Filmmaker Q&A

Courtney Hayes films a woman in a rubber fishing suit next to a plastic container
The filmmakers share a potential advantage Courtney Hayes had in making A FISH STORY.

Courtney’s father is a tuna fisherman in Gloucester and she grew up on fishing boats. We’re not sure, but this may be why she never got seasick while filming. The same cannot be said for Tim.

Producer/Directors Courtney Hayes and Tim Gallagher share their thoughts about making A FISH STORY and offer their humorous perspectives on the road to production and the business of making films.

What led you to make this film?

We began production on A FISH STORY in 1999. The project initially evolved out of conversations Tim had with his downstairs neighbor, an old man with family ties to a once important fishing village in Newfoundland. A decade earlier, Newfoundland’s cod fishery collapsed, devastating its coastal communities. In 2000, New England’s fishing communities faced a similar fate when environmentalists filed a lawsuit that threatened to put hundreds of fishermen out of business.

Did your feelings about the predicament of the New England fishing communities change as a result of making this film?

Conversations with both fishermen and environmentalists opened our eyes to the central role government mismanagement has played in the ongoing tragedy.

How did the film’s central figures, Angela Sanfilippo and Shareen Davis, become involved?

When we began searching for central characters, we quickly learned that women are some of the most powerful and effective advocates in the fishing community. Fishermen often rely on their wives to advocate for them and navigate the complex legal issues associated with ever-changing regulations.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

Avoiding debt collectors.

What does the community featured in A FISH STORY think should be done to address the problem of over-fishing, besides cutting down heavily on fishing?

Every fishing community seems to have its own approach to the current crisis, but both Chatham and Gloucester urge that any solution should guarantee the survival of local, family-run and small-boat fishermen who have always served as stewards for the long-term health of the ocean.

Often great moments have to hit the cutting room floor. What material was the most difficult to edit out of A FISH STORY?

A sequence at the St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester when Sam Frontero won the greasy pole event. Viva San Pedro!

How are conservationists and fisheries reacting to the news about drilling plans resuming in the very spot off the shores of Cape Cod that they fought to defend back in the 1970s?

Local fishermen and environmentalists led the fight to stop oil exploration in New England waters. Some fishermen see a strong connection between their demise and the return of the oil industry.

Over what period of time did filming take place and when did it conclude?

Filming began in 2000 and concluded in 2005.

What impact do you hope this film will have?

We hope that A FISH STORY will stimulate a more informed debate on the subject of environmental stewardship and the future health of our oceans.

The independent film business is a difficult one. What keeps you motivated?

Tim: Lexapro.
Courtney: Trazodone.

What projects are you working on next?

Courtney is currently working on a FRONTLINE documentary. Tim is looking over all his used, beat-up video equipment wondering if he should sell it for a pittance or try to make some porn.

Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

ITVS is the only place that supports films like ours.

What are your three favorite films?

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
American Movie

What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?

Making money and having kids.

If you weren’t a filmmaker, what kind of work do you think you’d be doing?

Something that makes a lot of money so you can have a lot of kids.

If you could have one motto, what would it be?

Eat local fish.

What sparks your creativity?

Tim: Afternoon naps. Courtney: Yelling at Tim for taking too many afternoon naps.

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