SHARKS, BOATS AND SUNKEN TREASURES (continued)
According to Zuccarini, Stockwell wanted to be able to follow the action above, below, and on the surface of the water as the actors moved in and out of the sea. Special lenses were designed to shed water drops and correct for refractive distortion to help the camera move in and out of the water continuously. "On the big screen this effect can be a beautiful transition from above water to the world of bubbles, no gravity and shimmering blue light," says Zuccarini, "or it can feel terrifying when a character is trapped with water rising up on his face and the audience's at the same time."
Three-dimensional camera moves were employed without the laborious set-up time normally required to execute a dolly move or crane shot. Underwater, the camera was weightless, allowing the cameramen to get coverage from many angles and efficiently execute dynamic moves. The camera could follow an actor down an eerie tunnel, burst through a school of fish, reveal an unseen face and continue pushing in for a close-up on the eyes as the actor reacts inside his dive mask.
For the film's nighttime salvage scene, powerful lights were mounted under the picture boat and the divers each had custom flashlights mounted on their scuba gear. "Ocean swells increased while we were underwater causing the light array to flop around in the huge waves," Zuccarini explains. "On the sea floor the bright lights were sweeping around leading us in and out of total darkness. The effect was fantastic and increased the jeopardy for the characters as they salvaged the wreck not knowing who or what lurked in the darkness. To take the audience to the spookiest places inside the wreck we let the set go inky black except for the reflections created by the divers' small flashlights."
For close shots inside the downed DC3, a special tank was created using an existing molasses tank located on the island's south shore. This entailed emptying out thousands of gallons of molasses, then washing and cleaning the tank, which was 40 feet deep. A gradient paint job of various shades of blue was applied to mimic actual ocean colors. The tank was then filled with 98-degree water pumped from a new pipeline constructed by the production that stretched out hundreds of feet to the open sea.
The art department also created other submersibles, including the ancient wreck of a clipper ship complete with cannon and timbers. The wreck, Jared's possible find of a lifetime in the story, was created from concrete and fiberglass based on research about clipper ships from the 1840s. "To maintain any level of integrity, we researched the design of a basic clipper ship from that era," says art director Klassen. "Certain timbers would still be intact under the sand, while anything above the sand line would have deteriorated. We created the ship in several sections so we could give the illusion that it had fractured when it sank many years ago."
"The environment underwater is very dynamic, and nothing is in slow motion," explains Stockwell. "Each actor had his own style when swimming underwater. Paul was powerful, like a dolphin. Scott was sturdier with a rougher edge, while Jessica and Ashley were smooth and graceful. Jessica probably held her breath better than the other actors, though Scott could free dive 100 feet by the time we wrapped. There is a beauty and a mystery about shooting underwater that made this film a real pleasure. It's the same reason I so enjoyed directing Blue Crush."
Stunt coordinator Mickey Giacomazzi (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) and dive safety officer Dan Malone (The Punisher) were brought aboard to ensure the cast would come to no harm during the film's many fight sequences. Sharks, explosives, boats and firearms were to be employed at one time or another and the unsteady marine environment was always an unknown factor in every day's shooting. Although three teams of doubles were used for some of the film's more dangerous stunts, most of the work was done by the film's principal actors. "The shots were always designed to keep our water safety people as close to the action as possible at all time," says producer Zelon. "Whenever our actors were down, there were always two or three divers right next to them, even if we weren't working with sharks."
One fight scene, aboard the treasure boat Sea Robin, involved Alba engaging in a fierce showdown with actor Chris Taloa, who plays treasure hunter Quinn. During the scene, Alba repeatedly strikes Taloa with a sharp grappling hook as they tumbled across the deck in turbulent waters. "I was very grateful that Jessica had had so much stunt training in her other work," says Taloa, who also appeared in Stockwell's Blue Crush. "She was quite considerate of my flesh with the grappling hook, which fortunately had a retractable hook. If there was anyone who needed a stunt double that day, it was me. She is tough."
Alba impressed many of the cast and crew with her willingness to jump into whatever action required of her character with the zeal of a seasoned stuntwoman. "Jessica is definitely not prissy," laughs Stockwell. "She just wants to scrap all the time. She could hold her breath the longest, fight as hard as any stunt person and never once complained."
Her co-star, Walker, concurs. "Jessica is really coordinated and super capable. She really gets into throwing kicks and punches. I loved watching her. She was so competitive. She is really feminine, but at heart she is a tomboy."
For Alba, her fondest memory of the shoot wasn't the execution of the action sequences, but rather the strong bond that developed among the actors. After training for months and shooting constantly in the bright sun and cool waters, the actors became a closely-knit team. "We spent so much time together on the boat and in the sun, day after day, that we really got to know one another quite well," she remembers. "There were no divas on this film. When you are working underwater, you have to trust each other with your lives. We have an unspoken bond now."
