If you enjoy survival shark films like Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows, and 47 Meters Down there is a new horror/thriller worth paying attention to, Saban Films’ The Requin starring Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper.
“There’s terror in paradise when Jaelyn (Silverstone) and Kyle (Tupper) arrive at a remote seaside villa in Vietnam for a romantic getaway,” says the official synopsis. “A torrential storm descends, reducing the villa to little more than a raft and sweeping the young couple out to sea. Suddenly, another danger appears: A school of great white sharks. With her injured husband watching helplessly, Jaelyn must battle the deadly predators alone in this tense thriller that rides an unrelenting wave of fear.”
In honor of the recent release, we spoke with the film’s cinematographer Matt S. Bell.
There are a lot of shark movies out there. What are some ways a cinematographer can go the extra mile to set a film apart?
Tips and tricks on editorial transitions. Seamingless transitions are key. Even when a film takes place over a couple of days, I really enjoy when a horror film feels continuous and the tension never drops or there are moments of break in the tension, it’s fleeting. It’s not guaranteed to stick around. A lot of that comes from your ability to move in and out of sequences. There are some directors who are very in tune with it and there are some that think more cut by cut and editorially.
In any genre, especially horror, the more the film can feel like one continuous thought or feeling, whether it does take place in “one shot”. I am thinking of Birdman, even Gravity is a good example. Having a strong editorial sense and also knowing what tools are best for the job and having those conversations ahead of time. There were many times we could have used a Hydroflex and gone from under water to above water. Knowing what tools are available and making those suggestions early help influence the story line as well. But also pivoting if funds are limited. Any horror movie, not just shark movies, being able to influence and support the script and direction.
Can you tell us any funny stories that happened behind the scenes?
I believe there was some sort of friendly promise to work with Full Sail filmmaking school and deliver our big animatronic shark. They were going to house it and display it, which was going to be great. While shooting, that was something in the back of our heads. We wanted to keep it in as best condition as possible. We get to the scenes when we try to use the practical, animatronic shark.
My experience screams don’t use anything out of foam, because it will just float and not act like what we all know as a shark coming out of the water. We were in it already and it was halfway built, so there was no turning back. By the end, we ended up having to cut the fins off. This is a true scale 14-foot shark. The wingspan was 8-10 feet. We ended up doing surgery on it. All I could think is how Full Sail wanted to display it when we were done. A lot of effort went into making it, so to have to slice it up was very sad.
What was it like working with Le-Van Kiet?
It was fantastic. He was a new director I hadn’t worked with, So working with him was already going to be exciting. I like new experiences through other people’s experiences. Working as a cinematographer with a new director is an easy way to do that.
Luckily, he was a fantastic director to work for. He let his creative collaborators take on their roles to the max. He was over the moon about what we were creating and what we were putting in front of him. That allowed him to really concentrate on the story and focus on the actors. He was very easy to work with. Was disagreeable when he needed to be, for the right reason. He is strong-willed but willing to work the full length of our sandbox, as opposed to micromanaging. To be more open and expansive is something we all kind of dream of, so that was great.
How would you describe the look of The Requin in a few words?
Frenetic, gritty, action-packed exciting thrilling. It’s a great monster movie.
Everyone knows Alicia Silverstone from Clueless, this is obviously a much grittier film for her. What was it like working with her on this?
Alicia was fantastic to work with. She was very willing to explore different scenarios and work with us, in terms of her performance and how that needed to line up with the camera work. Shooting on water is extremely difficult and takes a lot of effort. It can easily be more difficult when having to work in confined constraints from the performances, but that often happens for good reasons. That is something you want to influence and support to the maximum. We were ready to do that.
To be able to influence and support that takes a grand effort. Because she was so sweet and available, both her and James, we were able to get the job done that way. I travel in an RV with my dog, she is an absolute dog lover. If you follow her on social media, you will see this. I think towards the end of the shoot she decided to be my dog’s walker, while on set and not filming. She hung out with Whiskey a lot.
I know her from Clueless and Batman, it was exciting to talk to her and talk about making movies. The movies I saw her in were before I realized movies were created by actual people. I didn’t realize it was a job of so many people. When I was watching her on the big screen, it was from a standpoint of a true fan. You still get that nowadays, but now that we are in it, we are part of the cultural expanse of filmmaking, it’s sometimes hard to see past that likeless. With Alicia and James, I know them from a time before, I understood it to be an actual industry you can work in. That was a fun interesting dynamic.
Now that the film is out, what has been your favorite response you have read online?
I put out these lighting diagrams, from my selfish perspective, have been people digging those images and talking about those. This type of monster movie isn’t what I would consider my wheelhouse of genre, so when you work on a film like that and bring in your creative efforts and vision of the way you think things should look, it’s exciting to hear people excited about that imagery and it isn’t in that box you put yourself in.
Other movies I have coming up are very different. So to get such a great response who talks about the image, from a movie that is very much performance-driven, feels great. I love seeing the team starting to post the on set photos as we tend to do when a movie comes out, it’s fun to be reminded of all that stuff.
What are you working on next?
I’ve got a movie that just released called Phony. Shot completely on smartphones. It was just released on Amazon. I also have a film releasing soon called Half Lives. Very exciting film. Very visually exciting film. It takes place 99% in an underground bunker.
I am also working on a few films I am scheduled to DP over the next few months. I have an inch to direct, so I have a few smaller projects that I might dip my toes in. Hopefully, there is more of that to come in the future too.
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