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MediaTsarina shoots some pool with CATFISH co-Director Henry Joost

Nordling here.

 

I haven't read the following interview, but that's not because it's not any good.  I'm certain it is, it was done in September while the film was in theaters, by MediaTsarina, a longtime ATL BNATer and good friend of the site.  She managed to score an interview with one of the directors of the controversial documentary CATFISH.  I haven't seen CATFISH yet, and from what I understand, this interview's full of spoilers.  I'll likely see it this weekend, and since the film's now available on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, I thought it would be a good time to hear from one of the makers of the film, Henry Joost.
 
As for the veracity of CATFISH itself, I couldn't tell you, since I haven't seen it.  I'm sure those of you who have will have something to say about it either way.  I can't wait to see it myself - I'm behind on my documentaries this year.  And EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, which people have similar suspicions about its truthfulness, in the way sets the tone for the discussion.  I'll see CATFISH very soon so I can read this interview and take part in the discussion. Until then, here's MediaTsarina:
 
 
 
 

“After you've seen "Leaves of Grass", I highly recommend "Catfish". One of most interesting films I've seen this year. Don't read about it.”

– Edward Norton (from his Twitter feed)

MediaTsarina writing here and I recently met Henry Joost, one of the directors of the new and critically acclaimed documentary film, Catfish. He was in Atlanta to do a series of Q & A’s at Midtown Art Cinema and was good enough to sit down with me to talk a bit.

Warning: This is pretty spoiler-heavy, so I don’t recommend reading until you’ve seen the film.

Media Tsarina: Just when did d you all decide to send the footage you’d edited to Sundance?  Like not just: Hey, this is a weird movie about our friend. Was it during the trip in Vail, when things started to gel together?

Henry Joost- It was when we’re driving back. We’d just had this experience, and we’re all sort of shell-shocked. I remember calling our editor in the car. I was like: Zack I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to come down on Monday.

MT -‘Cause you’ve got so much footage?

HJ- He knew what had been happening, up to a certain point. He didn’t know we’d gone to Michigan, even. So I told him everything that had happened. It took like an hour, about.  He was just working on it for the next year and a half. I mean, we looked through all the footage, and printed out all the emails, so we were very organized.

MT- yeah, I mean, if you’re going document everything… to put people’s ‘real lives’ up on screen, you can’t have them come back later saying that’s not what happened. With the documentation you can go: right here, buddy.

HJ - Yeah. We just put this big responsibility on ourselves. Like that this movie has to be true to this, (pause) wild experience. And like, if we don’t do that, then we’ve done a bad job. So that’s part of the reason it took so long.

MT- and it seems to respect everyone, it’s very human (the film itself) even though Vince’s sons aren’t going to give a crap about the film, they need to be respected in how they’re portrayed.

HJ –Yeah, right.  

MT- Speaking of… you guys come off as the nice guys in this film. Nobody’s an asshole in this film. Is that how it was?  Or was it the force of editing and the direction you wanted to take the film? …So that nobody’s a real bad guy, not you guys, or Nev (Yaniv) or Angela? It’s just a story, and what you see into it (perspective-wise) is what you the viewer bring to it yourself. Like, “I think Angela’s an asshole, because she totally and completely manipulated the situation for MONTHS. “ – That could be one way of putting it, from someone who just left the screening we saw. But you seemed to do your utmost to prevent that, and if someone comes away with that, that’s probably their own opinions going into it. Does that make sense?

HJ - Yeah, definitely.

MT - Are you guys bigger jerks then are shown on screen?

HJ- Look, I can only own up to my own perspective. You’re making a documentary and you have over 200 hours of footage, you can make them look however you want. That’s just the reality of it. But our kind of, mantra, was: we just want this to be fair at every time, and for the audience to have the emotions we were having at every moment. And in the end for it to be balanced. To have the essence of the experience.  I think that’s what we tried to do. There’s no bad guy. We all come off good and bad at different points in the movie.

MT - I don’t think anyone comes off particularly jerky in the movie.

HJ - Well there’s embarrassing sex stuff …

MT -Like reading the sexy texts under the covers… that was just charming and endearing. I mean, those two girls in the Q & A afterwards today were all: Is Nev still single?

HJ- He still cringes when he sees it.

MT -He’s wearing his retainer and saying sexy things.

HJ- The one thing he asked us to cut out was the back tattoo

MT -But you showed it! I said to myself, “Oh, tramp stamp. Very nice.”

HJ- That says a lot about him, and he didn’t want it in. Though we call it a “Champ Stamp”.

MT -Well, you’re a boy -- that’s understandable.

HJ- To make him feel better.

