A full member of the SOC, the Society of Camera Operators, and the CSC, Seabrook holds both commercial and recreational dive certifications and is a member of International Cinematographer’s Guild Local 600 ,669 & 667, possessing passports for the US, Canada and U.K/EU, allowing for world wide employment.
Ep 16 – Ian Seabrook
Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the underwater podcast. And this week, my guest is Ian Seabrook, a Canadian underwater camera operator and DP who spends most of his time working between Canada America and the UK. His work includes scenes from features like Deadpool, two Batman versus Superman lost in space and the pirates of the Caribbean.
We talk about learning underwater photography from Nat geo legend. David the importance of an open and sharing film community and how a great assistant can make life easier. We also talk about him nearly being crushed by logs and rolling icebergs in the Arctic. Okay. Let’s dive in. Oh, and keep an ear out for aliens crack at an Aussie accent. It’s pretty good.
Ian. Welcome to the underwater podcast.
Ian Seabrook: [00:00:44] Hello, Brett, how are you?
Brett Stanley: [00:00:46] I’m good, man. Yeah. Yeah. It’s uh, it’s. What is it like quarter past nine in the morning for me and I am trying to wake up, which tells you a little bit about my lifestyle. How are you? Where are you based at the moment?
Ian Seabrook: [00:00:58] Uh, between Los Angeles and Vancouver and Canada. so, you know, I split my, I kind of split my time or in some years I don’t split at all. I stay with one, like last year I worked all in the U S so it wasn’t in the candidate at all last year. but my kids live in Vancouver. So when I’m not working, I try to, I mean, there are 20 and 18 now, you know, I have to schedule time with them as opposed to, uh, you
Brett Stanley: [00:01:23] other way round.
Ian Seabrook: [00:01:23] Yeah, exactly.
Hey, we’re going here. Like, well, no, we’re not because guess what? I’ve got a car now and I can go where I want
Brett Stanley: [00:01:30] I got a life now. Yeah. So are you, are you Canadian or
Ian Seabrook: [00:01:34] yeah, Canadian. Yeah, no, I was a I’m born in Canada, but, um, and I also have a, um, a United States passport. So, uh, I got my green card a couple years ago based on the Meyer resume from underwater work.
And, uh, yeah. so that’s enabled me to, I used to live in the United States and I used to live in LA in the early nineties. Um, when I got married at a film school and, um, So I lived down in LA during the riots. Uh, and then, yeah, so I’ve, I’ve been, I’ve been experienced to, I’m not, I’m not an experienced a writer or anything, but I just experienced that point in history and, uh, the, the, the kind of grip that it held over the city now city issue, wasn’t a world, a world issue or, um, a country issue.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:19] That was
the Rodney King
Ian Seabrook: [00:02:21] That’s correct. Yeah. And I think there were some, there was some, uh, as they say, civil unrest in other cities, but it was nowhere near the destruction that, uh, that Los Angeles went through during that timeframe. um, so yeah, I’ve lived in LA before, and I lived in Seattle for awhile and, uh, so yeah, I’m kind of back and forth all over the place.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:38] Yeah. So you’re in an interesting position where your, and just looking from your, resume and stuff like, so you work between. The us Canada and also the UK
Ian Seabrook: [00:02:48] Correct. Yeah. And, uh, I think, uh, 2018 I was in, I was kind of all over the place. I was in Norway. I was in Mexico. I was, uh, lived in Australia for a couple of years. So that was back in the, probably late 1980s. Um, And that’s in fact where I learned how to dive.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:04] Oh,
Ian Seabrook: [00:03:04] So yeah,
Brett Stanley: [00:03:05] Where in Australia were you?
Ian Seabrook: [00:03:07] uh, it was, was I think I lied. I did every part of the continent except for Western Australia, which is yes.
It’s half the continent. I get it.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:16] Yeah.
Ian Seabrook: [00:03:17] you know, I
Brett Stanley: [00:03:17] long way away.
Ian Seabrook: [00:03:18] yeah, most people end up just going to Fremantle in Perth. They don’t actually go through the Gibson desert and say that they’ve seen the whole country, but, um, uh, so I missed Western Australia and I missed as mania more due to the fact, I think I have missed the ferry.
Uh, at that point and just wanted to keep moving. So,
Brett Stanley: [00:03:34] Oh, okay. Will you like road tripping or were you
Ian Seabrook: [00:03:36] yeah, backpack backpacking around and that kinda thing. And so, um, you know, my mom had died and I, uh, I needed to go, um, I mean, I always talked about this with her. I always wanted to go to Australia. Uh, even when I was, um, you know, when I was a teenager, I guess it was, um, and it was likely.
You know, I think do the big push of it was probably when I saw, um, the mad max movies, uh, you know, like a lot of people they all wanted to go and, you know, drive their cars
Brett Stanley: [00:04:00] because, because that was like a, a, that was like a tourism video, really for Australia as opposed to a fictional
Ian Seabrook: [00:04:06] Yeah, exactly. Yeah, totally. But, um, I mean, I’d always been an interested in, um, uh, Australian cinema and I’d seen the, a lot of, is a great film. I saw, I think it was called ground zero. That had Colin frills in it. Um, and, uh, uh, Jack Thompson and Donald Pleasants. Anyway, it was about this military military cover up about, um, uh, a news cameraman’s father who documented a mistreatment of Aborigines in the 1950s or sixties, I think.
And basically the government tried to cover it up anyway, whatever I thought it was an interesting concept, but, uh, I think that if you watch the film now is quite dated, but anyway, regardless, so had that interest in Australian cinema, not just the, not just the Madmax stuff. And then, uh, so anyway, I always wanted to go and I went after my mom passed away.
Um, and so managed my, got myself up to Queensland. That’s where all the diving was, of course. And that was, um, uh, yeah, the great barrier reef. Um, And, uh, did a course with a company called Oz dive. I think their logo was a koala bear with a, with a mask and a snorkel on its head.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:05] that sounds about
Ian Seabrook: [00:05:06] yeah, yeah, exactly. And, um, there was a lot of people on the boat and it was a lot of different nationalities, uh, Dutch, German, British United States scam.
I was the only person from Canada, I think. And, um, Regardless. Um, we did, uh, night diving and we did every, you know, basically everybody got certified and that was a liveaboard boat out on the reef. I can’t remember exactly where it was in Jessica in regards to the physical location on the reef. But, um, I have, and basically before we went out, um, Um, I’m backpedaling a little bit.
Was that when I was, uh, the reason that I got interested in underwater cinematography in general was, um, attributed to jockey STO uh, any of the national geographic documentaries that I saw when I was a kid growing up on, you know, or the weld world of Disney or the wild war, the sports, or any of that kind of stuff.
And then of course, you know, far as theatrical films are concerned, Thunderball. Um, although I wasn’t born, I wasn’t born when the film came out, but you know, my dad’s from the UK. So he basically would wake me up, uh, and make me watch these movies. No, you know, kind of, there was no VCR back then when I was just growing up.
Brett Stanley: [00:06:13] have have to wait for it to come on on television,
Ian Seabrook: [00:06:15] yeah, he would, he would, he would usually be a midnight screening or something like that, or any time where, you know, we spend all of our Christmases in the UK. So it was like, you know, tonight’s, tonight’s family drama is you only live twice and everybody getting blown away. Right. So it’s like, um, so I, you know, I was introduced to ’em.
And it’s the same thing everybody does. Right. They try to hold their breath for as long as the characters in the film are doing it. And of course, you know, when you’re, when you don’t, when you’re not trained to do it, you end up turning blue or whatever.
Brett Stanley: [00:06:43] Yeah.
Ian Seabrook: [00:06:43] it
Brett Stanley: [00:06:44] to, if you’re trying to follow James Bond through one of those things as well, cause he held his breath for an inordinate amount of time on
Ian Seabrook: [00:06:50] yeah. Well swimming and fighting off shirts or fighting people or whatever it
Brett Stanley: [00:06:54] Yeah. Or breathing through a very long straw, like a, you know, like a bamboo read or something.
Ian Seabrook: [00:06:59] Right. Right, exactly. Yeah. So it was that, uh, that was, that was an early influence and, you know, Jacques Cousteau is of course the, it was the only thing that was on really. I mean, I know some other, um, I know Pete Romano would reference CC hunt and stuff and flipper and stuff like that.
I think I’d watched a lot of that when I was super young, but, um, regardless when I finally got to Australia, um, the, um, I guess the. A dive shop that they were getting all the equipment from to get out on this liveaboard they had, um, a couple of underwater plexi glass housings for, and they also had disposable cameras.
So the plexiglass housings were four at the time, whatever the sport kind of camera was. It certainly wasn’t a professional, um, SLR camera. It was, uh, what I mean by that? It wasn’t like a Nikon. It was probably some.
Brett Stanley: [00:07:45] Oh, like a Ricoh or
Ian Seabrook: [00:07:47] Maybe. Yeah. And so then they also had the disposable, um, uh, you basically just take the, take the photos, take it under water, and then you send the whole camera in to get developed and you get your,
Brett Stanley: [00:07:57] was, was that a blue camera? Like, was it made at a blue plastic?
