M. Night Shyamalan’s AmEx Commercial

Like other directors before him, M. Night Shyamalan once dared to shoot commercials. The plural is exaggerated here, because unlike David Lynch Shyamalan just made one single (known) commercial! But this weird short video shows a lot of the director’s creativity and is a real piece of creepy atmosphere. Let’s take a closure look.


Back in 2006 American Express (AmEx) featured well-known artists to promote its charge cards. In the course of that Shyamalan was asked to shoot a commercial for the financial company for the 2006 Oscar ceremony. The AmEx persons in charge of this projetct gave him total freedom. The Indian-born director particularly liked this point. He also hired Christopher Doyle behind the camera (Doyle was Shyamalan’s camera man at the time for Lady in the Water).

Commercial analysis

The commerical takes place in a restaurant. You will find some typical Shyamalan trademarks in it:

  • A spooky, creepy atmosphere, worthy of a David Lynch movie.
  • Slightly supernatural elements in an everyday event (a restaurant with dead people watching the broken glasses, a man who suddenly can’t speak anymore etc.)
  • A twist like ending, all of what the spectator just saw happened in the dreamy head of Shyamalan.
  • And he plays himself in the commercial.

Something that we can also notice watching this commercial: It has real movie quality. The shooting, cuts and effects are amazing for a “simple” commercial. And that’s also what Shyamalan said in the short behind the scences feature: “We did it in a movie way, with movie actors …” Therefore, the commercial could also be seen as one of Shyamalan’s rare short movies.

Another interesting reflection: There is something very true and honest about this commercial. You can really picture Shyamalan like that in a restaurant. He’s watching other people and that’s what inspires him. He manages to add a grotesque, frightening level to these normal people. And that’s where his “real” movies come from.

Below is Shyamalans full American Express Commercial Time to Dream (2006) (unfortunately the quality is not that good), enjoy:

And we even have a behind the scences video (unfortunately the quality is not that good either):

Picture: Gage Skidmore, Wikipedia.

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