Interview: Katrina Bowden Discusses Underwater Filming in Great White

Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

RLJE Films & Shudder’s Great White is out today in theaters, on demand, and digitally. Directed by Martin Wilson, the thriller stars Katrina Bowden (Piranha 3DD), Aaron Jakubenko (Tidelands), Kimie Tsukakoshi (Riptide), Tim Kano (Neighbours), and Te Kohe Tuhaka (Love and Monsters) as seaplane passengers that get stranded and have to face off against a shark.

“A blissful tourist trip turns into a nightmare when five seaplane passengers are stranded miles from shore,” reads the official synopsis. “In a desperate bid for survival, the group try to make it to land before they either run out of supplies or are taken by a menacing terror lurking just beneath the surface.”

ComingSoon’s Sabina Graves spoke with Katrina Bowden about her role in Great White, the unique shooting conditions, and her Skip-It hobby.

Sabina Graves: Great White follows those shark film traditions of just amazing summer horror. I wanted to know what were some of your favorite horror films that kind of take place during that time and how did this movie hit the notes of those movies you love that made you want to be a part of it?

Katrina Bowden: I do love especially a summer type of horror film, but I think that my, my favorite ones are usually the ones that kinda come out around Halloween typically. As of lately my favorite ones are Get Out, Midsommar, I love as well. But for me, I’ve always loved the genre and especially I’d 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. So, when I got the script, I thought it was such a great movie that was so character-driven, and it stood out to me because it wasn’t like some of the other shark movies that have come out and read years where it’s mostly really gory and jump scares.

Great White really takes the time to build a lot of suspense. We had a lot of really quiet, tense moments, which I think makes the big jump scares and the action scenes that much more thrilling and satisfying. So, that really drew me to this film and also the character Kaz, that was such a great strong female character. I was excited to take that on as well.

We’ve had the tradition of in the older movies that were definitely male-led. I really liked that in this, Kaz along with Michelle (played by Kimie Tsukakoshi), really steps into the forefront. Can you talk a bit about developing that relationship? I know the characters have relationships with their significant others, but their relationship I think was really like the heart of the movie.

Yeah, definitely. From the beginning, you’re pretty aware of that Kaz is a strong female character that she is a take-charge person. She has that really nice balance of being soft and understanding. She worked with a nurse for many, many years, so she had to be at the forefront. She worked in triage. So she had to be at the forefront of making sure that everything was going okay and working in stressful situations while also being a caring, loving person. So, you kind of get that off the bat with her and you kind of see that she’s a take no shit type of character as well.

Michelle, she’s kind of an unexpected hero of the movie, I think. Her strength kind of lies a little bit below the surface and you see during the movie Kaz and Michelle do form a connection at multiple different parts in the film and realize that they are more alike than they are different, which I think was a really cool underlying theme of the movie too. They really worked well with the team and I think surprised each other in the process. I mean, I thought it was just really, really cool to have these two seemingly different female characters come together and ended up being the heroes.

Did you and Kimie spend a lot of time during shooting kind of developing the relationship or before even?

We got to Australia like a week and a half or two weeks before we started shooting. We had a lot of time to hang out like, Kimie and I, but all the rest of the cast as well, because we were all going to be in very tight quarters together this whole movie. So we wanted to make sure that we got to know each other and we just genuinely all loved each other. I’ve had the best time, which is so, so cool when it happens like that, but Kimmy and I spent a lot of times together. We became really good friends and I think that was really important for our characters as well, but just as two people, we just hit it off right away. So it was pretty easy to make that chemistry work, but yeah, it was really important that we both talked about our characters a lot too, and how we were going to make a lot of our things together really emotionally impactful, but very realistic too. We all worked a lot together to really make this, our character, and our character connections, shine in this type of movie.

Amazing. It definitely shows. What were the most challenging aspects of shooting? Although it is like small quarters, like you were saying, there’s just so many different layers to it. I just want to know like, what was like challenging and did you do any stunts?

