Shyamalan Talks The Last Airbender
BD: Who did the conversion?
MNS: A company called Stereo D. They had brand new software and an incredible group of artisans that came and presented and presented and re-presented and convinced me. And my primary reason for doing it beyond what they showed me was I believed in their integrity and desire to protect the movie. Then we just went whole hog; they actually came after I saw Alice. I felt Tim did a really good job with the 3-D and enhanced the experience going down the rabbit hole for me and I thought it was custom-made for this: to be in a fantasy world and an alternate world, and it could help the immersion feeling and the suspension of disbelief. So I came home from Alice and I called Paramount and I said let's do it.
MNS: No, but it was scary as hell because I told them I didn't want to hurt this movie in any way, and I said when I finish I want to be able to say that I prefer this version of the movie hands-down. And that's the truth. And they taught me a lot, too, about the misconceptions of 3-D: how it's not always coming out and that you want to create a sense of depth like you're looking through a window.
BD: What can you tell us about the second movie in this proposed trilogy?
MNS: Well, the R&D would start immediately as soon as they tell me to go for it, and we would map it out. I would tell them how much time I would need to prep it and this is how much post I'm going to need based on what I anticipate the amount of CGI is going to be. As soon as they call me, I'll meet with ILM to discuss the amount of creatures, the kind of effects that I'm thinking about. I have a rough first draft that I wrote that could serve as our jumping point for everybody's discussions and schedules. For me, it's all about schedules for these types of movies. If you give it the time, it'll work out. And I'm talking about the difference of two months or one month. That extra time is where all the answers happen.
BD: Have you figured out the third movie, too?
MNS: No, just the second one. I thought it was helpful for the first one to know what was immediately following it. And my favorite season is the second. I thought they found their stride and I love the storylines and the characters. The second movie will be even more truthful to the series.
BD: And if not the second Airbender, what would be you directing next? The supernatural thriller about the father and missing daughter?
MNS: No, it's not a girl, but it is that supernatural thriller. Yeah, it's all about schedule at this point. It's very tricky to figure out when we would want to have a second movie -- it could take two to two-and-a-half years to do properly.
MNS: There is a global tension that exists in one of these movies that is not just created by the characters but that the characters have to acknowledge. You have to instruct the actors in the writing to make sure that it's represented so when you do the intimate scenes it's in the context of the life and death of the larger things going on. That wasn't always the case with my movies with contemporary settings and contemporary issues. And I didn't have to bring into account the larger milieu. And so that was an interesting process to learn.
BD: What's the favorite among your films?
MNS: I think I have three. Is that close enough?
BD: What are they?
MNS: Unbreakable, The Village and Lady in the Water. I'm too close to this one to put it in the same category, but ask me next year. I feel committed to all these movies, but these are the three that I would run into the burning house and grab.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.