Koepp was already an industry veteran in 1999, having co-written notable thrillers like “Apartment Zero” and “Death Becomes Her,” not to mention blockbusters like “Jurassic Park” and “Mission: Impossible.” “Stir of Echoes” was only his second directorial feature, but he knew enough about studio politics to recognize a problem when he saw one. Shooting had already concluded on “Echoes” when Koepp read Shyamalan’s script. It should be noted that both films feature a young man (a boy in the case of “Sixth Sense”) who can see ghosts — an uncanny coincidence.
With the release dates were already set, Koepp pleaded with producer/distributor Artisan to shift the schedule. They felt that Shyamalan’s film was nothing to worry about. But as Koepp recalled:
“[‘The Sixth Sense’] completely screwed us … We finished shooting, we got ahold of [its] script. We went to the studio and said, ‘Hey, there’s this movie that’s similar to ours with a psychic kid, we should probably get out ahead of that. We could come out in April,’ because ‘The Sixth Sense’ was due to come out in August and we were set for September. [Artisan] said, ‘No, we read that. It’s soft, and no one’s going to go to that.’ Well, don’t you want to be the first psychic movie rather than the second? They said no.”
It wasn’t so “soft.” Shyamalan’s film would make $672 million. In its wake, audiences barely even noticed “Stir of Echoes.” Koepp remembered the wave of resentment he felt reading a review that “started with the sentence: ‘It’s amazing how quick Hollywood is to emulate success.’ Come on! They came out in August, we were in September! [But] I’m happy with the movie in the long run. We’re still here talking about it, 20 years later.”