Interview with M. Night Shyamalan from "Wayward Pines" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

M. Night Shyamalan

Interview with M. Night Shyamalan of "Wayward Pines" on FOX 5/5/15

It was so great to speak with M. Night. He was so nice and didn't act like the big movie director that he is. His answers to our questions were so thoughtful and interesting. This show is great, and I hope you're watching it because you won't be sorry. I like the end of this where he sort of makes fun of the moderator's voice...LOL!

Final Transcript
FBC PUBLICITY: Wayward Pines
May 5, 2015/12:30 p.m. PDT

Kim Kurland
M. Night Shyamalan


Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Wayward Pines conference call with Executive Producer, M. Night Shyamalan. (Operator instructions.) Todayís conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Kim Kurland, from Fox Publicity. Please go ahead.

Kim: Hi, everyone. I just wanted to thank you all for taking part in the call today. Iím sure that you all know that Wayward Pines premieres on Thursday, May 14th at 9 oíclock and hopefully youíve all had a chance to see at least the first episode, which Night directed. James, I think weíre ready to take the first question.

Moderator: Thank you. (Operator instructions.) The first question is coming from the line of Jamie Ruby with SciFi Please go ahead.

Jamie: Hi. Thanks so much for talking to us today.

Night: No problem. It was so wild hearing all the instructions. I was getting allóI was like should I be writing this down? Do I have to hit any buttons here? Whatís happening?

Jamie: Nope, but thereís a lot. Iíve seen the first five episodes and Iím really enjoying this show. Itís great.

Night: Oh, great.

Jamie: Itís creepy, but itís great. My first question is how closely did you stick to the books? What did you decide to pull and how did you decide where you wanted to go with it?

Night: Yes. Itís an interesting anamorphous answer to your subject. The normal provenance of a project seems clear. We adapted it from a XYZ book and thatís the end of it. In our case, we had Blakeís first book, which was fantastic, and they wrote the pilot and the information from the first book was basically in the five episodes that you saw, maybe a little bit into the sixth episode that youíve seen.

The decision to basically get to the reveal midway through the season was something that I felt strongly about, and everybody concurred that we didnít want to have more the traditional format of tease, tease, tease, tease and then at the very end tell you the answer, because I thought the answer was a very exciting world to live in. Subsequently, as we started to write episodes, Blake continued to write books. Book 2 came out well into our shooting and Book 3, so he started to evolve the world. So to some extent, we were parallel creating our world post Episode 5-6.

Moderator: The next question is coming from the line of David Martindale with Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Please go ahead.

David Thank you for doing this. Iíve been enjoying the show. I havenít seen five episodes yet, but Iíve been enjoying the show. What turned you on to Wayward Pines in the first place? What made you want to do this project? What was it about it that turned you on?

Night: Itís a really wonderful question. Iíve been hesitant about doing things other than movies for a while and very tempted to do something on TV. It was a tentative ride, got to the altar a few times and found a reason to not do XYZ projects. I felt a little bit like maybe I will never feel the clarity of the decision that I feel when I do most of my movies, when I do an original that Iíve written Ė a thriller or something. I always feel a great clarity and a commitment to how I want to put in this time. I canít wait to do this for the next year and a half to two years and I wondered whether I would have that clarity.

Then just when I was doubting all of thatóand itís been a while, maybe a year and a half of trying to find something that felt right to start the journey in TV, and then the pilot for Wayward Pines came across my desk and Iím really, really lucky that it did and lucky they chose me as their first choice and just that they thought of me and it just fit so well with what I was interested in. I was interested in doing dark material and doing, for me, a dark humor attached to that material and certainly the pilot had that approach. As it entered this world of mystery and stuff and suspense it took a dark irreverent tone to it.

If youíve seen the trailer to my new movie for Universal, that also has very inappropriate dark humor throughout. Iím a big fan of that and Iím in that headspace, so this pilot really spoke to me and it was such a great puzzle and a great mystery. And, ultimately, when you find out whatís going on, I thought meaningful. So it was a really easy decision.

Moderator: Molly Eichel with the Inquirer is next. Please go ahead.

Molly: Hi. Obviously, thereís only ten episodes to this run. What do you see as the drawbacks and the benefits of only having ten episodes rather than anticipating a second season or knowing you have to fill a full twenty-two episode order?

Night: Thereís not a ton of negatives, Iíve got to be honest with you. You get a certain group of people that wouldnít necessarily be interested in doing an open-ended longform type of storytelling like Matt Dillon and others that were willing do a project if I said can you come and work for X amount of months and do one season for me. Thatís a benefit.

