M. Night Shyamalan Gets Served for Servant

The papers were served cold, just like revenge.

The court appointed Legal Process Server waltzed right into the Culver City offices of Apple TV Plus with a lawsuit filed in the State of California and handed it to the powers that be. Yes, M. Night Shyamalan and Apple TV Plus‘ new series Servant had apparently copied a 2013 Sundance Film Festival project called The Truth About Emmanuel and the filmmaker Francesca Gregorini was not pleased.

So she sued Apple. And M. Night Shyamalan. And his Blinding Edge Pictures. And his corporation Uncle George Productions. And the film company Escape Artists. And Dolphin Black Productions. And Tony Basgallop. And Ashwin Rajan. And Jason Blumenthal. And Todd Black. And Steve Tisch… And so on and so forth.

But did Servant copy The Truth About Emmanuel?

The Truth About Emmanuel is a psychological thriller. So, too, is Servant.

The Truth About Emmanuel tells the story of a troubled and withholding 18-year old girl, newly hired by a white, sophisticated, privileged yet gracious mid-30’s first time mom, to help care for her new baby. Servant tells the story of a troubled and withholding 18-year old girl, newly hired by a white, sophisticated, privileged yet gracious mid-30’s first time mom, to help care for her new baby.

The Truth About Emmanuel reveals, after some early images of what appears to be a healthy three-month old infant, that the “baby” is really an ultra-realistic “reborn” doll — shattering the illusion of an Uber-competent modern mom. Servant reveals, after some early images of what appears to be a healthy three-month old infant, that the “baby” is really an ultra-realistic “reborn” doll, also shattering said referenced illusion of the mother/daughter component.

The Truth About Emmanuel reveals that the mother’s delusion, which the father later reveals, is due to the unspeakable grief of losing their real three-month old baby. But rather than recoil, the nanny plays along with the mother’s delusion even before knowing the real explanation as to why. Servant does the same. Emmanuel is a boy. So, too, is the baby in Servant.

Uhhhhhh, Servant — you got some essssplainin’ to do.

So what’s the real story?

Why would a company as big as Apple steal an idea? The amount of cash thrown at projects are so significant that it’s not worth it. They don’t want this bad press. They don’t wanna be raked over the coals. So why in the Hell would they copy something so blatantly and release it as their own?

First of all, people who steal ideas from other people will tell you that there are only seven stories in the world. And how in the hell are they supposed to not copy something? And while there are bajillions of unique songs out there that aren’t Ghostbusters, why do entertainment folks continually reinforce the concept that there are only a few iterations of stories and that’s why everything sounds the same?

For your information, real baby dies and is replaced by fake baby and embraced by a Nanny who knows it’s a fake baby, is not one of those seven typical stories in Hollywood.

Maybe now they’ll say there are eight Universal stories to steal from.

Usually, ideas are stolen without knowing it. Executives read scripts, hear pitches, and then the earwig of an idea pops up months later when they’re developing something else. It happens a lot, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. Especially if, as a creator, you wanna keep working in tinsel town. But this whole Servant situation, is not that simple. There was a released film, that was eventually sold on iTunes! It was at Sundance. It was clearly a known entity. How is it that something this similar made it all the way to Apple and then into production?

Lazy people.

While people will blame Apple for copying Servant, what they’re most guilty of is being lazy and not doing their due diligence for checking to see if something similar had ever been created. This is their second black eye after another high profile film project The Banker had to be pulled from release after they hadn’t done their research into the backstory and potentially-questionable antics of some of the subjects from the film. And while that situation will cost Apple some money, so too will this one.

But hey — it’s just money, right? Apple doesn’t mind being Ray Parker, Jr. to Emmanuel’s Huey Lewis and the News.

That’s just the point. These things happen every day, and the people who have nothing to lose end up suing for their share of the pie. It’s a cycle that continues in a marketplace where people rarely have their own original ideas and prefer to rest their laurels on projects that came from books, articles, old movies…and in this case, movies that were released as recently as 2013.

The depressing cycle is real. Struggling writer pitches idea to production company. Production company passes on it. Months later, production company pitches same idea to another more well-known writer. More well-known writer spins one of eight stories to make it real. Production company and well-known writer pitch it to streaming services, who love it, buy it, and rush it into production. One late night, Production Company Executive wonders if it’s too similar to that old pitch they once heard, then goes back to The Bachelor and forgets about it. Streaming service new to entertainment doesn’t do their due diligence and produces it. Meanwhile, someone at home eating rice pudding watches it, flips out, and calls a lawyer. Lawyer tells rice pudding-eating-writer that if they sue, they’d better sue for a lot because they ain’t gonna ever work in this town again. Writer puts down the rice pudding because they know before too long it’s gonna be caviar because streaming service has more money than any country in the free world.

But at no point throughout this very typical process, does anyone ask why the original idea had a cohesive, satisfying ending while the alleged stolen remaining is still trying to explain to audiences what is going on.

That’s a good question. Maybe someone can answer that.

Because out of all of this…that’s what we’re still waiting for.

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