Interview: Kimble Rendall (Bait 3D)

Interview: Kimble Rendall (Bait 3D). By Simon Miraudo.

It’s been more than 35 years since Jaws scared everyone out of the water, and Bait 3D wants to extend our rational fear of great white sharks to the formerly safe aisles of the supermarket. Aussie filmmaker Kimble Rendall made horror flick Cut back in 2000, and instead of lazily biding his time for an appropriate follow-up feature, he’s been cutting his teeth working second unit on The Matrix Reloaded, Ghost Rider, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. He returns to the director’s seat for Bait 3D, in which a batch of unlucky souls find themselves trapped in an underground grocery store when a tsunami hits and washes two 12-feet sharks into their watery tomb.

Check out Simon’s review of Bait 3D here.

We spoke to Rendall about the unfilmable elements of the script, the alternate ending, and working with such unpredictable elements as water, animatronics, 3D cameras, kids, dogs, and Julian McMahon.

SM: It’s been twelve years since your last feature film, Cut, but you’ve certainly been busy working on second unit for films like The Matrix sequels and Knowing over the past decade. Do you feel there was anything specifically you learned over that period that you were able to bring to Bait?

KR: Oh God, twelve years. Has it been that long? I was fortunate enough to go into that whole world of Hollywood filmmaking doing second unit. I started on The Matrix sequels and was lucky to work on some great films with other directors, which is interesting because as a director you don’t really get to meet other directors to see how they do stuff. Basically, second unit on these big movies runs in parallel. You have these two teams of people that are trying to shoot the movie, and as a second unit director you’re working for the other director; trying to achieve what they want with the film. Big crews working in parallel. For example on Knowing, when I was working with my friend Alex Proyas, we’d work on the train smash sequence. So, you’re working on big action sequences and visual effects oriented sequences and you do learn a lot. When the producers asked me to come on board they said there are few people in Australia that had the experience and so I brought a lot of the crew that I worked with on those films and we went up to Queensland. We’re all used to that style of filmmaking.

SM: Certainly appropriate training for Bait. Russell Mulcahy, who co-wrote the script, was originally attached to direct, and then the reins were handed over to you. Can you shed a little light on that transition?

KR: I was doing a lot of music videos back in the day, and when Russell had gone overseas, he was always a guy who had been overseas and was successful. I was a fan of his stuff, but I’d never met him. He’d developed this film and worked as a writer on it, and was going to direct it, and he spent some time doing preproduction up in Queensland. But he had another project called Teen Wolf, MTV, and he had to go onto that. Production was going slow and they’d had a few problems. Chris Brown, one of the producers, rang me up and said, “Would you come and work on this?” I said, “What’s the story about?” He said, “Sharks in a supermarket.” “Oh, I’m in.”

SM: Well, the pitch certainly has its appeal, but was there a moment – even a glimmer of a moment – when you were a bit dubious about helming a “sharks in a shopping center” movie?

KR: No, no, I was never dubious. I embraced it. It’s a high concept film and I like making horror movies. I like genre films. It was right up my alley. My cup of tea. I never regretted it.  I loved it. Had a great time. Enjoyed every day of it.

SM: Going back to Russell’s script, I read in another interview that there were things in it that script that were basically unfilmable. What did you have to throw out when you retooled it?

KR: When I say “unfilmable,” we probably could have filmed them if we had the resources, the money, and the time, but there were scenes with people driving cars underwater.

SM: Sure. Logistically unfilmable.

KR: Yeah. There are two areas. Upstairs, where people are trapped in the supermarket, and downstairs, in a car park, there are people trapped in cars down there. There’s a shark upstairs and downstairs. In the original script, when they had the cars downstairs, they were getting around by driving the cars in the water. I just had to take that out. There were other things. I changed the ending, and how they get rid of the shark in the end. I changed it. I had to modify some things because we had nine weeks to shoot it. We just worked out a way to do it.

SM: Can you illuminate us as to how the shark was originally dispatched? Or is that to be saved, the storyboards, for the DVD?

KR: Originally a car fell on it.

SM: Oh, right.

KR: I didn’t think it was that dramatic. Some truck rolled on the shark. I thought, “Oh, that’s not…” I like blowing things up, I’ll put it that way.

SM: Fair enough. You said it was a nine week shoot, and you had some pretty unpredictable elements that you’re working with: a few sets drenched in water, animatronics, 3D cameras. What caused you the most grief?

KR: And kids. And dogs.

SM: And kids. And dogs. And Julian McMahon. No, no, I’m kidding. What was the most stressful element to work with there?

