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How to Train Your Shark

Dark Tide director John Stockwell explains the do’s and NOOOOO’s! of making a killer shark movie.


John Stockwell is no stranger to beach-themed movies. He previously directed Into the Blue and Blue Crush. This time he’s dipping Halle Berry into the ocean, along with some real live great white sharks. Dark Tide is available on Video-On-Demand March 8th and hits theaters March 30th. If you want to make a deadly shark movie, Stockwell has a few words of advice.  

Hire Halle Berry and Some Super Intelligent Sharks
JOHN STOCKWELL: Halle took direction better than the sharks. Working with sharks is war. You’re working with wild animals that don’t read storyboards, and are not very punctual. Every time we’d attract them to the boat they’d take off the minute we’d start filming. They’re wild. What can you do? There’s never been a great white in captivity.

Sharks Are Babies
The sharks are afraid of humans, but there is still this primal fear we have about them. I wasn’t particularly afraid. I’m a surfer and I made Into the Blue and we worked with a lot of sharks on that movie, too. I have a respect for them, but I don’t have a fear of sharks.

Get Your Actors a Bucket
Once Halle got into it, both her and co-star Olivier Martinez loved working with the sharks. She was in the water with real great whites. She was pretty fearless, though she did get seasick. That was a bigger issue than the great whites. I’m not sure Halle’s even been in the ocean near her house in Malibu, but she was in the water a lot in South Africa, and this water is colder and sharkier.

Making Water Movies Isn’t for Everyone
Why do I make ocean movies? I think I do it because everyone tells you not to film in or on the water. There’s something about the spontaneity and wildness of the real ocean that really attracts me to it. I feel really comfortable there. And it limits the amount of people that can be out there. I try to keep the crew really small. With the sharks around, we couldn’t even have video feeds because the sharks would bite the cables. To direct the movie, I would go in the water and be at the bottom in a cage.

 

Plans are For the Weak
Be flexible. You have to bend to the elements. Take everything as an opportunity. If there’s a raging storm, you have to incorporate that into the scene. You can’t storyboard. The volatility is the worst and best part of making an ocean movie. The weather changes in minutes in South Africa. It’s not for everyone. The crew gets thinned out pretty quickly.

Keep Rolling
This one time Olivier was wearing a cap and it fell off into the water, and he reached down to get it and there just happened to be a shark there. Cameras were always rolling looking for footage of the sharks hitting and eating seals. We approached filming the movie as a combination of a making a Hollywood feature and a National Geographic movie.  

Get Low
You really want to be underneath the shark. I got very nervous when I was on the surface of the water and I didn’t know what was going on beneath me. I get nervous sometimes surfing and I’m just sitting on my board because that’s the time the shark’s going to bite - when they mistake you for a seal. But when I was down below with the SCUBA gear, either below or at the same depth as the sharks, I felt pretty safe.

Think Warm Thoughts
I’d like to surf with Halle, but we couldn’t in South Africa. The water in South Africa is freezing. I don’t think our crew realized how cold the water was going to be. It’s about 46 or 47 degrees. Even our hearty stunt divers could only spend 30 or 40 minutes in the water before they ran the risk of hypothermia, even with a thick wetsuit.



Dark Tide is available via Video-On-Demand starting March 8th and in theaters March 30th.

Check out the trailer below.