'Catfish,' the controversial what-exactly-is-this film by New York documentary filmmakers Ariel and Nev Schulman and Henry Joost, has captured the movie world's attention. Ariel Schulman and Joost follow Ariel's brother Nev as he develops an unusual relationship with someone online. An eight-year-old named Abby sends Nev a painting of one of his dance photographs that appeared in the New York Times. It's followed by more, and soon Nev and Abby are in regular touch on the phone and online.

Abby claims that she lives in Michigan with her mother, Angela, and a teenage sister, Megan; as Megan and Nev soon develop an intense online romance, he insists that they meet in person. But the family repeatedly turns down opportunities to meet Nev, so he and the boys secretly head to Michigan, armed with cameras, to find them. What they found there would shake them to the core.

The story is so outlandish that doubts have been cast on the film's authenticity. Moviefone caught up with the Schulmans and Joost to find out exactly what the story is with 'Catfish.'

'Catfish,' the controversial, what-exactly-is-this film by New York documentary filmmakers Ariel and Nev Schulman and Henry Joost, has captured the movie world's attention. Ariel Schulman and Joost follow Ariel's brother, Nev, as he develops an unusual relationship with someone online. An eight-year-old named Abby sends Nev a painting of one of his dance photographs that appeared in the New York Times. It's followed by more, and soon, Nev and Abby are in regular touch on the phone and online.

Abby claims that she lives in Michigan with her mother, Angela, and a teenage sister, Megan; as Megan and Nev soon develop an intense online romance, he insists that they meet in person. But the family repeatedly turns down opportunities to meet Nev, so he and the boys secretly head to Michigan, armed with cameras, to find them. What they found there would shake them to the core.

The story is so outlandish that doubts have been cast on the film's authenticity. Moviefone caught up with the Schulmans and Joost to find out exactly what the story is with 'Catfish.'

So, is it real?
A. Schulman: It is 100 percent real.

What has the reaction been?

A. Schulman: Morgan Spurlock said to our producers [that] he loved the film. He thought it was the best fake documentary he'd ever seen. Zach Galifianakis, the great comedian, does not believe it's true and cannot be swayed. If he wants to go as far as to say that, then I will say, "Zach, thank you. That makes Henry and I the two best screenwriters in Hollywood, and Nev is the best actor since Marlon Brando," if that's the case. You know we're not that smart; we just have good instincts. We know when people are being fake.

Joost: I don't even understand the logistics of it being fake. How would that even work?

A. Schulman: You'd have to hire Angela to act in a movie and write it.

Joost: But that gives us much more credit than we deserve. You know we're idiots, now that you've met us.

N. Schulman: Why didn't you think it was real?



It was too perfect. structurally, and the way it wraps up.

A. Schulman: It felt that way to us also, as we were making it. We're very lucky. We happened to be in Vail working on another film, and at that moment, we discovered things weren't what they seemed. We look back at our experience and everything leads to this moment. As filmmakers we were ready; we felt like we spent our lives preparing to be ready, and it just happened to be me who shares the office with my brother and my producing partner.

N. Schulman: When you look back, you realize there were so many little details along the way that led to the film.

Joost: If you changed one thing, it would have gone the other way. And we made another film called 'Opus Jazz,' a ballet film. The photo Abby first painted was a shot we took on the set of that film. If we hadn't made that film, this film wouldn't have happened at all.

So there you are, you've tracked them down to upstate Michigan. What about the moment when you're driving up to the house? You knew it could have turned out very badly.

A. Schulman: It was the most terrifying moment of my life.

What made you follow through?
A. Schulman: The truth.

You could have died. You could have been killed.
N. Schulman: There was a real fear, a real possibility that we were going to get killed.

Joost: The suspense was killing us. Before we went to Michigan, we sent our hard drive back to New York with all the footage up to that point with instructions in case we didn't come back.

[SPOILER ALERT!] Without revealing much more, we feel such anger when we meet Angela and find out what she's been doing. The sadness we feel watching her tell you she's undergoing chemo for cancer when she's about to reveal the entire truth and she's still lying. She didn't have cancer, for starters.
A. Schulman: She defends herself with lies, protects herself. And she has zero hesitation.

N. Schulman: To think that you're sitting in front of someone, and you're telling them the truth, and you're looking in their eyes ... You think they're being real, but even that's not always true.

Was that why you were so angry in the end?
N. Schulman: Yeah. I was really hurt, and there was a process for me of re-establishing my barometer for real interaction and I am eternally grateful for that.

This is very much about borrowed lives. The online nation isn't real, you're saying.
A. Schulman: It's very much about identity and the search for connectedness and approval. The Internet is this arena of connection. Everyone is just screaming as loudly as they can and waving their arms in desperate need of approval. Some people are satisfied with 15 friends ... some need 5 million; some need five Twitter followers, some people need 500. And in order to get what you need, you might have to change your appearance, right? So, you've got these masks. Everyone is wearing masks.

Joost: If you have a Facebook profile, just by definition of having an account, you're curating the way you would like to appear to the rest of the world. You're saying I want this photo to represent me, five interests to represent my interests and you have an ability to put your best foot forward. So, in a sense, everyone is curating their lives.

What's your next project?
A. Schulman: We would love to make another documentary, because truth is stranger than fiction. But I don't think we're going to find anything as interesting as this if we went looking. You can't plan on it.

'Catfish' opens in theaters on Sept. 17.
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