Steven Soderbergh’s Ghost Story ‘Presence’ Sells to Neon Out of Sundance

The film, starring Lucy Liu and Chris Sullivan, is told entirely from the ghost’s point of view

"Presence" (Courtesy of Sundance)

Neon has picked up the worldwide distribution rights to Steven Soderbergh’s unique ghost story film “Presence” out of the Sundance Film Festival, TheWrap has learned. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Soderbergh’s film was one of the buzziest sales titles at the festival and carries with it a special angle that sets it apart.

Written by David Koepp, the film tells the story of a family who move into a house, only to discover it may or may not be haunted. It’s a story we’ve seen countless times before, but what sets “Presence” apart is it’s told entirely from the point of view from the ghost. Soderbergh, acting as director, cinematographer and camera operator, lets scenes play out in long unbroken takes as the camera moves around the room, whizzing up close on someone’s face and then retreating.

Lucy Liu and Chris Sullivan (“This Is Us”) play the parents, Callina Liang is the daughter who seems to be able to sense the ghost, and Eddy Maday plays the son who could not care less. Julia Fox and West Mullholland also star in this contained family drama/thriller that was shot in just 11 days in New Jersey.

Soderbergh said the idea for the film actually came out of his insistence that first-person VR storytelling could never work.

“I had real questions about the choice that was at the center of this, because I’ve been very vocal about the fact that [first] person POV VR doesn’t work, is never going to work as a narrative,” Soderbergh said during a Q&A after the film’s premiere screening at the Library theater. “Nobody wants this thing on their head. They want to see a reverse angle of the protagonist with an emotion on their face experiencing the thing. I’ve been beating this drum for a long time – it’s never going to work.”

Soderbergh continued, “The only way to do it was you never turn around. It was really fun because there was no other plan. That’s it. You live or die by that.”

While sitting down for an interview at TheWrap’s Sundance studio, the cast said they were amazed by how quickly Soderbergh was able to put the film — which was shot in secret — together. “I texted him the day we wrapped and I just thanked him again for having me,” Sullivan, who worked with Soderbergh on “The Knick,” recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t wait to see what you put together’ and he responded, ‘Oh, it’s done!’”

Neon is coming off the release of Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” Ava DuVernay’s indie “Origin” and Best Picture nominee “Anatomy of a Fall.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.