MT -Just who was “Alex’s band”? (In the film Megan, Abby’s older sister sends Nev and friends Alex’s band’s CD and some band shirts. That’s around the point where the boys decide all music for the doc will have music from the family, as both  Alex and Megan are talented)               In the Q & A no one brought it up, and I want to know, who made that music?

H- it’s a British band, I think?

MT -Wow… intercontinental!

 

HJ- They’re in the credits. I don’t remember the name of the band.

MT -Are you aware you committed a federal offence on camera? (There is mail taken from a mail box that has been mailed to Megan)

HJ- I did? Not me. 

MT -The royal you, since you were there.

HJ- It’s true. Several people have pointed it out, including our lawyer.  He suggested we leave it out. But, it’s too late.

MT -Considering that person didn’t exist anyway… who let the horses out?

HJ- Who let the horses out?(To the tune of that song, you know the one)

MT -Is any of the footage you’ve shot of people’s reactions to the film going to end up on the DVD? –and if so, would that be the most Meta thing of all time?

H- (laughs) Ahhh...

MT -Or is this for you guys, to watch later to see how people reacted to it?

H-It’s really ….

MT -You could do anything you want with it, they’ve signed a release

HJ- We thought about maybe cutting together an online thing, in our style of filming… like people are talking to us. I feel it’s more personal than some marketing thing.

MT -In your opinion, nothing against Angela as a person or an artist, but the fame she is getting, it’s almost like she didn’t ‘earn’ it. You could make that argument.            So how else is she supposed to earn it, to earn the recognition for her talents?  She has talent, and skills, certainly. I imagine there artists in other mediums (or even the same) who say: Well, I didn’t lie, and cheat, and manipulate somebody’s heart. I am still struggling.

So, did she earn that? And is she going to have to make it up, in the public eye, to people who’ve seen this and then buy her art to people who buy her art because they’ve seen Catfish. Versus someone who comes across it as an art show and just likes it, not knowing any back-story?

HJ- Well, the way that she got into it was because she was, originally, I think, was selling art as herself, but wasn’t’ getting enough feedback…as an adult, but…

MT- Enter the miracle child!

 

HJ- Miracle child. Then everybody wants to give you feedback and talk to you. In a way it was reinforced by people’s positive feedback on the internet. So I don’t know who’s to blame, you know?

MT -Much like the old Nigerian 419 schemes, was there ever a point, other than for Abby’s paintings, was there ever a request for money in any fashion?  I don’t see that in the film, but I wondered.

HJ-There’s a good story to that. It’s kinda spoilery. Early on, Rel and I were like, after she’d sent dozens of these paintings already… and she doesn’t charge you for these paintings? She’s just giving them all to you for free. And Nev says: Sure, they’re from my photos.

And we’re surprised, it’s amazing…she’s just giving them to you. And he said, “No, no. It’s not like that.” And then Abby won a painting contest. $1000. First prize. And Angela (Abby’s mom) insisted in splitting the prize money with him. And he said he couldn’t accept it. So then he gets a check for $500 in the mail. So he cashes it. And says: Look, it’s legit.

MT -She’s not taking money; she’s giving it to you.

HJ- Right. At that point we’re….at one point they’re talking about making prints. They’d had a whole business plan. They’d sell the paintings and the photo prints and split the profits together.

MT -Wow.

HJ- It seemed real to us. He was making money and it’s so cool.

MT -I’ve know people who’ve met on the internet and it’s turned out great, you know? I know a couple who met and lived in PA and TX and now they are married with kids. And then you hear about those stories that turn out bad… and this is not a bad story, per se.

On another note, what do you think of the marketing? (Spooky voice) “Come see the scary Facebook movie….!”

HJ- It’s not a scary movie.

MT -I know you have to get ‘em in the door.

HJ- Right. Obviously marketing has one job, just to get people there. It’s definitely accomplishing that. My first reaction was: Really, guys?

MT -It’s a human story about connection, and wanting connection so badly. You’ve got this gap in your own life, that you’ll do anything to maintain that connection. To create this world with false personalities. Just watching the film unravel, I was watching some of the audience and seeing them nudge and whisper to each other was great. And were really tense in parts, like “I don’t want them to go into the barn, it’s really scary.” But there were no horses!

 

HJ- I think that most people who see it; I think if you’re expecting a horror movie, they’ll stay. Unless they’re all pissed off there’s no chainsaws and murders. People are pleasantly surprised. Like:  I thought I was going to see this, but it turned into so much more.  

MT -So what is happening with you three, as far as careers go?

HJ- Catfish’s kinda dominating our lives right now. We’re going to Zurich next week for the film festival.  We’re working on writing a feature, but haven’t had time to knock it out.

