Marine & Dive Co-ordinator Bolívar Sánchez

In episode #32, host Brett Stanley chats with Marine and dive coordinator Bo Sanchez.

Based in the Dominican Republic, Bo supervises the ultra large outdoor water tank build by Pinewood Studios and his team works on many of the productions that come to the island to shoot – including huge action films like Triple X, The Mummy, and The Man From Uncle.

Bo talks through how he trains talent for their underwater scenes, whether he prefers open water or tanks, and what it’s like to ride motorbikes across the surface of water with Vin Diesel.

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About Bolívar Sánchez – Marine & Dive Co-ordinator

Based in Pinewood Studios in the Dominican Republic, DSDR, Bolivar’s Diving Services DR is the only company in the country that provides comprehensive marine and diving services required by the film industry.

DSDR originates thanks to the Diving Services United Kingdom, with whom it maintains close ties. Our team is highly trained and experienced in all kinds of water-based activities, especially in underwater projects. The team is also supported by solid and well proven professional ethics.

Our team of experts is trained to provide the services required for all film and commercial projects.

Our services include water-based scenes, including planning, marine or underwater logistics, production and consultation processes, marine security services for talent and film crews, stunt personnel for action scenes, doubles and hiring of local staff, talent training, underwater filming, and the rental of specialized equipment.

All our efforts and overall work protocols are focused on turning into reality the ideas presented by the production teams, while at the same time providing maximum safety measures in all water-based environments.

DSDR has the capacity to provide the necessary services for an adequate marine coordination and driving in a multitude of locations both inside and outside the Dominican Republic.

Podcast Transcript

Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the underwater podcast. And this week I’m putting my life in the hands of Marine and dive coordinator, Bo Sanchez. Based in the Dominican Republic, both supervisors, the ultra large outdoor water tank built by Pinewood studios and his team works on many of the productions that come to the Island to shoot.

including huge action films, like triple X, the mummy And the man from uncle. Bo talks me through how he trains talent for their underwater scenes, whether he prefers open-water or tanks and what it’s like to ride motorbikes across the surface of the water with VIN diesel.

Okay, get ready to ditch your regulator and let’s dive in. 

Bo welcome to the underwater podcast.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:00:37] Thank you for having me.

Brett Stanley: [00:00:39] How are you?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:00:40] Everything’s good. Everything’s fine. Everything is really busy at the moment. right now on a little vacation, after I wrapped a film last week and I have to prep two other films starting next Monday.

Brett Stanley: [00:00:53] Oh, wow. So you see, you’re quite busy at the moment.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:00:56] we are, it feels like everything’s opening back up again and, studios need you know, to make their films. And we have been lucky enough to have been the destination of a few films that, that I feel that everything’s evolving. I feel that we’re getting bigger films, bigger projects, longer projects.

And it’s amazing for the local industry for sure.

Brett Stanley: [00:01:20] Yeah, that’s great. And so has the Dominican Republic being a place where, you know, like, has, has it been a hotspot for, for movie production previously?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:01:28] it has. but when they approved the, the film law and then centers, that’s where you saw like a, very like a steep incline of. Us getting pictures and, getting a lot of projects, let’s say two per year, like two feature films per year to three. Now we’re talking about for next year six or seven.

this includes Netflix and Amazon prime and, and a bunch of studios that are looking into coming here to shoot.

Brett Stanley: [00:02:02] That’s incredible. Do you think that that COVID-19 and has had a, an effect on that? Like you guys are still open and accepting work?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:02:10] well, that certainly helps. But at the beginning of the year, we weren’t going to shoot like seven to eight projects this year, but everything stopped. so everything just kinda got pushed. And now we’re just getting the work that we were supposed to earlier in the year. So, I mean, everything was lined up to have a great year.

but suddenly not only for us, but everyone else, everything stopped and kind of got really crazy. But, I mean, here we are, shooting big budget movies, in a time where, where I didn’t think I was going to be working. For

Brett Stanley: [00:02:47] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I think a lot of us, I kind of, you know, we, I think we spent the first six months going, well, this is never going to pick up again. And then, you know, I think sort of here in LA, especially since probably the start of October, it’s just kind of started with a bang and it’s all just come back on again.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:03:04] here, everything started around June, so that’s we started getting people here and we, we did. A few productions, local films, shot. I shot one local film. along with this, American film that I just wrapped, we have been shooting locally and now with shoot we’ve, we’ve been getting international productions.

Brett Stanley: [00:03:27] good. Yeah. And so, Y you know, in terms of the Dominican Republic, are they coming there for the scenery, for the landscape, or are there facilities there that, that they are coming down to use specifically?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:03:38] I think it’s both. we certainly are, you know, are blessed to have amazing beaches and amazing landscapes, but we also, along with that, we have the facilities to provide a production, to come here, we have state of the art studios. We have a massive water tank, which I run, also, and. it’s just comfortable, for productions to, we go out and shoot on location, and then we move everything back to the studios and they can finish up their projects and then control the environment.

so just the water tank.