Ian Seabrook: [00:08:00] I see with blue or yellow, one of the two, I can’t
Brett Stanley: [00:08:02] I used to have, I used to have a couple of those. Yeah.
Ian Seabrook: [00:08:06] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:08:06] And you would send the entire camera away and then hopefully you would come back with some prints.
Ian Seabrook: [00:08:11] Yeah, you go back to the, it would have to be, um, I think, well, we must have been up in Cannes somewhere. And, uh, when the boat returned and it basically said, you know, I just tied it right there, there to the, uh, the, the, the, the place. And you get your prints back, but just make sure you get back. But, you know, by the time you’re going to leave that day, you know, don’t take off and leave and then your friends are going to be there.
You’re like, okay. So I got this. It was all a slide, film, Chrome film. And, um, when I got the pictures back, I, uh, was. Pretty enamored. of the whole process of taking photos underwater. Um, the fact that I was breathing underwater was also another anomaly that I think, uh, you’ve discussed this topic prior, but you know, when you, when did you first put your face?
In the water. And when did you, you know, breathe over a regulator or a snorkel or whatever, whatever it was. Um, at the time that we were doing the pool training, when I, I w I submerged, and you’re really not sure what you’re gonna do here, when you, when you started to inhale off of the regulator, you know, I’d say two thirds of the class bolted out of the pool.
Brett Stanley: [00:09:15] to
Ian Seabrook: [00:09:16] They, they felt, yeah, they just, they felt so, um, con uh, claustrophobic, confined, um, uh, paranoid or whatever the reactions were. Um, and basically at the time it wasn’t sort of a, well, how did you feel about that? It was, um, well, you don’t like it, or you stayed down. It’s one of the two. So I’ll be, I know, I think there was like three of us that stayed down and I kept kind of looking over at people going, wow.
You know, so obviously yeah, it reacted to it positively. And so took the camera. I think I was the only person who had to, who, who spent more money. We said the camera rental was, was more money. And you had to, if you, if you wanted to rent it, you could, but it wasn’t provided for you. So I spent more money and everybody at the time was all on a budget and they’re all worrying about buying beers over, over, um, camera rental.
So I chose the camera rental and I still have the slides. I mean, basically it’s a lot of, a lot of shots of bleached coral. And there’s a couple of groupers and I think, I think I turned the camera on myself. Uh, and, uh, I have,
Brett Stanley: [00:10:14] took the world’s first underwater selfie.
Ian Seabrook: [00:10:16] maybe yeah, but I just didn’t promote it on Instagram. So, uh, someone’s beat
Exactly. I never
Brett Stanley: [00:10:22] it’s not an Instagram, it never happened. Yeah.
Ian Seabrook: [00:10:24] exactly. But I think the outfit was like, you know, neon pink or neon yellow or something like that. It was some outfit that, of course like.
Brett Stanley: [00:10:31] because it was the eighties, right?
Ian Seabrook: [00:10:33] Yeah, totally. It was like, yeah, it was like, it was the early, it was the late eighties. And so that was kind of the, you know, and so, you know, finish that.
And, you know, I was at a bit of a crossroads. My mom had passed away. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. And then I was in a, you know, traveled around a bit. And then I worked with work in Australia for a couple of years, the Sydney water board. Um, with, uh, you know, a lot of Italian and Portuguese immigrants.
I was like the only, only a white guy there who was, uh, you know, not, not speaking with an accent, but, um, anyway,
Brett Stanley: [00:11:03] the water board is basically the equivalent of like a city water and
Ian Seabrook: [00:11:07] That’s correct. Yeah. So it was laying and erecting clay sewer pipe, and I’m digging trenches, ditches, and a lot of, but it was up in Avalon beach. And, um, I remembered that Peter, Peter Garrett from midnight oil had a property up there. I remember that that much, that, that at least stuck in my head. So, but Avalon beach is where all the good surfing was.
um, I think I’m not a, uh, uh, I tried it, so I won’t, I’m not gonna say that I’m a surfer. I would never call myself that. I think I’ve, I’ve, um, uh, moved into, um, paddle boarding more than surfing. Um, I think I want more of a workout than, uh, although surfing is quite a workout, especially when you first started doing it and you.
You, you, you, you get quite humbled quite quickly. Um, so any, any of the surfing that I’ve done, I’ve done cold water surfing and I’ve done the warm water surfing. And, uh, I it’s, you know, if diving connected in it, um, It made you want to pursue it. Some of the people have the same reaction with, you know, obviously with surfing and that never, that never really connected to me.
I always, I preferred watching it more than doing it. And, uh, for a while there, I think I’ve got a, a sort of vast collection of surf porn, um, documentaries, you know, they’re not really documentaries. It’s basically like, you know, Hip hip music. Yeah. Yeah. Hip music was great.
Yeah. I’ll shut at 120 frames or whatever it is,
Brett Stanley: [00:12:26] the same thing with like ski and snowboarding videos. It’s like, this is not a documentary. Yeah. This
Ian Seabrook: [00:12:31] Snow porn or whatever it is. Yeah, totally. You know, but, um, so did that. Um, and So in New Zealand walking around, um, it just sort of, you know, walking around, uh, the, the North end of the Island, uh, Cape Brianda,
Brett Stanley: [00:12:46] Oh, so you went to New Zealand as well?
Ian Seabrook: [00:12:48] Yeah, I finished work up in Australia and then when we wanted to travel around New Zealand, so I spent another six months traveling almost, I would say I was, you know, I would say almost every square inch of the, um, of the country.
And I, again, I plan to go down diving and I got into water, but it was more snorkeling stuff and I was really surprised to how cold the water was. Cause I figured it would be the same temperature, the sun. Australia and Australian waters. But didn’t do any diving in New Zealand and I thought it would come back one day, but, um, so basically, yeah, I said to myself, okay, what do you know?
What, what is it you want to do? Well, you know, I really like, uh, documentaries and I really like diving and I like photography. So I like to combine all those. Uh, disciplines into one. And so I kind of made my mind up right then and there, I was going to be an underwater documentary, Cameron and, um, there’s no schooling for it.
Um, at the time there wasn’t, I mean, I think there might be some courses that, uh, there, there might’ve been a photographic course at the Brooks Institute, um, in Santa Barbara, but, uh, it was, you know, again, when you’ve got, when you’ve just spent most of your money traveling around. Um, the South Pacific, um, I stopped on a few other islands as well, and, you know, basically had no money left and had to, you know, I think I had to landscape in order to, uh, just to get some quick money to, um, To find a film school that would be quick, not a five-year course at NYU or USC or UCLA, or, and I think basically if I had really narrowed my search at the time, I’m not even, I’m not even sure.
so basically I went to film school and I got into the film industry.
And then I worked as a camera assistant as a second assistant. And then I moved up to a focus puller, um, and, uh, worked down in LA and I worked in Vancouver as well. And basically, you know, there was only one person at the time who was doing, um, Well, there was one person on the West coast that was, um, It was Pete Romano or it’s actually two people.
Those people are mano and Al Giddings who were, who were doing all the movie work. And then Jordan Klein was still doing the work in Florida. So basically, yeah, the two coasts you had, and there seemed to be nobody in the room in this, in the central region of the country. Uh, just like one, you know, one or two guys would do everything and, uh, getting’s tended to do a documentary and feature film work.
Whereas I think that, uh, Pete, uh, early in his career was certainly concentrating on feature film work. And, um, so I did meet Pete when I was down in Los Angeles in the early nineties. And I went to a hydro flux after his had changed his name from hydro image to hydroflasks.
Um, And, um, you know, it was a really small, uh, basically the machine shop and the office were all kind of one area.
They had a testing, a testing tank, a small little testing tank. They’ll dump tank, not dissimilar from what they have there, that the facility now,
Brett Stanley: [00:15:31] the facility is like 10 times the size.
Ian Seabrook: [00:15:33] Yeah, exactly. You know, and, um, but the thing about Pete that I will say is he was extremely generous with his time. He was extremely generous with his, um, knowledge.
And what I mean by time is, I mean, I kept him on the phone probably for about an hour or so. And, you know, he, because, you know, in Los Angeles, it was very difficult to break into the film industry. It was, um, it was, it, it always has been who, you know, business, but the time it was even more closed.
Um, if you weren’t in the union, uh, which is, you know, it’s kind of a catch 22, uh, it was, you needed experience to get into the under the roster or you needed to experience to get into, to be considered, to be, to get into the union. And if you didn’t have any experience, then it was something you were looking at non union work cause you know, that basically you weren’t going to be anybody shooting anything in, in anything major, because that was taken up by the people who were already doing it and had already spent a long journeyman’s, um, timeframe, uh, getting themselves established in that role. And so
Brett Stanley: [00:16:35] were in the union.
Ian Seabrook: [00:16:36] correct. And I think that a lot of people, especially.
In today’s, um, society will we’ll want, um, the gratification or they will want something quicker than it took the people who came before. Right. Um, Um, the time that it takes, it takes to learn the, your trade or your craft. Um, I always looked at it as I was always learning. I was willing to learn. I was willing to put the time in and I would just, I was obsessed and enthusiastic.