The beautiful thing about TV right now is that the form is very pliable. When it was you had to do twenty-four episodes it was a tough thing to fit, and now it went to thirteen and then it went to ten and then you could do eight, like True Detective, and you could basically can do whatever the material dictates and thatís a very beautiful thing. Even as we were deciding what to do, the length of this was supposed to beóit vacillated from thirteen to twelve to ten, and ultimately the decision to not have any vamping episodesóthat kind of what we all feel is the telltale trait that theyíre running out of material is that if theyíre getting repetitive or vamping and going to a side thing because they just need to fill space. You donít have those kind of problems with a ten-episode series. So really wonderful positives on all fronts.

Iím trying to think of a negative. If the negative is we love this show and want to continue it, itís a decision that can be made in the future. But that wasnít the goal. And for me, especially, being involved with the show it would be something that would have to be made later and not we have to hit this target and we donít know what weíre doing for that target. So a lot of positives for this format. And including me, I donít know if I would have been ready to say I wanted to do an open-ended show as my first show. Iím not sure.

Moderator: Okay. And Christina Avina with On Request Magazine is next. Please go ahead.

Christina: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I really appreciate it.

Night: Thank you. This is so wild. Iíve never done one of these. Usually Iím at a table with all you guys around me so this is wild. Iím much funnier in person. I just want you all to know that. You can just add 20% to the charm factor there. Even if itís 0 itís 20% in person, so there you go.

Christina: Youíre quite engaging. Donít worry about it. Riveting. Thereís so many things Iíd like to say, but since weíre limited for questions, I did want to talk to you about your casting on this. Melissa Leo especially. Overall casting is phenomenal. So many great actors play the intense characters. She really struck me, especially in the premiere. Because ever since Nurse Ratched, you havenít really seen a nurse that gave you the chills so quickly. Tell me a little about the casting process for this run, because really you couldnít of handpicked better people to play these roles.

Night: You know, youíre very astute. I donít know if it was just a coincidence or a testament to your acumen. Weíll give it as a testament to your acumen that you mentioned Melissa. Because really for me, Iím always a bitócasting for me is the most critical thing. Iím always confused at the onset. I have my aspirations and my agendas and oh, Iíd love to work with this person and that person and those kinds of things can be false gods sometimes. They can lead you down to the wrong path. Thereís a moment where you feel peace and that peace comes from when you know the personality of the entire cast put together. Because basically, you guys as an audience member are going on a date or something, say a relationship with the cast as whole, what is that personality of their cast as a whole?

So the first person was Matt. We signed on Matt and he was literally a no-brainer. Then I was, to be honest, a little confused for a second about how to cast this thing. I canít remember who mentioned Melissa first. It might have even been Matt. Iím not sure and literally when I heard the nameóthe second I heard the name I went oh my God, I know exactly how to cast this show. Because the role that, for me, I was worried about was Nurse Pam because it needs to be handled really deftly, otherwise it becomes a caricature.

I was struggling with the tone of the cast and then when I heard her name I was like oh my God letís get her, letís get her, letís please see if we can get her. And then when we got her, I went wow, now I know what the rest of this cast is. This is the Melissa Leo version of Matt Dillon and those two in a movie, I know exactly how to cast this. This is an East Coast/New York independent movie. So then Terrence came on and Carla and Toby and Juliette, and just one after the other. I just knew the tone of how to cast it and luckily for us everybody said yes. It was a confluence of many, many things that got us this incredible cast. Very lucky. Casting is aóthe casting Gods have to be with you.

Moderator: Suzanne Lanoue with The TV MegaSite is next. Please go ahead.

Suzanne: Good morning. I enjoyed the five episodes as well. It was really good.

Night: Thank you.

Suzanne: I canít wait to see what happens next. Very riveting. I was wondering was it just the ten episode thing that made you decide to do TV for a change instead of movies? Or was it something else?

Night: The year and a half prior to Wayward was the sense of getting inspired by what was going on in television. Since then even more so this sense of storytelling being led inóif youíre looking at the two mediums of film and TVóand weíre going to greatly stigmatize the two fields for a second just for simplicityóin film, in mainstream cinema right now thereís a great movement towards marketability and a lack of reverence for resonance, storytelling resonance and tone. Marketability is definitely the primary factor looked at when assessing movies and deciding which movies to make and those kind of things.

In television, which used to have marketability as its sole God, as its sole criteria metric, because it had to have X amount of eyeballs on this day to sell detergent or whatever it was it came from and cable and all of this stuff started moving the metric towards resonance. It wasnít about how many people were watching Mad Men. Itís how many people are talking about Mad Men, so that I make sure I put AMC on my cable package or whatever.

