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Friday, July 21, 2006

Director M. Night Shyamalan on New Technologies, Filmmaking, and the Theatrical Window

When I was at ShoWest in Las Vegas this past March, the good people of Warner Bros. PR arranged a few minutes for me to chat with M. Night Shyamalan, who was showing a few scenes from "The Lady in the Water" to theater owners. I was hoping to use his comments more extensively in a magazine piece, but some of them did creep into this Hollywood Reporter story on digital cinematography.

But in the spirit of the blogosphere, I wanted to post the entire transcript of our conversation at the Paris Hotel here. In a very short span of time, we talked about digital cinematography, editing, the theatrical window, Steven Soderbergh, and Mark Cuban.

Scott Kirsner: Have you had other directors who've come to you, after you started speaking out about the theatrical window last year, and said, `Hey, we're on your side'?

M. Night Shyamalan: I haven't found anyone, other than the one --

SK: [Director Steven] Soderbergh --

MNS: -- vehemently on the other side, who has said, `I love that my film is going to be on DVD [while it's in theaters].' No one would say that.

Either [directors] feel, there's nothing I can do, or yeah, I'm with you 100 percent.

It's not a dangerous stance that I'm taking. That's what we do for a living.

SK: Do you think there will be more experiments, like `Bubble'? Those guys [Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner of 2929 Entertainment] have said they're going to do a couple movies, and they want to get other directors working with them.

MNS: My art form isn't there to be experimented with. They chose to make an experiment and the results of their experiment are in. [Box Office Mojo says the Steven Soderbergh drama `Bubble,' with a $1.6 million budget, made $145,626 in theatrical release.] If the results were the other way around, it would be a different story.

SK: What are your feelings about digital projection and shooting digitally?

MNS: Shooting digitally would bother me. I'm editing on film -- and I can't even find the materials to edit on film anymore.

SK: You still edit on film?

MNS: I do both, edit on the computer and film, and it's impossible to find [film editing equipment]. I have to get the equipment from a warehouse in Los Angeles which is all dusty. They're like, `Hey, you want to buy it?' I'm thinking about buying it, because no one wants it.

It's changing to digital. I'm concerned about humanity. If it was up to me, I would keep the stock from the 1970s that they shot `Dog Day Afternoon' with. That was more real to me. I would love to have the option to shoot with that. But I don't. I have very slick movie film now. You can shoot in any light, it looks very clean, everyone has this glossy quality.

SK: You're not eager to start shooting digitally, like [Bryan Singer did on] `Superman Returns'?

MNS: It's not my thing... I'm a little, you know, farm boy.


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