So all those qualities, um, went into, um, also, you know, a hard work ethic. It, uh, you just knew that it wasn’t going to be, and, and even still like the first film that I shot under water. A feature film that I shot. Was it a little bit low budget, horror film? And you know, Pete Romano started the same. I think he almost started the same way or it’s, you know, one’s going to, no, one’s going to give you, you know, avatar, they’re going to, you’re going to be working and I think that that way. That that’s the way that it should be. I think that, um, in my personal experience, I know it was a, I worked as an underwater assistant and under what our focus polar and actually laying marts and calibrating lenses underwater, and working with anamorphic lenses and working with Vista, vision cameras and all this kind of stuff that it’s not really done much anymore.
Um, I think a lot of the. The techno, obviously a lot of the technology has changed and, but, you know, I, I feel that my, um, education with film technology, with film cameras and underwater camera housings, and the evolution of how those camera housings got smaller and lighter. From what they were. I mean, if you examine the housing that was built by Panavision, it wasn’t actually built by Panavision.
It was probably built by Lynn Jackfish in San Diego. I think he had a hand in it. I could be wrong about that, but, um, there was a housing that was built for, uh, Thunderball. Uh, they did some tests with it and then they abandoned that again. She doesn’t believe that Lamar Boren had his camera housings.
Lamar born is the underwater cinematographer. Who’s shot all the underwater work on fender ball and the spy who loved me and, uh, for your eyes only, and one or two other it’d be Moonraker. I think they might have had something anyway. Um, so he was the kind of go to guy that the, that the, um, The bond franchise used and I’m spectacular on a water work.
I mean, it’s still to this day, I think it’s unparalleled really.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:57] Oh, yeah. And that, that scene, from Thunderball is Epic. With a, I don’t know how many people are underwater in those, in those shots at one time, but you know, like that is
Ian Seabrook: [00:19:09] Yeah, that wouldn’t, that would almost be never be, I would guess, you know, you can probably safely say it would never be done again. Um, at the time, I mean, certainly some of the practices that they were doing, uh, as far as the shark containment were concerned or spirit experience, alive sharks and stuff, that would be.
Brett Stanley: [00:19:22] Oh, we
Ian Seabrook: [00:19:23] That would, that would not be tolerated at all, nor should it be. But, uh, um, so yeah, a lot of those guys were from, uh, the, um, Florida, um, school, uh, scuba, scuba shops and stuff. So they had so many people in there. I don’t think a lot of them were stuntmen. I think most of them were, um, just diverse. Um, and then, you know, um, so, you know, when you’re looking at productions like that, and I think, uh, you know, so I, I basically had made my mind up that that was what I was going to do.
And then, you know, went to see the abyss and that further cemented it. Um, and again, that’s another production. That’s had an influence on me and will never be repeated again. And, you know, I mean, I think that the logistics were so insurmountable that. The, you know, anybody with any, any producer in their right mind would never allow that to happen?
They would just say, well, I mean, now the technology has changed so much that they’re, they’re doing a lot of what was considered pretty bad back in the eighties was dry for wet. And that, to me, it always still looks bad. It’s never looked convincing enough. And I think that there’s, um, even the current, uh, Versions of it that I’m, that I’ve seen in, you know, films like justice league or Aquaman.
I think that is still it’s to me, obviously there’s a suspension of disbelief and you have to take for granted that it’s, it’s digital. It’s not supposed to be realistic or, or that kind of stuff,
Brett Stanley: [00:20:43] an interesting kind of kind of point actually cause the, the dry for wet stuff, I think, depending on the film. So, um, so something like Aqua man, where I think we’re so trained now with these, you know, DC, Marvel films, that, to know that none of it’s real anyway, so we’re not expecting it to look real.
Whereas if you’re doing something like, you know, like the shape of water, which I was very disappointed to find out, had very little. Underwater, you know, wet for wet
scenes. Most of it was dry for wet and, you know, people are shocked when they find out that that wasn’t shot under water. You know, it’s kind of when it’s done.
Well, I think it’s really well, but when it’s in these films like Aqua man, and, you know, um, um, any of these other DC ones,
they just, people just don’t expect it. They don’t mind that it doesn’t look as real as it probably could.
Ian Seabrook: [00:21:30] no, I think, yeah, you’re correct. I think it depends on, you know, obviously all the underwater guys will look at it and go, yeah, that’s very good. And then now, now I’m pulled out of the film. But, um, so I mean, I’ve worked on both.
I’ve worked on a Marvel, uh, Mmm. Got a few more of a film. That’s what I did that shot the underwater unit on Deadpool two. And that was all done practically, even though, um, they did augment. Uh, other other little other world and other world element. I think there’s also a sequence in that, that we shot. We spent about a week and a half shooting it and they cut it out of the film.
It’s, it’s never a Republican to be seen. Um, but, um, which is too bad because it really showcases how, uh, how great Ryan Reynold is with his breath hold and, um, Was another performer, a Marina back around. I think I’m not sure if I’m saying her name correctly or not. She played his
correct. That’s his, his girlfriend or his wife or whatever, but, um, she, uh, she had some water phobia and overcame that and.
Uh, know the water phobia is one thing, but then being able to actually do your job and, um, act underwater is another issue altogether. And so, and you realize that that this, some of these people are really pushing through elements of sheer fear and they’re able to communicate, uh, their role or their character.
Uh, at the same time and not a panic, um, it doesn’t always have, I’ve obviously, you know, I think anybody who’s done any work underwater with a cast on film sets is realized, um, before you roll the camera. Okay. There’s a very large chance that you were only going to get one take out of whatever you’re shooting because.
it’s their comfort level, which to me has always been paramount. I, I always make sure when I’m, you know, working in these situations, especially in dealing with overhead environments, which is, you know, that can be tough enough for people who are, uh, on the crew or the S or the safety divers.
I mean, everybody says, yeah, I’m good to go and stuff, but, um, You know, though I always make, do, would do a double check that people are okay. Cause not everybody is okay in an overhead environment where there’s no escape route that’s easily viewable or.
Brett Stanley: [00:23:46] And by overhead your kind of referencing, like if you’re shooting under ice or, or in like a, in a, in a sunken car or something where you can’t reach the surface,
Ian Seabrook: [00:23:54] That’s correct. That’s correct. So anytime I know we’ve kind of skipped ahead a little bit here, but anytime there’s been any prep work involved or meetings about initially, um, you know, people trapped in cars, it’s a common, it’s a common thing that I’ve shot. Quite a lot of anybody who’s done this job has ended up shooting a lot of that, I think as well, but, um, Essentially it’s how are you going to get them out?
What’s the w you know, and basically whenever these meetings happen, you have to have, I feel some sort of a plan in place or talk to the special effects coordinators and how they’re planning on. Um, usually it’s, uh, it’s usually, obviously the vehicle going into water has been prepped to go in the water.
So that’s not leaking fluids and oil and petrol and all this other kind of stuff, but there just has to be, there’s gotta be, you know, the suspension of the vehicle, if it’s, or if it’s just being. Placed on the, on the bottom of the, if it’s a river or a Lake or a tank or what have you, but there always has to be the safety of the cast for me is always paramount because without them, you can shoot it with stunt doubles, but you’re not going to get any closeups.
And indeed that has happened. That has been the case where the cast are not comfortable enough to do. I’m a wide shot, which then pushes into a closeup and you can see that it’s the same person, irrespective of whether the editor is gonna of cut the shot and then it would never know anyway, but, um, so basically, you know, it all goes back to any, any of the pleasure dies that I’ve done in, uh, Hawaii or Mexico or. A French Polynesia, where there were caves involved and we were, there was no film crew there. We were going in just to have a look around. I’ve been in a cave with a guy who freaked out and, you know, I kind of still remembered some of the first day. I have lessons that I, um, that I had back in the eighties, Australia and, um, The instructor’s name was Peter.
I can’t remember his last name. he said, don’t ever come over close to someone who’s panicking. Um, and also know that if you don’t ever offer them your primary regulator, uh, and he, so then there was like, well, there was some questions that will. How are you supposed to buddy breathe? And he’s like, well, you, you go, go ahead and try that when someone’s panicking, they’re never going to give you the regulator back in you’ll drown. So if you’ve given your primary up, you have to have a hand on it. Um, you know, anyway, all these sorts of things so that you know, that, you know, that, um, what he said came back during this one incident where this one gentleman from Scotland got disoriented and.
The person leading the diet, kind of knew where they were going. They’d done this dive several times, went into this cave and there was a skeleton of a sort of a table. Um, and I thought, well, that’s not good. The turtle drowned. And, uh, did he see the skeleton was completely intact? So obviously you like the, you know, the turtle drowned and I guess everything kind of just sort of fell off it like this, the shell went somewhere else.
So anyway, it doesn’t matter, but the guy Scottish, the Scottish guy got quite disoriented and I remembered staying quite far away from him, but I, I made sure that he could see, I found the, I found the exit toll to get out and I guided him out, but I stayed. I stayed a good 15 feet, 12 feet away from him because I knew he was gonna, even if he, if he got on top of me, that would be the end of that.
