Like most second unit directors, you've probably seen Kimble Rendall's work without realizing it. He helped put together some of the most memorable parts of Ghost Rider, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and the second and third Matrix movies. But his latest film, Bait 3D, is unmistakably his. Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D) and Julian McMahon (Fantastic Four) co-star in a film about folks trapped in a flooded supermarket – and the parking lot below it – after a tidal wave… a supermarket filled with man-eating sharks. It sounds goofy, but Rendall made a thrilling b-movie out of the concept by treating Bait 3D seriously as a disaster movie. You can find the film on DVD and Blu-ray on September 18, but you can hear the director talk about making the movie today, as well as his plans for his follow-up feature, the kidnapping thriller Blowback, written by Brian Trenchard-Smith.
[Editor's Note: The release date for Bait 3D, formerly listed as September 11, has been corrected.]
CraveOnline: I wanted to clarify something. You’re aware that you made a movie about sharks in a supermarket, right?
Kimble Rendall: Yeah!
That’s awesome. It’s an awesome movie.
Oh, you liked it?
Yeah, I really, really liked it a lot.
Oh, good on ya. That’s good to hear. Thank you.
Thank you for making it. We’ve got to talk about how a film like this gets made. When you’re watching it, you realize it’s more of a disaster movie in its construction.
Exactly. Strangely enough, I was thinking… There are two sections, you’ve got the supermarket and you’ve got the car park. So the script is like The Poseidon Adventure upstairs. Did you ever see Cujo?
And sort of Cujo downstairs. This is a disaster movie as well. It’s horror/action, but “disaster movie” fits the bill.
Bait is all things to all people.
[Laughs] That’s good to hear.
How did this project fall on your lap? Where did it come from?
It was developed by Russell Mulcahy, another Australian director, obviously, who’s done a lot of stuff over here. He was developing it with the company Arclight, and I was working on some second unit on a film called Killer Elite in Melbourne, with Robert De Niro and Jason Statham and Clive Owen, and they contacted me because Russell had to move onto something else, and [they wanted] to get it going. So I said, “What’s it about?” They said, “Sharks in a supermarket.” I said, “Okay!” And then I went up to Queensland, where we shot in north Australia, and we started pre-production. So I took over at that point. I worked on the script to rewrite it as much as I could, to make it more filmable, and went ahead and shot it.
What elements of the script were in place that you didn’t considerable “filmable?”
There were some scenes, it was quite convoluted, they still had scenes with people who were in cars, driving the cars underwater or through the water, stuff like that. That’s not going to happen on this budget. This budget’s 20 million. For a 3D action/horror movie that’s lower end of the scale, for that style of the film, so we had to be really clever. So I took out stuff like that. I worked more on the characters as much as I could, because this type of film, this genre of film, you get interrupted. […] I wanted to like the characters more before the whole thing gets underway, the tsunami, just to get that over quickly. I spend a fair bit of time working on the characters, and just taking out stuff too wieldy to film, like underwater car stuff.
Were the sharks entire CGI or did you build some of them?
We had animatronic sharks, so we built three. There’s one large scale, full-length thing that’s stuck on a metal subframe. If you took it away it was incredible. Very intricate, just the body of the shark that was covered in rubber, which we designed. We sort of melded in a tiger shark and a great white, in the design of it. Then we had a half piece, which was the head of it, which we used for close-ups. You know, it’s coming out of the water, the teeth going, that’s all quite articulate for close-up work. Then we had a… I called it the “glove puppet,” which was a shark in the distant background, if you needed it. And then the rest is CG. I tried to do as much in-camera as possible.
It feels like a very practical movie.
Yeah, I think that’s the best way to do it. I’ve done a lot of action visual effects work, and I always try to do as much in-camera as I can. All the water stuff, pretty much, is in-camera except for a [few] 3D shots, but the rest of it was all dunk tanks and stunt people moving very fast away from it.
Everyone always talks about how horrible it is to work with that much water. What was the actual set like? Were there complaints?
The cast was great, but the actual set was in a big studio, we bought a swimming pool and masses of filters, and then we put the supermarket into the swimming pool. We built the whole set in there. We filmed it dry, then we filled it with water. Once the water’s filled up and we had water falling on the actors, and get the right temperature and make sure it was clean… But the actors were great. They were wet most of the day and they were stuck on shelves. We had a really good team of people, the camaraderie was great. It was a bit like doing a stage play, actually, because once you’re on the shelves, you’re all there and they didn’t move for… I shot it in sequence, out of coincidence, so it happened. Somebody would get eaten, and then a shark would come in, and that was the first time they all saw the shark in the water as well.
