American Express bought two minutes of time at the 2006 Oscars and filled them with an ad directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The spot featured Shyamalan as the latest instalment in the “My Life, My Card” campaign. As Shyamalan sits at a cafe table, he sees people around him behaving in eerie ways. The secret of the suspense is in the combination of music, understated acting and photography. The final twist for the ad is preceded by Shyamalan’s voiceover: “My life is about finding time to dream. That’s why my card is American Express.”
The laughing couple turn around to face the waitress. A baby in a self-propelled pram shoots down the aisle to stop by a young couple. A man at the next table loosens his collar to deal with the sizzling sweat on his face. A woman wills her husband to choke on his words. A waitress drops her tray of glasses, attracting the attention of a bay of live diners and dead observers. In hindsight, we realise she was probably tripped. A woman in mid-sentence pokes her tongue out to catch a fly. A hooded man spookily reveals his baldness and tattoos. In case we’re not sure who’s watching all this, a young waitress comes to Shyamalan’s table to tell him how much she appreciates his films. Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube (HD)
The ad is available to view in shockwave format and can be downloaded in quicktime format from the American Express site, mylifemycard.com. The site includes a ‘behind the scenes’ documentary featuring interviews with the director and shots of the filming. Shyamalan talks about producing the impression that we’re in his head, wondering if we’re on some weird alternate planet. It’s not until the waitress expresses her appreciation for the director that we break out of the trance.
Shyamalan explains that American Express gave him the opportunity to make a two minute advertisement as if he was filming two days of a movie. And that’s what he did. He cast movie actors, used his regular crew and recruited Industrial Light & Magic to do special effects. Together they were able to film 11 to 12 shots a day. The director explains in the behind-the-scenes doco that he’s showing viewers something of his day job – watching people and thinking up stories. He sees this ad as an opportunity to make fun of himself and connect with his audience in some way.
The Shyamalan spot was part of a campaign developed at Ogilvy & Mather New York by creative directors David Apicella, Terry Finley and Chris Mitton, art director David Lloyd, copywriter Dan Kroeger, executive producer Alice Mintzer, producers Rachel Watson and Sara Matarazzo.
Filming was shot by director M. Night Shyamalan worked with his own film production company, Blinding Edge Pictures, with executive producer Sam Mercer, associate producer Jose Rodriguez, director of photography Chris Doyle. Stillking provided Matthew Stillman as executive producer.
Editor Hank Corwin worked with Bruce Herman, Betsy Beale and Desiree Cobb at Lost Planet Editorial, NY. Hank also edited the De Niro spot.
Telecine was done by colorist Stegan Sonnenfeld at Company 3, LA, with Missy Papageorge as producer.
Graphics animation was done at Prologue Films by graphics creative director Kyle Cooper and graphics producer Phyllis Weisband Fibus.
Original music was composed by Paul Cantalone. Sound was designed and edited at Skywalker Sound, whose team included sound designer Steve Boedekker, supervising sound editor Frank Eulner. The same team worked on The Village. Sound and music post production was done at Sound One where music was mixed by Martin Czembor, edited by Suzana Peric and supervised by Suan Jacobs.
I’d be interested in comments naming the actors featured in the spot. For example is that Jane Adams choking Joe Grifasi?
My Life My Card Series
The Shyamalan ad is the first in a new campaign featuring film directors behind their own scenes. Previous ‘My Life My Card’ commercials available at American Express site feature:
Ellen DeGeneres, Comedian & Television Host
Robert De Niro, Actor and Director
Laird Hamilton, Professional Surfer
Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K), Duke Basketball Head Coach
Mike Lazaridis, Blackberry Creator
Jose Mourinho, English Premier League’s Chelsea FC Coach
Andy Roddick, Professional Tennis Player
Ken Watanabe, Actor
Venus Williams, Professional Tennis Player
Kate Winslet, Actress
Tiger Woods, Professional Golfer