Brett Stanley: [00:04:10] Yeah. And I have no concept of the joke. Geography down there is, is Dominican Republic, a large place? Is there a lot of room between. These locations or is it all quite compact and easy for people to get to?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:04:23] No, they’re easy to get to, but it’s, I think it’s deceiving on a map when you see the Island and then you see, Oh, it’s just a move from here to here. Just, you know, just inches away, but it could be from five hour trip where a three hour trip. but it’s, I mean, we have a good road infrastructure to get, to, and from locations on.

you can get fairly remote looking locations, just a drive away. And you’re there. Yeah,

Brett Stanley: [00:04:57] Yeah. So you might, you know, you, if you turn the camera that the way you might see buildings and structure, but if you look that way, then it’s

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:05:03] depends on the location. But, but what I want to say is that you can go up to like a place that looks really secure secluded. But it’s a drive away. So it’s an hour and a half away. It’s not 10 hours or for example, been to Columbia for work and it was a plane away between locations. so it’s not nothing like that.

It’s very manageable.

Brett Stanley: [00:05:27] And you mentioned the water tank as well, which I think is really impressive. I just saw some,

of that, which I think is. It’s the, Pinewood studio tank. talk to me about that. Cause that looks really impressive.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:05:37] well, the, the PI the PI water tank, came about around seven years ago. it was a joint venture between, a group here in the Dominican Republic and Pinewood. Are you okay? And a good friend who’s called Dave Shaw, which. Is on Maureen and diving coordinator designed the tank and he designed a tank with 20 years of working in films experience.

So, I, I got a water tank. That’s very flexible that allows for surface work on underwater work. It’s easy to Pote to put boats in too. I mean, It’s very malleable in what we can do with it and the scenes that we can shoot. So for example, we, one day might be shooting a surface scene with a 50 foot boat, and then the next day we’re in an underwater world with, with a set underwater.

So it’s, it’s very good that way.

Brett Stanley: [00:06:37] What’s the depth of it for those deep shots? Is it,

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:06:41] we have a, it’s a 16 feet, Def max at the center. I wanna want to say 75 meters, but for those in the States, I would have to actually go into the calculator and

it’s 247 feet by 247 feet.

Brett Stanley: [00:06:57] the width of it.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:06:58] The width and in the lane forward. And the center part is six 16 feet by 66 feet and six. So it’s a square within a square. So even the depart, we have 66 by 66 feet that we can, it’s a good area. And I mean, 16 feet is a great, because it doesn’t get you into trouble on the diving aspect of, at all, especially with on trained actors, which we.

Go over a proper training, to get, to be able to put them on wrecks. But if you, if you use a wide enough lens, anything going up to the surface will give you like that, that you’re deeper than you really are. So it plays, it plays really well, and it helps really a lot.

Brett Stanley: [00:07:42] Yeah, that sounds amazing. And from when the pitchers that I saw, the water seems to be this beautiful Caribbean blue, and it’s like a, what do they call it? Like a horizon pool

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:07:51] Yeah. It’s a horizon Watertown, correct? It’s an infinity pool. It’s a, it’s a really big infinity pool.

Brett Stanley: [00:07:57] And cause some of the shots I saw it, it must be amazing to shoot him because he was shooting in this controlled tank, but then you’ve got the Caribbean sea

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:08:03] Correct.

Brett Stanley: [00:08:03] out behind you.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:08:05] the tank holds 2.7 million gallons of water, And it only fills up in 12 hours, which is really amazing. but the water, by law, we’re not allowed to take water out of the ocean nor I want to, because of the water and the ocean gets murky, then the tank will be marking. So we take the water from Wells.

So it’s brackish water actually. So we treat the water like, like a normal pool. And then we degrade those chemicals in the water column, and then we put the water back. So we keep using and reusing the same water. we don’t waste water while shooting.

Brett Stanley: [00:08:44] Oh, that’s incredible. Cause I was wondering about that when you’re on an Island, you know, that might have limited water supplies where you’re getting the water from. So you’re actually putting it back into the ground once you’re done with it.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:08:54] Correct? Correct. here in the country, the way the, the ground is we have a lot of caverns on their water and there’s, there’s a large, water supply. It’s the same as you seen. I’m sure you’ve seen like cave diving. I’m a, I’m a Trimix and CCR cave diver as well. So I’ve seen those w underwater systems firsthand and

Brett Stanley: [00:09:20] you actually have those, you actually have underwater and they fresh water caves or are they salt? Water?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:09:24] that that depends. the deeper you go, then you get, you get, you go from freshwater to saltwater.

Brett Stanley: [00:09:31] Okay.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:09:32] Yeah, they’re both.

Brett Stanley: [00:09:33] That’s amazing. So how did you get into this? How did you, how did you end up being a, a water safety coordinator or a Marine coordinator?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:09:40] so I’ve been a photographer for. Most of my adult life. I fell in love with photography from an early age and, and just started shooting everything like you do in the, when you’re, when you start off. and then I started diving. I started school by diving and I went, I went all in. I left nothing behind.

I, I got up to instructor, technical dive. I’m a technical diver instructor, rebreathers cave diving, right. Diving, deep diving. So it was just, I started shooting on their water. I started shooting Wells. I started shooting the Reeves and let’s say the local, you know, sea life. And I then got tired of shooting just that guess.

