Filmmakers often say don’t shoot on the water.

They’re right.

What did you find most challenging or surprising about the process?

Well, what was surprising was how good the crews working in water are. I could never do that. Like, the guys who actually operate the cameras underwater, the people there for safety, and everyone working on the water are really strong people. We had a team of safety divers and crew that were just amazing. Now, everything takes very long because water destroys everything, you know. If it gets into the waterproof cage, it fogs everything, destroys the cameras and lenses. You have to be extra careful, dry everything, and pressurize everything. Every time you’re around water, the weather, the wind, and the tide changes. Nothing is consistent. You think you’re ready, and then suddenly the wind changes and your boat is going the opposite way, and now the crane is looking the other way. There’s nothing you can do about it. Even if you anchor the boats four times or whatever, if the ocean wants to move you, you’re going to move. So, it’s very, very tough. I don’t recommend it; I recommend shooting in a restaurant.

There are a few specific sequences and shots I want to touch on, and I’m just curious what you remember most about crafting these scenes.


At the start of the film, cutting from Nancy surfing, with that song playing, to underwater, with no music and the sound of the waves crashing, is effective. 

We knew that the camera always had to be on the surface, on the edge, having it above and below. That creates a lot of problems because a camera can work very well outside of the water, and you have a splash cam, which is not going to go under the water but is going to be waterproof. If you go underwater, it’s going to be very stable under the water, but just to have it on the surface and be able to go up and down is very difficult. I was very clear from the very beginning I wanted, at that moment, to be in that space, to create the tension of what’s lurking underneath. The whole movie is like that. That’s very difficult, technically. It was the whole approach from the very beginning: at any moment, something can pop up right up in front of you. Because if you go really out of the water, then there’s a sense of security.

How about the shot of Nancy when she’s attacked and all you see is her and blood under the water?

That comes from what I’ve heard from victims of shark attacks, that the first thing that happens is that the whole water goes red. That’s what they remember: the water going red. I didn’t want to see the shark actually attack her because she wouldn’t be seeing it. People don’t see it, they feel a little tug and then feel being pulled. I just wanted to show her, and then it wouldn’t become something that was too gruesome and too shocking. That’s why I stayed with her.

Another example of that, which is also a clever way of avoiding an R-rating, is one long reaction shot. I won’t spoil it, but the look on Nancy’s face tells you how horrific what’s happening is.

Everybody thinks that I make my decisions of my PG-13 rating. I didn’t even know what rating I was doing; I’m just designing the movie for what I think is the scariest and the most effective. Now, that shot, when we push into her face, isn’t necessarily planned. Well, it is planned, but she delivered that performance, and she makes me not want to cut away from her; she earns that closeup. If she was terrible in that closeup, I would cut something to else, but she’s wonderful, and so I wanted to stay there. The way that we shot the movie was she did the scene every time, from beginning to end, [spoiler alert] from waking up to seeing the guy die almost in one shot [spoilers over]. We were going in and out with the crane, trying to get angles, and it’s just a dance we do with her and the cameraman so that we can get something impactful. When something works, it clicks, you know you have it, and that it has to stay in the movie as a full shot.


The Shallows opens in theaters June 24th.

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