Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, who edited Searching in 2018, have stepped up as creative partners to write and direct Missing, the next movie in the franchise with a new story that builds on the themes and storytelling motifs of Searching.
LA-based filmmaker Will Merrick graduated from USC in 2015 and edited Searching with LA-based writer, director, and editor Nick Johnson, a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts who served as editor and director of virtual photography on 2018’s Searching, which was acquired by Sony Pictures at Sundance and released worldwide, with critics praising the innovative editing and visual style. Merrick and Johnson served as editors on Lionsgate thriller Run, which became Hulu’s most viewed film premiere ever in 2020.
“When we worked on Searching, we made so many storytelling decisions in the editing room that we proved we could do it – we knew how to tell a story like this,” says director Nick Johnson. “We were creatively involved in Searching from the very beginning, and I think that is what gave the studio the faith in us to give the opportunity to direct Missing.”
“We knew how to develop this story in a way that’s unique to this format,” adds director Will Merrick.
“Will and Nick were such a fundamental part of Searching that giving them the reins to Missing was a no brainer for us,” says producer Natalie Qasabian. “They helped create the visual language that enabled us to tell this story. It’s really amazing to watch them work – they touch every part of the filmmaking process.”
For producer Aneesh Chaganty, Missing offers a chance for the filmmakers to explore new possibilities that they couldn’t fit into Searching. “One of the first things I realized when I directed Searching was that every single day there was another app or another website that allowed human connection in a new way. We realized that as long as technology is evolving every day, then our storytelling possibilities continue to evolve with that. The concept has evolved, there’s more adrenaline in the story, and it’s a fresher and faster experience than the first one.”
From the minds behind Searching comes Missing, a thrilling roller-coaster mystery that makes you
wonder how well you know those closest to you.
What do you do when a loved one disappears thousands of miles from home – and you have no way to get there to search for them? For 18-year-old June, the answer lies in the digital world she inhabits every day.
When her mother (Nia Long) disappears while on vacation in Colombia with her new boyfriend, June’s (Storm Reid) search for answers is hindered by international red tape. Stuck thousands of miles away in Los Angeles, June creatively uses all the latest technology at her fingertips to try and find her before it’s too late. But as she digs deeper, her digital sleuthing raises more questions than answers…and when June unravels secrets about her mom, she discovers that she never really knew her at all.
Like Searching, Missing is a roller-coaster mystery thriller that takes place entirely online.
18-year-old June is glad to get some space from her anxious mother, Grace, when Grace goes on a trip to Colombia with her boyfriend Kevin. When Grace and Kevin disappear, though, the investigation is hindered by international red tape, and June turns to Facetime, Taskrabbit, and other digital tools to find her mom half a world away.
“This movie is bigger and crazier and more international than Searching. It puts a new spin on the classic kidnap story by making the child the detective,” says producer Sev Ohanian. “It has a whole new set of characters, but you can expect all the same twists and turns and emotional ups and downs.”
Ohanian explains that the seed of Missing’s story came from the image of a girl going to the airport to pick up her mother. “We love the idea of this young girl holding up a sign for her mom, and of course the sign is embarrassing, and her kind of TikTok prank backfires because her mom never shows up. We just had that image in our heads and then we built the story around it.”
That young girl at the center of Missing is June, who is 10000% ready start a new life at college. “She’s very strong-willed – sometimes stubborn, impatient,” says Storm Reid. “Her dad, unfortunately, hasn’t been in her life for a while, so she’s just grown-up in a single parent household. She feels that her mom can be very overprotective – she’s a teenage girl and she’s growing up, and sometimes parents and children butt heads. But despite all that, she loves her mom, and when her mom goes missing on vacation, the stubbornness takes over as June tries to find her.”
“Grace is definitely overprotective of June – but as the movie unfolds, it becomes clearer what she’s trying to protect June from,” says Nia Long, who plays June’s mother. “She tries to keep a close watch on her daughter, but obviously, you can’t – kids have to live their own lives, which June does on line. And Grace’s struggle with new technology and the way people use the internet not only deepens that divide, but ultimately unravels all of the protection that Grace has tried to put in place.”
With her mother missing from vacation in Colombia and June stuck in Los Angeles with time running out, June puts her internet savvy to good use. That’s a key element that gives June in Missing a step up on John Cho’s character in Searching. “My generation has grown up the majority of our lives with computers, with telephones. We know how to work Instagram and Twitter and all of the things faster than our parents,” says Reid. “To be a kid in this circumstance, she’s able to move faster because it’s innate, not something that she has to figure out how to do.”
June finds an unlikely ally in Javi, a father living in Cartagena and doing odd jobs on Taskrabbit. “Javi is not good with phones,” says Joaquim de Almeida. “He’s not good with technology, and all of a sudden, he’s asked to do something that he has never done before, and he doesn’t feel very comfortable with it. But he feels for June when she tells him that her mother is missing and she needs his help to find her. Javi has a son that he hasn’t seen in a while, so he responds to this 18-year-old girl who’s scared and vulnerable, and he ends up caring for her.”
Ken Leung plays Kevin, Grace’s mysterious new boyfriend. “He seems like the perfect guy. But when he and Grace go missing, June finds out that Kevin has a dark past,” Leung says. “What is his role in Grace’s disappearance? Is he masterminding everything, or is he a red herring?”
Thanks to technology, June is able to learn Kevin’s story even though he vanished thousands of miles away. “What’s interesting about using devices like cell phones and laptops is that the whole world is your neighborhood,” says Leung. “We live in a world where there are cameras everywhere, and if you’re clever enough, if you know what you’re doing, you can use them to your advantage. In that sense, June and Grace’s story is global, but not in the way you might think.”
Amy Landecker plays Grace’s friend Heather, tasked with checking in on June during Grace’s trip. “Heather is like the annoying best friend of your mom who wants to be one of the kids, so she’s always calling you bestie,” Landecker says. “She can be annoying, but June and Grace still love her because she’s family. She’s Grace’s closest friend, and she’s an attorney, so Grace puts her in charge with making sure that June is fed and staying out of trouble.”
“Heather is a lot of fun because she’s got a lot of character and spirit,” Landecker says, “which can be hard to convey sometimes when there are a lot of characters and plot. But I feel like the writers really allowed all the characters to have a lot of personality.”
The movie’s theme of connection extends to the audience, too. Even though the movie takes place on small screens, Leung can’t wait for audiences to see it on the big screen. “Theaters offer us that communal campfire sort of feeling,” he says, “where you’re able to be part of the story.”