I’ve lo always love pork pork portraits. So I started working with people on their water, not necessarily other divers, just people that I would train as a dive instructor. And then we go out to the ocean or to the caves and shoot.

Um, yeah, four and I did that for a few magazines. I did weddings. I did all that, that you do when you live a photography, but more specialized and underwater. So I met someone, as you usually do, I met someone, he didn’t know that I was doing that kind of work. And he introduced me to Dave Shaw, which is the guy that designed the water tank.

Brett Stanley: [00:11:14] Oh, right.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:11:15] Let’s fast forward four. I met with him, talk to him fast forward for a year, and I was in the UK training to do this job, basically like fine tuning my skills with people on their water and how everything in the movie industry works on this side of this side of things.

So I was very lucky in that sense that. I got that opportunity. And here we are now talking to you. So it’s been

Brett Stanley: [00:11:45] which, which means you’ve made it. Yeah.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:11:47] seven year, a seven year journey probably between or eight years between all of that.

Brett Stanley: [00:11:55] And so, so your introduction to, Dave Shaw? that was basically your introduction to the film industry. Is that kind of like meeting him kind of open the doors.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:12:04] it was, I, I had never been to a movie set before but it felt like every single thing that I’ve done in my life, even if it was just being a mechanic for hubby taking motorcycles apart and putting them back up. photography that sensibility to light. Everything has worked for me doing this job and especially spending all this time out in the ocean with boats, racing, wave runners, and you know, all of that has come together and, and it’s helpful.

Everything’s helpful for this job.

Brett Stanley: [00:12:42] Absolutely. Yeah. Cause I guess you’re, you’re a bit of a, like a Jack of all trades, I guess when you’re doing this kind of kind of work.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:12:50] Yeah. yeah, that’s a great way to put it.

Brett Stanley: [00:12:53] and so, so would the timing was the timing when Dave Shaw was that when he had come out to sort of start designing the tank or was it

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:13:01] no, he, the tank was the sign and I got a call to sh to take pictures of the inauguration of the tank on their water. They wanted to have that perspective. Also, I had already met him like a few days before that, and then we met and we talked and then we kept talking. so yeah, the tank, the tank was already done when I start, when I went to the UK and when I started working in this industry,

Brett Stanley: [00:13:29] but that’s a beautiful set of circumstances to kind of get you to where you are now.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:13:34] It is, it is. I’m very fortunate. I’m very lucky. I it’s it’s great. It’s been great.

Brett Stanley: [00:13:41] So, so talk me through what your kind of, I guess, not day to day, cause it’s probably changes, but what your kind of overall overall kind of job at this, you know, running a water tank, what does that even, what does that actually mean?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:13:54] sure. I’m in charge of making sure basically the, the, the, the water tank works properly for any production. This happens during the downtime. So, we are very close to the scene, so we’re always fighting rust. And fighting pumps that break. And so let’s say that might be my day to day. almost like an engineer solving problems to keep the infrastructure working and, and being what we needed to be for any production that might come.

of course my company, which is diving services, the R, which I run with, with my business partner. We are based at the water tank itself. So no one knows that better than us and better than our team. So that’s a plus right there. then when a movie comes along, it’s kind of the same process of another department.

I take the script and I read it and I take the water scenes and I break them down. And then it’s just a bunch of meetings with a director or storyboards artists or everybody together saying, okay, the director might have a vision of how he wants to shoot it, but I will give him the reality of how it is that we can shoot it after assessing the cast, what we need to do, how difficult it is, the level of training, the cast proficiency in the water.

do we need doubles? Do we need stock doubles? Do any picture though? We’ll still. So all of that comes into play, laying out, what is, and how it is that we’re going to shoot it. first of all, a safety that’s non negotiable, non negotiable. So we do the safety aspect of it all and which. Depending on the vision, we might go and do the training and come back to our director and say and say, I think you need to compromise on this aspect or so that kind of stuff.

Brett Stanley: [00:16:02] Because, well, maybe one of the actors isn’t as good as they need to be for that. Or perhaps it’s it’s too dangerous or something.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:16:08] exactly. So, we can either go about it two ways. We either simplify the action. Or the director will, and DP will change the shots. So maybe we can have one cast and one double, that just happened on the film that I wrap now. we were shooting inside of a tunnel that the art department created it’s underwater cave system was beautiful.

can’t wait to see it. On on the finish product product.

Brett Stanley: [00:16:39] I sure.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:16:39] But, I decided that I needed more escape, hatchets closer together, and then we assess the capabilities of the cast. And then we design the shots with that in mind, having went to have them, both the cast together. And then when we were going to mix the cast with the doubles.

not only thinking into account the safety aspect or the, their capabilities, but when you’re in the water, you get cold for a very long time. So it’s a plan of resting people sold they’re happy and they can perform at the end of the day, want to give them the tools to keep, to get that saving aspect of it all away from their minds.

And they can, they can perform because that’s why we’re, we’re older. That’s the main goal, the performance

Brett Stanley: [00:17:29] Yeah. So, so you’re basically giving them the tools and the techniques to be able to just concentrate on the acting side of it and then leaving everything else, kind of to you guys.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:17:38] Correct.

