February 05, 2008

Will it happen again?

My first year in film school, one of my classmates interned at a production company and was able to get her hands on a copy of the screenplay for "Unbreakable" about 7 months before the movie actually hit the theaters.

As a 1st year screenwriting fellow at AFI, freshly minted in Los Angeles, during an 18 month period that saw the release of "The Sixth Sense", "The Matrix", "American Beauty", "The Insider", "The Talented Mr. Ripley", "The Thomas Crown Affair", "Fight Club", "The Beach" (yes, I REALLY like "The Beach"), "American Psycho", "The Blair Witch Project", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Dancer In The Dark", "Gladiator", "In The Mood For Love", "High Fidelity", "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "Being John Malkovich", "Magnolia", and "Three Kings"....

You get the idea.

It was a great time for movies, and the chance to actually read a script for what was one of the most anticipated films of the year BEFORE it was even produced was VERY satisfying.

I read it, and, for the most part, loved it. Until the very end.

As a comic book fan AND a filmmaker-in-training, I was so geeked about the prospect of this film, but I knew that something just didn't - quite - work.

So, I started drafting a letter to M. Night Shaymalan.

Yes, as a first year film student, I was going to give script notes to a guy who'd just been nominated for three Oscars (Picture, Directing, & Original Screenplay) for what is now the 30th top grossing movie of all time.

But then I figured, hey, he's so good, of course he'll see what's wrong and re-write the script before shooting. I mean, after all, who am I to tell him? He clearly knows what he's doing.

To this day, I wish I'd written that letter.

And, as both "Unbreakable" and "A.I. : Artificial Intelligence" clearly demonstrate, not even the very best filmmakers are above notes.

I like "The Sixth Sense", and, for all it's flaws, I still love "Unbreakable". But I LOATHE the endings of "Signs" and "The Village", to the point that they really ruin the movies for me. And "The Lady In The Water" is just a train wreck.

Maybe I'm a sucker.

I mean, I suppose 2 for 5 is still a .400 batting average, but his most recent efforts haven't really been inspiring.

I think M. Night Shyamalan is an amazing director. He has a masterful sense of color, framing, camera movement, and pacing. Taken strictly on an aesthetic level, his films are marvelous.

But, first and foremost, I am a writer.

And the storyteller in me finds M. Night Shyamalan to be a wildly inconsistent screenwriter.

SO, like I said, maybe I'm just a sucker.

But, damn, this looks good!

So, Variety is reporting that he shopped the original draft of this script around town, and everybody passed. So, he went back and re-wrote it, and THEN got a green light from 20th Century Fox.

NOBODY is above notes.

Maybe I'm a sucker, but I have hope.