MT -You’d normally do feature narratives, rather than documentaries?

HJ-we’d always wanted to do a feature, documentary is sort of what most of our professional work is. We want to make both.

MT -I think docs since Michael Moore, have suffered, in the public eye, from the lack of perceived integrity in the documentary process.  (This is a reference to Morgan Spurlock and Zach Galifianakis who questioned Catfish's veracity; however the film is "100 percent real.")

HJ – (sighs a bit)Yeah.

MT -When you release the DVD, will there be a director’s cut that would carry the story deeper? Or is this is, this is what you gave the world at Sundance and in theatres, Why should Joe Smith who can’t get off his couch and get to a theatre to see it get a ‘better’ or different version?

HJ- I don’t know if there will be a director’s cut, but there will be 3-4 short films to supplement the movie. I explain different parts of it in depth. To use different parts of the footage we had. I mean, we shot over 200 hours. We shot talking head interviews. A lot of them.  We’d used them in an early cut, and we decided it felt like a boring thing.  Like a whole 60-minutes documentary.  And that’s not how it felt in real life.

MT - I think you guys were excited as you were filming. To discover what is this mystery.   When are you headed to Zurich? Who’s going?

HJ- Sometime next week. It’s just me and Rel, (Ariel, Nev’s brother, and co-director) the festivals usually only fly the directors out.

MT -So, Nev… wearing his retainer, and hiding under the covers to read steamy texts and everyone sees his Champ Stamp… how is he dealing with all of this? It’s so personal for him.

HJ- It took him a while to be okay with this.

MT -During the year and a half it was in editing?

HJ- Probably the first screening at Sundance.  It had a huge audience. With a great reaction. They were laughing and into it.

MT- At Sundance the audience was rooting for that guy. It was like, they could have a romance!

HJ- Yeah!

MT - Now it’s weird, and there are retarded boys…and just what is going on here?

That about wrapped it up for Henry and I, he had a game of pool to get back to now that the next showing was starting, to kill time before answering probably the same questions all day. I hope at least I didn’t ask all the same ones. And if you’ve read this before seeing the film, do yourself a favor and find Catfish on DVD. This is the kind of film you want to see with friends and watch them react just as much as you do about what awaits three New York boys in the murky wilds of small-town Michigan.

 
 
CATFISH is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray and iTunes.  Can't wait to see for myself what all the fuss is about.
 
Nordling, out.
Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 7, 2011, 8:11 p.m. CST

    movie's about says wha?

    by deelzbub

  • Jan. 7, 2011, 8:56 p.m. CST

    I have to wonder...

    by David_Denmans_Beard

    years down the line, will these guys drop the bombshell on the media and admit that this entire thing was scripted and planned from the jump? I've seen it three times now and I can't help but get that "just sit back and think about it, we'll be off in the distance holding the rug waiting to pull it out from under you whenever we can't squeeze anymore notoriety out of it" vibe.

  • Jan. 7, 2011, 9:14 p.m. CST

    "The controversial documentary CATFISH"

    by Subtitles_Off

    One is obligated to use the word "controversial" somewhere within the first sentence or two when writing about CATFISH. You know, just so no one forgets just how much of a non-event it turned out to be. It's a controversial use of the word "controversy," and I just opened up a wormhole of PR whatdefukk. Hold on tight to something.

  • Jan. 7, 2011, 9:27 p.m. CST

    Catfish fucking sucked

    by lostboytexas

    kill yourself

  • Jan. 7, 2011, 9:46 p.m. CST

    Catfish really dig fucking suck

    by Muldoon

    what a terrible film hyped up to be something it's not - good. seriously fuck Catfish

  • I think "Catfish" is most definitely not a frightening, cautionary tale about the dangers of the internet. It's not supposed to be scary, and it's not about the internet. It's much more serious. The movie company mis-marketed it as some kind of youthful reality thriller. SPOILER: It is about how circumstances can completely capsize a life and even trap a soul in a state where youthful dreams and ambitions are unfulfilled (the woman's dreams). It is a searingly human film of sadness, and the entire internet romance element is only an echo and plot device of the bigger center of the film... the woman trapped in her life and resorting to a fictional reality and interaction to feel anything remotely good anymore. In a way it should speak to the psychology of "geek" as well, after all, wasn't Star Wars geekdom in 1977 better and more fun than true life?