So we both would have not made it out. So, so anyway, I know I’ve kind of jumped ahead a little bit, but it’s basically, um, I was a. I would say that I started, uh, this as an underwater stills photographer. And I don’t mean to say that in an arrogant way. I just mean to say it, and that was my interest. So, um, because I wasn’t, uh, I hadn’t taken a film camera underwater, a motion picture camera under water. And we basically went off to the channel islands and I think we spent a lot of time diving around Anna Kappa and, um, basically I had purchased a, um, a nine CONUS five. Which is a film camera and a non reflex, a viewfinder.
And that just the standard thing that everybody could find at the time was an icon, his camera with a 35 millimeter lens. And, um, um, when you’re looking through the, I mean, the, the finder on the camera is basically a range finder with a guesstimate of the markings on it.
Brett Stanley: [00:27:54] Hey, it’s it’s basically just a little clip on thing on top. Isn’t it like where you it’s basically an X you look through.
Ian Seabrook: [00:27:59] Yeah, with the Nikon is three and well with any of the night CONUS line, they basically, it was all non reflex. And once you got to the low, the wider lenses, like the 20 and the 15, there was a manufactured, uh, accessory, uh, optical finder that clipped on the top where the stroke connection would go.
And that was more of a representation of the field of view of the lens. And so, you know, I, you know, again, same thing you had enough money. I think I paid 16, $150 for the camera and the lens I bought it second hand. And then I went and did this trip or to the channel islands and San in the, basically when I, when I, um, met, uh, some of the people on.
Who are going to be on the boat on, at the dock in Santa Barbara, they, you know, NPR was there. This guy named Chuck Thompson from national public radio, who was doing a radio broadcast with a nationally renowned underwater national geographic photographer. And I thought, wow, this is cool. I had no idea that it was going to happen.
Um, so. Essentially David from, uh, NASA geographic was on the boat and he was there to do a story about kelp life and, uh, photosynthesis, uh, for national public radio. So they basically put a microphone, um, in his, um, AGA mask. I think it was an auger mask at the time that he had, but he had some sort of, um, breathable speaking mask mask on and
Brett Stanley: [00:29:19] like a, like a full face mask.
Ian Seabrook: [00:29:21] Yeah, correct. And then the, uh, so I, you know, the first, a few days of the trip, I got quite seasick, believe it or not, I was, I was just off, I don’t know what happened, but, uh, coming off of a cold and I, and then I just, for whatever reason, I was not well on that trip the first few days. But so I didn’t even get in the water.
And I think if it was a, you know, there was like a five or six day trip. I mean, I spent half of it. Not in the water at all. Yeah. uh, I thought, Oh my God, I spent all this money to go on this trip and I’ve brought this Cameron and I looked on the, on the. On the, um, work benches and the benches where everyone was having breakfast, they had laid out all their elaborate camera and strobe systems.
And, uh, there were a lot of very wealthy people who had spent the money to come and do this course, doctors, lawyers don’t and so forth. So he had the latest, I think at the time, the night CONUS R S had come out. Which was a self contained underwater SLR that, you know, there are motors that could autofocus and zoom, and they would work under what they were
internally recording, very expensive.
And you know, if you look on, you can find them the bits on eBay, but even the bits on eBay now, even though the camera’s defunct, they discontinued it because I think there was so many. Problems with the camera. But, uh, so, you know, you knew that, I mean, I, I go, wow, I finally got an icon and then again on the boat and then, you know, yeah.
But I got DRS and you’re like, Oh my God, I never got to be able to afford any of this stuff. But, um, So do ballet. David do ballet, had an assistant with him. His name was Bo molder. And, uh, I know he sounds like he’s a detective on an exhales episode or something, but, um,
he, um, he, he kinda made a living out of a system, you know, Al Giddings and, um, Stan Waterman and, uh, Jack McKinney and a few other people at the time who were old kind of shooting.
They were like the top shooters of the, of that era. And that’s back when people, I guess, made a living as being an underwater, a film photographer, they would, they were, the deal was you had to do, um, you took the photos, but you also had to have some sort of a Marine biology background where by, you know, or you had to partner with a Marine biologist whereby they knew what the genius of the fish, uh, you were photographing where, um, the, and the Marine life that was endemic to wherever you were.
Uh, shooting. So, and then, you know, basically you would sell the article as a giant package instead of just doing the odd photo here and there. So my, my path of trying to be an underwater stills photographer, when I started talking to some of these people and some of these assistants, they were saying, well, you know, you can submit the photo to the magazines back then, but you’re going to get $75 for the, uh, for the photo and you’ll get a credit.
But then, you know, the more you get published, the better it is, but you’ve got to continually. Uh, assault these dive magazines. And it was basically just diving magazines. I think maybe Conde Nast, traveler. and basically as photography and, and, and, uh, commercial photography, and all of you evolved, you know, you ended up getting guys who didn’t specialize in underwater work, taking photos and getting these gigantic contracts.
And, uh, uh, so a lot of the underwater stills guys that I was talking to, they were a little bit, unless you were working for national geographic, they were a little bit better about it. But,
um, anyway, so, um, I did manage to. Um, get in the water and watch do ballet work. And I, and I like a lot of people were kind of all swimming all over the place and looking at all the kelp and looking at this and that.
And I just basically planted myself and watch what he was doing. And I watched how he worked and I watched his assistant, feed him the cameras. He had all the cameras taped with numbers on them, one to five, and he would just hold his hand up with whatever number he wanted while he was shooting.
Brett Stanley: [00:32:49] and the difference and the difference
between those cameras was different lenses or different film.
Ian Seabrook: [00:32:53] correct. Yeah. Different lenses. Mostly, probably that it’s the same film because I think the society, you know, not national geographic had given him, they basically owned all the equipment and they owned all the courses. He just, um, he sent all the films. Off to them. And then he, I guess he went and got back to New York.
He would go over it with a contact sheet and a marker and whatever, but there was Aesics processing on the boat. I remember that much. And so, um, we, there was some poor guy who is down there developing everybody’s, uh, everybody’s films, sweating in that dark room while the boats are rocking back and forth.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:26] of those chemicals would
Ian Seabrook: [00:33:27] Oh, yeah. Sloshing around. Yeah. So essentially they test and, uh, I. I went and shot a bunch of stuff. They had assignments, you know, you’ve got to go and shoot this and you got to have a subject in the foreground, or you got to have a subject in the background, or you’ve got to have a subject period or, you know, try to tell a story with your photos.
And so it was a very good course. Um, I ended up, uh, winning third prize. Uh, I’m on the boat, on the boat for the contest and basically then do ballet, you know, awarded everybody. And I think I have, I got, um, you got a dive bag. Uh, or kind of a cooler bag. I ended up my, my, um, Sony housing, are still in that.
yeah. Yeah. So I still use it, but, uh, I think, I think first prize was probably on another trip on one of those boats, but, um, and then basically do belay, uh, gave a slideshow of his greatest hits and how he achieved them. And for me in my brain, I was always interested in how things were done. If I went to see a band, I always was watching.
The band, but that was also watching what the road crew were doing, because I always had an interest in how things were put together, sort of behind the scenes as it were, you know? And that went back to men when I was a kid and I was using like a tape recorder and the thing wouldn’t work. And I was always trying to figure out.
How, how it went together or pull things apart. And of course you always reassemble them incorrectly. You don’t know what you’re doing, But I always had an interest in how things were made and I obviously I still do so, um, um, and once I had enough, I was still there. Yeah. Very interested in passionate about taking underwater stills. And then, uh, you know, I got an opportunity to work with Pete Romano, uh, assisting him, um, on a job. And I ended up working with Pete on several jobs and he was discussing insomnia. With Albert Chino. I worked with him on that and I worked with him on a 2012, uh, Roland Emmerich disaster movie.
And Pete ended up leaving early and handed the reigns over to me to shoot for Dean Semler. And that was a major moment for me. And, uh, I’ve always been very appreciative of Pete’s support and, uh, uh, I always hold him in high regard. He’s been, uh, he’s been an influence on me and just his general demeanor with people.
Uh, you could learn a lot from the way that he, uh, held himself with people. Um, I got a lot of the behind the scenes stuff. Like I got a lot of the frustrations and, but he would never communicate that with, to, um, to people like Chris Nolan or, or the director. They would never know what was going on. And so, you know, um, I found that his demeanor was. something to do, take account of it because I see, I saw so many people in the film industry and I still see it. Obviously I’ve been doing this probably over 30 years now, but, you know, tempers, flare, egos, flare all the time and how you hold yourself and keep your shit together. my early learnings of that came from pH basically.
Brett Stanley: [00:36:21] The thing. One of the things that from interviewing Pete recently was just, just kind of getting an idea of his, he keeps everything within him and within his crew that, you know, all those frustrations and if something can’t be done and, you know, like it’s, it’s within those people, but the people above the producers or the DOPs or whatever don’t need to know, all they need to know is that you can either do it or you can’t do it.
Ian Seabrook: [00:36:42] Yeah, I think the frustrations, which there are, there are, there are several because you, you don’t control everything. You don’t control the cast. You don’t control the crew that you’re working with sometimes. Although, you know, I think you’re you’re so basically your, your, um, close crew close-knit crew that you were working with, like say if it was, you know, my surface assistance, um, is, you know, usually. Depending, like how long you’ve been working with that one person. And that’s why it’s difficult sometimes to break in, to, you know, back in the day. I could, I can understand sometimes now why it was difficult to break in to some of these tight knit crews. They would have the same people on the jobs that would travel from job to job.
