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Artist Spotlight: Underwater Realm

by Lena Rivera on February 1, 2014

in Artist Spotlights, Featured

Deep Mysteries
by Lena Rivera                 

What creatures thrive in the airless depths beneath the waves, and what might their intentions be? Such questions, lodged in the psyche of mankind from time immemorial, have sparked the imaginations of countless dreamers, spawning superstitions, myths, legends, novels and now films.

The folks at Realm Pictures have tapped into that ancient wonder to fuel their latest project, The Underwater Realm, a series of five short films chronicling fanciful encounters between humans and “Atlanteans,” a race of underwater dwellers that bear a striking resemblance to us.

Shooting almost exclusively underwater, with less than a micro-budget and a crew made up entirely of volunteers, Realm Pictures’ owner, David M. Reynolds, has achieved a feat worthy of the swashbucklers and dreamers that went before him. The efforts of his team transport us to a realm filled with intrigue and wonder.

The episodes work their way backward through history (though they could be viewed almost as pleasingly in any order), titled simply by the years in which they are set:

2012 – Modern-day honeymooners, free diving in the crystal blue Mediterranean, encounter a ghost-like Atlantean woman with grim results.

1942 – A World War II dog fight sends a plane plummeting into choppy seas. After shooting out the glass canopy, the pilot catches a glimpse of a curious Atlantean girl as he rushes toward the surface.

1588 – The Spanish Armada fights a harrowing cannon battle. A young man tumbles out the side of a damaged ship and into a crowd of Atlanteans collecting spilled cargo and debris from the battle.

1208 – A heartbroken medieval girl, forced to witness her lover’s execution atop a rocky cliff, leaps into the angry ocean below, where a brave Atlantean attempts to save her life, but fails.

149 BC – At the peak of the Roman Empire, a prisoner of war is dropped overboard, only to find himself the target of an Atlantean rescue mission, this time by a strong tribe capable of turning an air-breather into one of their own.

Each offers a brief glimpse of the sea dwellers, but we are left with visceral impressions of waning existence, from a powerful ocean nation to just another myth that floats across the ocean of time.

These films are visually stunning and the performances manage to be exciting and fresh, creating believable sequences with intriguing characters, especially the heavily costumed Atlanteans. Though the submerged settings leave little room for dialogue, the Underwater Realm creators made the most of every frame, movement, and breath, to create a series of films that is believable and impressive.

All of this is made more epic by the challenges of shooting underwater, with a less-than-shoestring budget. The entire crew (actors and camera operators alike) had to go through extensive dive training before filming. They needed to build unique rigs and customized gear – from water-proof camera boxes to modified visual and lens controls in order to get the perfect focus out of their Red Epic camera system. And they wanted to shoot on location in idyllic settings (the North-Cornish coast, the Mediterranean, and even Hawaiian reefs), far from their home county of Devon, in Southwest England. They managed all of the above thanks to the dedication of the crew and an array of favors from like-minded dreamers across the globe.

But then, Reynolds and his co-conspirators are no strangers to tight resources. Prior to taking his visual skills underwater, the producer/writer/director/actor led the team that created a 50-minute mini-thriller called Zomblies (2011). Filmed for less than £10,000, the gritty, action-horror film won awards at the London Independent Film Festival and has collected 7 million views on YouTube. It also made Reynolds something of an indie-filmmaking hero.

According to the Underwater Realm website, Reynolds hopes these forays into creative resourcefulness will lead to an underwater feature film. If it lives up to the standards we’ve seen so far, it ought to be one for the ages.

To view the Underwater Realm series and tons of behind-the-scenes insights, visit the Realm Pictures YouTube channel.

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