KR: It wasn’t stressful. I like a challenge, and it was challenging. I’m not the type of filmmaker who gets people in a room for nine weeks to do a costume drama or something. Or, I wouldn’t mind doing a costume drama if it had a bit of horror in it. But I like these types of films because they are complex to make and you’ve got to nut out how to do it. As you say, they have the 3D aspects to it, where you’ve got these big bulky cameras, and how do you get them onto the set? Then they’re attached to these cables running back and stereographers. And every time we got half way through the pre-production meeting, everyone’s eyes were just spinning around their head, and I said, “We’ll just do it shot by shot.” Which is basically how we did it. We shot it in sequence and worked our way through it. As the challenges come up, we knew the next scene would have a big explosion, and how were we going to do that? We did a lot of planning in our limited pre-production, and I had storyboarded and we did a lot of time working on the animatronic sharks, and we’d read all the stories in Jaws and all the problems they’d had. We researched it and did as much pre-production as we could.

SM: Speaking of Jaws, that’s out on Blu-ray at the moment with a great documentary on how not to make a shark movie. Although, the resulting product there was fairly good, I think we can all agree, with Jaws. Did you ever get around to christening your sharks?

KR: I call them Derek and Clive.

SM: Of course. I was going to say, “Based on what,” but with Clive there it makes sense.

KR: The masterpiece of Jaws, by the maestro, was one of the films that inspired me along with lots of other people. And it was the first blockbuster. Amazing film. We were never out to say, “Oh, we’re going to do a better film than Jaws, that’s for sure, but it certainly was an inspiration. Reading all the stories too would put you off making a shark movie. Interesting enough with Jaws was that they shot a lot stuff with the animatronic and couldn’t use it, because it didn’t work or it didn’t look realistic enough, they cut it out and it dramatically worked better because you don’t see the shark. They came up with that genius theme. So, it’s interesting that with filmmaking, sometimes the mistakes and things that go wrong can sometimes produce a much better result.

SM: That’s definitely the case. Now, you took the film to Venice just a couple of weeks ago. Not your typical film festival fare. But, I’m curious, how was the reaction there?

KR: It was bizarre, because I got the email when I was at home and the invitation said, “Your film has been invited to Venice.” I thought, “Am I reading this properly? Is this real?” Because it’s this prestigious auteur festival. I got there and I spoke to the director of the festival, a great guy, and said, “Including it in the festival, why?” He said, “I love the film.” I went, “Are you trying to make it a broader experience for the people going to the festival?” It was 3D – the first time a 3D movie played the Venice Film Festival – at the midnight screening.” So this was the premiere of the film, and I hadn’t seen it with a lot of people. Sitting there nervously; doing the red carpet walk, and everyone claps. Then at 12:30 it started to run, and it was a mixture of the festivalgoers, plus the people from Venice who’d come across, so it was a sort-of real audience. They just loved it. All the horror; every time they saw a horror scene they’d scream out and cheer and clap and at the end of it they were standing up and clapping. It was really great. Just after working on the film for two years, it was just a fantastic experience.

SM: They love their gore in Italy. I understand the movie is called Shark there. Is that correct?

KR: Yeah, they call it Shark in Italy. It’s coming out in all these territories. They call it Shark there. I guess Bait doesn’t really translate. Some territories don’t get the title, so they change it. I just got back from China – had a big press conference over there – and it’s coming out on 1700 screens over there. It’s a huge release; bigger than an American release over there. They just love it. Be interesting to see how it goes.

SM: I was going to say, Shark is maybe not the most imaginative title, but it gets the job done. I think Bait is a more appropriate title. It is arriving in Australian cinemas soon. It’s a higher budget film than we usually see produced in Australia. I don’t want to frame this negatively, but is there a bit of added concern about how it’s going to fare at the box office?

KR: Well, the company that made it – the production company – is also the sales company, and they have sold it to all the territories. So, it’s largely made the bulk of its money back. That fear has been reduced a little bit. How it does at the box office, since it’s going out to so many countries… If it does do well in China for example, everyone should be quite happy. It’s a $20 million film here. If Americans were doing it it’d probably $40 million or $50 million at least. We just had to work out how to be clever and get the same end result for half the budget, if you’re comparing it to how it would be done in the United States. It is a movie that is competing with those types of films.

SM: Of course, and I believe your next project, Blowback, has a budget of $25 million. This was just recently announced. Can you tell me a little about that project?

KR: Yeah, I’m going up $5 million a time. In ten years I’ll be working on… I can’t do the math. That’s an action movie that Antony Ginnane is producing, who’s done a lot of genre films over the years. He asked me to do it. Part of the thing is to shoot it in Sydney and use Sydney as the backdrop, because there hasn’t been many films where Sydney’s been showcased. There’s lots of icons we could do action sequences in there. A cop comes in and his daughter gets kidnapped. That’s the start of the film, then he gets involved with a lot of bad people who chase him around. It’s an action film set in Sydney.

Bait arrives in Australian cinemas September 20, 2012.

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