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About The Production
In the long tradition of submarine movies, from 1958's "Run Silent Run Deep" to the modern classic "Das Boot" to "The Hunt for Red October," there have been certain lasting stylistic conventions of shooting submarines, usually emphasizing their long, tight corridors and cold steel exteriors – conventions David Twohy wanted to break away from. Rather than harking back to the submarine tradition, Twohy's look for BELOW was more inspired by film noir, by lighting and camera movement that emphasize deep shadows by anxiety-producing camera angles. Twohy substituted waterlogged quarters for rain-slicked streets and blacked-out hallways for the dimly lit hotel rooms usually found in classic noir.

Says Twohy: "In the submarine genre, everyone looks to ‘Das Boot,' which was all about cinema verite, but I wanted to do something more classically noir with more of a placed camera. I wanted the sets to allow for more angles and more impressionistic lighting, to really bring the essence of the supernatural thriller to the location of a submarine, instead of the other way around."

From the beginning, it was clear that doing this would require innovative sets and cutting edge digital effects. The film's exteriors were shot on the USS Silversides, an authentic Gato-class World War II era sub that sunk 23 Japanese boats, which is normally moored in Muskegon, Michigan but was towed to Lake Michigan for on-water filming. However, the interiors and underwater shots were a different story. The former were created on production designer Charles Lee's dynamic, tilting sets and the latter were brought to life digitally by special effects supervisor Peter Chiang.

Lee's sets were created in part on the fabled "007" stage at London's Pinewood Studios, where one of the world's largest indoor shooting tanks also resides. Here, he built fully modular sub quarters operated by hydraulics. Explains Lee: "Our first idea was to create a set using whatever parts we could off of real boats, but a real boat weighs so much that you just couldn't do what we wanted with it. We wanted a set that could lift, tilt, shake, jiggle and more. We ended up fabricating everything ourselves from top to bottom. Then we designed these scissors jacks that just pick up the whole set and tilt it." Ultimately, it took about sixty people working for fourteen weeks to design and manufacture the sets.

Lee worked closely with David Twohy to make sure his sets would allow for some of the innovative photography the director wanted to go after with cinematographer Ian Wilson. Lee explains: "Most submarine movies are shot kind of along the length of the boat, but David wanted to shoot across the boat and from underneath. So we basically raised the whole set and created ‘flying walls' that could float out." Lee continues: "Creating a set that can move and shake is no easy matter, because each compartment where we were shooting weighs about twenty tons. We had to come up with fairly interesting ways of being able to move the set yet still have crew standing on either side and not getting in the way!"

The designs of the interior set modules were based primarily on the various stations of the USS Silversides, but each area was about 25% larger than the real sub in order to accommodate the still tightly squeezed camera and lightning crew. Says David Twohy: "The sets are probably 95% accurate to a real submarine. Our technical advisor was very impressed – he said we came so close that no


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