Gone Fishin’

British filmmaker Chris Jones found that successfully teaching folk how to make films guerilla-fashion (as he did when he wrote the popular The Guerilla Film Maker’s Handbook series and when he tutored hopefuls on how to do it, face-to-face) had reduced his industry cred because he’d been distracted from actually making films for some time. So he decided to do something about it.


The “something” he did was to make a short film called Gone Fishing.

Gone Fishing was conceived in the spring of 2007 after a meeting with a key British film producer who liked one of Chris’ scripts, “Rocketboy”, but doubted the film would be fundable with Chris attached as a director, as Chris did not have any up-to-date work to show his abilities. Chris immediately began work to rectify this problem, and within a few weeks the first draft of Gone Fishing was written. (Press release)

Gone Fishing was finished in 2008; it went on to win at over 40 festivals and got itself shortlisted for an Oscar. Not a bad display by Jones of how to use his own teachings to make a film.



Gone Fishing 720p HD Trailer from Chris Jones on Vimeo.

The Inspiration

Though the relative hugeness of the legendary pike may be larger than life, Gone Fishing is at least partly autobiographical. Jones explained:

It’s based on my own childhood experiences with a Pike in the Blue Lagoon, an mysterious lake at the end of my road. … [My friends and I] would often attempt to catch the legendary ‘Oscar the pike’ … This was the inspiration behind the legend of ‘Goliath’, the big fish in this even bigger tale.

S004-Fighting with Goliath

The Cast

Veteran Scottish actor Bill Paterson plays Old Bill. He said of his involvement:

“I immediately liked the screenplay and felt that it was intriguing and touching without being too sentimental. It was a treat to work with young James, whose talent and personality was a delight to share. We had a great time and I really think he’ll go far. Anyone who can look impressed by my fishing technique must be a very fine actor!”

GF001-Bill Patterson in Gone Fishing

“James” is newcomer James Wilson, who plays Simon, a young boy to whom Old Bill tells the story of Goliath, intriguing him and enticing him into the battle.

GF003-James Wilson in Gone Fishing

The third main cast member is Devon Murray (who can be seen as Seamus in the Harry Potter movies). Here he plays Young Bill, who appears in flashbacks during the film as in memory Old Bill fights with Goliath, the killer pike of local folklore. Said Murray:

When playing a young version of a character that also appears as an older incarnation of that same character, but with another actor, it’s important to work closely with the other members of the cast, to get mannerisms and personality nuances the same, so the two performances portray a single character.

GF002-Devon Murray from Gone Fishing - Gonna Need A Bigger Hook

The cast also includes Ruth Gemmell (Fever Pitch) and Lin Blakley.

S005-Bill Paterson as Old Bill in Gone Fishing

The Production

Jones raised the £20,000 (US$40,000) they needed to make Gone Fishing by the simple expedient of asking the filmmakers he had tutored and worked with over the years. The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook had by then sold nearly 100,000 copies over ten years, and Chris had personally tutored over 1,000 emerging film makers, so he asked for their help.

The idea was simple. Ask everyone I’d ever met for £50 ($100 US), and if enough people agreed, we had our budget. No profit share. No hope of returns. Just a ticket to the black-tie première in central London, a DVD, and an Associate Producer credit.”

The response, as Jones put it, was “overwhelming, positive, and quite humbling”. They got more than they needed — and oodles of best wishes and enthusiasm to boot. It was a process played out on Jones’ blog, which also offers ongoing insight into the production itself through what amounts to a diary on the making of Gone Fishing. For those interested in the process, you can also read about it in the comprehensive press release (downloadable as a PDF). It contains fascinating information, too much for me to outline here.


Above and below: the enormous rubber killer pike, dubbed Brucie,
was operated from under the water by two police divers


Below: Of course, we had no budget so we had to improvise!


Above and below: stuntman Jude Poyer uses a tennis racket
with a plastic fin to create the fin in the water effect


Gone Fishing has been a prominent attraction and award winner at many festivals. Here is a documentary on the film’s adventures getting to and at the Rhode Island International Film Festival:

The Long Road to Rhode Island Complete Edit from Chris Jones on Vimeo.

The film looks like a wonderful achievement. It can be bought on DVD or Blu-ray from the website.


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