John Garvin has been acting on stage in the UK for over 10 years. He is currently co-starring in the upcoming James Cameron film “Sanctum” a film in which he also helped write the script for. Movie Mikes had the chance to talk with John about his first onscreen film experience and getting to work with James Cameron.
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Adam Lawton: How did you become involved with “Sanctum?”
John Garvin: I first became involved with “Sanctum” around 2005. I was invited to Los Angeles by James Cameron and Andrew White. They had an idea for and underwater survival drama and were looking for a screen writer. They had read one of my previous screenplays and they were looking for a writer with a diving sensibility and also someone who could write action sequences. I was lucky enough to have a sample script that covered all of those points. After what should have been only a twenty minute meeting with Andrew and Jim turned into an eight hour meeting. We talked about diving and other things I was offered to come on board.
AL: Can you tell us a little bit about the story line of “Sanctum”
JG: “Sanctum” is predominately a father and son story. The father character is one of the world’s leading cave explorers and in hopes of instilling a sense of discipline into his son he invites him along on this expedition. A freak storm comes and floods the cave basically trapping the crew inside. It’s really a rite of passage story based around the son character.
AL: Besides being a writer on the film you also have a role in it as well?
JG: Yes that is correct. The only way to get acting work in Australia is to write your own part! (Laughs) I had been acting in the UK for about 10 years in various stage productions however I had never done a film role. During the early stages of developing the script James and Andrew told me to be sure I wrote myself a part. I created the Jim Sergeant character who is a bossy British dive instructor that basically barks orders at everyone. It was fantastic to be involved in that process and to get to act again.
AL: Can you tell us what it was like working with James Cameron?
JG: James was extremely supportive throughout the entire writing process. I really learned a lot from him. It was a little nerve racking upon our first meeting but after a little bit I realized that James is first and for most a very enthusiastic diver who makes these huge movies to fund his diving passion. I found that when we were talking it was more like two divers talking rather than a screenwriter talking to a director. James was always supportive and it was an incredible opportunity to get to work with him on this project.
AL: Did James and Andrews diving back grounds make it easier or harder when coordinating the dives in the film?
JG: They both have a huge amount of experience working with water and films with underwater themes. This I think helped tremendously in preparing the crew. When water is added to any type of film project you can almost guarantee that things are going to take longer and that safety is going to be crucial. What we found with “Sanctum” was that we were breaking a whole new realm of diving. We were doing stuff that had never been done. A lot of the diving equipment we used is real pieces of equipment that only experienced divers would get to use. We didn’t use a lot of props or anything. We then combined lights, cameras, and other various gear in this dark overhead environment. A lot of the very difficult scenes were shot with the actual actors. We put the actors through some extremely hardcore underwater stunts, they should all be very proud of themselves.
AL: Can you tell us what it was like behind the scenes?
JG: Everything went really smoothly. The set was run similar to a dive expedition. Each scene was very well thought out and would be rehearsed in depth prior to shooting. On the last day of shooting Richard Roxburgh who plays the Frank character had a very bad cold. This makes diving very tough even for an experienced diver. We had just that one day left to get everything filmed so Richard even though he was in pain stuck with it and we were able to get the shots.
AL: What type of work are you looking to do next? Acting or Writing?
JG: Hopefully a bit of both. A have a number of screenplays that I have been working on that I hope will move into the next stage of development. Getting to see “Sanctum” completed was really great after being involved with it for so long.
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