Brett Stanley: [00:17:39] That’s great. And so how do you do that? What are you actually doing with the actors? So say you’ve got someone who has not done this before, has no underwater experience.

What’s the kind of process you go through to sort of get them up to speed.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:17:52] Sure it’s, getting them into water first and seeing them the level of comfort. then we go into a small, let’s say when you get certified, for open water, let’s say that we give them like the first module, which is the pool, the confined water, protocols. So we go through mask, we go through their rag.

Getting out, out of the mouth, receiving it both ways of receiving a rag. And then we go down and we dive in the water tank. If we have a set, we make them dive it on, on scuba tanks around the set. So they can start getting a grasp of where it is that they need to be and what they need to do. and. And I know you’re, I don’t know if you’ve been there when people get certified, but it’s this joy that people come out of the water with.

Like, I was just in another dimension that I can float and it’s so different. It’s and, and then I take that joy and we keep running with it. I try to maintain that level of energy and. A nuance of this thing that they’re doing, for the first time. So then we take really, really be, we steps along the way.

okay. We have a 50 foot tunnel and it’s, it looks daunting, but I have hatchets every six feet. So the tunnel is only six feet long. So this is what we’re doing. And then when we get them to go through the motions, then okay. Now it’s time to take your mask off and do it without a mask. So you can remember how it looks without a mask.

So it’s just baby steps all throughout and on shooting day, I like to do something easy. Then we go into shooting something really hard. And then we go back down to easy. especially when I have, I have, should, they is on consecutive days. I don’t want to do something really difficult that they feel that they can’t achieve the next day.

So I also plan that with, with a first aid, we go through the plan of how it is that we want to shoot. The scene sometimes statics, like in commercials dictate that because I, I like to shoot the closeup first to avoid the red eyes and then we go into the wide. So it will depend on the job.

Brett Stanley: [00:20:24] That’s really cool though, because I mean, you’re, you’re literally thinking about the effects of the water on the talent and probably on the crew as well.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:20:31] Correct.

Brett Stanley: [00:20:32] the most of it in terms of these shooting order.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:20:35] Correct. our safety doesn’t stop with the cast. Is everybody involved in the shoot? That’s what I oversee, especially out in the ocean, on the Marine coordinating aspect of it all. How many boats, how many rescue boats? How many safety boats, how many tender boats? So I, I create a set out in the ocean and the certain needs to have a backup.

So I need to think on the worst case scenario for every single ship that I’m using and how I can solve an issue, if not thinking about if a bolt sinks, which my, but I, that’s not the immediate concern. It’s what happens if a boat breaks down, will this stop the shooting? Will this hinder the shooting? so that, it’s that dynamic.

I have to think about.

Brett Stanley: [00:21:25] So in terms of those two to kind of job titles, you’ve got your, your diving coordinator and you got your Marine coordinator. Are they two separate jobs when you’re working on films like this? Or are you basically rolling them into one? So you’re out there worrying about the boats and you’re worrying about the divers

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:21:41] worrying about everything. it’s, it’s the whole thing, especially when we’re out in the ocean and we’re shooting on their water. So then it really becomes. The two of them together. Oh, I of course have my Marine supervisor and Martin diving supervisor, which is my business partner. Who’s also an underwater camera operator.

so we divide a little bit the responsibilities, if that would be the case. so I would concentrate more on the people that I have on their water. He will manage, the boats and the plan that I made, and he’ll execute it. So I have that in my team where I can, I will always focus on the people in the water that will always be my focus.

Brett Stanley: [00:22:26] so you’ve set that as your kind of priority. And you’ve got other staff and other crew to look after the other aspects.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:22:32] Absolutely. Correct.

Brett Stanley: [00:22:34] And so So when you’re on a, on a production or on a new   film, is it very often that you’re getting situations that you haven’t sort of covered before?

Like I assume you kind of have a good set of, you know, from experience, you kind of know, Oh, if we’re doing this, then we’re going to need all this. Do you very often get the kind of curve ball? Whoa, I’ve never done this before.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:22:53] Yeah. Yes, I have. Of course, especially when I’ve been the Marine coordinator on a film where we had motorbikes running in the water. I don’t think anybody was, could be prepared for that. that was for, yeah, that was for triple X three

Brett Stanley: [00:23:08] the trailer. Yeah.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:23:10] and yeah, I mean, we killed the amount of motorcycles we killed that’s obscene.

but it was really fun. It was, it was great. but yeah, I mean like you, you’re working underwater and every time some money might come to you and tell you, I want to do this. And you’ve like, as you may know, you will say like, yeah, I’ve done this many, many times, but like the way that people behave in the water just makes it a completely different approach that you need to take.

To, to solve that, to solve a situation or to bring something to life. So it, that, that one is the one that happens a lot. Every, and every director, they have their own methods. And I’m lucky enough that when I get directors, they haven’t shot a lot on their water, for example. So they will take my advice.