And it just like, you’re never going to get in there. And when you start doing it, you understand the value of having someone who’s not only got your back, but also has good technical knowledge that can get you out of a bind. Or if it’s not that they can get you out of a bind, but they can assist you in getting out of a bind.
If, you know, if you know what you need to do, you also have to have someone who can, who can execute that. And, you know, the amount of work that I did, uh, With Pete. And I knew that I couldn’t screw up. I had to have a hot as high a bar as he did, um, when I was assisting him and I, and of course I’ve always had that.
That’s part of the, your work ethic and you know, your standards with which you hold yourself when you’re at work or what, you’re, what you’re proud of or any of this kind of stuff. It’s how you hold yourself. And so I’ve always kind of, I’ve always brought. My best, um, for kind of a, you know, half-assed it, you know, this, these guys aren’t paying me much.
I’m just going to give them, you know, 50 bucks less, you know, I’ve never done that, but yeah, the more jobs I did, the bigger the budgets got and you know, it, wasn’t a lot of things that I had to figure out on my own because I didn’t, I didn’t have those experiences on other, on other jobs.
It just seemed that some of them we’re technically. I’m advanced enough that whatever I had done before was not, I mean, it wasn’t just the same thing. Every job, it was always something bigger. So the budgets increased. And, um, so basically then that’s how you’re, that’s kind of how your resume ends up getting built, um, unless you, you know, stay stagnant and just stay doing one thing.
And if the, and if you’re fine doing that, that’s great. But I always tended to want, uh, because I was enthusiastic about it then. You know, obsessed in the early days and I still am, but, um, it was obviously a much more, you know, when you’re first getting into something that you don’t know, you don’t really understand it.
The, the enthusiasm and the excitement behind it is greater, you know, it’s like any kind of early love affair. It’s the same thing. So.
Brett Stanley: [00:39:21] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So when you, you know, so you aren’t an insomnia with Pete, um, what was your kind of first feature like major feature? That was, that was, that was yours, that you were in
Ian Seabrook: [00:39:32] Oh, it was a hell raiser. It was a hell raiser movie. Uh, I think it was, I dunno if it was hell raiser five or six or something like that. I can’t remember what it was, but,
Brett Stanley: [00:39:40] hell, raise a hell seeker.
Ian Seabrook: [00:39:41] Yeah, there we go. Yeah, that one. And, um, um, then I was there, there, I was presented with the case with Ashley. I forget her last name. She was the female lead and the very first, uh, hell raiser.
Um, she was very uncomfortable in the water. So we basically had a car that was, um, submerged and she wouldn’t, she was not having any of it. We had to build something. Uh, on a deck with a, and pull the door off and basically, um, support the door and some C stand frames and some copies frames and have her sitting on an Apple box, or, you know, basically not an Apple box.
This was a float, but, uh, you know, probably a milk crate that was weighted down with weight belts and, uh, you know, have her sit and pretend like she was pounding on the window of the car because she would not. And, and then, you know, she could basically just like lift her head out of the water and she would be out of the water.
She was very, um, um, you know, I just sort of said, well, we can shoot it tight enough that you can’t tell where you are. Um, if I look at it, I can go, well, you can see if there’s no seats frame. There’s no, there’s no quarter panel on the back. I mean, you know, you’re over critical. I will look and say, well, of course it’s not, she’s not in the car, but you know, in the case with insomnia where Al Virgina wouldn’t open the door, which is his prerogative, um, As I said before, it’s all about the safety and the comfortability of the cast and the talents that you’re putting in the water.
Uh, it’s all very well for the director to scream about, you know, you got to open your eyes for these shots, but so Al didn’t do any of that. And I was right beside Pete while all that stuff was being filmed and basically Dodie Dorn, the editor cut the sequence that you can’t it’s so well cut. I thought that, uh, And it’s, you know, you don’t really notice at all.
You just, you know, so Pete and I, anytime we watch that, we’ll go, Oh, well, yeah, Al wasn’t open his eyes or something like that. I mean, I bet I nearly got my head slammed. Um, uh, crushed on that job because the, uh, they had these slamming logs. If you watch the, if you watch the film again, when Pacino’s character falls into water, he’s trying to swim to the surface and get a, get an air pocket because he can’t see anything.
Uh, but logs overhead. And so there were very, very few air pockets that were available and I pop my head up to cause we lost video or something happened and I popped my head up. Um, and um, um, I think I. I looked up and no one was there or the crew or in the other corner of the, of the, of the stage. So I popped back down again.
I submerged again, and just at that moment as this giant clunky noise, and that was the, you know, the logs, the pneumatic, uh, uh, they were all real logs, but then the effects guys had, I guess, taken one of those logs and crafted something with a pneumatic press that put a slam the two logs together for one shot, but they were, they were practicing it.
Unbeknownst to me, they weren’t really paying attention, uh, that people were servicing and stuff like that. So, um, anyway, but, you know, uh, as we, as we evolve and move, move on to other things and, um, or just other challenges, um, I, uh, As far as the, you meant, we were talking about the, you know, the comic book stuff, not being real and being digital.
Um, when I got contacted to do a Batman versus Superman, that was all done practical in the water. It was the first time that Aquaman was going to be on screen in the film. . But, uh, so that was Jason’s first, uh, Jason Momoa was first sort of a foray, uh, and as that character and he, and he only appears very, very briefly, but that was all done under water when none of it was digital.
And any of the stuff that we did with Amy Adams or any of the stuff that we went to French Polynesia to shoot all of it was a water. It was water for water. It was dry for wet. None of it was. And I just think that. Basically, they had a different stunt crew on justice league and there was some, there was a water sequence, which, which that stunt coordinator in particular didn’t really, wasn’t really water savvy.
Another thing is when you’re working in the water with stunt coordinators and stunt teams who specialize in that kind of work as a gentlemen, that both Pete and I have worked with before argument, Tim Rigby, and he was in the Royal Navy is a stunt man extraordinary. And he is got the most calm, demeanor in the water.
And a valuable, extremely valuable asset to have in the water. As far as a stuntman, as far as safeties of the cast is concerned. As far as the welfare, as a whole crew is concerned, uh, someone like that is really invaluable. And, uh, you know, time I’ve worked with Tim, I’m always, I’m always overjoyed to see his face, uh, because you know that at least you’re going to be covered.
I’ve certainly worked on shows where stunt coordinators are. They’re a knowledge of any kind of water work is quite limited and you end up having to do their job while you’re doing your job and, you know, lighting and gripping. And it’s like, I did a, did a picture once a week, um, with Don Burgess and, um, who the assistants were like, wow, this looks really cool. He can swim around with a camera in the water. And everybody kind of has that sort of, uh, And so, you know, Don Burgess turned to them and said, it’s actually a very difficult job. You’ve got to compose. You have to light, you have to take light readings. You have to grip, you have to swim, you have to control the safety. You have to control your own safety. He was the only one that understood all.
I mean, you know, he saved me from having to say anything. So I was like, wow, he gets it. You know? So when you were again, when you work with people who get it, it’s like, it’s your job as you can actually physically concentrate on. Your job and not have to, you know, w where seven different other hats. So it’s, it’s an important, it’s always a, it’s always a pleasure when you work with people who are, who get it.
Brett Stanley: [00:45:11] Yeah. And do you have a crew that you always tend to, as much as you can work with? I mean, you travel to different parts of the world so much. How do you kind of deal with that?
Ian Seabrook: [00:45:20] I always try to take at least a surface assistance because they’re gonna know my gear or the gear that is, uh, that had been rented. Um, and then usually I will bring a grip, um, who also can double as a water safety person, so that I, I usually, you know, we’ll say that they are going to pull double duty.
Um, and they tend to. It’s not that I want to devalue, um, someone to do two jobs for the price of one that I usually end up. I don’t select anybody’s rates and stuff, but we discussed the fact that you’re, you are doing two jobs and they’re both very important. So oftentimes you get to, most of the time, they don’t want you to bring anybody when you travel.
But, um, And so I have assistance in both the United States and in Canada, uh, that I can kind of, is it good because I can usually tell if I’m going to do a job in Toronto that. They’re not going to fly the assistant as well. They’re not going to want to put the assistant up as well. Whereas, you know, there may be, you know, there’s one guy in a couple of guys in the States that I work with, but I’ve taken one, one person in particular, a lot of places because they, they know the gear.
They. There’s there’s never any question like, ah, geez. I hope this thing is sealed properly. Certainly throughout the years I’ve had with, uh, film cameras have had a lot of assistance, you know, you’re training them, you train them and then maybe that just means you didn’t train them properly, but you know that a lot of housing leaks, um, I haven’t had a lot of them, but I’ve had, you know, the alarm has gone off and then, you know, the camera bolts to the surface and When I saw that with other people I saw, especially on that dive boat. When I was, you know, in the nineties, when I was doing the course in the channel islands with David AA, a lot of guys had these systems that will come up flooded because they weren’t paying attention to the alarm systems. So I just always made sure that I had an alarm system and all my camera equipment and had insurance for it and all that other kind of stuff, but still, um, you know, you get, you know, when I worked with.
