Experiencing Interruptions?

Search Engines

Sanity and relationships are put to the test when mysterious circumstances force a family to survive the annual American Thanksgiving holiday without their cell phones.

  • Russell Brown
  • Russell Brown
  • John Baumgartner
  • Kerry Barden
  • Russell Brown
  • Joely Fisher
    Key Cast
  • Natasha Gregson Wagner
    Key Cast
  • Grace Folsom
    Key Cast
  • Nicole Cummins
    Key Cast
  • Michael Muhney
    Key Cast
  • Ayumii Iizuka
    Key Cast
  • Jonathan Slavin
    Key Cast
  • Philipp Karner
    Key Cast
  • Nick Court
    Key Cast
  • Connie Stevens
    Key Cast
  • Devon Graye
    Key Cast
  • Michelle Hurd
    Key Cast
  • Barry Watson
    Key Cast
  • Brooklyn Bela
    Key Cast
  • Genres:
    Satire, surreal, comedy
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 35 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 5, 2016
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Cinequest Film Festival
    San Jose, CA
    March 5, 2016
  • Q Fest New Jersey
    Asbury Park
    April 2, 2016
  • Louisiana International Film Festival
    Baton Rouge
    April 16, 2016
  • MiFO: Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    April 26, 2016
  • The People's Film Festival
    New York
    June 5, 2016
  • Indy Film Festival
    July 16, 2016
  • Q Fest Houston
    July 23, 2016
  • Rumpus Lo/Fi Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    July 29, 2016
  • Chain NYC Film Festival
    New York
    August 10, 2016
  • North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    August 12, 2016
  • Revolution Me Film Festival
    Williamsburgh, New York
    August 20, 2016
    Jury Prize - Best Ensemble Casting
  • Director's Chair Film Festival
    New York
    September 18, 2016
    Best Screenplay
  • Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival
    Palm Springs
    September 23, 2016
  • Columbia Gorge International Film Festival
    Big Bear
    September 23, 2016
  • Downtown LA Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    September 27, 2016
  • Velvet Rope Film Festival
    Sutter Creek
    October 1, 2016
    Best Picture, Audience Award, Best Edit, Best Sound , Best Supporting Actor
  • Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    September 30, 2016
  • La Costa Film Festival
    La Costa
    October 16, 2016
  • Grand River Film Festival
    Waterloo Region
    October 28, 2016
  • NewFilmmakers - New York
    New York
    November 23, 2016
  • Orlando Film Festival
    Orlando, Florida
    October 21, 2016
  • Ohio Independent Film Festival
    Cleveland, Ohio
    November 11, 2016
  • Studio City International Film Festival
    Studio City, CA
    November 6, 2016
    Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Daphne Zuniga)
  • Sherman Oaks Film Festival
    Sherman Oaks
    November 13, 2016
    Grand Jury Award
  • Original Santa Fe Film Festival
    Santa Fe
    December 10, 2016
    Artistic Achievement Award - Daphne Zuniga
  • Flathead Lake International Cinemablast
    Polson, Montana
    January 21, 2017
  • America's Rainbow Film Festival
    New York
    December 22, 2016
    Audience Award
  • Flathead Lake International Cinemafest
  • ICE Film Festival
  • qFLIX Film Festival
  • Universe Multicultural Film Festival
    Palos Verdes
  • Northern Virginia International Film and Music Festival

    Best Actress (Joely Fisher), Best Editing, Best Ensemble Cast
  • Poland LGBT Film Festival
  • Unrestricted View FIlm Festival
  • Macon Film Festival
    Macon, Georgia
    United States
    July 21, 2017
  • Woodstock Museum 18th Annual Film Festival
  • qFlix Worcester
  • The Reel Film Festival
  • Symi International Film Festival
  • Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival
  • London Eye International Film Festival
  • Royal Starr Film Festival
  • Muskoka Independent Film Festival

    Best Director
  • Rosarito International Film Festival
  • Clifton Film Celebration