So it started to change the metrics of what the product needs to be. And as you started to see storytelling swinging over to there you started to have filmmakers, and Iíd like to put myself in that category, who are driven towards tone first and characters first. So thereís a great want and desire now in television and as you can see even in network TV now for resonance. Please make it sticky. Make it so as we are changing channels you have to stop on this channel because itís being told in an unusual way. Itís disruptive in that manner. Their desire for that kind of storytelling started to attract me and I would love that.

And then selfishly for me, because I write my films, itís a big gap between movies to me, talking to my audience and having an opportunity to tell stories to an audience. So for me making a thriller, for example, it takes me eighteen months to two years to tell a story to the audience and nowadays thatís an eternity, right? A couple rounds of that and a whole generation has gone by. This is a great opportunity for me to tell more stories in between the movies and hopefully develop a strong broad relationship with them during that time, so they can get to know the stories that interest me and I can get to know their tastes as well. On a lot of fronts it feels like a very complementary thing to do.

Moderator: Jasmine Alyce with is next. Please go ahead.

Jasmine Hi. Thanks so much for speaking with us today.

Night: Thank you.

Jasmine: It seems like during the past few years weíve seen an uptake of the mysterious, strange, scary, thriller kind of TV shows. What do you think is responsible for that?

Night: I wonderóitís funny as you say that. Iím trying to thinkóitís always been there I guess, but perhaps the format of a mystery just naturally leans towards tune-in and find out what happens next kind of agenda on television, and thereís great storytellers that have done great mysteries. Lost is probably a seminal one, JJís show, and X-Files back in the day. Thereís all these seminal stories of dark, mysterious, weird stuff. As you know, thatís my particular area of fondness.

Jasmine: Right.

Night: I try to make dramas that have the fancy clothes of the genre on them. So very kind of a mixture of those two. And that instinct to make drama/genre it feels very much the appetite of what audiences want on television.

Jasmine: Thank you very much.

Night: Thank you.

Moderator: Kristyn Clark with Pop Culture Madness is next. Please go ahead.

Kristyn: Hello. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Iím really enjoying the series.

Night: Oh great. Iím so glad.

Kristyn: I was curious if you could tell us a little bit about what you feel will resonate the most with viewers. I think itís much more terrifying that this is based in reality.

Night: Say this one more time. What was the first part of the question? I didnít hear the first part.

Kristyn: What are a few reasons that you feel the series will resonate well with the viewers?

Night: Okay, just one of a few reasons... I do believe that it has, hopefully, a cinematic quality to it. I hope. And by that I mean maybe an attention to the camera work and a pacing that might be more akin to what you might see in film. Certainly the cast in general was a cast that you might see more in film. Itís a giant, giant idea. Itís a big idea. Itís like one of those Jurassic Park kind of ideas and I canít take any credit for that. Thatís all Blake. And Iím super lucky to be able to be the one to shepherd it to the audiences. Youíre lucky to come across big ideas like that that are both human and gigantic at the same time.

I think our format is really unusual. It excited me in making it. I wasnít once like oh, weíre making this show still? The thing that I think is really amazing for audiences in that the show changes genres halfway through the season. I donít even tell you what genre youíre watching for a long time and thatís exciting. And the kind of storytelling I love. Which is you can sense the hand of the filmmakers and so you trust them and youíre going to go somewhere but you donít necessarily know where youíre going but you know youíre confidently being held.

I also think that finding out all the answers halfway through the series is an amazing thing I think for audience members. Then to change genres and realize what genre youíre in for the second half, and I can almost argue that it changes into a third genre in the last couple episodes.

Moderator: Terry Terrones with Colorado Springs Gazette is next.

Terry: Hello. Good talking to today.

Night: Hello. Good talking to you.

Terry: What do you get called by the way? Is it Night or something else?

Night: Well, my wife calls me lots of names, but I think we shouldóNight is fine. Night is fine.

Terry: Okay. I have got to say I saw the first five episodes and the fifth one is a real mindblower. Youíre right; it seems like itís going one direction and then when you see the fifth itís like holy cow, I did not see that coming at all. So itís really good seeing. What you just said, it really makes me look forward to seeing the last five episodes. My question for you is the show is filmed in I think in 2013, correct?

Night: Yes. I think thatóyes, exactlyólate 2013 into Ď14.

Terry: Yes and it was supposed to air in 2014. What was the reason for the delay? Was it a timing thing where Fox wanted to present it at particular time period? Was there a change in the story?

