Don’t Go Near the Water: An Interview with Shark Night 3D‘s Director David R. Ellis

Each year, scientists learn more and more about the beauty and intricacy of our home planet.

This increased knowledge impacts biology, medicine, anthropology… and the horror genre, which has evolved to reflect our understanding of all the deadly things we live with that can kill us. Traditional horror movie stapes like werewolves, mummies and (non-disco ball) vampires have recently started taking a back seat to more realistic (or semi-realistic) horror monsters in movies like Snakes on a Plane and Piranha 3D.

Sure, the idea that passengers on a plane would be terrorized by a batch of snakes is ridiculous, but seeing those passengers exposed to snake venom is disturbingly real. And while an earthquake would probably never set free a a school of prehistoric piranha (during Spring Break, no less), man-eating fish embarking on a feeding frenzy makes for a real enough visual to scare most any audience member.

Enter Shark Night 3D, directed by Snakes on a Plane‘s David R. Ellis, in which a group of college students find that the lake they’ve chosen as their vacation spot has been filled with hundreds of sharks. Is the concept outlandish? Yes. Is it believable? Well, sharks can’t survive outside of saltwater. However, Shark Night 3D establishes from the get-go that that the lake in question is a saltwater lake (yes, those exist). So if someone with a large disposable income, lots of free time and a murderous streak decided they wanted to create their own deadly version of Sea World… they might conceivably be able to pull it off. Scared yet?

In celebration of the new era of the realistic movie monster, MovieMaker caught up with Ellis to discuss the challenges of shooting underwater, the reason for Shark Night’s PG-13 rating and, of course, Jaws.

Hugh Cunningham (MM): Are you afraid of sharks?

David R. Ellis: I am an avid surfer, so I am aware that sharks are in the water, but I do not fear them. If it is time for me to go, then it is only fitting that the director of Shark Night 3D be killed by a shark!

MM: The combination of CG sharks and shooting underwater must have been difficult. What was the biggest production challenge you faced?

DRE: Working with 3-D cameras on the water and underwater proved to be a challenge. But I had a great team with a lot of water photography experience, and they nailed it.

MM: What prompted the decision for a PG-13 rating, rather than an R, particularly in the wake of the gore-fest that was Piranha 3D?

DRE: Piranha 3D was a very campy movie, and gore and nudity was a big part of it. With Shark Night, we felt that we had a good story and did not need nudity, excessive gore and cuss words to have a really scary movie.

MM: From the continued popularity of Jaws to the millions of people who tune into the Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week,” sharks really hold an audience’s attention. What do you think is so fascinating about sharks, and how did that influence Shark Night?

DRE: You can never attempt to outdo Jaws. It is a classic, and many people are still afraid to go into the water because of it. With “Shark Week,” people get to witness the sheer power of sharks and be fascinated by them. When we go on vacation and visit beaches, we are aware of the possible presence of sharks. When we were developing Shark Night, we wanted to feed on that.

MM: Lakes are the one place where we can swim and not have to worry about sharks. Why are you taking that away from us?

DRE: Bull sharks have been found 1,000 miles upstream in rivers and lakes that are connected to rivers. Sorry about that, but it is a fact.

MM: First Snakes on a Plane, now sharks in a lake. Do you have an idea about what animal you are going to displace next?

DRE: Next up is Gators on a Bus.

Shark Night 3D hits theaters in wide release Friday, September 2nd. For more information visit www.iamrogue.com/sharknight3d.

Photo courtesy of Sierra Pictures.

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