That makes a lot of sense. One of the things that really made the movie appealing to audiences is how authentic it feels. And I know that getting different yet consistent lighting was important for you. I just have to ask- was The Office an influence on this aspect?
I mean definitely the naturalism. I did a lot of research on the thought process of how that show was created. I am passionate anytime filmmakers are trying to recreate the real world very accurately, and the idea was that a lot of the camera operators on that show had to research how they do camera operating on reality shows and documentaries and they react in lighting. Like how could they light this space to feel real but still be lit.
One of the challenges that we had while shooting with GoPros is that GoPros are designed to shoot on a mountain with a full sun. They’re not designed to be shot in small bedrooms with computer screens and very dim lights. There was a lot of lighting and a lot of really delicate exposure balancing, especially with GoPros. These are auto-exposure cameras as well. You’re playing a lot of games with the cameras to get them to give you the results that you want.
But yeah, placing everything in the real world was really important. Trying to kind of remove myself from the process a little bit was a part of that equation, but at the same time knowing where we could step in and have a very intentional result. When we did a lot of the scenes in the bedroom, for example, we played a lot with the lighting to communicate certain things. You know Margot, for example, the way that she turns on the Christmas lights in her bedroom, little things like that show that she set those up but maybe her father didn’t know about them until he watched this video. It’s a part of her world, or how she saw her world.
There were other simple things, like we thought a lot about what the lights on the screen would mean and represent in the film, and how that light could represent the journey of David looking for his daughter and how a man who maybe normally isn’t as intrigued and sucked-in into the digital world can really be drawn to it: the world around them sort of stays and that becomes his focus.
So it was really expressionist things that we could do while still being very grounded in reality.
It’s always intriguing to hear about the subtle craftsmanship that goes into individual scenes of movies. And I think that’s especially important for Searching because this really is a revolutionary film. We’ve had movies that deal with a first-person perspective or online perspective, like Cloverfield and the Unfriended series, but this is the first time I can think of of a movie using every digital avenue possible to convey its story.
One thing I really appreciated about this film was that it has a good message about technology. I feel like millennials and generation Z people are hit with this pejorative of the “selfie generation,” but Searching really shows just how important technology can be when it comes to potentially saving the life of someone or finding out who they were as a person. Was that something you deliberately wanted to show with the way the movie was shot?
Yes, definitely. You know, it was important for us from the get-go, and that was a part of the original script, which was to represent technology and the way that we use it all the time. Searching really takes advantage of a lot of moments that I don’t think have ever been captured on film, which revolves around the way that we communicate through technology: like the relationship between brothers who may not speak too often but they’ll text each other. The question was always how much of our life takes place in this digital realm. There’s a lot of drama in there that we just wanted to be authentic with.
And we’re all a part of a digital generation. I’ve learned so much about cinematography from blogs and online forums, and one of the things that was interesting about coming-to-age in the digital world is that so much of the information that is being communicated had to be sort of sought-out and researched. We had to go onto these forums and people would be talking about these digital cameras and what you could do with them. So it’s all been a part of our experience.
And it was delicate. There was a fine line- we definitely wanted to create a compelling drama within this space, but we also didn’t want to vilify the technology either. And there is a dark side to it. There are definitely components about privacy and our ability to kind of create personalities that exist in the digital world and are very different from real-life.
But ultimately, one of the things that was important for us, from a legal standpoint as well, was to never misrepresent any application or any piece of technology. That’s one of the things that makes the movie unique as well is that there’s all this drama, but they never have to fabricate anything. I feel sometimes you watch a movie and there’s like a scene where people are hacking into something, like “oh, they’re trying to hack into her email account.” And in the film, we really wanted to represent how a father would access his daughter’s email account in a completely realistic way that did not rely on any conceits or narrative devices that weren’t grounded in the real world.
So it was that degree of honesty and commitment to that sort of narrative storytelling that allowed the film to not feel like it has an agenda when it comes to technology.
Yeah, you actually made me think back to that scene. It really was genuine how David goes about getting into Margot’s email and social media when everything is initially listed as private. It was truly well done and executed on all fronts. You know, there will always be complaints about the advent of digital cinema, but Searching is an example of its potential. So thank you once again Mr. Baron for taking the time to speak with me.
Thank you, I really appreciate it. I also recommend watching it a second time. I will say that a second time is worth watching because you can experience a lot of the stuff that is going on outside of the main focus of the film, which is a cool aspect of this digital cinema. If you read the news headlines of articles in the periphery, there’s a lot of little storytelling, there’s a ton of Easter Eggs, there are side plots that are going on.
That’s another fun thing about this type of storytelling is there’s the main plot, but because it’s such a rich digital world, there are so many other things going on that I think the audience won’t notice until the second or third time they watch it.
Flickering Myth would like to thank Mr. Baron for chatting with us. Searching is out in theaters now.
Special thanks to Charles Martin of Impact 24 PR for arranging this interview.