We had the opportunity to attend the “Sanctum mobile 3D experience” at which, the 3D trailer and several scenes from the film were screened. In attendance were the film’s director Alister Grierson, writer Andrew Wight, and executive producer James Cameron.

Sanctum tells the story of::

An underwater cave diving team experiencing a life-threatening crisis during an expedition to the unexplored and least accessible cave system in the world.

The creators spoke with us after the screening about some of the difficulties inherent in the process of shooting a 3D film on a project that was already rife with challenging physical exigencies, as well as the genesis of the story. We have video below with some excerpts of what James Cameron and the team had to say about the use of 3D in this film; the future of 3D in general, and what they feel makes Sanctum a compelling tale outside of its technological and visual appeal.

We have to thank our good friend Eric Eisenberg from Cinemablend for providing the raw footage for us to edit with after we had technical fail on not one, but two flip cams, while attempting to film James Cameron. Which some may call ironic.

Executive Producer James Cameron, Writer Andrew Wight, And Director Alister Grierson.

The most dynamic scenes that were screened had to do with the characters’ near-silent, underwater, battle to save their lives. It is difficult to correctly ascertain the strength of the story outside of the “event.” The opening sequence that did include a fair amount of dialogue did not feel terribly fresh; and the characters read a bit like broad sketches. Again, it is challenging to make a thorough assessment without having seen the full film – but our best surmising would be that Sanctum is exactly the kind of film that you would imagine it would be: A visually engaging adventure, that has a brief, and perhaps somewhat thin character/relationship set-up before it brings you into a perilous situation in a visceral way. The relationship that seems to have the most meat is between the leader of the expedition, Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), and his son, Josh ( Rhys Wakefield).

Take a look at the trailer below, and note the final moments, as Josh seeks even the smallest air pockets as he clings to life; this was the most effective scene that we were able to see.

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On Making Sanctum

As to the physical production, Sanctum, literally, used the same cameras that were utilized on Avatar, so they were working with 2007 technology. The team had visited the set of Avatar and were aware of some of the challenges inherent in working with 3D, and as such, they built their sets specifically to work around said challenges.

They shot most of the film on a stage, with the underwater work done in a tank, as it was impractical for them to attempt shooting an ambitious 3D production on locations where control is limited. As mentioned, they found the physical needs of the story — working with actors on cables in dangerous situations, the heat, the cold, and of course working in and around (literally) tons of water, to be the most difficult aspect of physical production. Having any camera near that much water is problematic, the particular issue that comes up when recording 3D, stereo space, is that the water may splash one lens, but not the other.

Cameron was attracted to the project in that it was an attempt to create high quality 3D on a “modest budget”; though he quips, “compared to Avatar, everything is a low-budget.” He also feels that 3D is completely appropriate for a claustrophobic survival tale such as this one; it brings you into the experience, and technically speaking, 3D is more effective in tight, confined, close shots. In fact, he tells us that anything more than about 20 feet away does not really read as 3D (even to the human eye), so it is the close, intimate scenes that the medium is actually most useful for.

Take a look at the video below where the team discuss’ the use of 3D in Sanctum specifically:

The story of Sanctum was inspired by a real-life near death experience in a cave that writer Andrew Wight lived through. The team wanted to take that experience and create a film about survival, and the dynamics that come into play as a group of people are forced to either “push forward, or die.”

Take a look below where Wight tells his tale, and James Cameron talks about what he feels this film, and its action sequences, are really expressing about human nature:

Of course, there was some general discussion as to the future of 3D technology, and a brief spanking for those who create cheap, quick and otherwise poorly done post-conversions. The team compared 3D to any of the other cinematic advances over time – sound, color, widescreen – and believe that television programing, like sporting events, will collapse the timetable for a widespread shift to the everyday use of the medium.

The Future of 3D

Take a look at James Cameron talking about the future of 3D:

Schwarzenegger

Finally, when Cameron was asked about his plans to work with his longtime friend Arnold Schwarzenegger – now that the governator is no longer governating – this is what the director had to say:

Sanctum opens February 4th.

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