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Deepsea Challenge Feature

Deepsea Challenge Feature

Interview with Ray Quint.

Deepsea Challenge 3D is a new documentary about the mission to travel to the bottom of the ocean – deeper than any human has done before. Famed Hollywood director James Cameron, Oscar winner for Titanic and Avatar and creator of Terminator (just to name a few), takes on his childhood dream of reaching a real life abyss. Emotional and thrilling, this mission is now screening in limited cinemas. I spoke to Ray Quint about the making of the film.

Shane A. Bassett – Hello Ray, I saw the film last night at my local Event Cinemas and after it had finished I could hear the audience talking, so I believe it certainly created discussion.

Ray Quint – I’m glad to hear that. It is a film that should promote discussion, not just about the exploration or science but about James Cameron himself. It should get people to be inspired and inspire their kids to get out there and be involved in things – not just observe but to participate.

SAB – You do actually learn a little bit more about James – there are different sides to him.

RQ – I was really keen to make sure we had another level to the film for people who would be interested in the science engineering and exploration aspects, but it seemed to me that there would be another audience of those who would be interested in a mini-biography of one of the world’s most successful film-makers. So it was important to include those biographical elements and Jim poses the question himself in the film which is: am I an explorer or am I a film-maker.

The answer is both as in his film-making and his exploration, he is really trying to push the limits of what is achievable to take people to different places such as fictionally in Avatar and in the real world by traveling to the ocean floor.

SAB – You were one of three directors of this wonderful film. How were the duties shared?

RQ – It was quite compartmentalized. The film was begun by Andrew Wight who filmed the process of the building of our submersible but tragically he passed away. When that happened it was edging towards the expedition and the film would come to an end. You actually see in the film, the troops rally and pay homage to Andrew by continuing the expedition. By the time I came on board, there was around twelve-hundred hours of footage that had been collected. Most of that was footage of the deep trenches shot from the submersible itself looking out into the depths of the ocean. I looked at that and thought, is that all we are doing here? Is it limited to only the science community who may be interested? So what I did was to work with Jim to direct the historical recreations, bring in archival scenes, do the interviews, all  to bring that deep-sea stuff to another level. Working with the post-production crew based in Melbourne, doing all the things that directors do, creating special effects, sound and music.

SAB – Was it funded by NASA or National Geographic and was it proposed as a cinema release or originally a television special?

RQ – Good question, you know I think the original thoughts about it were for television but when the enormity and scope of the expedition of what was being done, then it was thought about as cinema. Personally I was excited about using 3D to tell the story of Deepsea Challenge. Excuse the watery pun, however, I wanted to submerge the audience in that experience, always trying to get inside Jim’s head seeing what he was seeing – his experiences, his feelings. Let’s face it, those depths are a place few will get to go, so I thought 3D was an ideal choice.

SAB – Getting into Jim’s head must not have been easy.

RQ – (Laughs) It wasn’t easy at all. What I discovered, and Jim says it in the film himself, he’s a curious monkey, a curious person. We see him in recreations as a curious child and he maintains that now. His sense of wonder and awe of the world, you see that in his fiction films. One sequence I was very keen to keep was when you see him mirroring his sense of curiosity in his own kids and that’s what I wanted to do, encourage childhood curiosity. There was some concern from the beginning from Jim’s security people about whether those scenes should be included or not. I remember taking one of our assemblies to LA to screen to Jim and he said to me my security people are not keen on me having the family in there. Then a couple of days went by, he spoke to me and said, ‘You know what, I’ve decided to keep them in there’. I was thrilled that he had decided to do that as it became a thematic connection throughout the film.

SAB – There is a scene where James gets very close to the loading boats propellers while he’s underwater that I’m sure his security people didn’t like either.

RQ – (laughs) His safety people didn’t like that one. Jim talks about engineering about the dangers and risks. The fact is, this was a very dangerous thing to do, particularly the final dive of 11 kilometres under water in a tiny metal sphere. Just recently a robotic unmanned submersible went down and imploded. It happens, danger is there.

SAB – Did Jim make a video or record any kind of message in case of tragedy?

RQ – (brief pause, deep breath) Not as far as I know, I do know he obviously knows he had private conversations with Suzy (Amis). You know Suzy says in the film, ‘If you don’t take risks, nothing happens’. She is aware of the danger, that’s one of the things the film is about to me, not sitting back but getting out and having a go. We are not all going to go to the bottom of the ocean but sometimes it’s worthwhile to take risks in our life to make things happen.

SAB – It’s certainly inspirational at times, also watching first-hand unusual ‘critters’ (as James calls them) looks amazing in 3D.

RQ – The sea life is extraordinary and certainly some of us hoped when we got down to the bottom of the trench, we would find a giant octopus or squid. Of course what we realised is this is just like going to the moon. Very little there, but what is there is right down on a microbial level helping science achieve gains on this expedition like 58 new species.

SAB – There is a big Australian connection, what is it about our workers that resonate on this mission?

RQ – There is a can-do attitude to Australians on top of their game. They hadn’t built a submersible before but that didn’t stop them. Jim knew that he picked all the workers that were good at what they do. The thing is they didn’t know what they ‘couldn’t’ do.  They kept going for it and the film-making team was largely all Australian too. Jim is very respectful of Aussie film-makers and valued our input.

SAB – Was Jim’s bright catchphrase to his crew, ‘See you in the Sunshine’, just before each dive his or did he get it from somewhere else?

RQ – I believe it was his (laughs). You’re a good interviewer Shane.

SAB – As your name is Ray Quint, what is it like to be named after Robert Shaw from Jaws? You’re in the right business. As soon as the publicist told me I was going to interview you, I instantly thought of Jaws.

RQ – (Laughs) I’m also known as one of the characters in the Henry James story Turn of the Screw, so that’s not so great. I’m a Pisces so clearly I had to have some connection with water. Jaws still remains one of my favourite films though. Thanks Shane.

Shane A. Bassett

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