Night: You know what, it wasóyou know this is my first time in television, so I didnít really have the kind of opinion that I would have about a movie saying hey this should be June, this should be September, this should beóit feels like an April thing. Itís newish to me. The way it was expressed to me was because itís an event series that this slot which they did 24 in is the big slotóitís like to some extent counterprogramming in a wonderful way.

With all the reality television out there and the summer and all, this would be the big real scripted thing to go and really cause a ruckus. So it was a feeling like this was a homerun swing, to go for it. And then the way they wanted to launch it all on the same day all around the world Iím sure had something to do with it as well. Theyíve treated us very special, the show very special and with great confidence.

So thatís a good answer. I didnít really have any other information other than that and we took full advantage of it too. Of course, they gave me time to fiddle and they sent me the queue, and do this, and how about this, and then of course Iím like can I go pick this shot up? Is it okay if I get this little line from this person? So it benefited everybody and also it gave us a chance to show it to you guys early.

So it feels really good timing-wise now. It wasnít like we were twiddling our thumbs. It really felt like we finished it and then we started promoting it very beautifully and, hopefully, weíll find a place where we can find our audience.

Kim: James, Iím so sorry, but we only have time for one more question.

Moderator: Thank you. The last question is coming from the line of Jerry Nunn with Windy City Times. Please go ahead.

Jerry: Hi. Thanks for covering the show. I was wondering if you could talk about your movie. You have a movie coming out right, at the end of this year?

Night: Yes. Itís called The Visit for Universal. Super, super excited. It was a wonderful thing. I made a small movie that I went and didóI do all my movies here in Philadelphiaóbut went and made it myself quietly and my number one choice is Universal and showed it to them and they wanted it and they loved it and then we finished it together. It has been such a fun and wonderful time. Iím really excited for audiences to see that movie. My producer is Jason Blum, a super smart guy, and just had such a great time. Iím really excited about it. I feel super proud about the TV show and the movie. So a fun year, a fun year coming up.

Kim: James, do you have any other closing instructions for anyone?

Night: We can doóKim, if you want to, we can do one more if you want.

Kim: One more? Alright great. James, [indiscernible].

Night: That was a quick answer.

Kim: Sure, James, do you want to add somebody else in?

Moderator: Sure. Just a moment, please.

Night: Did I throw off the whole technique? Is the technology capable?

Moderator: Donna Cohrs with is next. Please go ahead.

Donna: Oh, thank you very much for accepting this last question. Iíve been waiting. I am so happy to welcome you to TV.

Night: Thank you.

Donna: Iíve seen the first two episodes. Iím going to binge watch the next three. Youíre pretty well known for your symbolism in a lot of your films. Would you say that thereís symbolism in Wayward Pines and what is it?

Night: If I told you it would no longer be symbolism. It would be literal. But thereís definitely a lot of hopes in there in terms of the colors and themes. I hired directors to do each of the subsequent episodes. We have a little, kind of like a guide book that we put together as saying this is what the filmic language is, at least the way I was thinking of it. I wasnít stringent at all with them. I really implored them to make their episodes their own because I hired them for their particular muscles.

Some of them are more muscular than me. Some of them are more kinetic or can handle a particular type of storytelling much better than I can and thatís why I hired them. I didnít want them to copy me. But I did have kind of a guide book like hey if you used artificial light in this capacity it has this connotation, so thatís one. The way we use light is indicative of whatís going on in the plot.

Iím trying to dance around the answer there. Sorry about that. But I didnít impose as much as I would do like say on one of my thrillers where I would say the color purple means this. It represents the woman that passed away in Signs for example or something like that, a very specific thing.

But maybe after the show is done, one day you and I will talk and I can tell you more specific this meant this and this meant that. Some I did. I didnít want to be too suffocating to the filmmakers coming in in terms of hey youíve got to use this wardrobe or that or this color only. But there were suggestions in the guidebook.

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, this conference will be available for replay today after 2:00 p.m. through May 12th at midnight.

Night: You know, you put on that voice. You put on that answering machine voice. Thatís amazing how you do that. You donít talk like that normally, do you, at dinner? You donít talk like that?

Moderator: I do, actually.

Night: I thought you were doing a performance. It was quite riveting.

Moderator: Thank you. Would you like to give some closing comments?

Night: No. Iím just so excited. Thank you guys for all listening in. Weíre very excited about the premiere on Thursday. It was definitely an honor for me to enter television with this cast and crew and with this network and studio. Iím a very, very lucky guy, so I hope you guys enjoy it.

Moderator: That does conclude the call for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive TeleConference. You may now disconnect.

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