    Best Narrative Film
  • Brighton Rocks Film Festival
  • Adrian Film Festival
    Adrian, Michigan
    United States
    Winner - Best Feature
  • Mindfield Mindfield Film Festival
    United States
    Platinum Award - Best Feature
  • Engenuity Film Festival
  • West Texas Nudist Film Festival
  • Glitter LGBTQ Film Festival
  • Lannett City Film Festival
  • Oil Valley Film Festival
  • Kapow Intergalactic Film Festival

    Best Drama
  • Peachtree Village International Film Festival
  • Borderlands Film Festival

    Best Actor - Philipp Karner
  • Aphrodite Film Awards

    Best Satire Feature Film - October, 2018
  • Twin Cities Film Festival
  • Draft Fest New Hampshire
  • Interrobang Film Festival
  • Action of Film Festival
  • Colortape International Film Festival
  • BZN International Film Festival
  • Bull City International Film Festival
  • Tylerman Film Festival
  • Lebanese Independent Film Festival
  • Red Rose Film Festival
  • Outreels Cincinnati
  • Chatham-Kent International Film Festival
  • Eau Claire World Film Festival

    Audience Award - Best Narrative Feature
  • International Film Festival Manhattan
  • Care Awards
  • Rivercity Underground Film Festival
  • Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival
  • Romford Film Festival
  • Southeast Regional Film Festival
  • Ancient Way Film Festival
  • Boulder Film and Brew Festival
  • Midnight West Fest
  • L’Hospitalet International Film Festival
  • Andromeda Film Festival
  • Great Lakes Film Festival
  • Scorpiusfest
  • Oz Indie Fest
  • Voices Rising Film Festival
  • Castellabate Film Festival
  • Believe Psychology Film Festival
  • Bedford Film Festival
  • Dili International Film Festival
  • Creators Film Festival
  • Beaufort Film Festival
  • Mesa International Film Festival

    Best Narrative Feature
Director Biography - Russell Brown

Russell Brown is currently editing Loren and Rose starring Jacqueline Bisset and Kelly Blatz, featuring Gia Carides, Erin Cahill and Paul Sand. The film wrapped principal photography in May, 2019.

He is also completing post-production on two nonfiction films — a short conceptual documentary entitled The 44 Scarves of Liza Minnelli and Above the Arroyo: A Dream of the Stairs of Los Angeles, a feature length art installation which includes a live performance component.

His most recently exhibited film — a mid-length documentary entitled The Kaleidoscope Guy at the Market — had its festival premiere at the 21st Dances with Films in June, 2018, and has continued to play over 25 festivals since its release, garnering awards in a variety of categories.

“Thanks to Russell Brown’s slick direction and the vast array of kaleidoscope related topics the movie covers, it is a spellbinding, brilliant watch.” (FilmThreat)

His fourth narrative feature, Search Engines, starred an ensemble cast including Joely Fisher, Connie Stevens, Daphne Zuniga, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Barry Watson and Michelle Hurd. It premiered at Cinequest and has played more than 70 festivals across the country and internationally, picking up over 25 awards in categories ranging from acting, directing and writing to audience awards and best picture recognition. It was released theatrically in October, 2016.

“Well-considered insights… Sharp banter… Insinuating camera moves…”
(The Hollywood Reporter)

"Filmmaker Russell Brown clearly had something pertinent he wished to say about our plugged- in, tuned-out obsession with the Internet and was obviously going for a Luis Buñuel-Robert Altman style of social commentary…” (The Los Angeles Times)

Brown’s third feature film, Annie and the Gypsy, starring Cybill Shepherd, premiered at the Seattle Film Festival in June, 2012. Osiris Entertainment distributed the film in Spring, 2013.