And w it’s truly, cooperation because they know I have their vision at heart and they know I’m trying to achieve that vision as close. As for example, we just wrote, a film with M night Shyamalan, and it’s very known that he does a lot of storyboards and that he shoots the boards. I mean, he might get creative in a moment.

But he’ll shoot the boards first and then we can play with whatever is winning. He very sad. He does his homework, so I need to work in achieving his vision. And then like, for example, okay, this is supposed to happen deeper in the tunnel. This shot that we’re looking at in the boards. And, and I w and I would go to him.

I would feel more comfortable if we move them up a little bit. So the scape hatchet would be right on top of them because we need them to play the scene for 45 seconds under water, without, without breathing. And I don’t want them to ex swim a little bit more to go out, or depending on the angle, there are safety divers.

Can’t be very close to them. So. What is the, we’re going to do the compromise with the framing them, where we placed them. So it that’s the whole idea of the job.

Brett Stanley: [00:25:29] Yeah. So you’re trying to work out these compromises to keep everything safe and to keep it within your kind of comfort levels,

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:25:35] Yeah.

Brett Stanley: [00:25:36] but

also still get the, get the concept.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:25:38] and you’d have to be careful because my comfort levels. Can be pretty insane because I’ve done pride in saying things in the water. You have to always think through the capabilities of your cast and you have, and sometimes you have to remind yourself, yeah, I’ve jumped out of cliffs, 50 feet into the water for a stand or something.

I’ve done that many, many times. or tight in a, you know, sheet like a body and kicked over and I couldn’t pop up to the surface. So, you know, a diver would have to scoop me up and then take me away without me seeing anything. but, not the cast and the cast is not anyone else. We need to work with that.

And our limitations.

Brett Stanley: [00:26:23] well, that’s an interesting point actually. Cause as a, you know, as a, a safety diver, who’s also done the stunt sort of stuff and you feel your, you know, I just say your comfort level is, is way out there. You have to kind of reset every time you work with new cast to their level, right? Like you have to kind of maybe push them a little bit, but know when to stop.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:26:41] Yeah, but, the push will come probably when we’re training. And that would, let’s say I need them to perform at a six and I’ll complicate things during training to an eight, so they can feel comfortable at a six

because after, because after an hour working like shooting under water there, I believe ladies will be, well, we’ll go down to a four.

Because they’re tired, they’re exhausted. They’re cold might be hungry. so I need to take all that into account. I’m not in, I’m not good into pushing while we’re shooting. especially the cast

Brett Stanley: [00:27:23] But that’s a great way to do it. So you stressing them in the training and then it feels like, so when they get to the actual production, it feels not as stressful as it did when they trained for it. So they kind of relax a bit more.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:27:34] So, and that comes back to, giving them the tools so they can perform, that’s the whole thing. Yeah,

Brett Stanley: [00:27:41] Do you learn all of this?  Is it just experience of, of years of doing this yourself? Or did you actually have someone show you how to train talent underwater?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:27:51] the training aspect of it all. I got it from being, a school by instructor. So when I started, when I started diving and when I fell in love with scuba diving started doing cave diving and all of that, I didn’t have the money to pay for all of that education. So what I did was that I, I got into an agreement with a friend who used to own, who, who actually still owns, diving school. So basically I became an instructor at that school to help him out. So that would pay for my mind. I was still working at a newspaper, like on a normal job on the website, on our normal, newspaper, local newspaper, but on the weekends and in the afternoons, I would go to the shop and either fill up tanks, work on rags, and teach.

And that would pay for all of my education. So I, I started, I started working with a lot of people and I’ve always enjoy more than a technical course. I always enjoy teaching two courses, the open water and the rescue diver course to me though. Those were, and still are my favorites. I don’t teach a lot, sadly just to get my license renewed as an instructor, because I need it for this job and we can get into that a little bit later, but, that’s how I got my, let’s say my patience and how I would go with every single person.

And, and, and I don’t, I don’t, I don’t see a movie star. I see somebody that. That comes and wants to learn diving. So we go through the motions and we make it fun. And you need to understand that this is a foreign environment for this person and that you need to make this transition, you know, the best you can and the most enjoyable, enjoyable, and enjoyable that you can.

Brett Stanley: [00:29:53] Yeah. Well, I think that’s a very interesting point too. And having done safety, diving myself, you know, there’s, I feel like there’s two types of safety divers on a film set. There’s the ones that are just basically there, just in case and there’s ones like you who are interacting with the cast. Kind of training them and, and being there, I don’t know, they’d guide through the whole thing and it’s very different temperaments.

So, as a standard safety diver, you can just sort of, do your own thing, but for you, you’ve got to really have patients and, and kind of, work to them. Like you have to have a really good sort of bedside manner.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:30:28] Yeah, so the, the way I set this up is it’s that we, probably on the first day I would get in the water a little bit with them, and give them, let’s say the opening speech, right? And here in the dr. We don’t have a governing body that, that oversees diving operations and stuff. So like the studio, Pinewood is an UK base, company.

So we take the health and safety protocols from them. So to work with a cast member, you need to be a dive instructor to be a, to be in the water with a board as a safety swimmer, you need to be a rescue diver. So I have it set, set up like that. So I, in my team, I have instructors, I have dive masters and I have rescue divers.

