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December 06, 2016
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Catfish: noun…

“They used to take cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with this idea that if you put these cod in these big vats, put some catfish in with them. And the catfish would keep the cod agile.

“And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessin’. They keep you thinkin’. They keep you fresh. And I thank God for the catfish, because we would be dull and boring if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fins.”

I remember the day when I edited the “catfish montage,” as I came to call it. Henry had found a weird, great piano track from a music blog, and I used it as the base for this scene. I cut Vince’s story over the song and added B-roll from around their house. It was, almost instantaneously, the best scene that I have ever cut, and it did not change very much as the rest of the footage morphed around it.

Eventually it was placed at the end of the documentary and became the title and metaphor for the film.

“Catfish” premiered at Sundance in 2010 and was released later that year by Universal. Later, it spun off into an MTV reality show hosted by Nev, where he goes around the country helping people get to the bottom of their online relationships. In pop culture the word “catfish” started to become synonymous with someone who creates a fake online profile.

This past month I received a 2014 copy of the Merriam Webster Dictionary, and it now lists a new definition under the word catfish.

“A person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”

I told this story to a few friends who weren’t around while I was working on the film, and they looked at me with a blank stare of disbelief, as if I had just claimed that I had something to do with the word Xerox or Band-Aid.

But their disbelief could not squash the pride I feel, and given the definition itself, it actually seems quite a fitting response.