BIG FISH: CHRIS KENTIS & LAURA LAU ON “OPEN WATER”

Summarize your diving careers… ^ LL: We’re strictly recreational, vacationing, resort-level divers. My sister got into it, then my dad, and we would take these family vacations. We got certified, and would do these resort dives. And Chris’ family was into it, too – by chance. We’re actually real proponents of diving. One of the reasons we found this story so fascinating and horrifying is that it’s such a rare occurrence.

CK: We had done a lot of diving – and underwater film shooting – before. Being a filmmaker, of course I can’t travel without a video camera. We went into this with a little bit of experience.

There’s an early scene where Daniel and Susan are diving underwater, touching the sea creatures and petting a nurse shark. You get the feeling that it’s all kind of benign… ^ CK: That was the intent. We wanted to show that controlled diving is wonderful and beautiful. It’s interesting that so many people see this as a horror movie. Obviously, we intended it to be scary, but not in a traditional sense. That dive, however, was meant to be seen as a joyful thing.

It made the ocean look so pleasant and inviting, whereas later on, it’s anything but… ^ LL: I think there’s a real difference between being in the water and being on the surface. When you’re on the surface of the water, you really can’t see what’s under you. I think that for human beings, or any kind of animal, the unknown is definitely very frightening. When you’re actually underneath the water, you can see what’s going on. It’s a different world.

CK: You feel like you’re at least semi–in control…but on top, you’re just a bobber on the surface.

Did you earmark any movies to use as references, in terms of building up suspense? ^ CK: In terms of format, the Dogme 95 films were an influence, in terms of their providing freedom to experiment, and play, and gain control. Certainly, John Cassavettes films were an influence. We wanna be able to say what we’re trying to say, but at the same time, engage and challenge the audience. There’s a certain responsibility when you make a movie, not to be self- indulgent, but to give the audience what they want while getting across what you want to say.

LL: We didn’t really see it as a “shark film.” Certainly, you don’t think of a movie with a shark in it and not think of “Jaws.” But it’s really more about how people take things for granted. People get caught up in their careers and don’t know each other anymore. And it’s about the arrogance that modern man has, going out into the natural world. The notion that we have control of everything, when in fact, we have none.

Initially, Daniel and Susan don’t come across as particularly sympathetic human beings. ^ LL: We wanted the relationship to be real, and hope that people could identify with this couple who had been together for a long time, and be able to put themselves in their place….

CK: They’re just so caught up in their little world. Again, the challenge of the movie was that the audience would have the patience to go on this journey.

Were you trying to lull people into a sense of, “this is comfortable…” and then, boom – establish that the boat isn’t there? ^ CK: Definitely, we were trying to establish that. Have that switch. And establish the sense of denial. Complete denial of the situation. And their relationship, when we see them in bed… they’re not really connected. They’re trying to, but they realize that they’re distant. That would be the last chance they would have to make love.

LL: I think that was another benefit of making a movie in this way. We didn’t have to shy away from letting the characters be real.

CK: Certainly the whole key to the movie working – in our minds – was to make it natural, shooting on video, and using unknown actors. Hopefully, you felt that you were watching something real, and that it would pay off in the end.

The actors on the diving boat, including the skipper, all seemed so real… ^ CK: They are real! For that whole section of the movie, it was like filming a documentary, in a sense that everyone on the boat was an actual diver. The only professional actor was the guy who didn’t have a mask on the boat. All the divers on the boat were real. They knew we were making a movie, but they didn’t go for that. They went to dive. The whole point of shooting 20 miles out in the ocean with real divers and real sharks was to make everything as believable as possible, and give audiences a different experience that’s a bit different than what they see today. Everything is computer generated. We wanted to harken back to seventies films, where if you saw a spectacular car wreck, it was a stunt man in that car. There’s a certain emotional response you get from such moments, that you don’t get with today’s computer generated effects. We wanted to try something that Hollywood isn’t doing today.




Posted on August 6, 2004 in Interviews by
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