When you first heard that M. Night Shyamalan will direct Will and Jaden Smith in a sci-fi flick set 1,000 years in the future, did you react with hoots of joy and calls for more lemon drink? Or did you groan loudly and do a dramatic eye roll, Liz Lemon-style? If you fall into the latter camp, I’ve got good news for you: Today, three friends launched a new fundraising website. Their goal? To collect enough money to send M. Night Shyamalan back to film school.
Chris Baker, the copywriter and author who came up with the idea for the site, tells EW that he was first inspired last summer at a screening of Inception. The movie was preceded by the trailer for a silly horror movie called Devil. When a title card at the end of the spot revealed that the film came “from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan,” the theater’s audience burst into raucous laughter. (A similar incident was captured on camera and quickly went viral before being yanked off YouTube.) He sent out a tweet proposing the Shyamalan film school campaign, and his friend Eric Roller — another copywriter — replied that he’d like to help, “but only if we can call it M. Night School.” Baker and Roller then recruited Vanessa Castaneda, their buddy from advertising school, to serve as the nascent project’s art director.
Because each member of the trio has a full-time job, M. Night School was built slowly for several months before it could launch officially. But when the director’s name was in the news again last week, Baker and company went into overdrive to get the site ready for prime time. They launched it this morning and have already raised $211.24, at last count.
So what’s going to happen if the team manages to reach their $150,000 goal? “We want to do a stunt where we present him with a giant check,” Baker explains. “Obviously, the guy’s a multi-millionaire — he’ll refuse it.” If Shyamalan doesn’t accept the money or refuses to show up at such a ceremony, the site’s creators have a backup plan: They plan to hold a festival in New York for aspiring filmmakers hoping to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The winner of the festival will receive the money raised by M. Night School as a scholarship in Shyamalan’s name.
The site’s founders know that their project isn’t exactly kind — when Shyamalan finds out about the site, “I think he’ll probably be a little hurt,” Baker says. Still, he isn’t kept awake at night by concern for the frequently derided director’s feelings: “His movies do make money, for better or for worse, which is kind of the irony of the whole thing.” So if you’ve got an extra Washington burning a hole in your pocket, consider contributing to the cause. Then again, if you’re an unabashed fan of The Happening and its ilk, you might want to start an anti-M. Night School campaign; if Baker and his friends succeed, you might never see another scene like this one again.