So that’s the layout of my team. So then. When we start training them on the school, but only the scuba aspect of overall, I will assign a safety diver for our cast member. Let’s say Anna and another safety diver for that cast member, that will be their safety diver all throughout the shoot. No, no switching, no nothing.

So they can develop, you know, that can develop a. A conversation at trust. So

a good relationship with the cast, with their divers. And then I would go in the water again and we would start rehearsing what it is that we need to on scuba. And then, let’s say I get out of the water and throw the witness camera and the water tank.

I can see where they’re at and with my microphone and underwater speaker. Then I start talking to them and giving them the commands. They need to execute to start performing. So sometimes I have a CA I have, I have cast member that like to start the action wearing a mask because they want to see where they need to go.

So then when we start shooting, it’s mask off and I see them take their mask off. Okay. I can see that. You’re good. Okay. Now let’s breathe a little bit more and regulator out and waiting on the world’s waiting on their mobiles and action. that’s kind of the way we, we start the action. I, and on that side of the, the, of my job, I share a lot of responsibilities with the first aid.

because sometimes I’m the one that calls action and I’m the one done. Starts the, because they don’t necessarily know what’s going on.

Brett Stanley: [00:33:07] yeah. and you’ve   got the microphone for the underwater speaker, so you’re basically conveying all those instructions to everyone under the water,

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:33:14] correct. Yeah.

Brett Stanley: [00:33:15] That’s great. And then, so what you’re saying is you’ve got a, you’ve got a camera that’s under there, which is, just for you. So you can see what’s

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:33:21] I can see where, where everybody is. So if I don’t like the position of someone or I need something moved, I will send that message down below and I’ll have a diver there, which his only job is to be there. If I need something, for example,

Brett Stanley: [00:33:39] And so what’s the biggest production you’ve been on in terms of the amount of cast and, and people in the water. Have you been on some, some quite extravagant shows?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:33:48] I’ve been on stravaganza, calmer TV commercials. I’ll tell you that those, those guys, they get wild in their ideas. And I’ve had like, let’s say 40 people in the water at the same time swimming as they were a school of fish.

Brett Stanley: [00:34:04] So 40 cast. Wow.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:34:06] but yeah, I mean, triple X was daunting, you know, in the sense of the danger that involved everything, but we had great guys and a great stunt coordinator.

I’ve always say that one of the hardest films that I had to do on the water was for a good friend, here locally and we shot, A scene, a few scenes on their water. And it was really, really hard because the three actors needed to be completely so March and act on their water. They had, they had to tell him and, and the camera movement and the light movement, even we even had life more friends and it was really complicated.

And this job that I just didn’t know, it was. Tough because the actors thought it was really, really tough. So we had to, once they started swimming, the set, the cave systems that the guys built, everything got a lot easier. And, and, but yeah, it was really hard. This one was really hard.

Brett Stanley: [00:35:10] just because the, because of the level of the actors, cause they, they thought it was going to be hard. Is  that why it was hard?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:35:17] it was hard because they thought they couldn’t do it. So it put, it puts us in a position that we need to start making decisions of how are we going to play this now? What happens if we can’t achieve, but, but I got the train. I got the time for the training that I asked for it, which doesn’t really happen in a lot and in every single movie,

but here on this movie, I got the time, that I needed to train them and we train them properly.

So it’s just the organizing way before we shoot something. And like she gets caught in a coral, is this coral gonna break as it is supposed to do? And a shot is a fairly wide shot. So where can I put the divers? So I hit the divers on top of the tunnel. so it’s, it’s just getting around those hurdles that, that it’s difficult.

Brett Stanley: [00:36:16] Yeah, trying to get the logistics right.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:36:19] Yeah, I did a movie with five kids on a boat. Let me tell you that was really hard. chaos, good chaos. cause the kids it’s, we’re just enjoying being out in the ocean and playing around and they were great kids. It’s a movie that was supposed to come out, or at the beginning of next year. But. yeah, I mean, that kind of difficulties we’ve had

Brett Stanley: [00:36:41] Yeah. And like what, so what is it like working with kids? Cause I feel like kids to a certain age have no fear. They just kind of run head first into stuff.

How’s that when you’re trying to train someone to do

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:36:51] we have to, we have to hold them back. we ha they want to go off to the races. we have limitations, of course, in the age that we can. Use a scuba tank on kids and the deaf that our kid can go. And it’s the same as us, you know, as in real life. But, yeah, it’s, here’s a crazy story.

We’re shooting for a local film and of course we’re never involved in the casting because it’s casting it. It’s a bigger scope thing. So we. We’ll get a call from the producers and we’re like, we want to shoot this film and we want to shoot it out in the ocean. Doesn’t have to be really deep, but it’s perfect.

And we’re like, okay, what’s the cast like? And they go that director doesn’t like working with actors. So he cast it a local Colombian fisherman, um, who actually, what he does is goes down and with a harpoon and fish for. Fish for fish. And I’m like, this is going to be the easiest job ever, we’re basically going to do a documentary.

