Interview with Jonathan Geach, director of ‘Glub Glub’

Fish might not be the most obvious subject matter for a film, unless of course you are David Attenborough. However, when Falmouth University student Jonathan Geach was tasked with making a short film he put fish the at centre stage in his experimental short ‘Glub Glub’. The film uses his oddly masked men to invite the viewer to think about human reproduction within the milieu of declining fertility rates in most of the developed world. The void at the end represents the fate of a society that doesn’t have children and reminds one of the terrifying apocalyptic scenes captured in other cinematic works. ‘Glub Glub’ employs a commendable and bizarre score to further haunt audiences and entice them to further ponder upon exactly what it is they are watching.

Jonathan didn’t hesitate in jumping bravely headfirst into the planning and production in a manner which, I have no doubt, will serve him well in his future filmmaking. His project was facilitated by finding the perfect corridor in which to film. It is always such a pleasure to be supporting young directors at the start of their burgeoning careers and who knows what Jonathan will come to create next. 

“I had clearly been captivated by the eeriness of liminal spaces, and I must have subconsciously been looking out for a good one.”

I salute your brave choice to leap straight into the world of experimental filmmaking.  What inspired you to make ‘Glub Glub’?

It was my first year of film school at Falmouth University, I had just moved from South Africa with no experience in making films at all, I had just watched them! We were tasked with making a 3 minute short at the end of the academic year, and I was looking for inspiration. The week before I got the idea we watched ‘The Shining’ by Alfred Hitchcock, and ‘Rabbits’ by David Lynch, and I definitely think they subconsciously influenced me. It was my first time seeing both these films, and I just remember how creepy yet cool they were. On the day I got the idea, I had just walked out of a lecture in which we were discussing liminal space. I was on my way home as I walked through the Daphne Du Maurier building on Penryn Campus, when I suddenly thought to myself: “this hallway I just walked through is really creepy; I should probably shoot a film here!” Needless to say, I had clearly been captivated by the eeriness of liminal spaces, and I must have subconsciously been looking out for a good one. I chose fish people because I thought it would add some humour to the creep factor. I wanted people to be confused about whether they should laugh or squirm. I found some really funny rubber fish masks on Amazon and ran with it.

I had no prior experience when it came to making films and so I wanted to take baby steps.

I designed the film in such a way that I didn’t have to worry about changing camera angles or dialogue, because all I wanted to do was focus on playing around with mise-en-scene. Like I said, I had no prior experience when it came to making films and so I wanted to take baby steps. I thought a static camera with an eye level angle would be the easiest film I could possibly shoot.

How did you move from the idea into the making of the film?

The idea was simple, there was no dialogue so I needed to think of ways that actions could communicate ideas and feelings in silence, not unlike miming.

I started storyboarding the film in my room the same day I had the idea and never actually wrote a screenplay for it. I just spent the next week thinking about what actions I wanted the fish people to perform in the hallway as that was going to constitute all the action on screen. The idea was simple, there was no dialogue so I needed to think of ways that actions could communicate ideas and feelings in silence, not unlike miming. It took us approximately 2 hours to shoot the whole film on my cinematographer’s DSLR camera, and we did it all in one day. I prioritized pre-production planning so that the shooting could be as efficient as possible. I had each scene planned out before the shoot and I just went down a checklist doing one at a time. I gave the performers direction on set before each scene as I didn’t feel there was a need for rehearsal. I didn’t know any editors or sound mixers yet on campus, and so I edited and mixed the sound of the film myself on DaVinci Resolve.

How did you come up with the different montages the fish people go through and what were you wanting to discuss in there?

I wanted to tell a story about reproduction and fertility. The fish are introduced, then they meet each other and fall in love (the groundwork for reproduction is laid). The male impregnates the female and she gives birth to a stillborn (reproduction is attempted but fails). The fish then sit down to eat eggs, representing the voluntary termination of female fertility (sterilization). The fish then voluntarily exposes his testicles and passively observes as they are removed, representing the voluntary termination of male fertility (castration). Without the means to reproduce, the fish start to die. This has been hinted throughout the film with the interspersed flashing of the washed up fish on the beach. In the end the fish sit orderly, patient and detached, waiting for the void (non-existence) to take them. They embrace a doom of their own making.

The score and use of the theremin is brilliant and very well paced. How did you edit the sounds to match the timing of the film and what beats were you looking for?

I edited the sound mix first and then cut the footage to the sound based on what felt natural. There wasn’t any real structure to the mix other than the fact that I wanted the crescendo to coincide with the castration, for emphasis and I thought the haunting “ooh” sound worked well at the end and the beginning of the film. I also deliberately added reverb to the mix to make the theremin sound more ghostly.

Most importantly, what did you learn in the making of the film?

In ‘Glub Glub’ I learnt how to convey emotion and meaning through actions alone which remains the most important lesson I took from the film. My technical skills had already started to develop by the time I made that film as a consequence of the assignments I had to complete as part of my university’s coursework. I technically honed my editing skills by making a few 1-minute films as part of my course work. My first film is actually a 1-minute short called ‘Dance of the Seagulls’ in which I edited footage of two seagulls tapping for worms to make it look like they were dancing to music. I then made another 1-minute short called ‘Spring Chicken’ which was my first engagement with surrealism. 

I consider ‘Glub Glub’ my first film because it was the first cinematic piece that I was really proud of and that I wanted to show off. I’m not ashamed of my 1-minute films, but they feel amateurish and so I tend not to publicise them. 

How has the reaction been so far and have you had a chance to watch the film with an audience?

The reaction so far from my peers and lecturers has been positive. They range from feelings of shock to feelings of unease to feelings of intrigue. I have yet to watch the film with an audience present and I look forward to doing so at Hastings for the first time!

What do you hope for your film?

I hope my film makes people feel something! I want a reaction from my viewers. I want them to feel uneasy whilst also wanting them to laugh. I want them to sit there and enjoy the haunting sound of the distorted theramin whilst trying to figure out what it all means. I love watching an audience trying to decipher the themes and symbols! This film is a testimony to absurdism, surrealism, and metaphor.

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