Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Iconic Office Scene That Cost $12,000 To Film

"The Office" is a show that is generally full of down-to-earth stories, simple sets, and mundane scenes. Most of the nine seasons of the series take place within the four walls of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office. Even though the bulk of the show's shots are low cost and require little-to-no CGI, though, there are occasional moments during the story that had to cost some extra time, effort, and money to film.

Some of these are due to the fact that they are complicated or challenging to orchestrate, like the time Dwight tries to ride a bike on a trapeze wire over the parking lot in Season 9. Others require perfect delivery. Take the Season 7 cold open when the whole office lip syncs a music video without cutting the camera. And then there are some scenes that are just, plain expensive. Like, ridiculously expensive.

Sometimes these pricier scenes run up the bill due to unexpected production costs, like the time Jim proposes to Pam on a $250,000 gas station set because, you know, the film crew needed to control the weather. At other times, the dollars are shelled out due to things like rights issues — remember when Michael sings a couple of lines from "Two Tickets to Paradise," for instance? Yeah, it cost the studio $60,000 for song clearance. There are still other times that production costs had to skyrocket due to guest spots — who even knows how much it cost to parade so many superstars' faces across the screen in the Season 7 finale "Search Committee."

But for all the random, costly expenses that "The Office" incurred over the years, none of them are quite as fishy as the budgetary needs for one of Michael's splashiest performances in his sales career.

Don't be koi

The season 6 episode "Koi Pond" centers on the events that take place when the micromanaged Jim Halpert and an obnoxiously over-confident Michael Scott go on a sales call together. While on the call, Michael falls into a koi pond located in the client's lobby — partly thanks to Jim's unwillingness to stop his friend's rapid descent into watery chaos.

While the scene takes place off-camera, eventually we get to see the replay when Meredith scores some security camera footage of the disastrously entertaining event. That brief glimpse of slapstick humor cost the studio a whopping $12,000 dollars to film. Why? Partly because they used real koi fish.

In episode 113 of the "Office Ladies" podcast, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (who play Pam Halpert and Angela Martin, respectively, on the show) break down the costly-yet-humorous event. They explain that, in order to film the scene, they needed to hire an animal training company who gave them a "special koi wrangler" — yes, you read that right. They also built an entire koi pond set in a nearby facility and filled up the pond early to let the chemicals wear off in the water. Then they bought in some goldfish as "water testers" before purchasing 28 koi fish and adding them into the pool (don't worry: we're glad to report that no fish were harmed in the making of the scene).

Fischer breaks down the final bill, saying, "The total cost for the fish, the holding tanks, the pumps, the filters, and all the labor was $12,000." The fish turned out to be shy actors, too. They swam under the steps at first. But, doubtless embarrassed by the costs involved, they finally settled and came out so that the crew could get the first take.

A scene based on real events

The only thing crazier than spending $12,000 on a fishbowl for a scene is the fact that the stunt is actually based on a real-life event — and not just some one-off story that a friend of a friend of one of the writers heard about once. Fischer and Kinsey reveal the fact the koi pond incident is inspired by a mishap that happened to the episode's writers, Warren Lieberstein and Halsted Sullivan. 

The two writers even come onto the "Office Ladies" episode to explain the event in all of its aquiferous detail. Their agents had set up a meeting on the other side of LA. It was in a beautiful two-story building with ritzy embellishments, including a bonafide koi pond. Lieberstein tells the story, relating that he was chewing gum when he and his partner walked in. He headed over to a trash can to toss away his refuse, and when he turned to head back, he pivoted on his foot and missed the floor. Suddenly bereft of his balance, he toppled backward into what he assumed was a shark tank. After his life flashed before his eyes, Lieberstein realized it was just a koi pond. Priceless. 

But wait, there's more. After making a scene, the two coworkers bought some dry clothes at a nearby store ... and completed the meeting they planned on originally attending. The reason? They didn't want to deal with traffic all over again on another day. Who wants to cross the 405 on any day of the week, right? 

They point out that during the meeting the soggy puns were flying, but Lieberstein's agent had the best one-liner of them all. He called afterward and said that he heard they had made a splash at the meeting — sound familiar?

A darker timeline

While the koi pond scene is entertaining enough on its own, there's one more part of the story that we have to add. Fischer and Kinsey also provide some details regarding a later scene in the episode when the company calls to inform Michael that the fish he stepped on has died, and they expect him to pay for a new one for a gob-smacking $300.

While this part doesn't appear to be inspired by the true-life experience, it is a much simpler version of events than what was originally pitched for the script. The podcasting co-hosts elucidate that in the original concept of the story, the fish was going to cost $2,000 — a price that some koi do indeed sell for. Michael was going to buy the fish, but he wasn't going to let the situation drop. Instead, he was going to examine what a $2,000 fish looks like, bring it back to the office and cook it in the toaster oven with the express purpose of eating it. Then, in typical Scott-onian manner, he was going to chicken out at the last minute and throw the poor creature away. When they went to make the scene, though, it was decided that the whole thing was too disturbing, and they settled on the simpler, $300 fish version.

Besides, as Kinsey points out, "Michael wouldn't have thrown it away. If he didn't eat it, he would have had a proper burial for it...And there would be a koi funeral." Based on his bird funeral from season 3, this is probably true. Fischer couldn't help adding, though, that even then, Creed would have probably been the one to dig it up and consume the free food anyway. Perhaps it was better to leave well enough alone.