Seeing The Wood For The Trees
After a career spent in movies, Shyamalan says the move to TV brought him new challenges. “Obviously I’ve been dealing with three- act formats for so long in movies, but networks have commercial breaks, so there’s a five- or six- act structure that they have per episode. That’s a new thing I had to learn. Also, the amount of material that you have to put out there, and the amount of time you have to do it is incredible. I just can’t believe how fast they do it. It’s unbelievable!”
In American terms, a ten- episode season is fairly short. Even so, Shyamalan put production on hiatus halfway through to make sure everyone was heading in the right direction. “We put a gap in the middle so I could stop everything and recalibrate, edit, talk to the actors, rewrite... We started to get into the ‘ we’ll figure it out’ thing, and when too many of those piled up, I said I thought it would be wise if we took our time to do it properly. It was six or eight weeks, but it meant a lot. Fox were super- accommodating for that.”
sci- fact! Shyamalan says he tried to bring some of his experience as a filmmaker to the look of the show. “I said, ‘ Are you interested in having a cinema aesthetic, in the sense of longer takes and the kind of things we bring to films?’ [ Fox] were so interested in bringing a different tone to the piece, they wanted it to be the thing that stands out about it – you’re flipping channels and you come to it. Its vocabulary is instantly different. That really excited me. They all sat across from me and said, ‘ That’s what we want,’ and that’s what they let us do.”
Notes from a small town
Author Blake Crouch was still working on his novel when the show went into production, so the writing became a two- way process. “It was an interesting opportunity because it was kind of back and forth between Blake and us going, ‘ We’re going to take your book, and this many episodes will be about the first book. This is where we’re thinking of going.’ He’ll go, ‘ Oh, I was thinking about this… Maybe I’ll put that in my book.’ He was really gracious to let us develop this story in organic ways. He couldn’t have been a better collaborator.”
This game of musical statues had been going on for hours.