M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is not only the biggest movie in the generally barren month of January, it’s one of the most anticipated movies of 2019 period. Glass is the follow-up to the very successful 2016 film Split as well as a long-awaited sequel to a beloved 2000 hit Unbreakable. Considering those factors you’d think that Hollywood opened up the checkbook to make it, but M. Night Shyamalan actually funded it himself, as he has his past few films.
The director has been putting his money where his mouth is to stage his comeback over his past three films. Starting with 2015’s The Visit, M. Night Shyamalan took out a $ 5 million loan on his Pennsylvania estate to finance the film. The Visit went on to make almost $ 100 million worldwide. He then scratched together $ 9 million to make Split, which put the director back on the map in a big way with a $ 278.4 million worldwide haul.
Split also set up a sequel and a movie that would have far more eyes on it than the director’s previous two films and would also cost more. But he didn’t take any help and M. Night Shyamalan once again used his own money to finance the film. According to Forbes he used the proceeds from Split and The Visit as well as collateral from his property to put together the $ 20 million budget for Glass.
Independent filmmakers put their own money up all the time to fund their dream projects and first films but they usually don’t spend the millions M. Night Shyamalan has, nor do they have his name. But self-funding his own films actually makes sense if you consider the arc of M. Night Shyamalan’s career.
There was a time when M. Night Shyamalan could probably walk in to a studio with an idea and receive a practically blank checkbook in return. He was on a roll after The Sixth Sense with Unbreakable, Signs and The Village, but then he had a very public downfall with the quintet of Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth, at which point M. Night Shyamalan’s name became more warning than selling point.
Those critical and commercial failures changed the equation for a director once lauded as the next big thing. M. Night Shyamalan was no longer able to get his projects greenlit the way he once did. And that lack of clout meant that the director’s ideas would be more subject to the whims of a studio that was financing his projects, potentially impacting his vision.
So it seems that M. Night Shyamalan recognized the position he was in, and instead of sacrificing his creative vision, he put his own money on the line in order to rebuild his career— while still making the films he wanted to make. By using his own money he wasn’t reliant upon someone else’s funding, and thus could exert the control he wanted over his films.
It’s a laudable move on the director’s part, because he was risking his own money with no guarantee of reward. His career isn’t only on the line, but so is his financial well-being. And whether you ultimately like his movies or not, you’ve got to respect that as an artist he not only wants to work but is willing to go to such lengths to do so and maintain control over something with his name on it.
M. Night Shyamalan’s gamble appears to be paying off too. Despite negative to mixed reviews for the film so far, Glass is tracking at pulling in $ 100 million worldwide opening weekend. Time will tell whether he continues paying for his own films after that or if he takes some of Hollywood’s money as his comeback continues.