My first water job
The two tanks in Malta .
Mediteranean Film Studios.
Malta’s open lot studios have 2 tanks, the original one is an infinity tank about 2.5m deep but wide enough to shoot a small sea battle or to fit Jason and most of his Argonauts.
The other, deeper, round tank was built in the 1960’s for ‘Raising the Titanic’ The film bombed but some 25 years later the titanic model was still there.
The story was that the large scale model ship was built in L.A. then shipped to Malta. The modelmakers had packed the hold of the model with grass, well-hidden so they could smoke it during the months shooting at the tank. The remnants of films were spread about the tank, from the Popeye village to nowadays probably Game of Thrones.
The Aspro shoot in the tank
With the help of Mario a local Plasterer, I built an outcrop of rocks in fibreglass and a small section of beach for the Aspro Pack shot in the tank
For the stormy water effects, the studio has large high tip tanks to create waves and enormous hydraulic old wave machines in the tank. There were huge wind machines, one of which was an old hurricane fighter engine and propeller mounted on a skate in the tank. Scary jets of flame and smoke came from it, sometimes during the takes.
The rocks were the simple bit, at the meeting with the director he explained enthusiastically how this frothing tablet would be shot in the open sea and massively scaled up.
I model made some scaled up pills, some filled with bicarb, and one with venting air cylinders, to give the effect of effervescence and bubbles. It was a nightmare, dropping them off the back of the boat and then releasing them from just below the surface, I had not even thought about strong currents or the swell of the seas or how different materials react with seawater.
My diving was a bit of a challenge.
I was almost incapable of keeping myself or my bubbles out of shot.
I managed with the help of the lovely Peter Scoones, the underwater cameraman who did the job swimming with one leg in plaster wrapped in a black bin bag.
Peter had broken his leg filming plankton and whales in the arctic, and when we met at a pool in Fulham for a model tablet test, he could only swim around in circles. Later Peter would be responsible for some spectacular shots for Life on Earth, but at the time he was chuffed to be the first person to have filmed a live Coelacanth. A prehistoric monster of a fish from the deep.
I was lucky to get away with it, there was very little fix it in post in those days.
Even with my dodgy model tablets and my inexperience in the water, the film had to be finished, the money has been spent, the airtime booked and paid for.
That was the first of many underwater jobs I got away with.
What you learn when you work with professionals in commercials is that a job cannot, and must not, fail.
With a good film crew everyone melds into an efficient machine to overcome all obstacles and make it work, and get the job done.
The Job is always finished, you need a result.
In my career I can only remember one that missed the air date, a spot for Greenpeace, and that was because the famous director dragged out the edit.
Since then I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the best diving locations in the world and build sets, rigs, and sfx in different tanks, and on the seabed of different seas and oceans.
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