Stockwell discovered that that bond was invaluable during the difficult underwater sequences, when he was not able to give them the close direction he could on dry land. While working in the turbulent waves of Blue Crush had been a challenge, he says it paled by comparison to handling the deepwater sequences of Into the Blue. "Directing an actor underwater is like directing them on the moon," Stockwell admits. "It was impossible for them to hear me, so I wound up using sign language or a slate board. All the actors have to work with is their eyes, since their mouths usually have regulators in them. That's why I decided to get as much free diving into the script as possible, so we could at least see their expressions."
But it was the natural beauty of the Bahamas, as well as overcoming the challenges of the shooting day, that the filmmakers found most satisfying. "It was nice just riding home each night with the wind blowing and the sun setting," recalls Zelon. "It certainly beat sitting on the freeway."
Each performer took in as much of the sights in the Bahamas as they could during the busy shooting schedule. Stockwell, Walker, Caan and Taloa often surfed around the island, while Alba, Brolin and Scott enjoyed their seaside residences and pristine beaches.
"I hope audiences appreciate what we tried to accomplish," concludes Alba. "It's a fun action/adventure thriller. The emotional through-line is about love, greed and loyalty."
THE SPORT OF FREE DIVING
Into the Blue is one of the first motion pictures to explore the popular sport of free diving -- in which all the cast members were trained before filming began.
Free diving is similar to snorkeling in that the swimmers wear snorkel masks but closer to scuba diving in that they voyage into deep water without the aid of an oxygen tank. Beginners can quickly dive into water as deep as 30 feet and for as long as 45 seconds.
On the more "extreme" level of competition, the current free diving records are in excess of 300 feet for longer than three minutes.
One of the appeals of free diving, say aficionados, is that it's an immensely pleasurable and serene experience. Wearing just a mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit and weightbelt, it's an inexpensive and enjoyable way to swim alongside dolphins and schools of fish or snap a series of vivid underwater photos.
The training required is minimal and starts in a regular swimming pool with slow and deep breathing exercises in a horizontal position holding the pool's edge and advancing to a relaxed fetal position. After learning about breathing and underwater relaxation, free divers move on to the different fin strokes -- a flutter, frog and dolphin kick. The flutter kick is what free divers use most of the time, with the frog kick reserved for relieving cramped or tired muscles. The dolphin kick is for short spurts of speed.
The next step in free diving is the surface dive, which can be simulated on a bed, by lying stomach down and balancing off the edge at waist level. Lowering one arm and raising the opposite leg, the weight shifts in a downward direction. Once in the water, the swimmer kicks forward to gain momentum. After some practice, free divers are able to descend vertically. After that maneuver has been mastered, the swimmer learns to streamline and economize while moving in the water.
DIVING FOR BURIED TREASURE
By many accounts, the estimated value of sunken treasure in the world's oceans ranges from billions to trillions of dollars.
Dating back to the 1400's and Spain's discovery of the New World, through the legendary years of privateers and pirates such as the infamous Blackbeard, who established his headquarters in the Bahamas in the 1700s, countless ships were sent from Europe to the Americas to reap the vast riches and resources of the area.
Laden with gold, silver and jewels, the ships and galleons often journeyed through the clear waters of the Caribbean on their return voyages. Commandeered by pirates, beset by hurricanes, of the roughly 13,000 ships destined for Spain alone, it is estimated that as many half sunk before reaching Europe.
Basing Into the Blue in the Bahamas was a logical choice from the perspective of discovering sunken treasure. The islands have historically proven to be dangerous territory for ships -- making them extremely appealing to modern-day treasure hunters and salvagers. The natural geography of the Bahamas also rendered them attractive to brigands and pirates, as they could easily hide their ships among the many islets and take unsuspecting vessels by surprise. Dangerous reefs and rough weather posed even greater risks. Over the centuries, more than 500 Spanish galleons are said to have been lost in Bahamian waters alone.
The vast majority of the bounty from these ships is still lying in wait on the ocean floor. They remain hidden for hundreds of years until a hurricane suddenly renders the invisible visible and shifts on the ocean floor cause priceless artifacts to loosen from their watery graves and wash up onto the shore.
While so much of these valuable riches seem to be within easy reach, salvagers nonetheless risk their lives and invest years and millions of dollars in their treasure hunting ventures since the payoff is potentially enormous. Noted dive pioneer and discoverer, Mel Fisher, spent 16 years in the Florida Keys searching for the Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which was reputedly one of the richest shipwrecks ever lost. In 1985, Fisher realized his dream, finding the sunken galleon in only 55 feet of water with a treasure estimated at $400 million.
Still greater treasures are waiting on the ocean floor -- just a breath away.