People who were in the water. I always made sure that, and I never, I never flooded the housing when I was an assistant. And, uh, so because I was, you know, obsessed with it versus someone who just does it because you know, it’s another. Tool in the toolbox per se. They’re not really, um, they may not pay as close attention.
So what I’m, what I’m kind of getting at is that some of the, The people that I’ve, you know, been either given by production. Well, we have a guy here who does this and then, you know, okay, well, let’s see how that works. And then you, you go down that path and then there’s a, there’s a flood or there’s a something, or something happened.
He was like, Hey, well, this wouldn’t happen. If, if you know, my guy had come out. So, and then, you know, then like the next day that your guys out there, so it’s like, you know, it’s not like it’s basically just, you know, continuity and, uh,
Brett Stanley: [00:48:08] and you have to make the case sometimes to have your crew there, I guess, you know, like they’re not, they don’t want to spend the money. Cause they’ve already got someone who does that for similar job on the dry side, but it’s not until something goes wrong that they go, ah, that’s why you need your guy.
Ian Seabrook: [00:48:21] that’s correct. Yeah. And you know, it depends on the, on the experience level all the time of the production team and they’ll get it. That you will validate. They won’t even, well, who’s your assistant and they won’t even, it doesn’t happen. I mean, it’s, it happens extremely infrequently. Um, because that’s a major thing, especially now with the folk remote vote with the focus being on the surface and not attached to the camera housing, like it was with film cameras, which I kind of preferred to be honest with you because I’m.
You know, I had a muscle memory with where the focus was. And if you were using, you know, a dome port or a flat port, then, you know, the focus throw would not be, as long with a, than it would be if you were doing half and half out work.
again, it just, it just depends. Right. You trying to find someone who wants to be a, um, and assistant and everybody wants to get into water and, you know, um,
Brett Stanley: [00:49:13] an
assistant, you do you just not, are you
Ian Seabrook: [00:49:16] know. I mean, it’s a, it’s a very valuable job to have someone on the surface who can, who can put the equipment together. Now, when I was in, I was still, you know, doing the still stuff, you know, I know that it’s a lot less involved and a lot less conflicts, but try reloading your film when you’ve got boats spray and a rocking boat and choppy seas and not get saltwater inside the back of the mechanism of the camera. Um, so, you know, you learn how to do it quickly and you learn how to do it and you know, and so that you don’t screw up and you actually get to, you know, you spend all that money to go on that trip. I did a lot of dive trips to Costa Rica and Cocos Island and stuff. And, uh, when you do those reloads, you want to make sure that you were, you know, Your photos are going to come out.
You’re not going to have double exposed images because of the camera. The film got all bunched up because you were just doing it so quickly that, you know, due to the circumstances. But, um, but one of the one thing, as far as when you travel and you, you know, you either pick up crew or you’re working, um, when I went to Norway to actually went to, um, small Bard, which is.
It’s not really in Norway, but I guess the closest land mass to it. Yeah. Is it might be Norway, but it also, I mean, it’s basically the Arctic circle. So I went there for an IMAX job and, um, we had battery restrictions with which we could not travel with and I needed a scooter and basically, um, sourced a scooter through, uh, Shuttle astronaut, who you had on this program and, uh, I’ve never met him before, but we’ve kind of communicated through, uh, um, Instagram.
Cause I’m not on Facebook, but uh, to me it was. You know, an underwater brother helping out another underwater brother. So, you know, I really there’s so few people who do this kind of work. And I just think that if everyone was open and, uh, friendly like that, that’s a good example of, I don’t even, I don’t even know what shuttle, but he helped me out.
He sourced a scooter and he knew where to get one. And he got ahold of the, you go to the whole of the name of the contact so that my freshman coordinator or their sort of the production coordinator on the job. Reach out. And so we got the scooter and we needed it because on that job, we had ruling icebergs that were, um, No, we’d be in a Zodiac and you kind of scan her eyes and say, okay, well that one hasn’t rolled.
So we’re not going to go anywhere near that. And that one’s rolled 20 minutes ago, so let’s go shoot over there. So we went and filmed that, and then, you know, I got my safety guy who I pleaded with production to bring. And so they did bring him in the end, but he’s like, you know, move out of the way he yelled.
And I look up and I see this giant iceberg, uh, rotating towards me. So if I didn’t have the scooter, when the gun out of there quick
Brett Stanley: [00:51:49] Yeah. And was the scooter enough to get you out of the way of, of
or did they just move so slowly
Ian Seabrook: [00:51:55] Oh, they were pretty big. Um, there were a lot, there’s a lot of ice melt there and also, um, we were shooting in one channel and then suddenly I noticed that the channel was starting to narrow, like this sort of the space, like the water column between the ice flows was starting to narrow because the current’s constantly shifting and moving and the ice is melting and everything else.
And so I said, let’s just do one more pass. So we did another pass. And then, um, my assistant in the boat and the Zodiac who was on the other side of the ice logos. Oh, I bet you, Ian could a bitchy. He could push that ice fall apart. Like, especially he could prevent the thing from, so I was so I wasn’t like, well, now you’ve challenged me.
So I said, I tossed the house. I passed the housing to the, to my, to my safety grip. And I said, okay, watch this. And so I pushed the ice flow apart and I said, see, I can do it. And then I let it go. And of course it came at me even faster. So then you know that your moment of bravado turned into like, okay, now we have to get outta here.
Brett Stanley: [00:52:50] and there’s the scooter was enough to get you out of there in time,
Ian Seabrook: [00:52:53] It was the problem. The problem with me is that I had in our lowest speed. Because I didn’t because of the shots that we were doing. And so I’m like, we gotta get outta here. And I went like really, really slow. And I’ve been, I barely made it out of there in time, but I mean, I’m overexaggerating, but still like, we were way out there we are, we are way out in the fjords.
Anything have happened. You would have had to have a, um, you know, a medivac where the helicopter and as it was with that job, um, I did lose a. A chunk of my finger, um, which, uh, which is ironic after all this and with polar bears and walruses and all this stuff, all these other hazards and icebergs and ice flows and all this other stuff.
And I think at one point the crew, the Zodiac, the motor on the back of the Zodiac fell off and went, you know, seven fathoms down to the bottom of the, of the, um, the Bissell trench that was below us. And I just like, so now we have no motor. On the Zodiac from the mothership. And so then, you know, Oh, we can just paddle and paddle in that current you’re out of your mind.
Um, but you know, we all managed to get it done and stuff, but you know, we set up a whole system of a police system with flags and all this other kind of stuff, which, you know, this is, this is why you, you know, you bring people with you I guess. But anyway, we got back to shore and, uh, The I always demand, like I need like 24 to 48 hours before a flight again.
Um, and that that’s become a. Not become, but it’s like easily, you get some like, really it can’t be just like, you know, we’ll fly you in you, the job, you know, you’re there for a week and then we’re going to fly you out as soon as you’re done, because we don’t want to, you know, we don’t want to pay you anymore.
And he’s like, well, no, I have to, I have, I’ve got to decompress. Right. I’ve got to, I need a day to decompress. So I usually try to, yeah, exactly. So I try to always make sure that that’s. And so we did that on that job and basically we ended up getting checked into a hotel that, um, Was a, had some real, rather flimsy construction and, uh, one of the doors, it really, really heavy winds slammed in it, slopped off my, one of my fingers.
And, uh, I was like, great. So I had to go to the hospital and get an amputation done. And yeah, that’s a constant reminder of that job, but then. And then the job that followed was in, in a Sonata in Mexico, like I basically, the doctor said, you know, six weeks, you can’t do anything, no pulling, no pushing, no nothing.
And I was very worried that I wouldn’t, I have the strength that I had on my hand and I thought, Oh my God, I’m going to have to do something else. And, uh, uh, I basically was tenacious enough and exercised and did all the therapy and went to a physiotherapist. And, uh, and then basically got contacted to do a job for the Marriott and Mexico and a son Otay.
And that was the first job that I did after that. Um, mishap. And, uh, and then, uh, you know, it was cold water and, uh, you know, I had, I went down to Hollywood divers and I had this elaborate glove system, you know? Oh, you know, I’ll have. This glove thing on it’ll protect my hand. And of course, you know, I couldn’t get the glove on because we had to be in the Sonata from 11 until two and the sun was, the sun was coming up and it was time to roll.
And I was still fiddling with the glove and I go forget it. So I just threw the glove away and did the job and all the dead skin came off my hand. And I guess the Sonata was kind of, it was a cleansing, you know, in a way.
I was there to shoot. I’m a French free diver, uh, Julie, who is the, wife of, um, um, um, a Navy.
Yeah, Julie is really good too. She used to shoot a lot of his, um, uh, like if there’s, what’s the name of that? Um, they did it in The Bahamas at the dude at the blue hole there, the deep, uh,
Brett Stanley: [00:56:13] a Dean’s blue hole.
Ian Seabrook: [00:56:15] yeah.
