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Behind the Scenes of ‘Catfish’

Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost and Nev Schulman discuss CatfishAriel Schulman, Henry Joost and Nev Schulman in ‘Catfish’

© Rogue Pictures

The less you know about the reality thriller Catfish before you see it, the better. And although some spoilers about the film have been removed from this Q&A with the guys behind Catfish, it’s really best to read on only A) after having seen the movie or b) if you’re not planning on ever seeing the movie, or C) if you’re one of those people who love to know everything about a film before buying a ticket.To play it safe, I’ll use the official synopsis put forth by Rogue Pictures in order to describe Catfish: “In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives.”

In LA to support the release of Catfish, Ariel Schulman, Nev Schulman, and Henry Joost talked to reporters about the project which, no matter what the three say, will have some people believing 100% in what they see on the screen while others will be left questioning what’s true and what’s staged in this documentary.

On why people are suspicious:

Henry Joost: “I think that there has been a trend for a while of the mockumentary and also the fake documentary, which is kind of a different thing. The Cloverfield and Blair Witch Project type thing and then even more recently, those commercials that are trying to look like YouTube viral videos where something totally crazy happens and a visual effects company manipulates it. So I think people are trained now to be suspicious about what they see and wonder what the motives are behind it. So this question of whether the film is real or not never occurred to us while we were editing, because why would you ever suspect that something that actually happened to you, that people would be suspicious of something that actually happened to you? But when we started showing it at Sundance, that’s when we started getting questions from the audience.”

“When we were making the film, there were many times when we thought, ‘Wow, this is too good to be true in a lot of ways.’ Or, ‘I can’t believe that just happened the way that it did or that we captured that in the way that we did,’ but it really happened. That’s the truth.”

On when they realized they had a story to tell:

Henry Joost: “Well, Rel had the instinct to just start picking up little bits and pieces with Nev shortly after he got the first painting from Abby. Really, we didn’t have that much footage in kind of the first act of the film. We probably only had like an hour of footage and we kind of beefed it up with the online correspondence. Then when we discover the truth about [spoiler deleted] in Colorado, that’s when we turned to each other and said, ‘This is not just a little thing. This is a movie and this will have a story. We should not stop rolling for as long as it takes.'”

Did they ever get too freaked out and want to stop?:

Ariel Schulman: “Well, there was a lot of back and forth, a lot of give and take. There were moments where [Nev] wanted to stop and I pushed him to keep going. Then there was a very significant moment when I wanted to stop and he pushed me to keep going, and the same goes for Henry. Driving up to that horse farm at night, he was ready to just back in very casually and peel out.”

Henry Joost: “That still makes sense to me though.”

Ariel Schulman: “Nev said, ‘Turn the car around. We’re going in headfirst.’ I guess that’s just how we work as a group of friends that we just sort of keep pushing each other.”

Henry Joost: “We support each other. When somebody’s falling behind a little bit, the others pull him up.”

On becoming more wary of strangers on the internet:

Nev Schulman: “Basically I don’t meet people online. I never used to do that really anyway. This was sort of a very unique experience for me, but at this point now when I get requests from people who I’ve never actually met, I just sort of ignore them. Which sort of goes against my nature because this whole experience happened because I kind of just blindly threw myself into something unknowingly and said yes to something and went for it. Look what happened. Better or worse, it changed my life. I think for the better. I’m not someone who likes to be cautious or assume the worst. I’m sort of the opposite and it gets me in trouble, but it also gives me a story to tell and hopefully changes who I am a little bit for the better.”

On positioning Catfish as a thriller:

Henry Joost: “That is part of the movie. That’s, I think, the crux of the second act. What I like about it being marketed that way is just that it kind of has you looking in a different direction and expecting something, and the film ends up being a lot more than that.”

On striving to not exploit the characters:

Henry Joost: “Yeah, it was important to us that we had the consent of the subjects of the film on both sides and that that was okay. For us, in terms of telling the story and showing who the family really was, it was totally essential I think to show that, what you’re referring to. I don’t know how I say that without actually saying it. Because that’s key, I think, to understanding the motivation behind what’s going on.”

On watching the sexting scene at Sundance:

Nev Schulman: “I’m still really embarrassed about it. Not even embarrassed that people are seeing it, because that’s never so much something that I’ve had a problem with fortunately. Just that I wrote those things. They still seem so goofy and sort of contrived. Even though when I was doing them I was trying to really be honest and say what I felt, sometimes when you read that back, especially when you hear yourself reading it back, it’s just like, ‘Gee whiz, that was so goofy.'”

On people relating to the story:

Nev Schulman: “That’s sort of been the reward of putting myself out there in this film is that the response to that and the sort of opening of a valve that so many people want to talk about this stuff and have gone through experiences like this or have been too embarrassed to say that they’re also kind of not sure if they like Facebook. To identify with me as the figure of this movement towards whatever this is that we’re doing has been great. I enjoy it.”

On what Catfish says about the ability to create a new persona online:

Ariel Schulman: “I think it says that the internet and social networking is sort of a perfect distraction and fantasy for people to fill any empty space in their lives, whether it’s just to fill time and distract them from a real life situation that’s uncomfortable, a bad date or a boring dinner. Just hop on your phone and you’re on the internet and you’re surrounded by thousands of people. Or it can fill a much simpler void which is, ‘My life isn’t what I want it to be. I am not who I want to be. Let me create a better self, an avatar.’ Bam, five minutes later you’re up and going.”

On plans for the DVD:

Ariel Schulman: “Oh, the DVD is going to be chock full of bonus features. There are so many great deleted scenes, so much of the correspondence and the world that was created. Other characters on our side of the fence that were involved, none as deeply as Nev – but deeply.”

On what they learned as filmmakers through this experience:

Henry Joost: “You know, we have a commercial production company and we make commercials. When you’re making things like that, you spend a lot of time thinking about having everything look perfect and be perfect all the time, but this was really a lesson in if you have a good story and a compelling person to film, then you don’t have to worry about that stuff as much and you should really just let it go and just try to have it be a more pure experience. That was hugely liberating as a filmmaker to just say, ‘Let’s film this on whatever camera is closest. As long as we get the audio clear and the image that you need, then that’s fine.'”


September 23, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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