By Travis Trombley
I think you’ll be glad you did. If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch it below.
Following two other award-winning shorts made for local film contests, Small Fish marks WSF’s most ambitious project yet. It’s a single-set drama in the basement shop of a man named Keeps, an easy-going, flannel-wearing salesman with a knack for helping people find whatever they need, just when they need it. It’s an ideal setting for a charming story that links human struggles to simple objects. Add in a meticulously detailed set, clever camera work, and a moving soundtrack, and you get a venture that’s well worth taking 15 minutes to watch.
Driven by the premise that a hole-in-the-wall shop attracts people in need, Small Fish - co-directed by producer Jake Weber and Camron Combs - is about little human triumphs in the form of little human decisions. The protagonist, Seb - played by David Pierce Anderson - enters Keeps’ shop to charge his phone before heading off to wherever he’s in a rush to get to. He’s constantly fondling a guitar pick in his fingers, but when asked about it, he dodges the question. While waiting on his phone, he interacts with a few other patrons - a homeless man in need of a jacket and some genuine human kindness, and a soon-to-be fiance who ducked away for an emergency moment of encouragement before her boyfriend popped the question.
The conceit, for the most part, is that when someone needs a certain thing, and I use such a vague term intentionally, that physical need provides a pathway towards overcoming an emotional need. For example, Sean, the aforementioned homeless man, comes in looking for a jacket, and he gets one, but he also gets a free sandwich and a place to wait out a storm; later he gives what’s left of the sandwich away to Ashley, the young lady running from her engagement, before she returns to her boyfriend. He pays forward the kindness shown to him - it’s growth.
Keeps - played by WSF veteran Barbaro Tran Suarez - facilitates this growth by providing the object component, and - thankfully - that’s all he does. He contributes a knowing smile and a warm welcome, but doesn’t preach. This allows the film to keep its emotional impact rooted in the camera and character work rather than having to directly deliver the message through dialogue. This is a marked sign of improvement following Roadmap, which relied a bit too heavily on platitudes delivered via voiceover to propel the narrative. Such a technique worked well enough given the context of that film, but I was still happy to see the team push themselves to rely more on natural dialogue here.