  • Jan. 7, 2011, 10:44 p.m. CST

    ufoclub

    by Muldoon

    sorry, but no - this movie should just explode in a retarded bed of it's own lameness. it's not star wars and really tries it's best not to be. it's a film tossed together by a few nyu pretentious douches and just exploits the shit out of some poor nutjob of a woman. Good job team catfish, sweet poster/trailer, you totally got my ass in the theater. to be fair, it's tough making a feature film and even tougher getting asses in seats, so I understand why the dist. company put out what it did... i was just annoyed the entire third act by how non-frantic/shocking/crazy/good it was. The movie bored me to tears and then indian burned me till the creidts... fuck this movie

  • Jan. 7, 2011, 11:34 p.m. CST

    so Muldoon...

    by ufoclub1977

    You're claiming that "Catfish" is not about: how circumstances can completely capsize a life and even trap a soul in a state where youthful dreams and ambitions are unfulfilled (the woman's dreams). It is a searingly human film of sadness, and the entire internet romance element is only an echo and plot device of the bigger center of the film... the woman trapped in her life and resorting to a fictional reality and interaction to feel anything remotely good anymore. Even though I saw it in a theater with a handfull of people (not really there because of the marketing) and some even cried. You accidentally went to see a movie that ended up being a serious glimpse about human condition, and realistic human reactions. You were expecting a genre movie from some of the words/phrases you used "feature film and even tougher getting asses in seats", "non-frantic/shocking/crazy/good" It's not supposed to be shocking, it was supposed to be sad. It's a shame the dumb asses who marketed it, did not market it to a more "pretentious" audience, because this is more of an HBO special or PBS special. The entire illusion that it was some kind of youthful thrilling gimmick film should have been cleared up for any audience at the sight of the woman's burden of two handicapped children. Didn't 20/20 do a story and interview with the woman? This is just not your kind of movie. And I didn't say it was like Star Wars. I said you (we) like things Star Wars (or you wouldn't be on this site). And the more common reason for fandom is often an escape from reality, because when people's realities are better than cool fiction, they don't fall into fandom of fictional cool things. I don't think Catfish fits the mean audience on this site- an audience that is concerned with things like a Thor movie! It is mismarketed.

  • Jan. 7, 2011, 11:57 p.m. CST

    Re: CATFISH

    by ArmageddonProductions

    I just saw this one On Demand and, well, it wasn't terrible, it's just not the real-life cinema verite' human epic that the hype wants it to be. Had this come out about ten or eleven years ago, it might have been more relevant, but ... seriously? The revelation that people lie, deceive, create completely false identities and use others' photos on the Internet, that's the point of the whole exercise? There are probably thousands upon thousands of incidents like this out there happening every day, and some with far less sentimental, upbeat endings. I believe it's the entire premise of "To Catch A Predator", no?

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 12:23 a.m. CST

    Muldoon....

    by MediaTsarina

    I know that there are many people here who aren't going to care about anything that's not dressed in tights and pummeling someone to a killer soundtrack. I get that. I like those kind of things too. I started stealing my brother's comics when I was about six...so I come by my love of comic book films honestly. However, I like other stuff too, and I am pretty sure plenty of folks do as well. Catfish is a sad tale. The desperation of someone to create such fiction that was more engrossing (as far as... what in the world will happen next?) then say, oh last year's craptastic G.I. Joe film -- was enough to keep me there, and made me interested enough to have a chat with Henry afterword. Also... if you'll note, I didn't use the word 'controversy' concerning the veracity of the film. I felt enough people had done that. Over it. Like shouting (in the talk back...which you have to care enough about to type it) "I don't care about this movie!" I'm over that, too.

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 2:09 a.m. CST

    Saw the story on 20/20...

    by DookieMercury

    as well as read the gist as well as the spoilers. What I still can't shake is this feeling of exploitation on behalf of the filmmakers on the parties onscreen. It almost feels like they knew the game and had to document as the dominoes fell with the subjects being oblivious. That said I probably have to watch this for myself to to be a better judge. Is it on netflix?

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 6:46 a.m. CST

    watched this last night without knowing anything about it

    by therootstheroots

    i enjoyed for what it was. a internet romance go wrong. just saw a trailer for it, and it's insane. how can universal get away with implying that this is some rec or paranormal activity film. that quote about the last 40mins taking you on a rollercoaster ride. please. it's like that trailer for that peter weir film, which makes it out to be a action piece, but you so know it's not.

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 8:41 a.m. CST

    What is the hype for this film?

    by henrydalton

    I *ahem* downloaded and watched this film the other week in the UK, having heard that it was worth seeing, but literally nothing beyond that. And I thought it was incredible. If you go into it with no expectations and no idea what the story is about then it's a really brilliant film (and just as brilliant if it's made up as if it isn't). If there's been some big marketing scheme in the States that's trying to desperately sell it as something it isn't, then fair enough, I can understand the backlash. But trust me, taken as a film on its own merits with no surrounding issues, it's very, very good. I've since shown it to several people in the UK who had never heard of it, and told them nothing about it except to watch it, and they've all thought it was an exceptional film.

