‘Searching’ Director Aneesh Chaganty on Crafting the High-Tech Mystery

     August 28, 2018

The conceit of Searching—a film told entirely from a computer screen—may seem high-concept, but the actual story within is a fairly old-fashioned whodunnit. It’s this intermingling of a traditional narrative within a tech-heavy framework that lets Searching feel familiar, yet never derivative. In the film, John Cho stars as David Kim, a widowed father with a close bond with his only daughter, Margot (Michelle La). One night, David misses a call, and the next morning—his daughter’s gone, missing without a trace. Did Margot run away? Was she abducted… or worse? Filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty (in his debut feature) deftly weaves each twist and reveal to the point you almost forget the entire film unfolds out on a screen. It’s a remarkably assured first feature and marks Chaganty as a burgeoning filmmaker to watch.

searching-posterIn the following interview with the director, Chaganty discusses blending technology with a traditional mystery narrative, the duality of who you are on screen versus reality, and his thoughts on the future of tech. For the full interview, watch above.

Interview Index:

  • What started Chaganty’s fascination with technology?
  • How much of his own life is centered around tech?
  • Does he feel developing technologies are overall a negative or a positive?
  • Where does he see tech going in the not too distant future?
  • How does Searching reflect the duality of who you are on screen versus in reality?
  • Did he (with co-writer Sev Ohanian) write specifically for the ‘everything-happens-on-a-screen’ concept?
  • Do buttons on a computer screen have an intrinsic emotional value?
  • What mystery films did Chaganty look to for inspiration?
  • When writing a mystery– did he start with the ending/resolution and work backward?
  • How similar was the first draft of the screenplay to what’s coming out in theaters?
  • Is there any room for improv or changes on set, given the rigid concept of the film?
  • Does Chaganty see himself continuing to play with tech in future films?

Here is the official synopsis for Searching:

After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace his daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.

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