• Ishana Night Shyamalan’s directorial debut,
    The Watchers
    , stars Dakota Fanning as Mina in a chilling fantasy horror movie set in Ireland.
  • The cast chemistry was achieved through a Zoom read-through and casting that mirrors the characters’ initial interactions in the film.
  • Despite a quick filming schedule, Shyamalan prioritized rehearsal time to deepen the understanding of scenes and relationships, ensuring a strong performance.

Ishana Night Shyamalan is making her feature film directorial debut with The Watchers, a fantasy horror movie that she wrote based on A.M. Shine’s book. As the daughter of the noted master of thrills M. Night Shyamalan, she has already dipped her toe in the directing pool by helming 6 episodes of his Apple TV+ show Servant, but now she will have a larger platform to display her talents.

The Watchers stars Dakota Fanning as Mina, a 28-year-old artist whose car breaks down in the middle of a strange and untouched forest in western Ireland. Strange sounds and wild creatures surround her until an old woman (played by Olwen Fouéré) offers shelter — albeit a shelter that traps her and her new hatchmates as the prize of mysterious beings who lurk outside their walls each night. Barbarian‘s Georgina Campbell and newcomer Oliver Finnegan round out the film’s primary foursome.


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Screen Rant attended Warner Bros.’ Summer of Shyamalan event on April 16, where the director presented 10 minutes worth of footage as well as a first look at The Watchers trailer. During the ensuing Q&A session, Shyamalan discussed the casting and rehearsal process for her directorial debut, giving Campbell a special shoutout (specifically “wonderful” and “amazing“) due to how perfectly she fit into the world of the horror movie.

Ishana Night Shyamalan Breaks Down The Casting Process For The Watchers

During The Watchers Q&A, Shyamalan explained how the process of finding the right actors felt like “alchemy,” mixing together the right vibes from various performers to bring into a perfect mix that allowed the movie to thrive.

Ishana Night Shyamalan: It was very much me imagining what the four vibes of these people were like and what they would be like together. The continual lesson that I learned during the filmmaking process is that there’s just a certain alchemy that happens, and if you’re lucky enough to catch it, you do. I felt that way with this cast; that all the movements and stuff just led to this group being together. They have such an electric energy when they’re all together. It’s really, really cool. It was so fun. It felt like theater to do it.

Despite the casting and initial read-through taking place over Zoom, Shyamalan had no trouble discerning which actors were the right fit for her project. Furthermore, the initial distance between performers acted as a parallel to the script itself, which has Fanning’s character meet them while feeling totally isolated and presents the newcomers as total strangers to both Mina and the audience.

Ishana Night Shyamalan: They were all cast separately. Some of them met on the read-through, which was over Zoom, and then they just kind of jumped in together. It’s wonderful. though, because it’s very much about Mina meeting these other characters. There was this blissful thing where they were all getting to know each other, and then they sort of fused by the end of the shoot. It was wonderful.

I was able to take a look at a lot of these actors’ work and make a jump from there. It’s very much about a vibe that I feel, and I think that’s kind of what drew me to these four people. They all have a very, very singular, ethereal, compelling energy about them. You’ll see in the movie, they all have very specific worlds that they live in. It ended up working out quite nicely.

Rehearsal Was A Cornerstone Of The Watchers’ Cast Chemistry

The Watchers-10

Shyamalan’s previous work on Servant helped her better understand how to communicate with her cast, but it also imprinted on her the importance of having rehearsal time.

Ishana Night Shyamalan: All actors that I’ve worked with up until this point have very different communication styles and they need different things from you. Some of them don’t want you to say too much, and some of them want a very specific thing. But I love that piece of the process where you basically get to know them and get to know what they need.

I think for me as a young person, just figuring out how to communicate in these different ways and give to them in the ways that they need it is a very cool psychological discovery as you go through.

Despite The Watchers‘ relatively quick filming schedule, the director still set aside time to understand the scenes and relationships through practice.

Ishana Night Shyamalan:

We had a little bit of rehearsal time before, which was lovely. And we did have a lot of chats about the intention of the scenes, and the movement of their relationships with each other. But it was a quick process. It felt like a very quick shoot putting together the movie, so it was cool in that way. We got to figure it out together and play as a group.

The Watchers

arrives in theaters on June 14.


The Watchers

Based on A.M. Shine’s novel, The Watchers follows Mina (Dakota Fanning), a twenty-eight-year-old artist stranded in the middle of a forest in Ireland. Her momentary relief when she finds shelter is shattered when she discovers other strangers in the same predicament – but they’re stalked each night by unseen creatures.

Ishana Shyamalan

Release Date
June 14, 2024

New Line Cinema

Warner Bros. Pictures

A.M. Shine , Ishana Shyamalan

Dakota Fanning

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