The documentary Catfish has already kicked off film-fan debates over what exactly filmmakers Ariel “Rel” Schulman and Henry Joost knew — and when they knew it. Since the filmmakers claim to have kept the cameras rolling nonstop, there’s also the question of what was left on the cutting floor. In a series of in-depth conversations with Joost, the Schulmans, and their parents for a story in last week’s magazine, we discussed what didn’t make it into the final film — and what we’ll likely be arguing about when these deleted scenes appear someday as DVD extras. Most shockingly, the Schulmans told us that the deception at the heart of the film got even more convoluted after they stopped filming altogether. Major spoilers ahead.
Nev’s relationship with Abby didn’t begin on Facebook: The beginnings of Nev’s friendship with Abby aren’t included in the film — but they go a long way toward explaining how Nev could have perceived the interaction as harmless. Abby’s first message to Nev appeared in his rarely checked MySpace account — and “she” said she was 12, not 8. He replied, complimenting her paintings. Then he received a near-immediate response, this time from Angela, who apologized, saying Abby’s Internet habits were usually monitored and that she’d somehow made it onto the computer unnoticed, and disclosed Abby’s real age. “Which was like, perfect opener,” Rel says. “’Cause you’re like, what an aware and considerate mom!”
Nev and his mother say he was really hurt: Nev’s mother questioned certain aspects of Megan’s persona — that, at age 19, it was difficult to believe that she owned a house and was a veterinarian — but Nev’s mother says “he was so smitten that he didn’t really care.” “Once I was over the fact that I wasn’t meeting Megan and that the people were fake, I felt like a victim,” Nev says. “But more importantly really like, heartbroken.”
The return to New York wasn’t so peachy: “The plot continued to thicken after we got back,” Rel says. “Nev was like, ‘For the past two weeks I joined you, I was able to put my emotions aside, but I don’t want you capsulating what’s happened to me in the past year as just some fantastic story. You need to chill out and respect that I just went through something really traumatic.’” Meanwhile, Nev got back together with his on-again-off-again girlfriend, former New York City Ballet dancer Katie Bergstrom — who didn’t find out about Nev’s ongoing relationship with Megan until after his return from Michigan.
Their monetary relationship was more complex than we’d imagined … : Joost, who admits he was always the most skeptical of the trio, says he and Rel questioned the constant stream of paintings Abby/Angela sent Nev without asking for any money, wondering if they’d want payment down the line. As it turns out, they wanted to pay him for his advice to Abby. Abby (or Angela — the boys still don’t know) won a painting contest with a thousand dollar prize and wanted to split the earnings with Nev, who refused repeatedly. She insisted and sent him $500. “I was amazed that we could tell the story and leave out that scene,” Rel says now.
Yes, they had an underwater camera: Catfish skeptics point to one scene in particular — the idyllically filmed trip to the beach. Joost and Rel go swimming with Abby and her friend, all while still filming, and not using the documentarian’s spur-of-the-moment trick of covering a video-cam in plastic bag. The reason, Rel and Joost say, is simple: They had all their cameras in the car from the Vail job they’d just finished, including an underwater camera.
Nev is still in touch with Angela: Nev’s relationship with Angela “continues,” he says, but it “has its ups and downs.” Angela told Nev she had a real daughter named Megan at an outpatient clinic for alcoholics, then Nev received an e-mail from “Megan.” Nev told her to call him; sure enough, problems kept popping up (“I called your office, no one was there”” Nev recalls “Megan” saying. “Well, we don’t get there at eight in the morning,”). It was Angela with another fake e-mail account. “That was just such a crushing blow,” Nev says. “I just couldn’t understand — why would someone who lied to me for nine months, who we met and totally instantly forgave and became friends with, still need to do this? I called Angela and asked her and she just basically said, ‘I can’t let go of this relationship.’ So that makes it tough to correspond with her.”
Related: Can You Believe This? [NYM]