FEB. 04. 2021.
Chad Hartigan’s Little Fish is one of this weekend’s many new releases. While you can check out our review [Little Fish REVIEW], our very own Dempsey Pillot was fortunate enough to sit down with Hartigan and pick his brain about the film.
You can read the full transcribed interview below:
DEMPSEY PILLOT: Okay, so I’m gonna hit the record button now. If you could just say your name and title for the record?
CHAD HARTIGAN: Hi, I’m Chad Hartigan, and I’m the director of Little Fish.
DP: First and foremost, I got to say that I really enjoyed this film. I will admit that it took me until the end to really appreciate it because it’s one of those films where the end puts everything into perspective. Now, this isn’t necessarily a spoiler, but the entire film is told out of order. What made you want to make a film like this, and was it harder to make than some of your previous films because of the sequencing?
CH: Well, it was written into the script that it would be non-linear and kind of have this structure, but even from the script you could tell that the emotional journey was so clear and so concise and so well written that it was going to be fun, and not necessarily all that daunting. It was going to be a challenge, but it was going to be a fun challenge, especially with Jack and Olivia. I knew that these were going to be characters that you would just want to watch, and they would have chemistry that would draw you in. There was some freedom to mess around. Sure enough, in editing we did a lot of crazy, structural moves. [We asked ourselves] “does this scene work in the first act? Does it work in the third act?” We had this freedom that the way the story was told allowed us to experiment, so that was really fun. What was your second question again?
DP: I think you answered it. Was it harder to make than some of your previous films because of the sequencing?
CH: No, I think it was, in some ways, easier. You know, my previous films were really rooted in reality. They were less plot-driven than this one too. When there’s no plot, and it’s really just characters, something as small as bad acting - like if one line kind of trips you up - can an audience member to step out, and it’s hard to get them back because there’s not the plot moving them forward, so I think that’s a harder challenge. Whereas [here], there’s the mechanics of the plot and the freedom to mess around and be creative. It was fun. I really enjoyed it, and the editor did a great job.
DP: Yeah! Fantastic editing, really. Now you said your previous works were rooted in reality, but this film is surprisingly timely, set in a world that is experiencing and trying to cope with this new virus. Was that done purposely. If not, do you think people will resonate with this film more because of its parallels to the ongoing pandemic?
CH: We shot it in 2019, so it was pre-pandemic, and we had no idea what was coming. At the time we thought we were making a science fiction movie, or at least a romance movie with some science fiction elements. I think it’s lucky for us that we were smart enough to always have the romance be first and foremost, and the virus and pandemic in the backdrop. Now that we’re all dealing with a real one, you know, it’s strange. It’s a strange time to release a movie like this. There’s some uncertainty about how it will be received because we thought it was one thing, and now it’s something else. But the fact that it’s first and foremost about love and its characters dealing with this situation on a very based day-to-day “handle what’s in front of you” way, I think everyone can relate to that now, and it adds a layer of relatability to what was once a far-out concept.
DP: Absolutely! I really enjoyed the homage the film payed to Memento, with the photographs and the tattoos and even the narration being such a big part of it, but I found this film to be more reminiscent of Danny Boyle’s Trance. Are you familiar with the film?
CH: Trance? No, I haven’t seen that.
DP: It’s a fantastic film, if you ever get the chance to see it. I don’t want to overshadow your film with it though. Essentially, the movie is told entirely out of order. So much so, that there’s an argument to be made that if you scramble every scene in it you’ll still get the same story. And I think that the same can be said for your film. Now, do you think that’s the case? Do you think that even if you change the order of the film as it is already, that the same story can still be told?
CH: More or less, yes. Because I know that we tried many different experiments in editing, moving some things around. We could have edited the movie for [another] two years if they let us, and just kept messing with it. Because the thing that would never change is that central relationship and the feeling of losing someone and trying to both move forward and rebuild the past. I think that would come through no matter how you put the movie together.
DP: Now, you also mentioned how great it was to work with Olivia and Jack, and they’re incredible. You know, it didn’t really strike me until after the film was over that there’s really only like four characters in the movie, but because we spend so much time with them it doesn’t really matter. I love both of them. I think everything they’re in is brilliant - and this film is included in that. So, do you have any fun stories you’d like to share or any great experiences you had with them while they were on set?
CH: Overall, I had an amazing experience with both of them. It kind of flew by, so I wonder if I can think of a funny anecdote… (Hartigan paused) From day one, you can tell that their chemistry was real and not manufactured. They were not friends before, and didn’t really know each other. They were just fans of each other’s work, and so it was a bit of a question mark how they would play together, but I think it’s because they had such strong mutual respect for each other, as actors, that they just dove right in. We actually had to film a lot of the most emotional stuff first, just because of the way the schedule worked out, and a lot of the intimate stuff first. By the end of the movie you could tell both on the screen and while we were making it that they were forging a real relationship. It wasn’t like they were two actors on set, and when the cameras started to role they were pretending to like each other. We all really bonded, and enjoyed each other’s company on set.
DP: And it shows. Now, my final question. What are you hoping people take away from this film?
CH: I hope it can be a reminder for us of all of what’s important, and that when human beings are faced with an unprecedented crisis and tragedy it really brings us closer together. That’s something that I think we’ve all experienced. I know a lot of us haven't seen our parents in a long time. Our grandparents haven’t seen their grandkids. It’s tough, so I hope that the movie can make people feel like everyone is going through the same stuff. It’s a reminder to hold onto what’s closest to us.
DP: Thank you so much, Chad, for your time. I hope people enjoy this film just as much as I do, and I wish you the best of luck with the film.
CH: Thank you so much!