The whole film was a challenge to shoot just because we’re in a raft for most of the movie and the water, which has its own challenges and then a lot of underwater shooting. The environments and locations that we were shooting at just every single one of them had its own challenges. Like there was one location where we were shooting, there were so many jellyfish. In Australia, all the jellyfish are stinging jellyfish, I got 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 very far underwater. So hitting your marks, getting your eye line right. There’s so many technical choreographing that we had to go through and practice so many times before we could actually shoot it.

Then being in the raft too. The weather, it was summer there. So it was really hot. It was a very physically demanding shoot, but we were all so game for it and so ready for it. So that was actually very, very, very fun. We all had to go through some SCUBA training and we had to practice breath-holding a lot. We had a really big team of people who were there to walk us through everything and hold our hands for all of it. Because a lot of times we’re shooting in the water, the director, Marty, and everybody else behind the camera, we’re pretty far away. So the team that we had to rely on a lot were the people that were in the water with us, which was the stunt team. So that was a big, important part of our process acting in this movie. 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 myself and the other actors, we were really just game to do as much as we could on our own. I think it’s so fun to just make the whole process really exciting.

Yes, I really enjoyed the underwater scenes and I can’t imagine how challenging that must have been. Like you said, you worked ob doing breathwork. Focusing on that sort of practical stuff, did it shift your perspective on your performance method. Also, was there a prop shark in those scenes, or was that not actually 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 around and it would thrash. His jaw would come out and bite at us. So that was really cool because so often in movies, when you’re shooting, you’re reacting to a kind of ball or a piece of tape. It’s just really, really cool that they were able to build these really amazing sharks for the underwater scenes, just so the actors had something to react to. Underwater, there was just so much choreography that went along with it. I had an oxygen tank myself and Aaron [Jakubenko], who played Charlie, had an oxygen tank that we were passing around in a lot of the scenes.

But the issue with that too is obviously we could breathe and it was nice to have oxygen, but the moment you take oxygen in your lungs, your body wants to float to the top. So we were on these deep aviation tanks and we can’t be so close to the surface. Those are supposed to look really deep underwater. So there were scenes where we would have weights tied to our feet to hold us down so that we could shoot some of the scenes without moving around too much, which was also a little bit scary in the moment. But then we all got so used to it. There were definitely some wild moments that I never imagined I’d be in, but I’m so happy that I was because it was such an amazing experience.

I wanna dive into a fun question that my editor and I were talking about. We have seen some of your social media posts and the Skip-It videos, which are amazing. I haven’t seen one of those since I was so young. How did you find it in the wild and what inspired you to pick it back up?

I don’t remember because I think I bought in 2019 and with the intention to try it out again because I don’t remember why, but I like saw something and I was like, oh my God. I remember those. I had so much fun with it as a kid and I bought it on Amazon and I never opened it. In 2019, I had such a busier [schedule], I was shooting so many movies that I was not really home that much. I just kind of forgot that I ordered it. Then of course, when 2020 hit and we had the lockdown, I found it in a closet and I was like, you know what, I’m going to try this out. I just was like, this is really fun and I just decided to film myself doing it one day and I posted it on the internet and Instagram. I was surprised by how many people liked it. I just kept doing it and I kind of realized I was pretty good at it too. It just became my silly little thing that I do.

I love that. I saw you had the one that breaks, so do these, like still make them, or do you have to go hunt down some retro ones on eBay?

The original one I think was made by a brand called Tiger, which doesn’t even exist anymore. I tried to find the original one. I mean, I think you can get like a really old beat-up one on eBay, but a few hundred dollars, but it’s like not new. I was like, well, the one I found on Amazon, it’s a piece of crap and it breaks all the time. I have duct tape all over it, but it’s really lightweight and it’s like 15 bucks. It does the job. Doesn’t have a counter on it or anything, but it does its job.