The ultimate act of betting on yourself.
Almost a decade ago, M. Night Shyamalan was coming off a series of movies that audiences felt were underwhelming. And critics agreed. For someone who was once considered the new master of suspense, he was stuck trying to figure out how to get back to making movies he loved.
He had an idea and knew the best way forward. But he wanted someone to let him make the movie the way he wanted. He wanted to get back to the freedom of the old days.
So he found a financier he could trust not to meddle in the creative process: himself.
A few years ago, Shyamalan talked to Collider about why he made this decision. Shyamalan said, "I paid for The Visit, Split, Glass, and Old. All four of those. And I pay for Servant as well. The reason that I do it is to do it at the smallest number where I can be free, and I can do something provocative and different and unusual, and I’m not putting my partners at risk. I’m taking the risk."
"In most scenarios, because we’re doing it at such a small price, we’re going to be okay no matter what," Shyamalan said. "So we can make the most interesting art. I don’t have to think about some equation of safety. I don’t have to think about that. I believe the flip happens where the audience can feel that it’s different. That there is no safety valves on it. There is no safety guard rails on it. They can feel that there is no supervision and it’s this kind of free-spirited thing. I believe audiences can feel that and that’s why they’ve been coming to these movies."
Even with great financial successes and the freedoms of those movies, Shyamalan continued this process. And he is still self-financing today.
For his new film, Knock at the Cabin, he remortgaged his house to make sure he had enough. It's a strategy he doesn't recommend but one I find fascinating.
"I literally mortgaged my house."— Kevin McCarthy (@KevinMcCarthyTV) February 1, 2023
It's still amazes me that M. Night Shyamalan has been financing all his own films starting with THE VISIT. This gives @MNightShyamalan an incredible amount of artistic freedom.
KNOCK AT THE CABIN is my favorite of his films since UNBREAKABLE. pic.twitter.com/F7fqdqXTtx
Even a brief look at his estimated budgets and the box office take shows this strategy has paid off. Not only was Shyamalan allowed to make movies that forced him back into a positive creative space, but he was able to find financial success to connect with audiences again.
"How does M. Night Shyamalan keep getting money?" is a frequent snarky question about a guy who A: Self-financed his recent movies and B: Keeps making profitable movies.— Eric Goldman (@TheEricGoldman) February 1, 2023
The Visit: Budget - $5m / Box Office - $98.5m
Split: $9m / $278.5m
Glass: $20m / $247m
Old: $18m / 90.2m
Of course, I think Shyamalan is smart to advise against his sort of financial risk for most people. Not because they're not good, but because there is a litany of factors when it comes to a movie being profitable at a large scale.
Still, you have to admire his gumption and bravery in the open market. It makes me excited to see his work.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
February 7, 2023 at 8:11AM
If he’s so successful financing his own films, why is he remortgaging his house?
February 7, 2023 at 9:42AM
That quote comes from him talking about the first film he self-financed (the visit). The first time he took that risk he mortgaged his house. Ever since then, he's been good.
February 7, 2023 at 10:28PM
If you look at the leaked budget for "The Village" M. Night pulled about $10 million off the top of the $70 million budget. If you add in the other producers and the top 5 actors then you're at about $23 million (1/3 of the budget). So he self finances "The Visit" and he's down to $5 million for the whole movie. So he built a profitable name with other people's money so he could afford to self finance on a budget.
He's mostly a good writer/director but this article is missing context as to how he is even in a position to do what most filmmakers can't afford to do.
February 9, 2023 at 2:36PM
Him making gobs of money doing this, AND him having to mortgage his house to finance the latest ones, don't jibe. If this was working for him, he'd be ahead, NOT having to mortgage his house. Just comparing "shooting budget vs gross" is irrelevant. There are a lot more expenses when you distribute a film, than just what it cost to get it 'in the can'.
February 11, 2023 at 11:48AM