A Visit To Jaws 3D Set
By Tisha Shelden (as told to Lonna Poland)
Ed note: One of our members, Tisha Shelden, who lives near Orlando, Florida where Jaws 3D was filming, was able to spend some time on the movie set. She has consented to share her adventures with the club. Thanks, Tisha
Arriving on the set at 6:00 am, I was impressed at how incredibly cheerful and friendly everyone was. Everyone said hello to Simon and cast and crew alike seemed to like him.
I was introduced to Rupert Hitzig, the producer. He’s a funny guy, always cracking jokes, and he made me feel welcome. I also met Bess Armstrong and P.H. Moriarty (His character is Simon’s assistant, Jack Tate), but I didn’t actually meet Dennis Quaid or John Putch. I saw them from a distance; they seemed to be constantly running.
It was so much fun to walk around and look at things. With a special badge, I could walk into the park and see anything at Sea World that I wanted. I watched a scene with Simon, Bess and Shamu the killer whale. Bess was wearing her Sea World uniform and Simon had on a burgundy rugby shirt with green stripes, khaki shorts and desert boots. They had to repeat the same lines over and over and over and over, with Bess shaking her head at Shamu and Shamu nodding his head also. While they were doing this Joe Alves (the director) would walk around them looking through a lens in his hand, trying to get the camera angle right I guess.
When they finally got ready to shoot the scene, they decided to move the camera, which was down near they whale tank. Shamu came up and had his face right up against the glass watching them. Then the dolphins, on their scheduled spin in the middle of the scene, splashed the camera lens. Eventually the camera was moved into the stands and covered with a special black vinyl cover with clear vinyl patches positioned for the lenses and viewfinder. Covered it looked a little like the elephant man with his head and an eyehole.
Some people from West Palm Beach “PM Magazine” were filming all day and at the end of the day the lady reporter interviewed Simon. She seemed fascinated with him and Rupert jokes with him later saying that he wondered if she was covering the making of Jaws 3D or doing the “Simon MacCorkindale Story”. I also saw Simon interviewed for another “moivemaker” documentary slated to show on HBO in July.
Earlier Simon and I had talked about the difference between filming in 3D or with standard film. He said there is little difference from the actor’s standpoint, but in one way it is actually easier on them – the scenes are longer, not so chopped up. That takes fewer changes in the camera angle and so is quicker and less fatiguing. The technical reason they don’t jump around so much is because it would give the viewing audience a collective headache. Your eyes are trying to focus on the fore and background because both are in focus on the screen. If the scene jumped from one shot to another like in a normal movie, you would have eye strain before your popcorn got cold. He also said that in 3D you don’t have so many extreme close-ups and that was why he had to have the 5 o’clock shadow, so you could tell him from Dennis Quaid in scenes where the camera isn’t in close enough.
The second time I was on set it was a very cold day in January. Simon had been filming hid “demise” earlier in the week and had been spending a lot of time underwater in a 60 degree tank. Brrr! On this day they were filming what Simon called “second unit work”. The scenes were of Simon and P.H. Moriarty (Philip and Jack) roaming through Sea World taking pictures. (Remember, Philip is a photographer by trade.) A bunch of us got into a van and drove to this tower thing, where they filmed Simon and P.H. going up and down (Philip Fitzroyce is in action, filming all the parks going’s on). We had to climb a ladder and were on the roof of a walkway leading to this tower ride, which is like a donut travelling up and down a pole. You sit in the donut and look out over the park (you can see Epcot in the distance) as it rides and revolves around. Dresden (wardrobe) , Katie (makeup), and I climbed in with Rupert, Simon and P.H. and the cameraman, and up we went. The man operating the ride said, “Don’t touch these cables, they’re hot.” We three puzzled whether he was referring to temperature or voltage and then we decided we didn’t want to know.
After a while we came down and everyone got out so the started to film Simon and P.H. in the tower from the roof, going up and down. We then went to the Seal and Sea Lion tanks and again “Philip” is filming the park scenes. We tried to maneuver one particular seal, who had a lot of personality, into the scene, but with several of us dangling fish we still had no luck. Then we moved to the Sea Lions.