And they did it. It’s called free
fall is the name of the
Brett Stanley: [00:56:19] yeah. That’s when he’s basically the sinks all the way to the bottom, like, like Superman and then he free climbs his way back out again.
Ian Seabrook: [00:56:26] That’s correct. Yeah. So she, uh, Julie, uh, uh, was, uh, the camera person that shot that. So when I, when I learned that that’s, you know, who I was going to be shooting in the water, I thought, well, she’s going to have an opinion about how I, how I shoot this because she’s shot, you know, all of the films, um, Work, but, uh, you know, she was there to do something completely different.
She just doing some interpretive dance in a Sonata. And that was, uh, uh, you know, I gotta tell you when I got that job call and everybody didn’t really everybody, it seemed a bit disorganized. And I just thought, this is, this is not going to go well. And they wanted me to travel with my own beer and not have it that shift.
And you know, my sister tonight, we’re in Mexican customs for hours going through every screw and bolt and serial number. And I just thought, I’m never doing this again. Like this job is going to be a complete. Bust. And in the end it was one of the more memorable jobs. I think it was the job that allowed me to realize that I don’t, that I wasn’t, I was sort of paranoid about my hand and that had had nothing to do with it.
I have all those same strength back in my hand again. And, and it was just the, the footage that we were shooting was just, uh, it was spectacular. It was amazing. And she was a wonderful person. And, uh, yeah, so in the end of the job ended up being one of the better ones, you know? So
Brett Stanley: [00:57:34] And those no tase I’ve, I’ve spent a bit of time down there and they are, they have this quality to them cause they’re fresh water and they, uh, uh, you know, all different depths and the way the light comes in through the, through the Kevin’s ceiling, you know, you get all these amazing lighting effects.
Ian Seabrook: [00:57:49] That’s
Brett Stanley: [00:57:50] Um, and I feel like it’s, it’s a very spiritual place.
Ian Seabrook: [00:57:53] 100% and I can attest to that because of my own personal experience, but also just with the calm with which students you submerge this. It’s a completely different environment and it just, you know, sort of state of calm to come over you because I know that I was a little bit nervous about, you know, how am I going to swim and hold the camera and this and this and dah, but, uh, anyway, but, um, I ended up hiring a, uh, safety diver, who I had worked, uh, who I dove with and went cave diving with, um, this one safety diver from France who was living in a
And, uh, so I, when I went back to school where we shot that spot was in a place called via the lead, which is inland quite a bit from Cancun. And so basically we weren’t, I thought we were going to be shooting in the Sonata that everybody else goes to. And it was, you know, there, there masses of tourists in there, and I didn’t know how they were going to be able to get a shot without any of these people in the background.
But we ended up going to this. A lot of the snow days are on, um, farmers’ lands. And so you have to have permission from the land order to go inside of them. So we went to this one that was in the middle of nowhere. And, um, so I hired a more saline who is, um, safety, uh, cave diver that I went out with, uh, you know, months early, I guess, like half a year earlier.
I was in Mexico for Christmas and I went cave diving with him. And so I basically just called him up and said, you know, would you be interested in being five safety on this job and know it’s not really what you do, but he was all over it. So, um, um, So that’s it, you know, it’s like, basically it’s another kind of another example, you, you, uh, utilize the people that are in different parts of the world and that you’ve either worked with or you know, of that can help you.
And, um, so that’s, that’s good to have that network of people to do that in, in the, in addition to having, you know, your, your old, your old guard that are, that have been with you, um,
Brett Stanley: [00:59:36] I mean, that’s the thing is, you know, the more open the industry is, and the more you can kind of help each other, no matter how small it is, they stick it out. Go ahead. You know, like shuttle has, you’ve got a relationship with Cheryl. Now, if you need something in the future or if he needs something, you know, you’ve got this kind of relationship.
Sorted. if, if you’d shut down or if, you know, if he was like, no, no, I’m not going to help you. Cause you’re the competition or whatever, you know, then it doesn’t help anyone.
Ian Seabrook: [01:00:03] No, and that’s kind of what I would like to, I try to, uh, emphasize that, or I try to always be mindful of that. I know that, you know, it is competitive and I know that everybody, um, a lot of people are. Not necessarily within this realm, but you know, everybody’s kind of trying to one up the, the other person.
And I think every, every, every underwater cinematographer or any underwater photographer, whatever, you know, whatever you specialize in, you’ve got a, you’ve got a voice with get your own voice with whatever work you’re doing and what you, you know what you’re going to ring to something. Any kind of project is going to be different from anyone else, what they’re going to bring.
You know, I mean, I think that it’s important for me to always make note of the influences that have, um, had a hold on me over the years and, uh, for sure, I mean, anytime I’m looking through the lens, I’ve got, you know, Terrence Malick, I’ve got, uh, Howard hall. Um, I’ve got, you know, David AA, I’ve got all these references going through my head and Pete Romano and people that I’ve worked with and shared experiences with basically when the camera rolls.
And you’ve got the floor lines of the frame, as far as you know, when you’re shooting, uh, you know, doing cinematography under water that’s as soon as we start rolling the camera, that’s all those, all those influences, um, you know, Art from, you know, Alex Coleville or, you know, any kind of photography from Ernest Brooks is all, it’s, all of these things are all running around my head, but then they’re funneled into what you’re controlling or how you’re composing or framing or what have you.
And if that resonates, if that resonates with whoever you’re working with or whoever you’re doing the job for, then that’s great.
Brett Stanley: [01:01:46] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s kind of, yeah, you take all those influences. Um, And then they’re filtered through who you are as a person and how you are as an artist. And that’s what comes out the other end. You know, you’re not, it’s not, it’s not crystal clear what the influences were. So that’s, everyone has a different voice.
So everyone brings something different to that production.
Ian Seabrook: [01:02:06] That’s correct. Yeah. And I, if I can tag and I can’t tell you how many times in the early days I was asked to replicate the shot that Rexford Mets did in jaws, which was the, um, you know, the approach on Chrissy. Everybody wants that everybody wanted that shot. You know, and I think that the, the water work that he did on that picture is, uh, I mean, if you, if you look at it, uh, I w and then you look at the housing that’s at Panavision and Woodland Hills, and you look through the lens and then you watch the film.
You’re like, I can’t believe that he could see any focus on that whatsoever. Um, you know,
Brett Stanley: [01:02:39] so that takes me back to something you said before, which is, you know, pulling focus. Um, and you were worked as a focus puller for awhile. Um, you know, these days we’ve got remote focus, pulling from the surface. Um, but for you, when you came into it was the, were you pulling focus actually physically on the side of the housing underwater? Sorry. And how did that work? I’ve not had any experience of that. So.
Ian Seabrook: [01:03:02] Essentially
the prep is all the most important because you need to calibrate the lenses on their water. If you’re using a dome port, and if you’re using a flat port, you, you wouldn’t have necessarily have to calibrate the lenses under water. You had to have a tape measure. That was a hard tape measure that had a blank side on the other side of it.
So you could have say four feet. From the film plane to the subject and you would flip it over and that would be the underwater, um, computation. So, you know, if three feet is four feet or four feet is three feet, it was 25% magnify when you’re using a dome, a flat port. And so, um, the focus throws would be quite significant.
Uh, and you would have to, again, that was all you’d have to, you know, keep cute at all. It’s Fest is where your prep comes into effect is that you prep your tape. I had an army of tape measures because when you put, you know, measures in the water and then you, you, you, uh, finish the job and then you pull the tape out of the.
Uh, the casing to dry it off and then it’s dried and then you try to retract it while it’s all rusted and then you have to throw it out. So I tried to resuscitate as many, or I went with the higher end tape measures. These are the 16 foot Lufkin Mack. Um, FATMAX is where the best, I think. Um, cause there was only 16 feet that you were trying to push back into the receptacle, not 33 or 50 feet or whatever it was ended up going with, um, for any.
Uh, don’t port work. You had to have a chart in the water that was hard mounted to stands or the side of the pool. And basically you would take a, um, I had a bunch of fiberglass tapes that I would do soft tapes, and you would measure out say 15 feet, and then you would focus it. And sometimes with certain lenses, if any were anamorphic, you usually had to have diopters on the front of the lenses because the anamorphic lenses did not close focus enough in order to be able to take advantage of the dome port’s, um, abilities.
And so. Most of the anamorphic lenses that would be used would be the, of it C series because they were the lightest and shortest lenses on the market. But if you were using, if you were working with a German or a foreign cameraman who didn’t like Panavision, you know, you had to, you and you were shooting perfect, then, then you might be thrust into using these giant Arie scope lenses that half the time the front diameter or the lens would never fit inside the, the, um, The ports that were manufactured.
So when you’ve got a company like hydro flex, that was probably one of the only, uh, was I think it was the only manufacturer of, uh, underwater motion, picture, camera housings for professional use, unless you had your own machine shop or you had spent the $150,000 to make yourself your own housing. Uh, you were, you were oftentimes going to have to have suggest to the DP that we use different lenses that they physically cannot fit.
There’s a lot of times when they were asked, Oh, that’s these the 28 millimeter area scope. And it’s like, well, the front element is almost the same size dome parts. There’s no way we can get that. We can’t even put the camera together. And then if it’s for one shot and then they look at it and go, yeah, I don’t like it.
