Sunday Shorts: Sammy the Salmon

Liam Maguire and Mark Mitchell in Sammy the Salmon.

Written and Directed by Jake Shannon
Produced by Chris Luscri
Starring Liam Maguire, Mark Mitchell, Liz Esguerra and Edward McCullough

Spencer, while weeping uncontrollably on a beach starts a conversation with a talking salmon. Spencer explains that he is secretly gay but is due to marry his female fnance. The salmon ofers to help Spencer break up with his girlfriend and get his love life back on track, but all doesn’t go according to plan…

Article written by Jake Shannon

I was on my computer late at night. I found myself on a deep-dive of Wikipedia, and ended up on a page that had a list of all the animals that exhibited same-sex relations. Much to my surprise, salmon not only engage in same-sex relationships, but can change their gender. I found this incredibly interesting, and what’s worth noting is that as humans, we impose these things with unnecessary social baggage, compared to the animal kingdom where they are completely amoral and natural. I found this fact about salmon both absurd and insightful, as we could learn a lot from salmon as a species.

We made this film during the Australian plebiscite vote for same-sex marriage. During this time there were a lot of negative messages in the media coming from both sides of the argument. What we wanted to do as a team, was to create a story that humanised the issue in a comedic, lighthearted way.

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I wrote the first draft of the script years before we began production. But when we found out about the plebiscite, we thought that it was the prefect time to dust off the idea and bring it to life. From that point on it was incredibly quick. We had three weeks in pre-production, three days shooting, and three weeks in post-production.

As a child I grew up watching shows like Round the Twist with awe and wonder. I think it’s safe to say that some of the absurd elements of that show can be seen in Sammy The Salmon. As one of the great experiences of my early career, it was an incredible honour to work with Mark Mitchell (The Comedy Company, Round the Twist) on this project. Not only is Mark completely perfect for the role of Sammy, I feel like it is wonderfully fitting to have elements of the inspiration embedded into the heart of the film.

Trying to get the salmon to talk was an interesting challenge. What we managed to do was a mix of practical and visual effects. I attached a green pole to the bottom of the salmon’s mouth, then I would move the pole in time with the actor’s voice-over. In post-production we took the pole out of the image so it looks like it’s talking on its own.

I have another short that is coming to the end of its festival run, and we’re looking to find a home for it online. I have just finished another film, which is about to enter the festival circuit, and I’ve begun writing on another project.

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