“Writer/director Russell Brown makes short, sharp films that investigate how and why friends treat each other badly... In Annie and the Gypsy, Brown’s most ambitious, and arguably most accomplished film to date, Brown provides a keenly-observed study of the title character (deftly played by Cybill Shepherd) who throws a Spanish-themed dinner party hoping to reconnect with Gordon, a man she loved in Spain decades ago.”
(Film International)

The Blue Tooth Virgin, his second feature narrative, was released theatrically in the United States by Regent Releasing in September, 2009. It won the Special Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival in the New American Cinema competition, as well as other festival prizes.

“Hilarious, acutely knowing... Yet comedy enables Brown to dig into the art-industry equation that is the eternal Hollywood challenge, as well as questions about values, priorities, standards, goals -- all leading to what is all-important: self-knowledge. It’s not too much to hazard that Billy Wilder would have enjoyed The Blue Tooth Virgin.” (Los Angeles Times)
“What's striking, brilliant, and refreshing about this story is its sheer minimalist quality... And what dialogue it is! Beautiful and quotable, intriguing and challenging. There are so many great themes here, you truly wonder how writer/director Russell Brown will find something else to write about in future projects.” (MTV.Com)

Race You to the Bottom was released theatrically in the United States in March, 2007, by Here Films. The film played at festivals worldwide and earned a best actress award at Outfest.

“Top notch... Writing and directing with perceptive wit, Brown adroitly captures the quicksilver shifts in moods within a tempestuous, passionate romance between two articulate, free-thinking young people.” (Los Angeles Times)

“Brown’s screenplay and direction, both economical and unshowy, sketch character dynamics in crisp terms that resist the temptation to explain all, beg sympathy, or heighten drama for purely histrionic purposes.” (Variety)

Brown directed the educational program Karen Black: On Acting, a master class seminar with the iconic actress. The film has screened at festivals across the country and had its television premiere in August, 2014, on PBS stations. It is being distributed by First Light Video.

He has also made numerous well-received short films, which have had extensive play on the festival circuit.

Conversation with a Cigarette (2014), a one-man chamber piece starring the well-respected British actor Ian Hart, is about a man facing his greatest enemy: A Cigarette. It premiered at the prestigious Palm Springs Shortsfest, and has played over 40 festivals, winning writing and audience prizes.

Mama Laura’s Boys (2003), about the oldest blues club in Los Angeles, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS.

Reality USA (2004), a study of the emotional and geographic landscape of America, was based on work by the noted poet Mark Halliday, and also premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Everyone Who Hears This Story Gets Laid (2012), starring noted performance artist Philip Littell, premiered at Outfest, and played numerous stops on the LGBT circuit.

Russell is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and is a Film Independent Producing Fellow. His films are held as part of the collection at the UCLA Film and Television archive.

He also dedicates a significant amount of time to philanthropic efforts. He is the founder and board chair of Friends of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles (FORT: LA) — a nonprofit dedicated to promoting stronger civic identity and community cohesion among the residents of Los Angeles County by advancing scholarship and facilitating wider exploration of our architecturally significant residential homes.

In the past, he provided support to hospital patients across Los Angeles as a certified animal therapist with Love On 4 Paws and was also awarded a commendation from the City of Los Angeles for his work with the Boys and Girls Club of Venice.

A Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California’s Film Program in 1998, he held creative executive positions with Laura Ziskin Productions at Columbia Pictures and Saturday Night Live Studios at Paramount Pictures. Russell is a long distance runner, swimmer and triathlete.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

The process of writing SEARCH ENGINES was one of relative fluidity and speed, and it’s possible that this reflects the depth to which I’d thought about its themes before they ever coagulated into a script. Like many people, I spend too much time on the phone, on the internet, on dating websites, online shopping. I seem to be constantly searching – and it occurred to me that “search” is really the operative concept of our time. The technological revolution has come about because of this very human activity – our unrelenting, constant, lifelong search for meaning and search for purpose.

