Eyes are right for shark-fin shopping

YOU only need to know one thing about Bait 3D. A tsunami washes a shark into a supermarket. Down the aisle between the tinned tomatoes and baking needs comes the dreaded dorsal fin. The survivors of the wave huddle on an upturned shelving unit. Then the jaws with the rows of jagged teeth rise from the water, right in front of us. It's 3D, remember! And CHOMP!

Bait 3D, an Australia-Singapore co-production starring a gaggle of Australian television actors including Julian McMahon (Nip Tuck), Xavier Samuel (Twilight: The Eclipse) and three Home & Away stars - Sharni Vinson, Phoebe Tonkin and Lincoln Lewis - had its world premiere in the midnight slot on Saturday night at the Venice Film Festival.

It seemed an unlikely festival selection, but the audience went crazy with joy as fake blood clouded the waters; even when the projection broke down and about 15 minutes of the film was repeated, everyone seemed happy to see it again. A tsunami of cheers swept towards director Kimble Rendall as the curtains closed.

Rendall directed music videos and advertisements before moving into directing action for Hollywood films such as The Matrix Reloaded.

''I was working on The Killing Season with [Robert] De Niro in Melbourne, directing action second unit. They asked me to come on and do it,'' he says, sitting on a terrace near the shark-free Venice Lagoon.

''I said, 'what's the story'? They said, 'sharks in a supermarket' and I said, 'OK, you've got me'. People have asked, 'why make another shark movie?' but it's part of our psyche, isn't it? Every time we go for a swim outside the breakers at Bondi Beach we think we could get taken. Well, I do anyway.''

Bait 3D was shot at the Village Roadshow complex on the Gold Coast, which has a 1200-square-metre water tank. There were two sets: a flooded underground carpark with cars embedded in the walls and the supermarket that is supposed to be above it.

''You can buy a whole supermarket off the shelf, pardon the pun,'' says Rendall. ''When an IGA or something becomes redundant, you can buy everything - the tills, the warehouses, the shelving - and then you just fill it with the goods. So, we did that and then put it in the swimming pool.''

The shark consisted of three animatronic models: a heavy full-size one - operated hydraulically through air tubes - that usually ran on rails underwater; a smaller one to suggest distance; and a half-shark that could be operated almost like a puppet, opening and shutting its jaws.

Bait 3D has been through a surprising number of incarnations. The original idea came from veteran writer Russell Mulcahy, but Rendall says he hasn't met many of the credited writers. He changed the script himself. ''The version I got had things that were unfilmable, like cars driving underwater,'' he says. ''Getting a 12-foot animatronic shark between supermarket shelves was tricky enough.''

Rendall is still as surprised as anyone that his film ended up at the august Venice Film Festival. ''But the Italians seem to love it,'' he says. He's right about that.

The story Eyes are right for shark-fin shopping first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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