A few years back Australian writer/director Andrew Traucki hit the horror scene with his highly entertaining killer crocodile flick Black Water. Not set on terrifying audiences with one water-dwelling creature feature, Traucki is back with his follow-up feature called The Reef.
The Reef (review here) is centered around a group of vacationers in Australia whose boat gets capsized while traveling. They must then decide between staying with a sinking ship or swimming through shark-infested waters in hopes of making it to land.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to talk with Traucki about the true story The Reef was based on, the struggles of making a movie set in the water and his involvement with the upcoming horror anthology The ABC’s of Death.
The story of The Reef is one that had been simmering in the back of Traucki’s mind for almost ten years before he penned the script. He discussed what it was about this story that always spoke to him as a storyteller and how this movie is not another Open Water knock-off even though there are similarities between the two films.
“The story of The Reef is a true life story of something that actually happened to a group of tourists in Australia, and when I had heard the story almost ten years ago, it just always stuck with me,” explained Traucki. “The story haunted me actually, and after I did Black Water, I thought this would be a great story to tell as a follow-up to that movie since that was also a creature in the water story. So I started to do some investigating into the true story of what happened to these people, and from there I started developing the story into the script for The Reef.”
“I know a lot of people will see the synopsis of our movie and think it’s just like Open Water, but that’s not really the case at all, even though I really enjoy that movie a lot. But I think Open Water is more of a melodrama where The Reef is definitely an action thriller so while I see the comparisons between the two, they are in fact very different movies. I wanted The Reef to be about this impossible decision- stay on a sinking ship and die or try and make a swim for it in shark-infested waters and pray that you don’t die. And it was all based on a true story, which to me makes for a very chilling story because as a viewer you immediately try and decide what you’d do if you were put in that situation, and it’s hard to figure out what the right decision is,” added Traucki.
Even though Black Water involved a killer crocodile stalking his prey in the swamp, the production shoot difficulties of that movie were minor compared to the hardships Traucki as well as his entire cast and crew faced while making The Reef, which was primarily shot off the coast of Australia in some rather hellacious conditions.
Traucki said, “The Reef was a really tough shoot, and I found that water itself is a punishing environment as a whole. You can only stay in the water so long, and even though we were shooting in Australia, which isn’t a cold climate, people still had to wear heat blankets between scenes just so no one got hypothermia because we’d be in the water for hours and hours on end. People were getting hurt from the terrain in the water, and a few crew members even got infections from different bites or scrapes during production.”
“Everyone was so incredibly committed to this movie- we shot for ten hours a day, six days a week, for five weeks; and it was exhausting so we asked a lot from everyone involved in this movie. There were a lot of hardships so I don’t think I’m ready to do another shoot in the water any time soon.”
From the start of working on The Reef, Traucki knew he didn’t want to try and get a mechanical shark built and didn’t want to rely on creating a digital shark either. ”We knew we had to get real shark footage for the movie because there had to be a level of authenticity to what audiences would see so they’d still be immersed in the story. If I used a mechanical shark or made a digital shark, it would have taken away from the movie definitely so we did a separate shoot for shark footage. I devised a small camera rig for myself during the shoot, and we also had a cinematographer shooting in a shark cage, too.”
“The funny thing was, it seemed like the sharks wouldn’t come around in time for our shark cage camera person to get them on film because it took him a few minutes to get geared up before getting in the water so a lot of the stuff we ended up using was from my rig because I could just lean over and stick my camera in the water and I’d usually catch the shark in time. But we definitely learned that it’s hard to predict how wildlife will act so I’m glad we had a back-up system in place beyond shooting in the shark cage,” added Traucki.
Being a horror fan himself, Traucki discussed the balance between creating compelling characters and still giving audiences what they want, too (good kills and some great moments of tension).
“There’s a very delicate process you go through as a filmmaker when you’re creating a horror movie,” explained Traucki. “You have to deliver scares to the audience, but you need to balance those moments out with getting them to care about the characters in question, too. And while The Reef is very much a man vs. shark story, I made sure to create characters people will care about as well. We did lose a lot of the more heavy-handed character development in the movie, though, because it kind of bogged the pace of the film down, and so the finished film is very streamlined compared to the original script. But I like the way it came out in the end because there’s a lot of great shark moments and a lot of great character moments, too.”
Now that Traucki’s The Reef is finally getting a home release here in the States, we asked the writer/director what’s up next for him. “The next thing I’m doing is the ABC’s of Death, which is pretty exciting for me. The offer to direct one of the 26 segments came out of nowhere so I’m really honored to be part of this anthology, and I think I may even be the only Australian involved, which is also pretty cool. They gave me the letter G so I’m having fun coming up with ideas on how to kill people using G. It’s going to be a lot of fun to make my segment, but I haven’t really started putting it together yet so that’s what I need to focus on now.”
Special thanks to Andrew for taking the time to speak with Dread Central. And for those of you in the US, look for The Reef on DVD and Blu-Ray this Tuesday, July 19th.
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