Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swimming with Sharks

There are few things that surprise me anymore while working for Aero as lots of crazy things happen in our offices and on our shoots.  (I mean "good crazy" not "angry with a hatchet crazy."  Just to be clear.)  So, yesterday I’m reading through emails and I get one from Lance O’Conner, Owner and EP of Aero who’s in the Santa Monica office.  There are a LOT of exclamation points and words in the subject line that aren’t fit for a classy blog such as this.   Lance is a spirited man, so I took it with a grain of salt… Until I saw the photos and put it all together.

Let me explain:  Aero director, Klaus Obermeyer, decided to hang out with some great white sharks. No, this is not code.  And no, not in a Kevin Spacey/crazed assistant sort of way either.  I mean this LITERALLY. Klaus was in shark infested waters. On purpose. What’s more insane... I wasn’t at all surprised.

Let me explain further: When I first met Klaus, I knew he was a pretty ballsy kind of guy.  It was 2003 and I was still on the agency side of life, and was shooting a surfing spot with him. On Day 2 of knowing Klaus, we’re on a boat off the coast of Tahiti. (It’s a tough gig, but someone’s gotta do it.) Behind us, we were towing a small speedboat that we were going to use for the shoot. The speedboat was owned by a local who ran surf camps and was a good friend of Klaus, who is also an avid surfer (of course). 

Clockwipe to 45 minutes into the trip to our location when a HORRIBLE storm hits. It was basically the beginning credits to Gilligan’s Island. We were all getting tossed around like popcorn in a hot popper and unlike the passengers on the SS Minnow, I'd not packed a years worth of clothing for a 3 hour tour.  In short, panic set in, which was not at all quelled when Lance leaned over and told me, “Just don’t fall in the water, there are sharks out there.” AWESOME.  (However, on this trip I learned that even though I’m not a strong swimmer, I am GREAT at hiding in the corner of a boat and whimpering.) 

The situation only got worse. Two minutes later, the speedboat comes untethered from our boat. The owner looks near tears, as he’d been saving up for this boat, and it was the first time taking it out, and now it’s about to be lost at sea. So what happened next, you ask?  KLAUS JUMPS IN THE WATER.  When I heard a giant SPLOOSH, I poked out from my huddled position and yell to Lance, “Did the director just jump in the shark infested water during a giant storm?!?” Lance replies, “Oh sure! He needs to get his friend’s boat.” I quickly envisioned the mounting paperwork explaining to the production insurance as to why we couldn’t shoot since our director was eaten by a shark… But, like all ballsy heros, Klaus emerged from the water unscathed with the speedboat safe and sound and I swear I could hear a John Williams score in the background. Later on, like any good producer, I questioned Klaus about why he thought jumping into water with sharks was a good idea and he brushed it off, “Oh, they’re just Tiger Sharks…” Oh sure, like that makes it a Koi pond, mister.

Back to the present… lunch time at the Aero office. Skip Short (another Owner/EP in Santa Monica, and helicopter pilot) goes for an afternoon fly in his chopper. He calls Klaus saying that he’s spotted some sharks off the coast. Klaus runs out of his house, gets in his boat and Skip guides him from the sky to the point in the ocean where the Great Whites are swimming. Klaus then kayaks out to them (because you can’t just motorboat up on a shark, you know.) 

Here are the photos…. There aren’t words….. 

I'm just glad he didn't jump in... but I haven't opened up today's emails yet.  I'll keep you posted.

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