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‘The Watchers’ Director Ishana Night Shyamalan on Working with Father

‘The Watchers’ Director Ishana Night Shyamalan on Working with Father

While some parents try to shield their children from horror movies, you might have a different experience if your father is M. Night Shyamalan

Ishana Night Shyamalan, the 24-year-old middle daughter of The Sixth Sense and Split director, celebrated the premiere of her own feature directorial debut The Watchers in New York on Sunday. Like her father before her, her first feature combines elements of the horror and fantasy genres. Shyamalan penned the script herself, adapting the story from the gothic horror novel of the same name by A.M. Shine. 

The Watchers follows Mina (played by Dakota Fanning), an artist who finds herself held captive in an isolated house in the woods of Ireland with three strangers; the group is regularly observed by mysterious creatures through one-way glass.

“As a reader, I just felt completely compelled and enamored by the story,” the younger Shyamalan told The Hollywood Reporter. “My brain already was starting to think about what visuals I wanted to play with and what character work I wanted to play with.”

The filmmaker, a 2021 graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, already has some experience directing, having worked on her father’s Apple TV+ series Servant. On The Watchers, M. Night Shyamalan served as an executive producer; multiple cast members emphasized that the Hollywood veteran, while acting as a mentor on set, took a backseat role and allowed his daughter to fully take the reins on this project.

On collaborating with her father, the Watchers director said, “It was awesome. It’s such an interesting thing to have a dad-daughter relationship, and there’s so much intensity and care there. But it’s been so wonderful. He’s a very encouraging artist and producer and he really wants me to do what I want to do and make my mark. So it’s been very healthy and wonderful.”

Also present at the premiere were castmembers Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Olwen Fouéré, Oliver Finnegan and Alistair Brammer.

Brammer, who stars in the thrilling opening sequence of the film, highlighted Shyamalan’s open-mindedness as a director, saying, “It was nice to be working with someone who was discovering how they work on a set. Usually when you work with older directors, they know what they’re doing and that’s great, but to be working with someone who was going ‘Huh, maybe we could try it like this’ — it became very collaborative and experimental in that way.”

Fanning was also effusive in her praise of the young director: “I just loved getting to know her as a person, just as a friend. She’s such a wonderful, wonderful person, and so talented and at the beginning of what I know will be a long, bright future and career and so I’m excited to be a part of this debut.”

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Looking ahead at her own career, Fanning is open to “maybe” directing in the future, telling THR, “I’ve directed one little short film and it was stressful for sure. It’s a big task and it’s a lot of pressure on you and a lot of weight. It’s a big responsibility. So maybe one day.”

When it comes to Shyamalan’s future projects, the director revealed that she would “absolutely” stay within the genre she’s currently exploring: “I love playing in the horror genre, that’s just what I find to be the most natural to me. I’m really interested in expanding that and sort of going bigger and bolder and blending that with other genres — a little taste of that is what I did in this movie.”

M. Night Shyamalan is of course known for his twist endings, and many cast members hinted that The Watchers would follow suit. Teased the younger Shyamalan, “I’ve always been very interested in subverting what the expectations are.”

The Watchers hits theaters on Friday.

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