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The Making of Shark Night, Part 1: About the Production

A sexy summer weekend turns into a blood-soaked nightmare for a group of college students hunted by blood-thirsty underwater predators in Shark Night 3­D, a terrifying thrill-ride featuring a red-hot young cast.
Sharks, the ultimate predators, have inspired visceral dread and horrified fascination in humans for centuries. Shark Night 3-D deftly plays on those primitive fears of nature’s perfect killing machines with a suspense-filled story, astonishing, cutting-edge animatronics and a talented young cast.

One of the first major hurdles faced by producers Lynnette Howell, Mike Fleiss and Chris Briggs was finding a director with the right mix of skills to bring Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg’s clever and well-researched script to the screen. Conceived as a 3­D film from its inception, Shark Night 3-D is set almost entirely on and around water, a notoriously challenging—and potentially costly—environment for a film shoot. The producers knew they had found their man in David R. Ellis: in addition to directing the 3-D horror hit The Final Destination, Ellis had served as second unit director on such ocean-going epics as The Perfect Storm, Deep Blue Sea and Waterworld.

“When you shoot a movie in 3-D, there are many more technical considerations than if you’re shooting in 2-D and then converting in post,” he observes. “Shooting on the water in 3-D adds even more challenging issues. The upside in this case is that audiences are going to have sharks right in their laps. It’s unbelievably cool.”

Ellis’s other directing credits include Asylum and Snakes on a Plane, the classic, over-the-top actioner starring Samuel L. Jackson. Asked to describe how he builds the exquisite tension that marks his films, Ellis explains, “The best way to really scare the audience is to misdirect their attention so when they think something is about to happen, it doesn’t. And then when they’re not really expecting it, you have something jump in their face. We have a lot of those great moments in Shark Night 3-D.”

Actress Sara Paxton says Ellis was perfectly suited for the project. “I honestly can’t say enough about David Ellis,” Paxton says. “He was so passionate; he got me so excited about the film. He managed to make every day a really good time even though what we were doing was intense and physically demanding.”

One of the aspects of the script that attracted Ellis was that it features not one, but six specific varieties of sharks, each inflicting its own particular type of devastation. “We have bull sharks, tiger sharks, cookie-cutter sharks, hammerheads, makos and a great white. The differences among them make each action sequence unique. We worked with Walt Conti on the sharks and he’s the best there is. He brought us great sharks.”

Walt Conti, whose Edge Innovations created the film’s uncannily realistic animatronic sharks, found the script’s understanding of the nature of each species compelling. “You hear the title of this film and you have a certain impression,” says Conti, who received an Oscar nomination for his visual effects work on The Perfect Storm. “But one of the great things the writers did was capture what the different kinds of sharks would actually do. We've done a lot of shark films, but it was the variety that was really cool in this movie.
“They’re all used in an utterly realistic way and each one is different,” he adds. “The writers obviously read and understood a lot about sharks. The mako is a particularly fast swimmer. The hammerhead’s more of a wily hunter. The behavior of the great whites is exactly accurate.”

Paxton hopes that the film’s unique combination of hair-raising action, relatable characters and irreverent humor will appeal to a wide audience. “I hope people have a good time watching this movie,” she says. “And that they're scared. I think they will be.”
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