Travis and his co-star Blanchard Ryan are both certified scuba divers. While filming, they wore protective chain mail under their wetsuits. Ryan says she was terrified to get in the water with the sharks, a fear that never really left her.
"But they are amazing and beautiful creatures," she said.
The tiny crew worked with a local shark expert, who introduced the team to a population of mostly gray reef sharks and a few bull sharks that were used to divers.
To manipulate the sharks' movement, the filmmakers would throw chunks of bloody tuna into the water, which would get the sharks worked up. Lau shot from a platform on the boat, her legs dangling in the water as the sharks frenzied below, while her husband shot most of the in-water footage.
"I'd be getting bumped constantly," Kentis said. "There were times I'd look down, there would just be gray, no blue."
The filmmakers stress that Open Water is not a "shark movie," an argument that is not entirely convincing, considering that at least one of the movie posters shows a large shark fin circling around the terrified diving couple.
Shark experts charge that sharks are unfairly portrayed in the media as aggressive hunters of humans. In reality, there were just 55 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2003only four of them fatalaccording to the International Shark Attack File, a Florida-based organization that tracks human-shark interaction. By contrast, 44 people were killed by lightning in the United States last year, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.
"The media and movies like Jaws often present sharks as mindless killing machines," said Mike Heithaus, a marine biology professor at Florida International University in Miami and one of the world's leading shark scientists. "But that's not what they are. They're just perfectly adapted predators.
"It seems [the filmmakers] were able to make this movie because the sharks they worked with aren't prone to attack," Heithaus added.
Kentis says he tried to not depict the sharks as demons.
"We didn't want to show that as soon as people get in the water, the sharks rip them to shreds," he said. "In the movie, the divers are in the water for hours before [coming in contact with] the sharks."
The filmmakers are also reluctant to divulge the exact location of where they filmed, for fear of jeopardizing the tourist trade there.
"We didn't want to get anyone in trouble," Lau said. "We didn't want to say, If you go there, this is what's going to happen.'"
Lau says the film is really about human fragility.
"We think we own this world and that we can do whatever we want, that the Earth is at our disposal," she said. "That's not the case. We forget how insignificant we are in the force of nature."
So will the actors go back to diving with the sharks?
"Absolutely," Travis said.
Ryan, though, is not so sure. "I think I'll stick to the swimming pool," she said.
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