
one spot, I move. But if things are coming together,
it’s like, ‘It’s working, don’t move.’ It’s kind of like
someone’s lucky sock or something.
CC: Steven Spielberg, the man who practically wrote
the book on special effects, has been a huge inspiration
to you. But your movies don’t really have special
MNS: It’s not Spielberg’s special effects that interest me. It’s his storytelling, how he chooses to do a
dinner table scene, and his lean toward childlike