“We wanted to tell a story about a lifetime of regression boiling down to a key moment between two opposing personality types.”
The 2014 RAW Nerve funded short film Fish is an important stepping stone for Writer/Director Alexander Wheldon and Co-creator/Producer Dan Thom. This is the first government funding they have received as key creatives and their first time working together since graduating Film & TV at the Central Institute of Technology in 2012. Fish is a story that is close to both of their hearts as it tells the story of a father and son attempting to reconnect with each other.
The theme for RAW Nerve last year was ‘Second Chance’.
“We wanted to tell a story about a lifetime of regression boiling down to a key moment between two opposing personality types. Our original ideas during pre-application followed this narrative but had more comical touches driving scenes but as we came to submission the approach detoured to something more direct.”
“We both wanted to pen a simple and honest story that a wide audience could relate to. From the start of the writing process we wanted to make a film that had nowhere to hide; we didn’t want any visual effects or any flashback sequences or twist endings. We wanted to play out a scene between two characters in a single, somewhat claustrophobic location and see what the natural progression would be.”
Both Alex and Dan have different relationships with their fathers – not always harmonious and inspiration was drawn from these experiences. However the on screen story doesn’t directly refer to a specific event in either of their lives. Given the influences, creating a believable relationship between the two characters was key.
“Writer Pete Templeman advised us during script development process and with his help we were able to dissect and analyse each moment in the script with great clarity. We learned what our film was essentially about in the process and who these characters were so we could focus on their current relationship and not refer to any nagging exposition.”
Finding suitable actors proved to be a greater challenge given the script was in real time and the familial relationship of the two.
“We needed actors unafraid to improvise but also who shared some resemblance – we found Michael and Liam. The two found an affinity most encouraging in rehearsals that continued on set. Michael’s considerable fishing experience proved a nice, albeit accidental bonus.”
Whilst the film was in its final stages of script development, location and crew were locked in. Fish was shot at Lake Leschenaultia in Chidlow.
“After contacting numerous parks and getting the word out that we were after a secluded looking location, it didn’t take long for someone to suggest the family/tourist destination of Lake Leschenaultia. It was a no brainer to try our best to film there – it’s beautiful and mostly isolated during the week.”
“The support and application from the crew was quite humbling as we’d kept the script process quite close to our chests. There was slight fear of disenchantment as director as this was my first project in years and I wasn’t too inclusive. In the end I’d never had such little trouble communicating and delegating my ideas in a creative way as I’ve had during this film.”
The actors were pushed to the limits at stages, repeatedly having to be submerged in the ice-cold water through the final moments on set. The conditions were starting to affect them physically, which in turn gave the performances a certain authenticity.
“Working on set with them was great. We were regularly discussing ideas and taking our time with the dialogue to birth a natural dynamic between the two. The atmosphere was intended to be awkward and isolated and some moments that best exemplified this were created during filming and not in the pages of the final draft. Previously I’d made films featuring child actors and short scenes; to dawdle on set in those circumstances would be calamitous. I did enjoy those sets but to have time to let something grow was refreshing.”
Fish first screened at the FTI’s FAB Film Screening along with other locally funded shorts earlier in the year to industry people and family and friends.
“Seeing the story in the environment it was intended is always exciting, if unnerving – certain insecurities try to quell your enthusiasm. However the reaction was very encouraging and the audience appeared absorbed by the characters and story, reacting to the key moments.”
“We’re even more excited and anxious to see what the response will be at the Revelation Film Festival. The first time it screened it was essentially to industry people and people we knew or worked with in the past. We feel that we’ve created an engaging story that people will climb on board for. Sorry, we can’t help but add a few fishing puns in there now and then. We hope this film will hook the audience from the get go and reel them in.”
Fish will be screening this year at Get Your Shorts On! as part of the Revelation Film Festival.