Interview: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian & Natalie Qasabian – Searching
Search—an absorbing thriller set entirely on computer screens—took home three awards at Sundance ‘18. I sat down for an interview with three of the masterminds behind the film’s success: co-writer/director Aneesh Chaganty, co-writer/producer Sev Ohanian and producer Natalie Qasabian. The three parter interview can be found below.
25-year-old filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty showcased his knack for inventive storytelling when his two-minute, no-dialogue short Seeds collected over one million YouTube views in 24 hours. Snatched up by Google’s Creative Lab, Chaganty then spent two years writing and directing commercials for the heavyweight company … and then quit that cushy job in order to make Search, his first feature.
Remember those three awards at Sundance? Co-Writer/Producer Sev Ohanian gets all the credit for one: he snagged the coveted Sundance Institute Producer’s Award for his impressive work as a creative producer in the independent space. Ohanian previously won a Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2013 for Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station; he also produced Chaganty’s Seeds (the pair met at USC when Ohanian was Chaganty’s TA).
Last but not least, Natalie Qasabian is the third piece of the puzzle. She previously worked with Ohanian on Take Me and a doc short; he reached out to her as soon as they had a script. Qasabian is an accomplished producer in her own right: she currently has Miguel Arteta’s Duck Butter and Eva Vives’ All About Nina in the post-production pipeline. A master creative strategist, Qasabian was quick to whip the Search team into shape (the original script was reportedly on a word doc). One of her biggest tasks was resolving how the script’s challenging technical language would translate onto the screen.
The results speak for themselves. Search is a technical tour-de-force. In order to get a high-res image, the team painstakingly animated the onscreen-onscreen action almost entirely from scratch. Even more impressive is how they managed to ground high-concept voyeurism in a story we care about. The film is both compelling and cautionary—a warning that our tech dependence disconnects more than it connects. It’s also a film full of promise: these wildly inventive and resourceful young filmmakers will surely surprise us in years to come.