Interview with Catfish director Ariel Schulman

Catfish director Ariel Schulman discusses the making of this documentary, and the allegations that it’s all as fake as the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary, I’m Still Here. Based around a relationship that his brother Nev starts on Facebook, Catfish features an array of intense twists and turns.

From start to finish, how long did it take to make?
‘For the first eight and a half months of the story, Catfish was just a side project for us. We’d film a few hours a week while working on other short films and commercials (like this ballet film). Then suddenly the story changed 180 degrees and we didn’t put our cameras down for the next week, and hardly ever turned them off. It took another year and a half to edit the darn thing into a compelling film that conveyed the way the experience itself felt’.

Why make this film?
‘The story found us. We didn’t intend to make a feature film about my brother, and Facebook, and modern identity and all these issues the film takes on. It was all sort of a serendipitous accident’.

Anything you want people to take from it?
‘I suppose that anyone can make a movie: you don’t need much money, and compassion. Nobody’s perfect but everybody’s got a story’.

What documentaries or films would you consider your biggest influences?
‘Sherman’s March, Grey Gardens, The Cruise and Jurassic Park’.

How do you respond to all the allegations that it’s all just too good to be true? Getting sick of them?
‘I am getting sick of these allegations. They are boring to me because I was there, and it’s all completely true. There’s no other secret to uncover. I usually just say, “well, the truth is I’m not smart enough to make any of this up. Truth is stranger than fiction.”

What’s next?
‘Henry (co-director Henry Joost) and I are writing a feature mystery, and the three of us (Henry, Ariel and Nev) are making a TV show for MTV about other people’s catfish stories’.