Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to direct two very different shoots for CBS. The first was an underwater shoot for a Survivor promo, promoting the show’s 30th season premiere. The concept handed down to us from CBS was that Survivor’s new season would divide teams up by white collar professionals, blue collar workers and “No Collars” which the show defined as self-employed entrepreneurs. My job, with the production support of Moving Parts
, Inc., was to capture underwater footage of three individuals (each representing the visual stereotype of the Survivor teams) making their first plunge below the surface. Our day of casting made for an interesting experience considering I was asking actors to perform as though they were submerged. The session was more about getting a vibe from the actor about his/her comfort underwater. At the end of the day, I was certain the three actors we chose to represent white collar, blue collar and no collar would be up to the challenge a lot of fun to work with (which is always important).
For our underwater pool/tank, we used Acton Scuba Services, which provided a deep enough drop for us to get a full body plunge in the water. My DP, Tom Camarda
, and I decided on Alexa and planned to shoot both 96 and 120 fps throughout the course of the day. Watching an expensive camera go underwater is a scary thing, but the team at Hydroflex
had the camera outfitted properly and made for an efficient set. The camera team was on point and adapted really well to the variables of water, talent and light. In addition to the standard wide shot, I was aiming for the illusion of happy accidents… finding focus on items that go rogue once the actor is underwater (shoes, boots, briefcase papers). Everyone picked up on this desire immediately and it was just a matter of running the action a few times until all the pieces fell into place.
Thankfully the water was warm.
Before I asked any of my actors to jump in, I made the plunge myself to get a sense of what I was I asking for and how difficult it would be to maneuver underwater fully clothed. I’ve never met warmer waters and our actors agreed it was more pleasant to stay underwater than it was to come back out into the breezy desert air. Plus, if there’s water on set… I feel the need to jump in.
Also, hats off to our propsmaker, Charles. He made a last minute decision to use tyvek for the white collar actor’s briefcase papers. It allowed us to have the fluidity of water under paper without the material breaking down after one or two takes…. clouding up the water.
It was a great day and the client was very happy. And where does the fire come in? That will be for another blog.