Looking in from the outside, you might assume that making a screenlife movie means taking the simple route: after all, these computer screen-set horror flicks tend to be much cheaper and filming a screen suns a lot less complicated than pulling off an elaborate action scene. But while making “Searching,” Chaganty had to endure some pretty grueling work. The filmmaker has since revealed that the 2018 film was shot in 14 days, but took a year and a half to edit. As for “Missing,” Chaganty explained:
“This movie is so much work and headache to make. People sometimes think this movie is so easy to make — no, it’s not. This is like, four years in front of every frame is created, every part of the frame is created, on Photoshop and Illustrator, InDesign and After Effects, and rendered. We add color, and we add lens flares and lens blurs and camera shake. It’s so much work.”
The worlds of “Searching” and “Missing” are not merely comprised of Skype calls and text messages: the screens are extremely active. Beyond the protagonists’ activity, there’s always a lot more for the audience to catch sight of. Headlines, screen names, social media posts, entire subplots, and graphics are used to flesh out the world, which gives the filmmakers a lot more to worry about controlling.
It also gives them a lot more power over the final edit, but in a way, that only serves to make things more complicated too. Says Chaganty, “At any moment you can go ‘Ah, maybe there’s another tech that we need, another scene that we need.’ It’s constant experimentation, and you end up working on this movie for — it feels like your whole life.”