Thursday, August 28, 2008

Diving into the reject bin: Eye of the Dolphin dive at the box office

IF a dive movie falls into the reject bin, does anyone see it?

Quantum Entertainment. Colour. US/Bahamas
Director Michael Sellers 100 minutes
Starring: Carly Schroeder, Adrian Dunbar, George Harris, Jane Lynch,
Christine Adams and Katharine Ross

Eye of the Dolphin, despite winning five major movie honours at family film festivals around the world in 2007, had only the briefest of runs at theatres in the United States before sinking down onto the 7-day shelf at local videos stores.
Expelled from high school in Los Angeles, 15-year old Alyssa (Carly Schroeder) is forced to live with her father, a crusty dolphin research scientist living in the Bahamas. He never knew he had a daughter (her mother, his ex-wife, had died in a boating accident without ever telling the girl that her father was alive) and has no parenting skills at all.
After their clich├ęd personalities clash Alyssa feels like a prisoner on the isolated island -- but when she forms an unexpected friendship with an orphaned wild dolphin, she finds that she and her special friend have the power to bring hope to the impoverished people of her new home.
The run-down, financially strapped dolphin research centre is in danger of being shut down and the animals being turned over to a group that want to build a cheesy dolphin tourist attraction. The town has just come through a hurricane and the local citizens are eager to see new money and jobs come to their community.
It all gets rather patronizing when the 15-year old white girl, is able to convince the black villagers and the town council to let her father and her create an eco-tourism dolphin experience!
Filmed at the venerable UNEXSCO dive operation – one of the longest running shops in Caribbean – much of the movie is spent underwater with a pod of captive UNEXSCO dolphins.
You can lead a director to water, but you can’t make him dive! This is a movie that has no scuba diving in it. There is a bit of free-diving shown as Alyssa swims and gets towed by a dolphin, however, because (in real life) the dolphins are kept in a shallow blacked channel, the filming had to be done with in the confines of their pen. As a result there are no colourful coral reef scenes and the visibility is murky at best.
The film cost over $15 million to make, but, after a year in release had brought in less than a million in revenues. Director Michael Sellers said that the film was made on a shoestring.
“Our first challenge was in figuring out how to make the film
envisioned with very limited resources in a foreign country, on an island, with no production infrastructure,” said Sellers.
“Fortunately “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” was already in pre-production on Grand Bahama Island, so many vendors were at least somewhat familiar with what was required to ship (literally) equipment to us.
It was hugely ambitious to try and go out to the Bahamas and get everything we had to get there in fifteen days of filming, but
that was all we could afford so we had to stretch every penny.! There were so many unpredictable variables – water, weather,
animals, and a minor in the lead role.”
Even though the movie was a box office flop, the producers already have plans for a sequel.

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