This kind of Poseidon Adventure disaster movie, the mix of the characters and what function they each serve in the script and in solving the puzzles in front of them is very tricky. Tell me about some of the casting process.
It was an Australian/Singapore/Chinese co-production, so we had a mix of Australian actors and some actors from Singapore. We managed to get some really great guys out of Singapore. I wasn’t sure who I’d get but, but Adrian Pang, who plays the store owner, is a fantastic theater actor in Singapore, and Qi Yuwu, the other guy, was doing a lot of work in China. Very popular in China. The rest of them are Australian actors that were starting to do well overseas in the American market, like Sharni [Vinson], who was in Step Up 3D.
I love her.
Yeah, isn’t she great? Xavier [Samuel] was in Twilight. Lincoln Lewis is now in a Will Smith movie [After Earth], and Alex Russell [in] Chronicle. I’d like to say it was my planning, but it’s sort of the way it worked out. They all ended up doing some really good stuff, so now when it comes up we’ve got a really good profile. […] It’s a matter of getting the right combination of personalities as well, because it was a tough shoot for them.
This isn’t your first feature, but you’ve done a lot of second unit work. How much action did you want to save for the second unit, and how much did you want to do yourself?
Well, we had to spit a bit of it out, and then the visual effects supervisor, Marc Varisco, he put his hat on, said he’d like to do some of it himself. So I spit some of it out. I basically established a lot of the stuff, but yeah, some of the underwater pick up stuff, which is time-consuming, Marc ended up doing quite a bit of it, and doing a great job. He’s also the VFX supervisor, so that worked out well later on, when we wereputting that all together. I did give enough away, which was unusual.
Is the proper title Bait or Bait 3D?
They call it Bait 3D, but I think Bait’s better. They do call it Bait 3D, I don’t know where that came from. I guess Bait 3D is what they call it, but I prefer Bait, personally.
As do I. But when you hear about this film, you think about these SyFy Channel Original Movies which are very cheesy, and occasionally fun. But you took this movie very seriously and it works. You’ve got a real film here and you’ve got real characters. Tell me about balancing that tone.
It was a combination of having lighter touches, with the couple downstairs in the car, and I also like doing those. It can be tricky to pull off at times. But the rest of it, I did take it seriously in terms of… There’s only one character, Dan Wyllie, the “bad guy,” he sort of pushed his characterization a bit more out there, I thought that’s okay, but the rest of them played it really straight. As you real as you get when you’ve got people stuck in there with a shark. I was just trying to play the two things, the lighter moments downstairs and upstairs you try to keep it as serious as possible.
When these characters died, particularly the drowning bit, it was brutal. Drowning on camera is always a horrible, terrifying death.
I agree. When I watched it back then, you see the pathos […] It scared me, when you put the music to it too. It is really, you’re right, it’s very brutal.
Bait was co-written by Russell Mulcahy. Then you’ve got Blowback coming, which was written by Brian Trenchard-Smith.
That’s an interesting progression, of you directing films written by other Australian directors.
I know. Maybe I’ll just keep doing that. I’ll go through Australian directors who can write it, and I’ll just… I don’t know who I’ll do after that. George Miller, maybe.
Tell me about Blowback, because that sounds really interesting.
It’s an action movie, set in Sydney, using Sydney as a backdrop because Sydney hasn’t been overused. There’s some iconic things, opera houses and bridges driving the story, a kidnap story. We’re going to make it stuck in the underworld, with action sequences around Sydney. That’s how I came to do it. I’m based in Sydney. It hasn’t really been used properly in that way.
I interviewed Brian before. I love Brian. He has such a strangeness to his films, but this sounds rather straightforward. Is this going to have his sort of quirk, or is it more Hitchcockian action?
Yeah, Hitchcockian action sounds great. I think probably when we do another draft, it’ll be more of his quirkiness. But yeah, I think it might be more straight ahead, this one.
Where are you looking to go as a director? Do you want to keep doing these genre films, or is there anything you want to get to once Bait gets noticed for being awesome?
I do like genre, and I’m always trying to convince people in Australia to do more, because I always do films for an audience. This premiered at the Venice last week, it was quite unusual for a horror movie in 3D to do Venice. It went over really well, and I just felt, well, okay, there you go. You can make these films and get into a prestigious festival. A bit of both, really. I do like making them. I like action, sci-fi, genre horror, that’s my sort of thing. I’m working on another one too. 3D, horror.
Very last thing. Would you be up for Bait 2?
No. [Laughs] I was asked about that. I don’t think so. I don’t think I could do it again.
There’s so many other retail establishments you could throw a shark in.
You never know. It depends on how well it does. Never say “no,” I guess. I just did say no… [Laughs]