Moving a 14-foot stuffed giraffe into a tent is a lot harder than you'd think. That thought was on the minds of three friends as they worked on Das Fischer. The indie film set in Idaho was the passion project of Moscow native and outdoor photographer/director Ben Herndon, and starred his friends Chris Staudinger and Andy Abrams.
"Kind of the whole point was there wasn't really a point," Herndon says. "All we wanted out of it was to make something fun with friends."
This Wes Anderson-inspired comedy won in the fishing category at the online-only Film Festival Flix Mountain & Adventure Film Festival last spring. The story follows Staudinger as Otto Rubschlager — a German who goes on a fly-fishing trip to Idaho. While there, he runs into and is outclassed by the legendary outdoorsman Hildebrand Richwine — played by Abrams.
"Basically we just started writing this ridiculous narrative thing," Herndon says, "and that's kind of how it took off from there."
The film took a year to make and is full of vintage props. From lederhosen to fishing rods — yes, even the taxidermied giraffe — everything was borrowed from friends and neighbors. The $3,000 Herndon did spend on the project went mostly towards film equipment, food and gas.
The giraffe in the film was one of several antiques that decorated the inside of Richwine's tent. It comes from a consignment store in Moscow called the Storm Cellar where the entire tent scene was shot. So large that only the head could fit inside, the giraffe makes only a brief appearance in the film, but had a lasting impression on those who had to maneuver it.
"That was the hardest part of the whole movie," Abrams said. "It was just about as much as two people could carry."
The only items on screen that were purchased for the project were Abrams' red flannel shirt and the small dog tent that Staudinger's character in the film sleeps in. Filming of the fishing and camping scenes took place in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon, not far from Idaho. Work ended up going so late that Staudinger actually did end up sleeping in the dog tent overnight.
"It was surprisingly comfortable," Staudinger says. "So I slept in that — or at least half of me did."
Filming for Das Fischer took place all over the Northwest. The house at the film's start was in Moscow while the scene at the M. Crow grocery store at the film's end was in Lostine, Oregon. The Scooter scenes were taken on a rural highway just south of Clarkston, Washington.
The plot of Das Fischer begins with the German, Rubschlager, flipping through a magazine. The issue features the legendary fly fisherman Hildebrand Richwine. Inspired, Rubschlager heads to Idaho to fly fish himself. While there, he encounters Richwine and is outclassed by him at every turn. The film ends with the outdoorsman leaving behind a note for the German encouraging him to take pride in doing his best.
Herndon wrote the main character as a German stereotype he thought would be funny. He also thought Germans wouldn't get offended. Bart Budwig — Herndon's friend and the sound engineer for the film — proved Herndon right when he showed Das Fischer to a group of four older fly fisherman while on a trip to Germany. "The only parts they laughed at were the [German] stereotype parts," Herndon says. "So I thought that was kind of an approval for that."
Herndon went for a slowly paced, nine-minute film with zero dialogue as he found it easier to produce. He enjoys that style of film, but admits that it isn't for everyone. He's had both positive and negative reactions to Das Fischer — which he views as a good thing. "I think that means you're doing something right, if some people aren't into it," Herndon says. "It's not for everyone, but if it's your sense of humor, right on!"
Das Fischer is currently being shown at various international screenings as a part of the Mountainfilm World Tour, including a stop in Winthrop on Aug. 24-25.♦
You can view Das Fischer on Vimeo or Amazon Prime, just search for the movie's title. Or watch it right here: