Writing a Thriller With ‘Dark Tide’ Writer Amy Sorlie

The screenwriter’s first sale becomes a shark thriller with Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez

Last Updated: October 12, 2010 @ 4:02 PM

Not too long ago Amy Sorlie (who wrote the article “Queens of Sunday”) made her first screenplay sale. That script is now being turned into a film starring Halle Berry and Oliver Martinez. In “Dark Tide,” Berry plays Kate Mathieson, a diving instructor who returns to the ocean after an encounter with a great white shark. The film is shooting now and scheduled for 2011 release.

I talked with Amy about writing “Dark Tide” and getting her first sale.

What was the inspiration for this screenplay?

From a very young age, I was always very fascinated with sharks, especially Great Whites. They are extremely mysterious and provoke a fear unlike anything else. I, like so many other people, was deeply affected by Spielberg’s “Jaws” and wanted to try and tap into the fear and a bit of what makes that shark movie stand apart as such a classic.

How is “Dark Tide” different from other thrillers?

jawsI tried to keep it very authentic. A lot of shark movies tend to be, for lack of a better word, “cheesy.” I really wanted to be respectful of these animals and set a film in their environment, as opposed to a shark that hunts a group of spring breakers or beachgoers. There are a lot of people that make a living studying Great Whites, so I wanted to approach it from that angle, while still keeping the thrilling moments people expect from a film like this.

Did you have to do a lot of research?

I did quite a bit in the first initial drafts, but it was fun research for me and something I’ve always been interested in. I already had a lot of shark knowledge, so most of the research was in dealing with the locations and setting of the film.

What was the moment when this story really clicked for you?

When did you realize you might have something special?
I think every writer has that moment sitting at the computer when a smile crosses your face and you just know a certain scene is working. I think for me, it was when I was alone writing one of the action sequences and I scared myself. I remember thinking, “if I was in the water and this happened, I would probably have a heart attack!” Then when other people who read the script were having the same reaction, I knew it was working.

Another big factor was when I went cage diving at the Farallon Islands, a well-known Great White mecca. I remember being in the cage and that feeling of waiting for one to appear. It’s a rush unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and if even a fraction of that comes across from the page, I know I’ve done my job.

What was the critical factor in getting this script sold and then produced?

The process was a rollercoaster for sure, but I’d have to say that Halle Berry’s involvement was what really made everything happen. Getting movies made in this climate is very difficult and when you add an independently financed water movie on top of that, things get interesting! Halle was attached for a year while financers came in and out of the mix, but ultimately the money came together and a few tenacious producers made it happen. There were definitely some iffy moments, but when John Stockwell came on board to direct, I think everyone came together to get production started as soon as possible.

What was it like traveling to London to watch shooting?

Seeing the production at the underwater tank at Pinewood Studios was such a rewarding experience. It was surreal at times to see different scenes play out exactly the way I saw them in my head, and just how big the scope of everything was. John and the water team did an amazing job in often difficult conditions and Halle and the cast were also troopers in that they were in the water constantly with wind machines and waves and they were all game to do much of their own diving.

It was great to see everyone work so well together, because as you can imagine, working in the water is a different kind of challenge. But it was great to see everyone rise to that challenge, because I think audiences will really appreciate the authenticity of the way it was filmed.

How did you celebrate?

I think I’m still celebrating! It was a really long year to watch everything come together, but when we had a start date I definitely had some nice dinners and let myself enjoy it a bit. Oh, and Lakers playoff tickets. I definitely splurged on game one tickets to the Boston series. Some girls would buy shoes, or jewelry. I wanted to see Kobe, Pau and Derek beat Boston!

What’s next?

I’m developing a TV pilot with Escape Artists that I’m very excited about and I’m also working on a feature heist spec I’m hoping to have ready by spring. I have another thriller that’s been optioned, so we’re working on finding financing to get that one off the ground next year.

Other than that, I just try to keep my eyes open because you never know where great ideas can come from. In the near future, what I would really love is for people to be scared to go in the water. That would make me really happy!