That’s my, so they come, they come to the Dominican Republic. we set everything up. I, we start talking to the fisherman and he goes like, I, I’m not a fisherman. And I’m like, wait, what? And he goes, I race goats in Columbia and then he goes, and I need to tell you something, my brother and my niece drowned

Brett Stanley: [00:38:20] Oh my God.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:38:21] So then it becomes. A situation where we need to understand this other human being, he was willing to do it, but we also needed to work on breaking that fear

Brett Stanley: [00:38:35] It’s like a psychological level.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:38:36] a five course. So we trained a lot. We went really, really slow. So the first time that, The, his safety diver went out with him.

And I saw them from the boat, like, like looking through that. And I saw them immediately, the guy was enjoying himself, looking at the corals, looking at the fish. When he came up, he started crying with joy and all of a sudden, everybody in the boat was crying.

So that’s a beautiful moment of the things that we need to deal with constantly.

Brett Stanley: [00:39:09] Oh, exactly. Yeah. Cause I mean, he has this apprehension and then you kind of, as you say, break through it,

and then he sees the amazing wonderment of the swimming underwater.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:39:20] Yeah. He was so happy, but it, the reality of it, of it all is every cast member that you encounter will tell you that he knows how to swim and that he knows to ride a horse.

Brett Stanley: [00:39:32] cause they want to please you, they want to be able to do it.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:39:35] Yeah, drinking and a pool starts swimming

Brett Stanley: [00:39:37] Yeah.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:39:39] and I go throughout almost every single time.

Brett Stanley: [00:39:42] Right. have you had people that were just re just not really getting it, like had so much trouble picking it up that you had to just really, really change the, 

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:39:53] yeah. but not because of them because of fishy, like physiological issues, like. Some people just can’t equalize. Some people just can’t. so we’ve had to change everything because of that. like you even send them to the doctors and they come back and say, no, he has an obstruction when his inner ear, and he’s not going to be able to do it.

And you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna, you know, hurt somebody. Shooting a film like that’s that. So then we need to go back to the drawing board and see how we can play this. it’s usually had breaking water close-up under the surface and then we go behind with a double or something or a little bit further away or whatever it is.

But yeah, we’ve had people that can’t really equalize or. Or honestly, people that just don’t like being under water, whether it is claustrophobic. Some, some people find that claustrophobic. I find, I find it to me, it’s the complete opposite, but you’re sometimes you can fight that and just have to go to production and say, we need to find a way to solve this.

Brett Stanley: [00:41:03] Yeah. And generally as it, is it by using a double.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:41:07] usually, usually, usually it is because if the director is still wants to make the, the underwater shots, we either go with a double level because especially since I, it’s very rare that I get full films that are shot in the water. So they have already shot somewhere else. So we have that actor there in that film.

So they’re not going to change an actor because he can’t equalize. So

you have to make it work

Brett Stanley: [00:41:37] and so, so for you, I mean, you do stuff in the tank, you do stuff in the open water. Do you have a preference? Is there a, is there a place that you prefer

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:41:46] Honestly, I like to work. I like to work in the tank a hundred percent. It’s the safety of it, all, the, how we can control things. but I, but we shot a full, a complete movie in the water tank. that was the director’s patient. But the reality of it is that we need to shoot stuff in the ocean. So they have material to cut from the ocean to the water tank. So that on the films that we’re playing, like wear out, are out on the ocean. but I I’d rather work in the water. And again, I’d rather work on their water. That’s the truth.

Brett Stanley: [00:42:25] Yeah,

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:42:25] To me, it’s more challenging, more demanding. now I’m prepping a film where we’re going to crash a bunch of boats and a helicopter shooting at boats.

So that’s fun.

Brett Stanley: [00:42:34] I see. And is that going to be in the tank?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:42:37] we are playing, let’s say 95% out in the ocean and then for dialogue and stuff, we’re going to coming back to the water tank to, to get that coverage. it’s just easier and more control for even if like, if they have crane shots and they want to do more complex camera moves, it’s easier to achieve in the wintertime for sure.

But, we need to play this one, a lot of it, almost every single bit of it out in the ocean.

Brett Stanley: [00:43:04] So in terms of the effects, like we’re talking about triple X and, you know, motorbikes riding on the water and all that sort of stuff. How involved are you in the effects of stuff? Because you have things like water, you know, drop tanks and, you know, spray as an answer stuff. Is that your department or is someone else looking after all that stuff?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:43:21] we have, let’s say the normal departments, stunts and special effects, and let’s say even VFX. and I work with every single one of them and even work with wardrobe department, you know, making sure that a certain type of wardrobe is safe or. if we’re going under water where we can hide a few weights or, but EMI, I, my department works with every single department when we are out in the ocean.

So let’s say what, what it is that you need for the stunt guys to, if you are managing, let’s say your own safety, the safety of the stuntmen that are playing okay. We need certain amount of skis or jet-skis, or. I provide that for them. And of course I manage the safety of the crew and stuff, but yeah, I work directly with them.

Brett Stanley: [00:44:13] Yeah. And so it’s a, you’re providing all the Marine craft in terms of boats and jet skis and all that.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:44:19] correct. Correct. in the next film, without divulging anything because of my NDA, but I need to find. A particular boat that is in the range of the $800,000 boat up to a skiff, which is probably $200. So, and between that, I have to get like 10 boats.