Let’s go back to the 18. So, you know, the prep was all important. She had to calibrate your, you know, there were discs on the outside of the focus knob. And so it basically, you would Mark off all of your distances. And I tried to not, you know, I think that when you begin you, when you were beginning focus, pillar, you, you put marks down for everything like, you know, 15 feet, 19 feet, as opposed to what I learned later was, you know, like 20, 15, 10, five, Maybe two and a half, then you’d have to guess where four feet or six feet or nine feet or whatever.
But if you had too many marks, it was too confusing. And then oftentimes, you know, what happened was, you know, the operator would grab the knob and twist it to try to find the focus and then they would, they would pull the gearing out of alignment and then the camera to go to the surface to get reset again.
But as long as they didn’t touch, depending who you were working with, as long as they didn’t touch. The knob. And you knew where with muscle memory, you knew where eight feet was and you were going to do a push in, you could rotate the focus. Um, and then if you looked at the actual lens, uh, it usually said like the lens, I think the lenses have to be able to close focus to 18 inches in order to be able to take, uh, the dome.
Perfect. Um, and if in that, the lenses were like two feet or three feet, then you had to use diopters. So the markings were, they were so important because you had no monitor, you were pulling focus off
Brett Stanley: [01:07:25] no. So you’re basically looking at the subject and the distance from the camera to the subject and working
Ian Seabrook: [01:07:30] that’s correct.
And, uh, we ended up using, um, Whips that would the old Panavision whips. And I think a airy there, there were some off-market companies that manufactured. So I bought a web there’s like a, there’s like a 12 inch whip or a six inch whip, which is a whip was basically an extension that comes off of the follow focus that allows you to get further away from the camera.
And they were usually made out of a wire material, a thick wire material with a hard rubber. Coding on the outside and then they would have a knob. And so in the, in the water sometimes singing. So I could, if I was gonna say swim with Pete, I always used a whip because I didn’t want to be all on top of him while he was trying to operate the camera because the handles and the knobs for the focus, the handles that you’re operating the camera with are right.
Beside where the knobs were focused are. So if you had a whip or some sort of an extension, you were not in his way and I never wanted to be, you know, you had to be your diving skills had to be such that when you were working with an operator or an underwater DP or whatever, and they were swimming back or forward or side or whatever, you had to be able to keep up with them and not.
Tug on the whip, not tug on the housing, not, not have them. Yeah. Or, you know, there’ll be a plow to you and then the shots ruined. And so, you know, I ended up using a crank as well, which is a small extension that connects inside the whip that allowed me to, you know, do. Not more aggressive, um, focus polls, but because oftentimes when you, if it was a wide lens, there’s a misnomer that everybody, when they go under water shoots with wide lenses, that doesn’t always happen, it does happen for establishing shots and that kind of thing.
And I think if you shoot with a wider lens than you, you run the run less risk of having the camera being old jittery.
Brett Stanley: [01:09:23] do you have a preference? I mean, you’ve worked on with film and with digital, is there a, do you have a preference for, for one or the other.
Ian Seabrook: [01:09:30] I still miss a film, to be honest with you. I think that the flicker of the shutter through the IPS, I always. Uh, preferred that. And I missed that. Um, I think there, there had been more cases with digital work, not with me necessarily, but with, um, surface, you know, on bringing a regular shows that are not underwater word by, you know, the operator doesn’t know that the camera’s rolling because they’re not, I mean, I sometimes I’ve done that a couple of times where I’ve been operating on other things on land and.
And I got so into it. I got so into what the four corners of the framework and what the composition was and where you get into the scene. And you’re getting into that cane. Now I’m going to do a push in here, or this is whatever. And then you don’t even know that the camera’s not rolling because you know, you don’t, you didn’t notice that there’s no red dots glowing.
So at least with the, the film camera you saw the shutter, you knew if it was rolling or not. That’s when, I mean, that’s, I guess that’s a, maybe that’s a minor thing, but I just, I think it’s, it’s sort of like whatever you were trained with. And it may, you know, it may also be, you know, the bands that you like, the first album that you got into that band is always going to be your favorite album.
So it’s sort of, it’s sort of exactly. So it’s your, it’s your first experience and, you know, on the film jobs, you could not screw up. I mean, yeah, you’re going to screw up or it’s going to get screwed up, but I think the attention to detail with, uh, Motion picture film camera housings was far greater in my opinion, but based on my experience, then the digital work and it’s not slightly the digital work at all.
I know that nobody has to go to the lab and worry about the exposure or the printing lights or, you know, any of that kind of stuff. But, uh, and you’re seeing the results immediately. Which means there’s more of a committee, of course, on the surface behind the monitor. Um, there seems to be just a massive amount of people who are all, you know, usually when it’s underwater work and this is a tank or if it’s scaffolding or if it’s a pool and sorry, if there’s an ocean and there’s a barge, then there’s usually a cacophony of people that are attached to a wall.
You know, standing around watching. Cause I think it’s cool or interesting or whatever, but I always prefer a smaller crew, a smaller unit, the less of a footprint, less people in the water.
Brett Stanley: [01:11:45] Yeah. Uh, Ben, thank you so much. This has been really cool just to kind of listen and, and, uh, and you’ve got so many different, uh, like points of view on things and, and So it’s nice to kind of get this kind of overview of, of the industry.
It’s really cool.
Ian Seabrook: [01:11:58] Well, I really enjoy these podcasts and I’m glad that you’re doing them. I’m glad someone’s doing them because it’s a, it’s sort of like underwater nerd heaven, you know, it’s akin to, when, you know, when you do go to Penn, the vision and you look at that jaws housing, for example, you’re just like, wow, I can’t believe this worked on the do graduate.
And you know, you just can’t believe how ridiculous it’s so big. It’s the same thing I just get. So like, you know, I’ll go on eBay and collect a, you know, I know Pete collects posters and stuff, but I’ve got this book from France on the making of the PR of the big blue that’s all in French and goes and shows what I saw, you know, we’re, we’re all the housings.
So that’s because there’s no documentary. Right. And when that film came out, everybody cites that as a, as a reference or an instance, but it was amazing what that song was ever was able to achieve on that picture and just, uh, It’s, you know, it’s still, it’s still with me. You know what I mean? That’s still, that’s, that’s part of the influences that are still, you know, you take me take little bits here and there, and they’re still in the back of your head when you roll the camera, so
Brett Stanley: [01:12:59] totally. And the big blue for me was I think, I think, I, I don’t know if I saw it when it came out, but I saw it around that time, like in the eighties.
And it was, it was like mind blowing to me like that and the abyss where the, probably the reasons I do what I do. In terms of underwater photography. And, and then from that too, like seeing, you know, watching Jacques Cousteau and, and all those old sort of documentary stuff, there’s a film that’s come out recently called the Odyssey, which is about, um, jackets those life and seeing that shot, you know, seeing that shot now.
But replicating what happened back then was kind of like a time machine for me was watching them swim in those, in that, that scuba equipment, but on high resolution, you know, digital film or whatever they used, um, was like a looking glass back in time.
Ian Seabrook: [01:13:47] I think the one I preferred was the life aquatic because, uh, uh, uh, well obviously because it’s got bill Murray and willing to fall in it, but I mean, you know, when I heard that there was a parody. Or basically it was based on the Cousteau family, a legacy I go and Wes Anderson is doing it. I go, Oh my God, this is going to be so good.
And when I went to see the film in the theater, I was the only one in the theater laughing out loud. I’m like, what is wrong with you? People don’t you get it? But, uh, you know, I think part of it was, you know, I was laughing at. The homage to the Cousteau, silver dive suits and the helmets and all that stuff.
It was, you know, it’s just so quick way to quirky. It’s so funny. And I still, I still, it still resonates, but I mean, uh, you know, you know, it’s just amazing. I love it when I do stuff like that, but I know that these films like LeBron and blur and the abyss. And a life aquatic to a certain extent. They’re just, they’re massive undertaking to do, to have that many people and bodies in the water on film and to coordinate all of it.
It just costs an enormous amount. I know that. I know that, you know, it’s not on everybody’s. Um, On on everyone’s page too, as far as when they write that yeah. Stuff at CS, the first thing that get cut out of a movie, unless it’s, unless it’s strictly about that subject. So I just it’s, I’d like to see more in water work than digital recreations.
I know that water is very difficult to animate. I know quite a few people in the visit effects departments and that’s the fire and water. When you know, that’s very, very difficult. But, um, to me, I mean, as a film viewer, even if you’re watching something like deep water horizon, which. Um, you know, isn’t a re a rendition of an actual event.
Whenever, anytime I see any digital stuff, it just pulls me right out of the film and I get it that it’s a, you know, it’s a Peter Berg movie and stuff, but still, you know, your, your, your enjoyment, my enjoyment actually will. A lot of it will be based on, you know, uh, not necessarily a suspension of disbelief, but whether or not the story is credible or not.
Brett Stanley: [01:15:38] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, Ian, thanks so much, man. It’s been really cool.
Ian Seabrook: [01:15:42] Yeah, wonderful to talk with you.
Brett Stanley: [01:15:44] you too, and hopefully we’ll speak to you soon.