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The production of new shark movie ‘Bait’ required two extraordinary sets; a full working supermarket and multi-story parking lot that could be flooded for several weeks and facilitate animatronic sharks.
The production designer for ‘Bait’ was Nicholas (Nick) McCallum, who recently worked on Sanctum, a film which also required massive amounts of water. McCallum was well aware of the challenges of shooting in a flooded set.
Nick was required to create 4 different sets – a wet and a dry set for both the parking lot and supermarket. Nick explains, “I found this man who sells supermarkets in Townsville. He buys them and flat packs them and sells them to Pakistan. So we bought one of his supermarkets and installed it in the studio. There was a dry supermarket set that we had to roll scenes in prior to the tsunami. The design was to integrate both the dry and the post tsunami supermarket set into the one area. Essentially, I built the dry supermarket in a swimming pool so that once the wet supermarket was required, we were able to flood it.”
“The trick was to take away all the full size shelving and replace it with cut down shelving. We dropped all the headers on all the doorways around the place and then we lowered the 38 ton suspended roof. It had all the lighting rigs in it and that’s what gave us visual depth. We actually only filled up the pool to about four feet of water. The cut down shelving and lowered roof and doorways gave the illusion that the water had risen almost to the roof.”
Nick felt strongly that the production design for the wet part of filming would rely heavily on the ceiling. “For sixty percent of the film these victims are trapped in the supermarket on top of shelving. So the background was actually going to be the ceiling above them. I wanted to make a ceiling with as many interest points as possible. It had to have all the ducting, all the pipes and sprinkler system exposed and swinging and dangling pendants of lights.”
The design team was also mindful that the sets had to be practical for a shark to swim through. They had to ensure that the aisles of the supermarket were wide enough to allow the shark to turn around.
The sets were built to allow the 3D camera accessibility to the set. Director of Photography, Ross Emery, explains that the 3D rig was actually an assembly of “an El Mantecana quasar or quasar rig. That’s just one part of it – the 3D component. We also used Red cameras, Mysteria maxchips, Panavision lenses and Preston lens control systems. One of the interesting things with 3D is that you have to bring in 5 or 6 different suppliers to get one working 3D camera. 3D cameras are incredibly heavy. Our main camera rig weighed around 68 kilos. As a result we needed to work with the Production Designer to establish infrastructure within the sets to accommodate the cameras.”
Nick came up with an ingenious solution to allow for the large rigs to work within such an enclosed space, “I came up with the plan to have Japanese screens on each wall of the supermarket set. We could roll the screens to one side to allow the techno crane access to shoot the scene. The techno crane was fifty feet, so it was able to reach across two thirds of the width of the set. And then for the reverse shots, the techno crane could be rolled around the end of the set at the corners of the swimming pool we don’t see.”
One of the greatest challenges presenting the art department on a day to day basis was continuity. In the film, the tsunami leaves a mess of corpses, supermarket products and debris floating in the water, as well as blood and guts from the shark attacks. Naturally many objects put in water float, which is not ideal for continuity. Clear plastic mats which could seamlessly hold rubbish and debris together in one place helped to keep debris in place for several takes. The highly chlorinated water also posed some issues. The art department had to source laminates and paints that ensured products and set pieces would not become water damaged and faded over time. Cast costumes were also subject to fading and bleaching. Filming went for 9 weeks, but the actual film takes place over one day, so Art Department took great care in keeping the water in pristine condition, not only for the visual aesthetic but also for the health and safety of the 50 people that were working in the water each day. The water was tested, dyed and chlorinated daily.
The other key set is the parking lot, where three characters are being stalked by another Great White shark for almost the whole duration of the film. This is a much lonelier and isolated scenario and the relationship with these characters drives an alternate distinct storyline through the film as they struggle to survive with a different set of challenges.
For the design department it presented its own problems. Nick explains “beneath the supermarket is the parking lot and there are several victims caught beneath there as well. We searched a long time to find a parking lot with a sufficient height. Normally the roofs are quite low. So when you stand on the roof on a car in a parking lot you’re actually touching the roof or crouching down. So we found a parking lot location that had a really tall ceiling which made it believable that cars could be washed to a particular area, and we replicated this parking lot. We positioned cars near the parking lot stairwell that would lead the characters up to the supermarket as a method of escape. We entrapped them. We also created this ‘wall of death’ as we call it. And that was kind of like a complete art installation of crashed cars and mangled bodies and crushed trolleys. It was something that allowed for a fabulous backdrop and something for the characters to climb and clamber over, but then again allowed for no method of escape.”