Andrew Traucki brought a touch of realism to the shark film sub-genre with The Reef, and found himself in uncharted distribution waters.
His first film Black Water starred a dangerous (and very real) crocodile, and his follow up The Reef sees a group of tourists trying to survive the attack of a white shark, but writer/director/producer Andrew Traucki is not afraid to be known as ‘the one who makes movies about lethal animals’.
“At the moment I’m really enjoying working on thrillers regardless of whether they have dangerous animals in them or not. But I’m also working on straight drama, action and
The Reef stars Damian Walshe-Howling, Zoe Naylor, Gyton Grantley, Adrianne Pickering and Kieran Darcy-Smith.
It’s based on a true story that Traucki read years ago.
“There is a great benefit in being a writer/director in that you know that what you write has to translate into film. You are responsible for that translation and compromises
will have to be made, so you write with that in mind. This is fundamental to the films I have been involved with and it’s why they always look bigger than their budgets actually are,” Traucki explained.
He shares production responsibilities with Michael Robertson, who got sales agent Lightning Entertainment on board early on. Off the script, the film had strong pre-sales at Cannes and the American Film Market. The filmmakers received support from Screen Australia and Screen New South Wales, but lost a private Australian investor before production began. They then brought in the Bank of California.
FAKE NO MORE
Traucki wanted to make the film in New South Wales, but the water was too cold so The Reef had to move up to Hervey Bay and Bowen in Queensland, and shoot entirely on location over 25 days, without the comfort of a water tank.
“I don’t think a tank would have made things easier; we would have just swapped one set of difficulties for another. On location we lost time because of weather conditions. In a tank we would have lost time because of light and rigging set ups.
“Shooting in a location gave the project a great sense of reality, I didn’t want it to feel fake; my whole push was that it had to feel like it could happen to you. That’s why we used real sharks so people couldn’t say ‘Oh that looks fake’.”
The director says the shark sub-genre can be “a bit limiting” but it comes with an in-built audience.
“The shark seems to become the star, which I don’t feel is actually the case… but it cuts both ways; I can say I am making a shark movie and everyone is interested, which helps with selling and marketing the film.
DOP Daniel Ardilley shot The Reef using two Red cameras, trying to create a look that would transform ‘heaven into hell’: “At the beginning the film looks very saturated and rich, but by the time we get to the end it is much greyer and bleak,” said Traucki.
The director worked simultaneously with two editors (Peter Crombie and Matt Walker) for six weeks, because the shark attack sequences were very fragmented and “needed a lot of effort to get right”, especially if they were to meet their Cannes festival deadline.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN
During production, Traucki kept a comprehensive blog and even held an unprecedented live streaming session, allowing more than 10,000 viewers to join cast and crew in the set.
“It was quite an achievement, especially since we were in regional Queensland and the internet connection up there was poor. The session sparked off interest in the website and Facebook page, but the promotion never ends,” said Traucki.
The Reef has sold to 106 countries, but the Australian release was held back because it was difficult to find a distributor until it was picked up by All Interactive Distribution’s new theatrical arm, Pinnacle Films.
“Worldwide there is a big market for good survival thrillers. My films sell very well overseas but seem to have a harder time getting similar attention back here. Some will tell you that Australians don’t like scary films, and that thought seems enough to put a lot of distributors off wanting to pick up a film like The Reef. It seems in Australia that there are two main types of distributors, the people who deal with the bigger American and UK blockbusters, and the arthouse style distributors. The Reef fell between these two areas. Luckily, Pinnacle saw its potential,” said Traucki.
The Reef will be released on March 17.