Indie Film Spotlight: Bad CGI Sharks!
So, I was scrolling through Twitter a while back and came across something that I found to be incredibly interesting. There is an account for an independent film by the name Bad CGI Sharks. As a lover of all things shark, and an aficionado of shark films, this piqued my curiosity in an intense way. I was able to follow them and interact with them and after awhile…I saw the trailer. You can watch it here.
I was hooked. I reached out to the brain trust behind the film, MaJaMa to see if they would be interested in being on my podcast, Throwdown Thursday. They were interested, and they sent us a screener so we could watch it and be able to have an educated discussion about it.
The film is essentially the story of two brothers, Matt and Jason (played to perfection by real-life brothers Matthew and Jason Ellsworth) who grew apart as they entered their formative years, but had been inseparable when they were young. Matt became the successful filmmaker while Jason lived at home and didn’t accomplish much more than being a burden on his family until he was kicked out and sent to live with Matt. One of the things that they had bonded over when they were young was their love of a stuffed shark named Chumley who was an active participant and shining star of their homemade films.
All of this is explained by a character I like to refer to as the “omniscient narrator”, Bernardo played incredibly well by Matteo Molinari. His character basically exists to reunite the estranged brothers by making the script that they had worked on as kids become real. The shark that tormented them in the pages of an old notebook became a computer-generated reality that not only stalked the brothers but anyone else that got in its path. Bernardo finally appears to the brothers in the flesh, laying out the truth about what was happening, and the only way to survive the onslaught of their own creation!
I had to watch this movie twice because I was laughing so hard. This is a really funny film, it’s clearly not taking itself too seriously and it knows where it stands. This is not an Asylum film or blatant rip-off of a major blockbuster film; this was two brothers and their friend passionately pursuing something that they’ve poured their heart and soul into. This film certainly has a lot of heart and soul, and you can tell that this was a labor of love. As this film has yet to be released, I won’t get into much detail because I do not want to ruin it for anyone.
This is a fantastically funny film, and despite their almost nonexistent budget MaJaMa are able to put together a solid narrative with great effects. Granted the title of the film does sort of give away the type of effects that are present throughout the runtime, but the majority of the budget did go to rendering the film’s antagonist. I must also point out that despite the preconceived notion that a low budget means low quality this film is well-acted, well-written, and well-directed. It’s enormously fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still has emotional depth and impact. These are not things you would expect from a film with Bad CGI Sharks as its title, but this film has all of these and more. It’s very quotable and has a lot of memorable scenes.
Behind the Camera
I’ve long held the belief that it is more difficult to make a low-budget film than a big-budget blockbuster. You only have a limited amount of time to get the right shots, and as a result, you have to nail your performance on either the first or second try because you’re not going to have the opportunity to do it over and over. One of the struggles facing MaJaMa was a scene that was filmed at a beach and it was almost impossible for the six-person crew to keep people out of their shots. Yes, you read that correctly – a six-person crew. For these specific shots, three of them were on camera, one was running the camera, one operating the microphone, and the sixth trying to keep onlookers away from the production. This is the type of challenge that a major studio picture wouldn’t have to worry about because they have hundreds of people working on the project. If there are scenes that aren’t shot on a soundstage they have security barriers and security personnel running interference against onlookers interfering with the shoot.
I had a great time interviewing these guys – they are funny, charming and easygoing. As of the time of this writing, I have watched 148 movies this year, 74 of them for the first time. Bad CGI Sharks is in the top ten of all the films I’ve seen this year, and that includes some of my most anticipated films, like Avengers: Endgame and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I cannot say enough good things about not just the movie, but Matt, Jason, and Matteo as filmmakers and people. They were all very appreciative of the opportunity to join our show and how much we liked the movie and were happy to give us some behind-the-scenes insight. You can find the interview here.
Bad CGI Sharks is coming soon from SRS Cinema (http://srscinema.com/) a company that specializes in “Awesome underground movies you need to see now!” and will be on Blu-ray and DVD this summer. There will also be other types of merchandise; t-shirts and such but there will also be a few unique items available as well. I for one look forward to giving them some of my money so we can see a sequel!
Do yourself a favor and check out the trailer for Bad CGI Sharks.
If you like what you see, pick up a physical copy when they drop! Support independent films, and filmmakers – you’ll be glad you did.
Patrick Rahall covers entertainment for MFST. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickrahall.