EXCLUSIVE: In the biggest deal on the ground at the Sundance Film Festival so far, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions paid $5 million for world rights to Search, an innovative Aneesh Chaganty-directed thriller that stars John Cho and Debra Messing, and turns the computer screen into a cinematic canvas.
The film, which won the Alfred P. Sloan Film Prize and premiered yesterday in the NEXT section at the Ray at 6:30 PM, focuses on the relationship between a father and his high school freshman daughter. After parenting mainly through iMessages and quick FaceTime chats, David is initially more annoyed than concerned when a series of his texts go unreturned, but he soon realizes Margot has gone missing. As a detective searches for clues on the ground, a desperate David goes a different route, cracking open the laptop she left behind as he tries to locate clues to find her before it is too late.
This marks the feature debut of Chaganty, who wrote the script with Sev Ohanian, and who is a 25-year-old writer-director whose two-minute short film, a Google Glass spot called Seeds, got over 1 million YouTube views in 24 hours. Chaganty was asked to join the Google Creative Lab in New York City, where he spent two years developing, writing, and directing Google commercials. He quit is job to make this film, which was produced by Ohanian, Timur Bekmambetov, Adam Sidman and Natalie Qasabian.
The film played through the roof, and about six bidders circled it. But many of them were also busy with Assassination Nation, Burden, Juliet, Naked and Hearts Beat Loud and other films that premiered through the weekend and will also come away from the festival with deals. The SPWA team moved quickly and decisively. SPWA’s Steve Bersch, Michael Helfand, Joe Matukewicz and Alex Zahn brokered the deal with CAA and Endeavor Content, a deal which calls for a significant theatrical release.
It has been quite a weekend for the SPWA guys, yesterday buying international rights on Leave No Trace, the drama directed by Winter’s Bone helmer Debra Granik. And, oh, yeah, Bersch added to his SPWA division the duties of president of Sony’s genre division Screen Gems as longtime head Clint Culpepper becomes a lot-based producer at Sony.
CAA and Endeavor Content worked together on the all-nighter auction, as Chaganty and Ohanian are repped by CAA, and Bekmambetov is repped by WME.