Rupert got on the megaphone and told the tourists they could be in shot if they would remove their sweaters and jackets. That drove some people off. Simon called to me, so I shed jacket and sweater and got “summerized” (sleeves rolled up, top button undone). All I did was stand there and feed the sea lions fish, but I was thrilled to be part of it. Simon cautioned me, however, by saying that many of these shots would probably never make it past the first editing, and 2nd unit work always gets cut first. It was fun anyway!
The we all jumped back into the van with the $250,00.00 3D camera on the seat next to us. That made me afraid I’d sit on it and they’d feed me to the sharks. We went to the whale and dolphin tank and watched Liz Morris do her show with Shamu, which is wonderful. Then while some male trainers were working with Shamu, Simon and P.H. came out on to the edge of the platform to do the shots of Philip, with rope tied around his waist, filming Shamu and his trainer. This is when Simon’s “unplanned stunt” occurred. (See MORE MAYHEM, issue 2. – link me) If the rope hadn’t been around Simon’s waist, he would have surely fallen in, camera and all. Rupert was elated that they captured that moment on film and told Simon, “I could never have asked you to do that!” We’ll have to wait and see if it actually shows up in the movie. (sw: it does – link to video)
At lunch we talked about Simon’s demise and how they tried to play “Philip” as a little reckless so that “Jack” could be his protector as well as friend. Hence all the times Philip leans way over in the donut, too far into the Sea Lion tank, etc., in many cases losing his balance a little with Jack there to steady him. That makes it much sadder in the end when P.H. is so upset at Simon’s death. (He’s disappeared – the shark has swallowed him whole.) P.H. wanders all around calling for him.
After lunch I wandered over to look at the fake sharks. A man tending “the mouth”, which is what they call the thing Simon is eaten up in, was there and he offered to take my picture in it as if the shark was eating me. Simon says it’s great, it undulates when he’s in it. There are five “fake” sharks in all, each with the hydraulics exposed from a different side; one each for the belly shots, top shots, left and right side shots, and ‘the mouth’.
The sharks, instead of being quiet and swift moving, are so noisy that when the order was given to “start the shark”, the air compression and hydraulics that move them along on the track, hissed and sputtered and sounded like a locomotive. And they moved “slow as Christmas”. The first few times everyone laughed.
A friend on set who worked on the technical end told me that the ending with Simon and the shark was really gruesome, with Katie (makeup) forming blown up “bits and pieces” in spray plastic foam and then sending it awash in fake blood, which stained their wet suits I heard.
I was also told that it was a warehouse a few miles away that they filmed the flooding of the “Shark Encounter”. In real life, Sea World has an exhibit where you travel through this heavy plexiglass corridor through a tank of sharks, which them swimming all around you. This is called “The Shark Encounter” and they tell you that it can withstand all sorts of pressure without breaking. Nevertheless, in the movie, the 35 shark breaks the plexiglass and the water floods in on the poor tourists
What they did was build the plexiglass corridor in the warehouse and film against a blue screen like the do all those models and special effects for Star Wars, etc. After this filming they go back later and fill in the background with footage of water and sharks, so it looks like a real “Encounter”.
They set up a Dempsey Dumpster filled with 800 gallons of water and a handful of stunt people dresses as tourists at one end of the corridor, with the camera at the other. When the signal was given, all 800 gallons were dumped in and the stunt people screamed and ran to try to get out the exits. Very exciting!
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Exciting indeed! And we will all find out just how exciting when we see the movie. Thanks again, Tisha, for sharing your experiences with us.
(Ed. note): At press we have already seen the movie. We are even more grateful to Tisha for her descriptions now, as almost all of the footage she watched being created has been cut out of the finished movie. All 2nd unit work is gone, as well as many more of Simon’s scenes. These scenes would have helped continuity of the movie tremendously and it is sad that the film makers decided to handle their project this way