With The Shallows, director Jaume Collet-Serra may have taken on his biggest challenge yet as a filmmaker. The director of OrphanNon-Stop, and Run All Night made a film primarily set on the water, featuring an entirely CG antagonist, a great white shark, and a co-star that’s a seagull, whom Blake Lively‘s character names Steven Seagull. All these factors added up to a production that, Collet-Serra admits, wasn’t easy.

Collet-Serra typically relies more on practical effects, so The Shallows was a more CG-heavy experience than he was probably used to. The director was kind enough to take the time to discuss the experience of making The Shallows with us, and why the CG shark proved to be “the fear that lasts a year.”

Below, read our Jaume Collet-Serra interview.

Did you see how positive the reaction was to the last trailer?

I know. I saw that trailer many, many months ago. I was excited, too. The marketing people worked very hard to have an unusual campaign, and hopefully, you know, it can differentiate this movie from whatever else is in the marketplace today.

How much input did you have in the marketing?

Yeah, you have to, because [then] the movie doesn’t exist. This movie happened so fast. We were in the editing process with no shark, being built in CG, so there were a lot of questions about what we could accomplish in time to release something in the trailer. It’s not like some movies where they’re almost finished by the time they start the marketing. Here, they had to start the marketing before the movie was even close to finished. We had a lot of discussions and ideas. That’s a trailer that we liked from the very beginning, thought it was very special. We’re glad they released it.

What’s that feeling like on set, knowing you’re not going to see the main antagonist of the film until later on in post-production?

It’s a fear that lasts a year. You don’t see the shark. It’s not like we do a movie and jump into the movie knowing we can do it; we hope we can figure it out. You just jump into the water and get wet. The first time I edited the movie, the shark was a dot. You just put a dot on the screen that’s red, and it moves across the screen, from left to right to right to left. Then you move to the next stage, where you have a very rudimentary, not even like a flat animation of a shark, but a cutout, you know? Then you keep moving forward until you eventually see the real shark, but you never really see it. I just saw it for the first time two weeks ago. But it comes into pieces, to be honest.

Every once in a while, you get a really good shot, like the one in the trailer where the shark is coming out of the water and eats the surfer. You see that early, like two months ago, and say, “Wow. Great. I have another 100 shots to go.” You start seeing the other shots — and some work great at the beginning, some just don’t work and you adjust.

It’s work. Every day, for hours and hours, with a laser pointer and a conference call, talking to different teams all across the world, telling them: “What about this? What about the muscles under the mouth? Can we do something here in the eye?” It’s every detail, every frame, and every gesture.

There’s a lot of control. The problem is, there are 1,100 shots in the movie, right? If I spend, maybe, one minute looking at each shot and get to review it three times, if you add that up, that would be two weeks of full-time work for me. Those are eight-hour days looking at shots. What that tells you is that I can maybe see a shot three times before it’s done. The first time, if it doesn’t look very good, you try to make it look good. By the third time, you’re adding details, but you can’t do big changes. That’s why big movies often get pushed around in the schedule and whatnot, to give more control and time to the director, because these things take a lot of time. Because we wanted this to be a summer movie we knew we had to make strong decisions and make them early in the process to make our date.

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