RLJE Films & Shudders Great white is available in theaters today, on-demand and digitally. Directed by Martin Wilson, the thriller stars Katrina Bowden (Piranha 3DD), Aaron Jakubenko (Wadden Sea), Kimie Tsukakoshi (Spring tide), Tim Kano (neighbours) and Te Kohe Tuhaka (Love and monsters) as passengers of seaplanes who are stranded and have to face a shark.
“A blissful tourist trip turns into a nightmare when five seaplane passengers are stranded miles offshore,” the official summary said. “In a desperate struggle for survival, the group is trying to get ashore before they either run out of supplies or a menacing terror lurks just below the surface.”
ComingSoon’s Sabina Graves spoke to Katrina Bowden about her role in Great white, the unique admission conditions and their skip-it hobby.
Sabina Graves: Great White follows these shark film traditions of simply unbelievable summer horror. I wanted to know which of your favorite horror films were playing during this time and how did this film hit the marks of the films you love that made you want to be a part of them?
Katrina Bowden: I especially love a summer horror movie, but I think mine, my favorite movies are usually the ones that usually come out around Halloween. Lately my favorites are Get Out, Midsommar, which I love too. But for me, I’ve always loved the genre and most importantly, I’ve never done anything like the sharks, but I’ve always loved shark films, especially Jaws. It’s definitely a classic that I’ve always, always loved. When I got the script I thought it was a great movie, so character-driven, and it caught my eye because it wasn’t like some of the other shark films that have been out for years and read where it is’ mostly really bloody and jump scares.
Great white really takes time to build up a lot of tension. We had a lot of really quiet, tense moments, which makes the big jump scares and action scenes even more exciting and satisfying in my opinion. That really drew me to this movie and also to the character Kaz, who was such a great strong female character. I was also happy to take on that.
We had the tradition in the older films, which were definitely made by men. I really liked the fact that Kaz really comes to the fore along with Michelle (played by Kimie Tsukakoshi). Can you talk a little bit about how this relationship developed? I know the characters have relationships with their significant other, but I think their relationship was really like the heart of the movie.
Yes, definitely. Right from the start, you are pretty much aware that Kaz is a strong female character to take on. She has that really nice balance between being soft and understanding. She worked with a nurse for many, many years, so she had to be on the front lines. She worked in triage. So she had to be on the front lines making sure everything was fine and working in stressful situations while being a caring, loving person. So you can find out about her right away and you can see that she’s a hideous character too.
Michelle, she’s kind of an unexpected heroine of the movie I think. Their strength lies a little below the surface and you can see throughout the film that Kaz and Michelle bond at several different points in the film and find that they are more alike than different which I think is really cool including the underlying theme of the Films. They worked really well with the team and I think they surprised each other in the process. I mean, I just thought it was really cool that these two seemingly different female characters come together and end up becoming the heroes.
Did you and Kimie spend a lot of time developing the relationship while filming, or even before that?
We got to Australia about a week and a half or two before we started filming. We had a lot of time to hang out, like Kimie and I, but so did the rest of the cast because we’d be very close together for the whole movie. So we wanted to make sure we get to know each other and we just really love each other. I had the best time, which is so cool when it happens like this, but Kimmy and I spent a lot of time together. We became really good friends and I think that was very important to our characters too, but as two people we hit it off straight away. So it was pretty easy to get that chemistry working, but yeah, it was really important that we both talked a lot about our characters as well and how we would make a lot of our things together really emotionally impactful, but also very realistic. We’ve all worked a lot together to really make our characters and character connections shine in this type of movie.
Amazing. It definitely shows. What were the hardest aspects of shooting? Even though it’s like little quarters like you said, there are just so many different layers. I just want to know how challenging was and did you do any stunts?
The whole film was a challenge to shoot just because we spend most of the film and the water in a raft, which has its own challenges and then a lot of underwater footage. The environments and locations we shot had their own challenges. As if there was one place we were filming there were so many jellyfish. In Australia all jellyfish are stinging jellyfish, I was stung by one one day. Then we had the underwater scenes, which is just so challenging because you don’t even think about it, but you can’t really see far underwater. So, hit your marks, get your eye line right. There are so many technical choreographies that we had to go through and practice so many times before we could actually shoot them.
Then also in the raft. The weather, it was summer there. So it was really hot. It was a very physically demanding shoot, but we were all so ready and ready for it. That was really, really, really fun. We all had to do some SCUBA trainings and practice a lot of breath holding. We had a really big team of people who were there to guide us through everything and hold hands while doing it. Because we often shoot in the water, the director Marty and everyone else behind the camera are pretty far away. So the team we had to rely on a lot were the people in the water with us, the stunt team. So that was a big, important part of our process in this film. We did a lot of our own stunts. I mean, there were some that we couldn’t do on our own that we got stunt doubles for, but me and the other actors were really just willing to do as much as we could on our own. I think it’s so much fun making the whole process really exciting.
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Yeah, I really enjoyed the underwater scenes and can’t imagine how challenging that must have been. As you said, you worked with breath work. Focusing on these kinds of practical things has changed your perspective on your method of presentation. Was there a prop shark in those scenes or wasn’t that really there?
We had an animatronic shark for the underwater scenes that we could actually react to which was so amazing. It was on a dolly so we could move and it would beat up. His jaw would come out and bite at us. That was really cool, because so often in movies you react to some kind of ball or piece of tape when you’re shooting. It’s just really cool that they were able to build these really awesome sharks for the underwater scenes just so the actors had something to react to. Underwater there was just so much choreography that went with it. I had an oxygen cylinder myself and Aaron [Jakubenko]who played Charlie had an oxygen tank that we passed around in many scenes.
But the problem with this is of course that we could breathe and it was nice to have oxygen, but the moment you put oxygen into your lungs, your body wants to float up. So we’ve been on those deep aerospace tanks and we can’t get that close to the surface. They should look really deep underwater. So there were scenes where we had weights on our feet that held us so we could shoot some of the scenes without moving too much, which was also a bit scary at the moment. But then we all got so used to it. There were definitely some wild moments that I never imagined I would be there, but I’m so happy I did because it was such a great experience.
I want to dive into a fun question that my editor and I were talking about. We saw some of your social media posts and the skip-it videos which are amazing. I haven’t seen one like this since I was a kid. How did you find it in the wild and what inspired you to take it up again?
I don’t remember because I think I bought in 2019 and with the intention of trying again because I can’t remember why, but I loved to see something and thought to myself, oh my god. I remember that. I had so much fun with it as a kid and bought it from Amazon and never opened it. In 2019 I was so busy [schedule], I’ve made so many films that I haven’t been home that often. I just kind of forgot I ordered it. Then when 2020 came along and we got lockdown, of course I found it in a closet and figured guess what, I’m going to try this out. I just thought this was really fun and one day I decided to film myself doing it and I posted it on the internet and on Instagram. I was surprised how many people liked it. I just kept doing it and realized that I was pretty good at it too. It just became my stupid little thing that I do.
I love that. I’ve seen you have the one that breaks, so do you do these as you still do, or do you need to look for some retro models on eBay?
I think the original is from a brand called Tiger, which no longer exists. I tried to find the original. I mean, I think you can get like a really old dented copy on eBay, but a couple hundred dollars, but it’s like not new. I figured the one I found on Amazon was a piece of crap and keeps breaking. I have duct tape everywhere, but it’s really light and costs about $ 15. It does the job. Has no counter on it or anything, but it does its job.