Buzzy Asian-American films like Warner Bros. "Crazy Rich Asians" and Netflix's "To All the Boys I Loved Before" make fans around the world celebrate what Hollywood calls #AsianAugustus. The next at bat: Aneesh Chaganty's "Searching", a thriller with John Cho as the father of a missing teenager.
"Search" tells the story of the disappearance of 16-year-old Margot (Michelle La) and its aftermath via computer and telephone screens. The Sony Screen Gems project drew attention to both the technological production style and the Asian-American leads.
Chaganty talks about this Variety about the use of cyberspace as a film landscape and the catapulting of more Asian-American stories to the big screen. "Search" hits selected theaters Friday.
This film is rooted in screens. What is it about cyberspace that lends itself to films nowadays?
The reality is that we all live our lives on screens and Hollywood, I do not think so, has already sorted it out – how to show it and how to dramatize it in a way that is cinematic and exciting and consistent with the style and tone from your movie. We saw early examples – with & # 39; Unfriended & # 39; or with & # 39; House of Cards & # 39 ;, which was the first form of – I felt like I was the first at the cultural level [project] to use pop-up texts in a way that appeared to be part of the story.
Because technology has passed our lives, as storytellers we are increasingly trying to figure out the way we can represent these things because we use them so much. But in my experience, every single example of using tech-onware is incorrect. When you cut a phone … or cut to a laptop and it's a weird website that does not really exist. But our guess – the gamble that has made "searching" and the gamble that I will continue to make in general – is that there is a way to cut to technology and frame it in such a way that you still use camera recordings, that you can be consistent with your style, tone and genre – your whole piece, even if it is a live action piece – and still retain one unique, consistent vision. It is a question of, this is something new and we are still trying to figure out how it fits in the bigger thing that is the capital S-story.
Bo Burnham's "Eighth Grade" has also received a lot of buzz for the use of screens.
"Eighth digit", yes! "Eighth digit" has done a great job.
Bo Burnham got his start on YouTube; you started at Google. How essential is it for modern filmmakers to be fluent in tech?
I would say, very much. I did not know that – that is really a funny connection between Bo and myself. I think more than it is fluent, I think it is a good understanding of the importance of doing it accurately. The more time you spend on something – and in this example it's tech – but the more time you spend on something, the more you notice when it's done wrong. There is so much truth and emotion that we give and get from these devices, that it only makes sense that Bo, who grew up and discovered success on YouTube channels and YouTube video & # 39; s and that online community, and myself, who the technical side of things that advertise understands how important it is to do it accurately. Because if you do it accurately, you do it universally, and you do it in a way that billions of people around the world can immediately identify with that, because that's what they do themselves. I think that is all that we tap into, this omnipresence. By doing something that is ubiquitous, we eventually touch something on a universal level.
"Search" has also attracted attention for his Asian-American cast. How can a smaller film like this seek representation, versus a huge production like "Crazy Rich Asians"?
If this movie took place on a computer screen, that was a thriller, which tried to become cinematic, failed, nobody would have closed an eye. But I think because, because we tell a story that makes people enthusiastic, and also adds an element that we've always wanted, a card slipped into the card game that we've always wanted in the game, all of a sudden it's a lot more interesting package.
For me, I think that the way you stand up for these things and the way you continue the conversation – especially as a smaller film – is to tell a good story that includes people who usually do not get a chance to get into these movies . What I am most proud of is that "Search", as far as it is going to cast, is that it is almost a picture of the endgame. The movies where I grew up – the mysteries, the thrillers, the action movies – they never explain why the race of the main character had to be that race, to … break into the CIA or jump off a plane, you know ? It just had nothing to do with it.
I think we, as a whole, tell stories about race and culture and so on, there is a strange, unspoken requirement that we have to justify it – that we have to explain why there is someone in this film who does not look like everyone else, or who does not look like people who have traditionally been in these films. But what I am most proud of is that we have just told a good story, and that these characters are Asian-American – they happen to be Korean-American – and I think we hopefully bring the conversation forward in a way that says: "You do not have to justify someone's skin color to be in a thriller, to be in an action movie, to be in a mystery." Let the story tell itself, and the people in it should hopefully reflect just anyone who lives in this country.
How do you balance casting-up-and-coming talent like Michelle La versus movie stars like John Cho when representation is at stake?
This is the most specific thing that I am so happy with the casting. On a financial level – if you watch a movie, if you look at a production company, if you look at the car industry, whatever – someone who has money often looks for a precedent. You want people who have previously earned money – who have previously been in films. So it is very difficult to say on a purely financial level: "Oh, these people who have never been in films – we should take a big risk and put them in a big movie." It is so difficult but if you have something or someone to anchor it, it becomes a lot easier, and one of the coolest parts of this film is that it's a family.
Because John Cho has value – because he is a name, because people know what & # 39; John Cho in the leading role & # 39; is and because he is a great actor and a movie star, through and through – as the father in the film, we can now surround him with unfamiliar talent. This is a John Cho movie, but around him are now a cast of strangers – or relatively unknown – great actors and actresses who now have this film in parentheses ahead, so that the next financial decision is a lot easier. Ultimately, if nobody is fighting for unknowns, you should find a way to anchor them in other people, I think. For me that is the coolest part of this whole casting thing, that Michelle La will have this film in parentheses and that people will know what this film is. That is so cool.
Some have criticized "Crazy Rich Asians" because they have not represented all Asian communities. How much of a responsibility do you think films with mainly Asian casts should represent all kinds of Asian diversity?
They should not have one, but they are treated as if they should have everything. The second that you say an idea, a person, a product, every film represents a "complete" thing, you are already working on failure. When a white character is in a movie, nobody says, "Is that white character that represents all white people?"
The way you get to represent communities in general is not with a single product – it is with many products. The amount solves this problem. The amount, as a whole, will hopefully represent all facets of people and all facets of a community. "Crazy Rich Asians" will not speak to the entire Asian-American community. It should not, and it should not have that responsibility. It can appeal to a few people who may have something to do with it. Maybe ours can talk to a few others. Maybe & # 39; To All the Boys I Loved Before & # 39; to another community, and hopefully everything that goes forward is increasing, but it is quantity that solves these problems, not one thing.