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Andrew Wight talks caving and 3D

13 June 2011

Andrew Wight is an Australian underwater explorer and film maker. Andrew began his career in agricultural science and has worked in scientific research. He is a respected scuba and cave diving instructor, commercial helicopter pilot and farmer. Australian Adventurer of the Year medal winner (Australian Geographic), Andrew initiated and lead the record breaking Pannikin Plain Cave Diving Expedition into Australia’s remote south-west in 1988. Andrew produced the award winning documentary of this expedition called Nullarbor Dreaming (1989).

Andrew has led expeditions to dive and explore some of the most remote and bizarre regions of the world including, Australia, Alaska, Mexico, Canada, Florida, Cuba, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caladonia, Fiji, New Zealand, Gaudaloupe Is, Bahamas, Dominiocan Republic, Belize, Dry Tortugas, Navassa Is, Costa Rica, Coccos Island, Galapagos Islands, Lord Howe Is, Titanic, Bismarck, Hydrothermal vents in The Atlantic and pacific.

Andrew has produced 40 documentary films since 1988. His company Great Wight Productions has gained an international reputation for making award winning adventure television programs. His programs are screened in over 60 countries around the world.

Sanctum hits DVD and Blu-ray 3D on June 13 and The Fan Carpet’s Nigel Barker sat down with Andrew Wight the writer of this year’s deep sea adventure Sanctum to talk about the film and the avert of 3D in cinemas.



It’s caving and diving with attitude, isn’t it?

Well caving and diving on steroids I guess you could say, it’s at volume eleven, thats a little flippant but to be honest exploration underground equips you with the full tool set; climbing, abseiling, canyoning, and if necessary with the pathway blocked you put diving gear on and away you go.

It’s a multi disciplined activity, and elements of it if it’s done without the proper prior planing and experience it’s lethal.


Obviously it’s reliant on the natural environment to set the scene, but it’s stunning isn’t it?

It is, and even as wonderful as we have been able to portray it in the movie, it’s still not a patch on real life, it’s one of those things where fact is more wonderful than fiction. This give people a glimpse, and if they think that’s amazing, the real thing will knock their socks off, but the whole idea; a 3D film, underground, caves, cave diving, to give people the experience of something they’ll never get to experience for real, but they’ll feel like they were there.


Do you think this film lends itself well to the whole 3D genre?

In a lot of ways it does, I think for me the advent of 3D was the staff of B grade horror films, and people tended to use it gratuitously just for effect. Where as I think 3D when is used cleverly it enhances the drama and gives the viewer a greater sense of the environment which you work in. Certainly underground, the claustrophobia, the beauty of it all, 3D really comes into its own and in this movie we have the under water environment so I think the 3D really excels.


How much is the bar being raised with every 3D release? The seem to be going to the next level and the next level.

I think what we’re seeing now is that post-Avatar there was this realisation atlas by the studio heads and the financiers of films that 3D potentially was a gold mine. Filmmakers were somewhat sceptical I guess, it’s a bit like when we went from black and white to colour; many people refused to accept colour was going to be the new medium until moviegoers and more especially people who bought colour sets said ‘hey I’ve got a colour TV where’s my colour film?’ And I think we are seeing that becoming true again now with 3D, people are buying 3D TV’s and going to see 3D films in the cinema, and saying ‘this is a really different experience, it’s interesting, it’s how I see the world, I see it in colour, I hear it in stereo, I see it in 3D, why isn’t my movie in 3D?’ And people vote with their feet and 80% or there abouts of revenue for Avatar came from 3D.


As generations go on it’s going to be completely and utterly the norm, the first film I took my eldest son to was Toy Story in 3D so from his point of view he naturally assumes that when you go to the cinema you put glasses on and you watch it in 3D.

And why would you not think that, I mean, there are many things today that kids go ‘dad really?’ they just can’t comprehend it. Now if you said ‘we’re going to the cinema tonight and there will be a guy up the front playing an organ and there won’t be any sound’ they’ll look at you as if you were barmy. So I think you are right, I think the acceptance of new technology especially by the next generation, they just don’t understand why it wasn’t embraced earlier.



How much is the film industry trying to out do each other? There’s new technology being developed all the time. Is it sort of a race?

In a way there is, but I also think that people are starting to go wow there are some really interesting possibilities now, we have digital cameras, we’ve got 3D, we’ve got new opportunities for new creative input to films. We can do things we’ve never done before, and so now it’s opening pandora’s box, not to coin a phrase from Avatar, there are now possibilities of things we have never thought of in terms of entertaining people. There are future technologies where you have stereo paired visual information, holographic projection, all sorts of really interesting stuff that could be developed in the future, that if we hold on doggedly to 2D filmed cinema will be completely unavailable to us. I think future filmmakers will undoubtedly try to out do each other with how many more creative opportunities they can develop. Now a days you go to the cinema to be entertained and see something different so hey, use the technology to make it different.


Do you think we’ve gone passed the stage of it all being about the technology? I know whenever anything new comes along it’s ‘we’ll put it out in 3D, we’ll do it in 3D and everyone will love it’ It’s got to be a combination of the technology and the story. Do you think we have got to that stage now?

Any new technology people get wowed by that, and especially all the techno and the people who work in the industry. Wow you know I’ve got this new Alexa camera with fifty seven watts of pixels, it doesn’t matter, the tail should never wag the dog and story is what it’s about. If the story isn’t entertaining people are going to tune out, it doesn’t matter how big the colour is and how grand the 3D is or how load the sound is, it doesn’t make any difference. I think now a maturity is starting to happen very quickly and the plethora of digital camera equipment that is out there now by all the big companies is staggering. Only five years ago, if you talked to anyone in the industry; film was king and anyone who thought cinema was going to be over run by digital technology you thought were loopy.


On the film itself, is there any one scene that you thought was the absolute one that was absolute perfection? I know every part f it is perfect but is there one little bit where you thought we absolutely nailed that?

You’re being too kind, I don’t think there’s any filmmaker that’s really honest with himself here, it’s not perfection it’s always missed opportunities and things we wish we could do again. But having said that, there are some scenes that I’m extremely proud of and it’s kind of a long part of the journey but when Carl jumps into the doelean, the base jumping which was modelled off the BBC documentary about base jumping and then he gets to the bottom and we go to the explorers on their first foray under water, I think there’s a beautiful passage where we are going from daylight to the underworld to the under water world. We’re then drawn into this journey as a cave diver drawn into explore. That for me is what it’s al about.


What was the ratio of working on location and in the studio?

Only probably about 10% and not even, really it was just the under water scenes where we shot second unit in Gambia and cut that very cleverly with the studio shots. The sets were built in such a way from my years and years and years experience of cave diving to my eye looked the same as if it was in reality. When photographed it was pretty hard to distinguish the two.
If people come away thinking that must have been shot in a real cave then that’s fantastic.


Andrew, great film, is there going to be a Sanctum 2?

Well you’d have to twist my arm a little bit but I can’t rule it out.



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