Out in Park City, there may be no one who’s having a better go at Sundance than Search filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty, whose feature directorial debut won the 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and was swooped up by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions in a $5 million deal, one of the first of the festival. And the film’s successes don’t end there—writer Sev Ohanian has been awarded the Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Feature Producer.
An innovative cinematic experience, Chaganty’s thriller is a film told entirely through computer screens. After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father (John Cho) looks to a helpful detective (Debra Messing) and his daughter’s laptop for clues that will help find her, going deep into her online history.
Looking to Chaganty’s background quickly explains the motivations and inspiration behind his technology-based feature—the director had previously made a Google Glass spot called Seeds that became an internet sensation, and subsequently was invited to join the Google Creative Lab, where he spent two years developing commercials for the tech company. Chaganty knows technology, and how to center stories around it.
“I’ve always been attracted to telling original, or emotional, or thrilling stories in ways that people don’t really expect—so that’s been drawing me to technology as a medium to tell those stories,” Chaganty explained, appearing at Deadline’s Sundance Studio with Cho, Messing, Ohanian and producer Timur Bekmambetov. “I don’t see myself doing that for the rest of my life, or particularly even the next project, but up until now, it’s been how Sev and I were able to express ourselves.”
Totally “uncharted territory” for the film’s actors, Search was an exciting experiment for Messing and Cho. “I didn’t know if it was going to work, and to be honest, I didn’t care if it ultimately worked,” Messing admitted. “I was just so thriller to be a part of something that was going to be expanding the landscape of what storytelling is in film. Luckily, when I saw it I was like, ‘Oh my god. He did it.'”
To hear more about one of Sundance ’18’s hot projects, click above.
The Deadline Studio is presented by Hyundai. Special thanks to Calii Love.