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SIGNS

About The Production
As much as Shyamalan is known for his ability as a writer and director of actors, his visual style is also very strong. "His scripts read very visually, which is not always the case," says storyboard artist Brick Mason. Mason has worked with Shyamalan since his second film, "Wide Awake," and the storyboarding process is of great importance to Shyamalan, who pre-visualizes the entire film before a single frame is shot. Mason and Shyamalan begin storyboarding from page one of the script soon after its completion, months before the preproduction process.

"He really uses storyboards well," says Mason. "He's constantly revising and getting the storyboards the way he wants, and all of the departments get them. People can look at them and know a lot more of what is expected of whatever their job is. So they also serve the purpose of communicating to the crew exactly what the shots are going to be. And then he sticks remarkably close to them."

"Night really enjoys the process of making a film," says producer Mercer. "He's well prepared and he identifies with each one of the phases, from writer, to doing the storyboards and envisioning what the imagery is going to look like, and then the director takes over and makes the movie. And then he is editing himself in the cutting room. Each one of those he savors and likes."

"I make the movie visually before we make the movie," Shyamalan concurs. "It's important to me that I understand the movie before any actor comes to me . . . that I understand its nature. And so when we get on set, and are setting up for a shot, I know where I am going to use it and we don't have any extra stuff. I don't have to have an actor do a great performance in a shot we won't use."

This kind of meticulous preparation stems from Shyamalan's belief that the time-honored fundamentals of filmmaking are often the best, says Brick Mason: "Night is very much a traditional craftsman." No computers are used in the storyboarding, for example, "it's very low-tech – just pencil, paper, eraser."

Shyamalan is a bit suspicious of some modern practices in moviemaking, he says. "A lot of the discipline in filmmaking has been lost now because of computer editing and the way we do things now. It's so, ‘Figure it out later. Why spend the time to do it now?'"

"I want to create an environment where people can risk themselves because they feel so safe that what they are doing is going to be used to its fullest extent."

Producer Kennedy applauds this idea: "A lot of people who say they are ‘breaking rules' don't even know the rules to begin with. That gets less interesting. It is sort of comforting the way that Night, at 31 years old, is approaching the movies that he's making with such respect for the way in which filmmakers of (many years ago) constructed stories. It grounds everything and makes it extremely solid and you feel that you arein the hands of someone who really knows what they are doing."

Joaquin Phoenix was also taken with Shyamalan's very specific vision, and the way filmmaking is very much "a science" to him. "But he doesn't ever lose the emotional core of the characters,which is a difficult balance. If you are very technical, and it becomes about how the camera moves, or the lighting, you are in danger of losing that humanistic quality . . . or vice versa and you pay attention to only that, the technical side could suffer. Yet he somehow manages to do it all. And it creates this wonderful atmosphere on set that is very inspiring as an actor."

Mel Gibson agrees: "He really understands the language of film. He has a clear understanding of how he wants to see the story. And the impressive thing to me is the way he is shooting it, wh

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