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 9:23 a.m. CST

    EXIT THROUGH THE GIFTSHOP

    by hippolyta

    I don't get the skeptics on this one. Neither does Banksy. Most great documentaries have something unexpected happen during filming that creates a wonderful story arc. That's what makes them great, the director didn't know how it would end. Get over the "too good to be true" crap.

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 2:10 p.m. CST

    armageddonproductions...

    by ufoclub1977

    All I can say is it had people crying at her quiet unfolding and gentle confessions, at the sight of her children, her life. It's about her being trapped with the children and husband in that world, so different then what she would have imagined as a child. That is nothing like "To Catch a Predator". She is not a bad guy. She is the focus, the sad subject. I think you're still missing the point. If To Catch a Predator had something like this it would have been that one of the guys they trick into coming to the house, ends up being an old lady who just loves children and was infertile and could never have one of her own, and they initially just twisted her into seeming like a child predator from their point of view and agenda, but in the end, she is not that, and is actually sympathetic in the revealing light. And it would even awaken the predator show staff into seeing themselves as gullibly seeking to create a bad situation by their own needs to be self righteous.

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 2:13 p.m. CST

    armageddonproductions...

    by ufoclub1977

    All I can say is it had people crying at her quiet unfolding and gentle confessions, at the sight of her children, her life. It's about her being trapped with the children and husband in that world, so different then what she would have imagined as a child. That is nothing like "To Catch a Predator". She is not a bad guy. She is the focus, the sad subject. I think you're still missing the point. If To Catch a Predator had something like this it would have been that one of the guys they trick into coming to the house, ends up being an old lady who just loves children and was infertile and could never have one of her own, and they initially just twisted her into seeming like a child predator from their point of view and agenda, but in the end, she is not that, and is actually sympathetic in the revealing light. And it would even awaken the predator show staff into seeing themselves as gullibly seeking to create a bad situation by their own needs to be self righteous.

  • Jan. 8, 2011, 7:10 p.m. CST

    Fuck Catfish

    by Sgt.Steiner

    The poor little girl Abby is going to known from now on as "the kid with the fucked up parents". Thanks, Joost, for ruining her life. And Nev with the erotic texts? "Endearing"? What a creepy, narcissistic douche he is.

  • Jan. 9, 2011, 12:22 a.m. CST

    This film was decent enough, why are they pretending it's true?

    by SirGaryColeman

    I watched this film knowing it was fiction and then was surprised that the ending credits tried to make it seem real. This is absolutely scripted. I find it insulting that they think people would believe this was anything but fiction (not that anything super outlandish happens, it's just obviously not real footage). Then again, there are people who think the 4th kind is real, so yeah...

  • Jan. 9, 2011, 6:29 a.m. CST

    Why does a hetero male have a tramp stamp?

    by LaneMyersClassic

    It's a serious question. Any of you non-gay guys have one? Am I missing something? It may be another warning sign that calls into question the sincerity of this film.

  • Jan. 9, 2011, 12:46 p.m. CST

    sirgarycoleman ...

    by ufoclub1977

    How would you explain the 20/20 interview?

  • Jan. 9, 2011, 7:29 p.m. CST

    what does that mean?

    by MediaTsarina

    The tattoo means what... to you? And Ufoclub... what do you mean about the 20/20 interview? Explain, how?

  • Jan. 11, 2011, 10:38 a.m. CST

    20/20 interiew...

    by ufoclub1977

    People are thinking this movie is fiction and that the woman is an actress, are discounting the fact that 20/20 did an interview with her about her situation without the involvment of the Catfish creators. Not to mention that since then at least one of her children had died and had an obituary. So I'm asking how the doubters can explain the 20/20 interview's existence if it was all fake. Also check out the catfish guys now: http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/showbiz/2010/10/26/natpkg.catfish.directors.mini.doc.cnn

  • Feb. 5, 2011, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Finally watched it MT

    by NomadRip

    Finally got it on DVD. I didn't read this until I saw it. The marketing killed it for me. I was waiting for the big roller-coaster ride, and it didn't happen. On it's own merits, the movie was an interesting character study, but I spent the first 3/4 of it waiting for someone to get kidnapped or killed, after being lead on by the marketing dept. It got me to see it, but it was a bad sell. It was an irritatingly boring movie, but mostly because I was expecting something else. Had it not been sold with all that "scariest thing you've ever experienced" vibe, it would have been a lot better for me.

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