Whereas we once went to religion or philosophy, we now search the internet for answers. And so, SEARCH ENGINES is actually having a conversation about spirituality, not technology – the movie is using the phones as a device to reveal the hopes, secrets, insecurities and desires of the characters. The phones themselves are lifeless and inanimate objects. (Considering their power, it’s easy to forget this.) It was a deliberate decision rarely to show the screens on the actual devices, because essentially what is on the screens is irrelevant. The important thing to me was how each character is getting tricked up by the false promise of the phone, and in that, by their own flaws.

When I first met with the cast, I told them (somewhat jokingly) we were making a new genre, which I was going to call Metaphysical Farce. As we prepared, I looked at the works of some of my favorite filmmakers – Altman, Antonioni, Buñuel – for clues on how to approach the satirical and philosophical themes. Like certain works of those great directors, I wanted to introduce a situation that almost seemed trivial from the outset – a family Thanksgiving comedy that you might see on cable TV – but slowly allow the story to get weirder and deeper as it goes along. A joke I often tell about this film is that I’ve made the first Thanksgiving movie in history where nobody eats turkey and passes mashed potatoes at the end. One of the challenges of the film was to introduce this turn slowly and subtly, so that the audience almost doesn’t know what’s happening until suddenly we are in a very strange place, almost no longer on earth.

Perhaps the greatest joy of making SEARCH ENGINES was the opportunity for the first time to work with an ensemble cast. Each of my previous films has essentially been a two-hander, and it was invigorating to show up to set with the knowledge that I’d be working with different combinations of actors throughout the shoot. The process of building each character started with a meeting in which we barely talked about the script. As I learned more about the actors, I would re-write scenes and mold them to what I felt would be good material for the actor to use. They were subtle changes, but I think the process contributed to our being on the same page when we arrived on set. It also suggested a fluidity that couldn’t help but make everyone feel comfortable. If the cliché fears about working with an ensemble cast include personality clashes and different working styles, the truth is we didn’t encounter any of this while making SEARCH ENGINES. There was an ease, freedom and joy on this set, and I think that spirit shows up in the final product.

At the same time, it was fun to discover what I could count on consistently from each individual. Joely Fisher brought lifeforce and intelligence; Connie Stevens was always graceful and warm; Nick Court had a sly look and wicked sense of humor; Daphne Zuniga always had pain underneath a tough exterior; Jonathan Slavin’s nervous energy was unerringly sympathetic. Part of my role as director was recognizing and capturing the most interesting qualities that each actor brought to each character. I noticed early on that this cast was often so interesting with their own choices, I didn’t need to provide “direction”; I came to think of it more as providing “energy” and “newness” so that it was fun to do another take, not necessarily trying to achieve something “better”.

A number of considerations were operative in the choice to make so much use of zooms and roving camera. The main idea was that I wanted to create a sense of unease by the suggestion of an omniscient “eye” that is watching the proceedings. The camera is not invisible, it’s in the house, watching these people, creeping around and “considering” their behavior. Another intention is the suggestion of simultaneous action (which is essential in a movie about a party) but more in the notion that we all (the audience) are also having this conversation simultaneously. This debate about technology is ubiquitous, and it was an interesting experiment to suggest the experience of the “real world” using these camera moves. A third intention was to keep the space feeling dynamic and constantly changing so that the audience never sees the same space in the same way.

A note on my collaborators. Like most filmmakers, I could write pages upon pages about each member of my key crew. Kerry Barden and Adam Richards assembled the incredible cast with taste and sensitivity and intelligence. Christopher Gosch is an inventive and gifted DP who was a joy to be around at every moment and whose spirit and creativity are in every frame of the movie. My often collaborator Chris Munch is a genius who generously takes time from his own projects to cobble together my movies. Another frequent collaborator is Ryan Beveridge, whose score for this movie is inspired and essential. John Baumgartner kept cool during a heat wave in Woodland Hills, a difficult homeowner, and so many other minor catastrophes – I’ll forever be grateful. Leah Mann filled the house with Thanksgiving and tailored each room (and phone) to each character with sensitivity. Kristen Anacker, who has designed costumes for all my films, perfectly captured the California casual Thanksgiving spirit as interpreted by each character.