An Interview with Blue Water, White Death Filmmaker Valerie Taylor
| There are a few scary moments in the film, of course, but was there any one particular moment you recall when you really thought someone was going to get hurt?|
Yes, when we first left the cages, there were over 100 big potentially dangerous sharks around us all in a feeding pattern. I thought "this is madness , one of us could get bitten. I said to Peter you go out first and if you make it I will come out after you." "watching Peter leave the cage by himself was both fascinating and fearful". I think that was my most frightened moment. I guess no one likes to see a friend in what is a very dangerous situation. Surprisingly when I swam out and joined him there was no fear just a huge excitement.
Jaws came out a few years after this, and of course Benchley was inspired by Blue Water, White Death. How did you feel about that and its portrayal of sharks as man-eating monsters?
Jaws was a fictitious film about a pretend shark. It was the same as a gorilla destroying the building in King Kong. Just a story. I do not know why it affected people the way it did. People loved the gorilla and hated the shark. Universal had us going around the US doing TV and radio interviews talking about sharks and how sharks did not think or behave like the fictitious beast in Jaws. I guess it is the fear of the unknown. Sharks are not well understood. They live in an alien environment. Gorillas live in ours. We understand them better. Once you understand an animal it becomes less fearful.
Do you have one particularly interesting memory from this adventure thats etched in your mind? What was the greatest part of this whole adventure?
Absolutely. Diving with the oceanic white tips in the open ocean while they were feeding on the whale. No one had ever done anything like this before and no one will ever do it again. It was the greatest, most exciting few weeks in my life. I would pay to do it again. Sheer unadulterated adventure. A trip back in time to a world unchanged in several million years. Blue Water, White Death was a gift which at the time I was unaware of. The greatest part of the whole adventure was, quite simply, the adventure.
What do you hope people watching this film for the first time today will get out of it?
The same as they did when it first came out. It has not dated. It is an exciting and true undertaking such as few people are ever lucky enough to experience. No one ever asked us to act a part. Jim Lipscomb, the above water cameraman, was incredible the way he followed us around carrying that big 35-mm Arriflex on his shoulder. We became used to him and his camera but he was always there recording everything we did. It is a great pity that all the outtakes are lost. There is a second story just in what never appeared in the final production.
Did this expedition and your experience swimming with great whites change your life in any significant way?
We had worked with Great Whites before. It was the Oceanic sharks that changed how I looked at dangerous sharks and it was the wonderful people I was so fortunate to be working with that gave us friendships that endure to this day that were most significant to me. However, I guess it was the original story about hunting for the biggest Great White that gave me these memories, so Great Whites have enriched my life. Also Ron's filming of these wonderful sharks opened the way for us to work on Jaws, Jaws 2, and Orca. I guess swimming with Great Whites did make a big difference to the lives of both of us. We still work with Great Whites but we will never be able to dive with hundreds of big sharks feeding on a whale carcass again, nobody will. Thirty eight years ago, before the impact of computer technology we lived in a different world. Today Blue Water, White Death could probably be produced in a computer.
Can you talk a bit about the filming technology of that time and how challenging it was to film underwater?
I did not do any underwater filming. That was Ron Taylor, Stan Waterman and Peter Gimbel. They were shooting on 35-mm film in the Techniscope format which is very wide screen. I was just a female shark wrangler. I also did a lot of the underwater still photography. However watching the problems the underwater cinema-photographers had to overcome, I was always relieved when all the cameras worked and no great sequences were missed because of camera failure. It was not a filming job where any missed action could be repeated.
The Great White Shark strikes fear into the hearts of humans across the globe and this 1971 documentary features some fascinating underwater shots of the creature in its natural habitat.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: DOCUMENTARIES/MISC. Rating: NR UPC: 027616080226 Manufacturer No: M108022