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Interview with M. Night Shyamalan of "Wayward
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!
FBC PUBLICITY: Wayward Pines
May 5, 2015/12:30 p.m. PDT
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
Vision.com. 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
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
Moderator: Molly Eichel with the Inquirer is next. Please go
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
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
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 FandBolt.com is next. Please go
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Kim: James, Iím so sorry, but we only have time for one more
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
Night: We can doóKim, if you want to, we can do one more if
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
Moderator: Donna Cohrs with ThreeIfBySpace.net 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
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
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
Moderator: Thank you. Would you like to give some closing
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
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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