When a painting arrived for photographer and filmmaker Nev Schulman at his office, he couldn’t have imagined the journey it would take him on along with brother Ariel and business partner Henry Joost. The painting was a rendering of a photograph of Nev’s that had appeared in the newspaper. The artist was eight-year-old Abby, and she, her family, and her friends would, thanks to Facebook, become an important part of Nev’s world. Brother Ariel began filming, as he did pretty much everything else that occured at the offices of Supermarche, but the footage, along with the growing attraction Nev felt for Abby’s sister, Megan, turned into the documentary CATFISH. Part mystery, part romance, in it’s entirety it’s a meditation on the social network phenomenon that brings people together, yet also, paradoxically, keeps them at a remove.
When I spoke to them on September 3, 2010, Joost and the Schulmans ponder that as well as discuss the terrors of rural Michigan on a dark night, and why for them the camera is always ready to record.
It’s a different look at the Facebook phenomenon that considers identity, expectations, and the surprises inherent in turning a virtual relationship into an analog one. The adventure begins when Nev receives a painting of a picture he had taken. The artist was Abby, an eight-year-old Ishpeming, Michigan girl from a very artistic family, including a sister, Megan, who takes Nev’s fancy and with whom he begins a long-distance relationship of a flirtatious nature, while also forging friendships with Abby and their mother, Angela, their stepfather, Vince and getting to know the rest of their family and friends via Facebook.
Henry and Ariel, also known as Rel are filmmakers, buddies since high school, and founders of the production company, Supermarche, which also includes Nev, who is Rel’s brother, also a filmmaker, and a photographer, as well. The three share one office while pursuing projects together and separately.