Fishbowls Are Definitely My Thing
I didn’t know what to expect from a short film that is, ostensibly, about fishbowls. Written and directed by Alex Kavutskiy and Ariel Gardner, “Fishbowls Are Definitely My Thing,” is a surprisingly hilarious, well crafted and expertly executed absurdist comedy in the vein of the Naked Gun and Hot Shots. I interviewed Alex and Ariel via email, you can read the full text at the end of the review.
This 27-minute short film is the final installment of a five episode series produced for a website called channel101.com, where episodic content in required in order to gain access to posting on the site. The main character, Chaz Palminteri (Aaron Alberstein), comes from David Seger & Spencer Strauss’s channel101 series, “Car-Jumper.” Chaz is a cop in a department where everyone has a “gimmick” that they employ to solve crimes. Chaz arbitrarily chooses fishbowls as his gimmick, which he uses to subdue or even kill the criminals (and other cops) that he encounters. Chaz and his partner are investigating a series of murders that all use fishbowls as the murder weapon. The killer in this final installment uses Chaz’s gimmick against him in a masterful send-up of David Fincher’s “Se7en.”
The second half of the film deals with Chaz trying to warn everyone of a giant fishbowl that is on a collision course with Earth. By the end it's too late, and Chaz and his family resign themselves to their mortal fate. Like in any good absurdist comedy, there’s a twist at the end, but I won’t give it away, all I’ll say is that it may or may not involve a fishbowl.
Alex Kavutskiy and Ariel Gardner have found a cinematic sweet spot In their send-ups of traditional character tropes, well-known movies and plays, and to top it all off -- a Broadway musical number. “Fishbowls” is a fresh, punchy comedy that keeps you laughing from start to finish, check it out and watch out for fishbowls.
Q&A with Alex Kavutskiy and Ariel Gardner:
BG: What are your filmmaking/writing/comedy roots?
Alex & Ariel: We started making videos together in high school inspired by the do-it-yourself absurdist comedy of Stella. The more videos we made, the higher we would raise the bar for ourselves to attempt something more cinematic. We were making tongue-in-cheek-dramatic short films in college (that seemed to be good at the time) before we discovered Channel 101, which allowed us to get our stuff in front of a live audience and grow from that. We also got to finally work with some real actors and crew members, so that helped.
BG: Where did the idea for “Fish Bowls” come from?
Alex & Ariel: There’s a really funny Channel101 series called “Car-Jumper” about a cop whose only skill is jumping from one moving car to another. In one episode, Car-Jumper gets a task force who all want gimmicks of their own. One of them is Chaz, who discovers his passion for throwing fishbowls at the bad guys. After that episode screened, the creator of Car-Jumper asked us if we wanted to spin-off Chaz into his own series. It’s such a silly premise and we were drawn to the idea of seeing how far we could go with it. Also, we thought it would be funny if we killed Car-Jumper in our first episode. Which we did. It was kinda funny. Then we thought it’d be kinda funny if we used the premise as a launching point to sneak in word-for-word, shot-by-shot remakes of scenes from some of our favorite movies. It was kinda funny, too.
BG: How was Fish Bowls different than the other films you’ve worked on?
Alex & Ariel: We approached this as a sort of Frankenstein way of storytelling, which we haven’t tried before, where we took a bunch of plots of other movies and then jammed them together until they worked for our characters. It was a lot of fun taking the framework of movies like Se7en and Training Day and then hammering in the emotional aspects of Crimes and Misdemeanors and Goodfellas and Melancholia. Also, a song from Jesus Christ Superstar seemed to make sense to us.
BG: Tell me something about the film that I may not have noticed.
Alex & Ariel: When Chaz’s mistress is walking up to her door, there’s a clear sky behind her. When Chaz is walking up to her door, there’s a small fishbowl in the sky. It’s pretty hard to notice and nothing is lost if you don’t.
BG: What do you do when you’re not writing/making movies?
Alex & Ariel: We’re pretty sure movies are our whole lives, whether it’s our personal projects or freelance jobs. We also watch a lot of movies. Ariel likes watching sports. Alex doesn’t get it.
BG: What have you been working on recently; what do you have in the works?
Alex & Ariel: Making videos for children for Nickelodeon’s AwesomenessTV. Developing a feature based on a short we made a year ago.
Just Alex: Occasionally getting staffed on sitcoms. Check out season two of Family Time on BounceTV in October, yo.
Just Ariel: Editing a Turkish feature. A full movie. In Turkish. Without knowing Turkish.
BG: Any pearls of wisdom?
Alex & Ariel: Not an original piece of advice but story first, always. Jokes later. Make sure everything in the story leads to the next thing. And keep heightening. And you gotta make stuff to get better. Don’t be the one who only talks about things (s)he’s gonna do. Although, we are guilty of this sometimes. Sorry.