It was hard to tell who was more thrilled by the “Missing” panel at the Broccoli Theater: the panelists or the audience.
About 100 mostly LMU film students were left excited and inspired after a screening of the upcoming thriller “Missing” and the discussion with the filmmakers that followed.
The mystery revealed at the ending of “Missing,” which hits theaters on Jan. 20, 2023, left the audience applauding and jumping into enthusiastic conversation. The apparent joy of the panelists in sharing their process was infectious and they told the film students in the audience that they too met in film school and now get to share their love of filmmaking together.
“Missing” follows a young protagonist, June Allen (played by Storm Reid) on a desperate search for her missing mother (played by Nia Long). When her mother disappears in Colombia with her new boyfriend, June is left to uncover the mystery of her disappearance. June ingeniously utilizes her digital and social media skills and discovers secrets that cause her to question those she thought she knew.
The conversation and Q&A panel following the screening featured filmmakers Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian, Natalie Qasabian, Will Merrick and Nick Johnson. All the panelists had previously collaborated on the film “Searching”, directed by Chaganty, and written by Ohanian and Chaganty. “Searching” is a 2018 mystery thriller that follows a similar plot in which a father investigates the disappearance of his 16-year-old daughter.
While “Searching” also takes place from the perspective of computer screens and smartphones, “Missing” presents its own unique challenges. “No director makes a movie like this one and wants to do it again,” Chaganty shared. “Every frame takes weeks and months to edit and get right.” The digital nature of the film “looks at technology in a new creative and technical way,” he added.
Film students asked about the “layering process” of filmmaking, and Merrick talked about the challenge of making this movie as a “balance between realism and something that feels cinematic.” Because “Missing” takes place entirely on screens, editors on the film had to be “well-rounded filmmakers” as they were not just making editing decisions but “making performance decisions.”
The panelists shared that because of the nature of the story, it was important to have a young and “cool” protagonist who could confidently navigate technology and the internet. Reid fills this role perfectly and gives a riveting performance with the added challenge of acting entirely in response to and on a computer screen. The panel praised Reid as a “movie star” and shared, “To get to work with Storm at this stage in her career – we’re going to look back on this and say, ‘wow, that was really cool.’”
The filmmakers, as fans of thrillers such as “Vertigo,” Spielberg’s and Hitchcock’s films, followed a roadmap of what captivates them about thrillers. “These kinds of thrillers are really fun, they feel grounded … it’s a snake-in-the-garden type of evil, it feels like it could happen to you,” Chaganty said. The audience was engrossed in the story’s mystery along with the characters, whispering theories to each other and gasping at unexpected plot twists and revelations.