NOT DEADLINE...separates the truth from fiction (every Tuesday) in entertainment news


In recent interviews for his new film TRAP coming out next month, M. Night stressed the importance of being ‘original’ and not relying on IP (other source material) …which is a rather curious thing for him to say given how many of his films were shall we say at the very least ‘inspired’ by existing IP. For example:

Sixth Sense arguably borrowed plot and the twist ending from an episode of ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? The Village arguably borrowed plot and the twist ending from the novel RUNNING OUT OF TIME. The Servant arguably borrowing from THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL. Old was an adaptation of a graphic novel titled OLD. Last Airbender was based on an animated series of the same name. After Earth was based on a Will Smith idea that M. Night co-wrote with someone else. Knock on the Cabin was based on an existing script based on the novel of the same name.

So, perhaps when M. Night refers to ‘original’, he’s talking about the story behind the source material for THE WATCHERS, the recently released film produced by M. Night which was adapted and directed by his daughter, Ishana.

The film was adapted from the book of the same name, but the true author of this book feels like a riddle in search of an answer.

Let’s start with the credited author of the book–A.M. SHINE.

A.M.’s first novel Coldwood: the Haunted Man and Other Tales was published by Dark Hall Press (located in Rhode Island) in 2016. In interviews, A.M. spoke of how proud he was to have a book published in the same part of the world where Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft toiled.

And yet, when you search for the Dark Hall Press website, up comes with the most recent blog dating way back to 2013, and then when you click on below the blog, the IP address belongs to a bizarre Singapore related website called kudatogel…and when you try to order the book on Amazon, the landing page says the book is out of print. It’s bizarre that the book is not available for purchase in any format given it would get a huge sales boost thanks to The Watchers. And even more strange, the book is not mentioned in A.M.’s bio on the Bell Lomax Morgan agency website that reps him. It’s as if either the book was never written OR all copies were destroyed.

And what about A.M. SHINE’S explanation for how the novel for The Watchers came together. A.M. said in a Zoom interview with Forbidden Planet TV that it derived from an unpublished short story he had written over the past ten years (he’s not clear on when during that ten year span he wrote this specific short story). The ‘pre-The Watchers’ short story was about a dealer of rare birds who enjoys having them in cages and he stumbles upon a cabin and looks out the window and these creatures start to attack before they are held back by the older creature and so on. A.M. then reiterates during the interview that he never sent the short story to anyone even though he found the idea compelling. The idea might be compelling, but what’s even more compelling is that, as an aspiring author, he didn’t at the very least self-publish the short story. It would have attracted a lot of attention. And given his short stories were allegedly published by Dark Hall Press in 2016, one would think this could have been part of that.

How about all of the ideas and characters in THE WATCHERS? A.M. said in the same interview that the only character he had in mind was Mina and that the rest of the book came to him ‘on the fly’. That’s amazing. So much for outlining or doing much of anything before telling the story…and on a side note: it appeared to Not Deadline that A.M. did not have a firm grasp of his characters or storyline when he was being interviewed. It was all about ‘making shit up as he went along’ and he seemed uncertain and at a loss for words at times when probed for deeper meanings behind the characters and otherwise.

And how about the creative content in the THE WATCHERS novel? There are plot elements that bump up against THE VILLAGE which bumped up against the novel RUNNING OUT OF TIME which bumped up against CABIN IN THE WOODS. Instead of ‘those we do not speak of’ in THE VILLAGE, we have ‘those who are shapeshifting fairies’. It’s fascinating to see a riff on a riff on a riff. M. Night loves things to happen in threes so there’s that.

Speaking of M. Night’s love of trilogies, The Watchers is touted as the first in a potential trilogy of films. That’s equally interesting.

So, we’re pointing out all of these loose threads. Why should anyone care?

Answer: Because it could be that M. Night is an original, but not in the way we could have ever imagined…and that’s fascinating.

Let’s hypothesize. This is just Not Deadline’s opinion. Let’s say in the early days of M. Night’s career, he creatively ‘borrowed’ from others because internet searches were not as expansive and exhaustive for research and information…let’s say that plausible denial of access was harder to disprove.

And let’s say that overconfidence caught up with M Night. on THE VILLAGE when it became clear that borrowing from an established author was not the smartest move. He learns his lesson, but, at the same time, knows his best works borrow from other people’s work. So, he pivots and publicly acknowledge (and/or option) existing scripts and books if he has any concerns about crossing the copyright line…until he gets cocky again later on and resumes unacknowledged borrowing (our opinion…not fact)—this time from an existing film called THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL upon which his Apple tv series THE SERVANT is arguably based. He gets sued and might very well lose at trial. We shall see…

Which brings us to a really cool conspiracy theory. Supposing A.M. Shine was more of a transcriber than an author? What if the Shymalans fed him the characters and the story? You might ask yourself: why would someone create IP if they could theoretically just say it’s made up? Answer: Wrapping ‘borrowings’ in self-generated source material provides an additional layer of creative protection against others who claim their work was ‘borrowed’.

For example, THE WATCHERS could be a West of Ireland version of a very famous paper written in 1973 by a renowned scientist named John Ball who suggested it was possible that extraterrestrials were observing humans much akin to animals in a zoo, and Mr. Ball went to great lengths to break things down. There was also a script set up at New Line’s parent Warner bros decades ago that had to do with humans being observed by aliens as if they were in a human zoo. And of course, there’s the ‘those we don’t speak of’ book Running out of Time that incorporates limited spaces and isolation and creatures in the night. And there’s ‘Cabin in the Woods’. These source materials are high profile, very specific reference points that no one would ever cop to (especially Running Out of Time)

There’s also another interesting wrinkle here. THE WATCHERS novel was a UK copyright and not a U.S. copyright…and copyright laws in the UK are much tougher to pierce. It would be yet another obstacle for an author in the U.S. who might think their material was wrapped inside another source written in the UK where copyright law violation thresholds are much lower than in America.

Which brings us to M. Night’s upcoming film TRAP. He says in interviews that he got the idea for this ‘Silence of the Lambs at a Taylor Swift concert as a big sting operation to capture a serial killer’ in part from the real life 1985 sting operation by U.S. Marshalls and the Police Department, whereby they invited unsuspecting criminals to a location to pick up Super Bowl tickets and where they were instead arrested (he said this in an interview with Empire online as well). This may be true, but there’s another IP that jumps out just as much…and that is Erik Larson’s amazingly unique novel DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY that tells the fictional tale of a serial killer having some fun at the World’s Fair. Just swap out the World’s Fair with a pop concert—and there you have it…

Long story short: whenever someone suggests that their story is based on public domain true stories, it is worth doing a deeper dive to see if there are fiction inspirations. It might not be the most exciting thing to do, but it will be if you obsess over solving riddles and puzzles like Not Deadline does.

One last question for another time: How might the Shymalans have stumbled onto A.M. Shine if they fed or influenced the story? One way could have been through A.M.’s agent. Maybe, the Shyamalans read something of A.M’s (maybe even a way too early not so good version of The Watchers.). Or maybe they were the only people who got to read A.M.’s Coldwood novel that disappeared into the ether.

We may never know all the answers, but that won’t stop Not Deadline from trying.

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