Brett Stanley: [00:44:41] Right. And how many of those are going to survive the movie?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:44:44] not a lot. I can tell you that

Brett Stanley: [00:44:46] That sounds like a lot of fun though.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:44:47] it is fun. I that’s my kind of movie.

Brett Stanley: [00:44:50] Right? More action. More, more blowing things up.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:44:53] Yeah. Yeah. I’m more action driven, definitely. And more adrenaline and going fast and all of that. And, and it’s the crazy thing is that in the ocean going fast will give you adrenaline in the water tank under water going slow is what gives you the adrenaline. So everything it’s more steady and more.

So it’s it’s, it’s cool. Like that. I enjoy both worlds.

Brett Stanley: [00:45:20] And like, I kinda think, you know, now you’re talking about underwater tunnels and caves and that sort of stuff. Like, I, I guess I kind of feel like when you’re shooting in a tank with a set, it is kind of more like cave diving where everything’s very measured and I mean, it’s very slow and you kind of take it all in.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:45:35] Correct. It is, it is, we, we handle it like if it’s basically cave diving, because it’s an overhead environment. they’re going to swim through portions of it where they don’t have a direct, I, you know, essence to the surface.

Brett Stanley: [00:45:52] Yeah.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:45:53] we need to, we, you know, you plan for that and you block the tunnel with a human being with our safety driver.

And so you, you are making sure that nobody makes a mistake of passing through where they supposed to go out or anything like that.

Brett Stanley: [00:46:10] and you’re talking about, so this set has escape hatches and without, you know, without sort of telling me too much, cause you’re still under, under wraps on this one. when you say there’s an escape hatch, is it actually a Hatcher? Is it just a, kind of a well hidden hole

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:46:22] yeah, remember that English is not my first language, so, I, so, yeah, it’s holes that will permit. Light a little bit of light coming through. so we had like proper openings and they were framed out and we had holes with basically diverse holding up to the set piece on the outside. And they’re like hatches, like doors.

Brett Stanley: [00:46:48] Oh, okay. So they can pull it open if they need

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:46:50] yeah, so we had both, I wanted to have both.


Brett Stanley: [00:46:55] How many crew, like how many divers have you got in on that sort of thing?

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:46:58] On this one, I had 12, um, I had a total of 12 people on the water. I had people for when the cast came up to the surface because we needed to do a few shots where they would just come from the floor of the tank all the way up to the surface. So we have safety swimmers on board, so the cast can hold on to their boards and rest for a little bit.

And, For waiting for recent. we have a utility that, diverse that will help, in this case, EMC, Brooke, who was, who, who has been in the podcast. he, he was here. He was just here. He just left. he shut this from, with us and like a diver helping out with the cables because. And this gate, in this case, it would get tangled a lot because of the corals that we had, of the fake corals that we had in the, in our set, a guy would help me out with my witness camera and my audio system, because it was really difficult to hear inside of the tunnel.

So the speakers needed to be moved constantly, as well.

Brett Stanley: [00:47:58] do have a diver. Who’s just basically moving them around, closer to the talent.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:48:03] Correct. so yeah, it’s 10 to eight, 10 to 12 people in the water doing different and not counting on the grips and electrics that were also needed to dive to adjust their lights and their structures.

Brett Stanley: [00:48:18] that’s a big group. That’s a lot of people in the water.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:48:20] yeah. That’s a lot of people. Yeah.

Brett Stanley: [00:48:22] That’s a lot of people that you’re, you’re, you’re kind of responsible for.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:48:25] I know. Yeah. Yeah. But that’s why I knew almost every one of them and I knew they’re all great, diverse. And also I know that they’re looking out for each other. I know that my guys are because my guys, the, the utility divers, their job is also to keep an eye.

On the non diving crew and they’re under, you know, and their workmates.

Brett Stanley: [00:48:51] Right,

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:48:52] safety’s, everybody needs to be checked


Brett Stanley: [00:48:56] Yeah. You got to have eyes on everyone all the time,

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:48:59] yeah,

Brett Stanley: [00:48:59] Bo that that’s incredible. It’s just such an awesome different, perspective  on shooting a film. I think, you know, you’ve got a really good, Kind of yeah. Perspective on,

on how this goes together. Yeah. 

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:49:13] Imagine that like on my third day on a movie set, I was working with Pete Romano. So it’s been a crazy ride.

Brett Stanley: [00:49:20] that’s a good introduction and element being pizza pizza, an awesome guy. And he’s amazing. So for your third day, that’s pretty good.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:49:26] He’s great.

Brett Stanley: [00:49:27] Both. Thanks so much. It’s, it’s been really cool to chat with you, and look forward to seeing these, these films that are going to come out shortly.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:49:34] Thank you, Brett. Thank you for having me. I’ve been a fan of the podcast since day one, and this is a huge honor for me.

Brett Stanley: [00:49:40] Oh man. It’s an honor to have you on here. Thanks so much.

Bolivar Sanchez: [00:49:43] Thank you.

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