The Fish Out of Water offers some very familiar feelings that most adults can relate to — the wry complacency of day to day life. Here, Director Josh Brine poses the idea, what if you just did want you wanted instead?
Protagonist, Charlie, is a guy who works in a call center and loathes his job. But most importantly, he can’t quit because he's in love with an oblivious co-worker. Like someone frozen in place, Charlie can’t move seem to move in any given direction, instead choosing to retreat into the barricades of his imagination. It’s a story that thrives on an innate fear of rejection, to opt for comfortability over taking a chance on the unknown.
Such existential themes don’t fall far from the tree of Brine’s own personal story.
“My life, one of the main themes in my life, is struggling with identity and moving to America,” Brine says, who being born in Australia, relocated to the states at the youthful age of twelve. After attending three different high schools in the span of four short years and collectively moving around nine different times, the wandering filmmaker finally found his home in Portland, Oregon.
Fitting in, while finding one’s confidence and purpose in life are constructs Brine deeply cares for throughout his narrative — it’s an extension as common ground for others grappling with life’s many directions. And with Brine himself not sure which career path to set his sights on for years, the filmmaker originally pursued music as a skilled drummer. Looking back, there’s a immense appreciation for this period dedicated to his musical craft, memorializing it as a creative stepping stone toward becoming a filmmaker.
“Something that I’ve been learning is that you don’t have to see the end of the road to begin,” says Brine. “Just because you don’t know where it’s going to end or go doesn’t mean you shouldn’t begin in pursuing that path.”
Brine’s approach to music production also carried over into the collaborative writing process with co-writer, Jacob Cowdin. “Writing is very similar to playing music, one person might have a guitar riff and one person might have a drum idea,” Brine says. “Then after hearing it all played together, you kind of hash out what you like or ask, ‘what if we do this’ and starting offering up more ideas. It’s like chipping away until you get what you want.”
Music being the undercurrent to Brine’s creative process, he mentions how listening to specific songs, especially during the writing process, can have a huge influence and long-lasting impact on a movie — even before it’s been filmed.
“When I’m writing, it’ll actually help me visualize the scene,” Brine says. “I essentially let the music inform the visuals, not so much a dialogue but the music can place you in the a mindset of how you want something to feel.”
His appreciation for film scores and soundtracks that pack a big emotive punch extend to how Brine found music for his own film. Getting music rights for the film from Marmoset’s music catalog, Brine licensed music based on how scenes work collectively as a whole, rather than singularly.
“Maybe I got this from making music videos or my background from playing music, but I can see what I want and then hear the music accompanying it,” Brine says. “Maybe it’s not an exact song but if for instance, if there’s a scene with a car chase and I know the tone is comedic, I can easily search for music using the [Marmoset] site filters.”
Atop creating the ultimate custom movie soundtrack, Brine worked with in-house music composer, Graham Barton to perfect the film’s sound design. “Graham is just a genius, a joy to work with,” Brine says. “For the film’s sound design, I would just have to cite an Edgar Wright film and he’d get it. There’s just an ultimate trust between us.”
While The Fish Out of Water marks Brine’s debut as a filmmaker, it’s currently working its way through the 2019 festival circuit — its world premier will be at Manchester Film Festival this upcoming Sunday, March 10th; the North American premiere will be at Portland’s 42nd International Film Festival. Brine will also be speaking on MANIFF’s Filmmaker Panel, sharing more about the making of his film with audiences.
Now with a clear understanding of which direction to take, there’s no question of how filmmaking will fit into Brine’s life — only which film to make next.
“I want to add to the conversation and be a part of how people think and feel,” Brine says. “I want to create items, pieces of actual substance, things that have weight.”