It sounded too crazy to be true. The host of an opening for a Welsh marina in the 1980s was a BBC broadcaster named Michael Fish and all the invited guests were locals with fish names: Salmon, Carp, Bass, Haddock …
Charlie Lyne figured that it probably wasn’t true, but he loved the story anyway. He’d heard it from his friend Caspar Salmon, who said his grandmother had attended the event on the Welsh island of Anglesey.
“I would force him to tell it to anyone I introduced him to,” Lyne said. “It just became incessant, a favorite party trick to get him to reiterate this story — culminating in forcing him to do it for the film.”
Lyne didn’t have high hopes for his short film, “Fish Story,” a finalist in TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival that required feats of dogged reporting such as going through the Anglesey phone book and cold-calling everyone with a fish surname.
“I was aware that in all likelihood the film would end up debunking the story,” he said. “I thought it would be a short but sweet thing: He would tell the story, and I would find out that the dates didn’t line up and there was no marina in Anglesey.”
Instead, Lyne uncovered the truth about a strange celebration on that Welsh island, and turned it into a delightful short documentary.
“The film was basically made on no budget, because my expectation was that it wasn’t going to lead anywhere,” he said. “I thought it was going to be something I would do in a week and stick on the internet, but it ballooned into a six-month spare-time investigation that involved traveling across the British isles.”
Lyne gave the film a playful comedic tone, and doesn’t show us any talking heads until he finds people who actually know the truth. Instead, he throws in “lots of authentic and inauthentic props and reference points — most of the people who appear as fish people are just relatives of mine.”
And in a way, all the phony props and meandering asides are the point of “Fish Story,” which is as much about storytelling as it is about this particular story.
“Initially, the pleasure for me was the relatability of those family stories that get passed down, he said. “I think every family has them, though not quite as delightfully strange as Caspar’s. Hopefully the finished film uses their story as a stand in for every ridiculous family story.”
Watch the film above. Viewers can also watch all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.