EXCLUSIVE: Sony’s Stage 6 Films has closed a deal for Will Merrick & Nick Johnson to make their directing debut on the sequel to the Screenlife hit film Searching, a sequel that will tell a different story from the original that starred John Cho and Debra Messing. The filmmakers served as the editorial team on Aneesh Chaganty-directed Hulu thriller Run, as well as the original 2018 Searching, which Chaganty directed.
The hiring keeps the creative team intact, albeit in new capacities. The film is being produced by Natalie Qasabian, Chaganty, Sev Ohanian of Search Party, Adam Sidman and digital filmmaking guru Timur Bekmambetov, who also produced the first movie. Jo Henriquez is executive producing and Congyu E is co-producing. Merrick and Johnson are writing the screenplay, based on a story by Sev Ohanian and Chaganty. The goal is to start production in the spring.
Searching 2‘s plot is still under wraps, but it will feature a new set of characters and an evolved Screenlife thriller format where the story plays out on the screens of the characters’ devices. The original starred Cho as a dad who breaks into his daughter’s computer when she goes missing, in a desperate attempt to track her down.
“With such restrictive visual parameters, a movie like Searching 2 requires a fresh visual style to separate it from the original,” Chaganty said. “I’ve contributed what I can to this growing sub-genre. But if there’s anyone on the planet with the potential to take it even further, it’s Nick and Will, who were there from the beginning.”
Said Bekmambetov, who has pioneered the Screenlife movement that makes small budget films that replicate the way people see the world through their electronic devices: “Searching is so far the most successful movie shot in the Screenlife format and the sequel is set to become a new milestone. What seemed like an experimental technique a few years ago has been given a momentum now with more and more industry professionals turning to this digital filmmaking technique.”
Said Qasabian: “On Searching, Will and Nick pioneered a new visual language and pushed the boundaries of what editors could contribute to a film. We are lucky and beyond excited to be working with them in their new roles as writers and directors on the sequel.”
Johnson & Merrick are USC grads who got their break as the editors and “directors of virtual photography” on Searching. That film was acquired by Sony at Sundance and released internationally. Critics loved the editing and visual style and the film grossed $75 million worldwide on a budget less than $1 million.
Merrick & Johnson are repped by Peter Sample at Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer.