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Directing for Television: A Conversation with M. Night Shymalan for Wayward Pines: Season One

24 August 2015

Stumble across a quaint little town with a dirty secret when Chad Hodge’s addictive drama WAYWARD PINES is released on DVD this August.

Adapted from Blake Crouch’s novels with an M. Night Shyamalan-directed pilot, WAYWAYRD PINES is an eerily magnetizing 10-episode series that is said to provoke echoes of cult classics such as Twin Peaks, Lost and even The Truman Show.

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Oscar-nominee Matt Dillon: Crash) arrives in the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, Idaho on a mission to find two missing federal agents. Instead of answers, Ethan's investigation only turns up more questions. What's wrong with Wayward Pines? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the life he knew, from the husband and father he was, until he must face the terrifying reality that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive...

WAYWARD PINES is host to a myriad of mysterious residents, played by an expert ensemble cast including Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) as sinister Nurse Pam, Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (Prisoners) as the enigmatic Sheriff Pope, Carla Guigno (Sin City) as the evasive Kate Hewson and Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones (The Girl) as the duplicitous Dr. Jenkins. The cast also features Hope Davis (The Newsroom), Juliette Lewis (Secrets and Lies), Reed Diamond (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) and Shannyn Sosaamon (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).

Get entangled in web of unanswerable questions, as this series event moves in on DVD on 17th August. Welcome to WAYWARD PINES, enjoy your stay.


What first interested you about making Wayward Pines as a TV series?
A lot of times with television it’s been difficult for me to say yes because it’s so unknown and there are so many factors that make me uncomfortable. But with this particular project, when they offered me the pilot it was written already and I really liked it a lot. I thought it was very dark and mysterious and funny and it was a great mystery. It is based on a book – and indeed on a book series that was being written at the time – and when they told me what the actual premise was, what the actual show was about, it was perfect for me. It was like this big giant idea that really straddled sci-fi and scary things and I just felt ‘Wow, this makes me feel really comfortable because the bones of the story have been worked out and I love them, I know how to execute this tone and it syncs with my taste’. So it was a really easy ‘Yes’ and it kind of snowballed from there. Fox came on very strong and wanted to make it, then we got Matt [Dillon] and one by one we got all the other cast members. It snowballed into this wonderful piece.


Did you go back and read the books by Blake Crouch?
I read the first one. At that time he hadn’t written book two or book three so we just had his ideas more than anything. It was a very unusual experience working with Blake actually. He’s such a nice man and we had like our own writers’ room incubating ideas and he was writing his novels. He would tell us what he was thinking and we would tell him what we were doing and they kind of meshed together. Blake obviously came up with almost all of the structural things, but there were a lot of ideas that he liked and that he put back into his books. It was a co-existing, co-creating kind of thing and if you read all three books you’ll see that season one covers a lot of elements from all of them.


What does the format of a TV series offer you as a storyteller?
The real joy of making a TV show is the ability to spend time on the characters and really delve into them. With film you have this incredible pressure to hurry things along. You have to introduce the characters, put them in jeopardy and close their situations in a satisfying way, all in two hours. That’s a very tricky thing to do. I love characters and in making movies I love the first act; it’s such a fantastic experience to learn about peoples’ lives. I have a much higher tolerance for staying in the first act – like I would stay in the first act forever if I could. One would argue, for example, that Unbreakable is all the first act of a movie. TV really leans into that kind of sensibility so it was a nice match for me.


Given the plot’s many intricacies, do you think the show is something that will reward repeated viewings on DVD?
I think so, yes. There’s such a big reveal in the show that when you go back and watch it again you see all these different things – like ‘Oh, what is that building?’ and ‘Oh, what is that camera there?’ and ‘The way that person is acting, I thought it meant this the first time but now I know it means that’. It’s fun. You weren’t aware of what you were watching and now that you are aware it’s a different experience. Blake came up with such an intricate mythology. It’s so rich so the second time you’ll certainly find a lot of nuances in there.


It’s also the perfect binge-watch. Are you a binge-watcher yourself?
I probably am, just because of my schedule and all that stuff. To sit down and swallow a whole season over the course of a couple of weeks is probably the best and most efficient use of my time. Obviously I’m a bit of an addict and, like everybody else, when you finish an episode you want to throw on the next one. I remember back in the old days with The Sopranos. Watching it every Sunday I’d be like ‘My god, I’ve got to wait another week for this! I can’t take it!’


With the behind-the-scenes features, how do you balance how much to reveal?
It’s a tricky balance and in a perfect world when you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes material it makes you want to watch the series. It makes you more excited about the experience. It’s like a docent in a museum who tells you ‘This is why Picasso was in the blue era of his work because this had happened and his friend shot himself’. Now you’re seeing sadness in the painting when you have someone who can frame it for you. It’s such an interesting show, with such a big cast and crew, and it’s nice to spend time with people who, you know, are no longer alive on the show and get to know them a little bit.







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