Night Swim’s toughest casting challenge was finding its monster—the Waller family swimming pool. Director Bryce McGuire wanted to build his lethal lido on a Hollywood backlot, but the unusually wet winter season of 2022-2023, with its record-setting precipitation, washed that plan away. So to find that pool in Night Swim the team commenced an epic scout of Southern California backyards. “We searched for houses with pools in almost every neighbourhood in Los Angeles,” McGuire says. “We needed a big pool with lots of space around it, because I wanted it to feel like you were on an island surrounded by darkness when a character was in the water alone. I also wanted big trees on the property, but not palm trees; I wanted the movie to feel like it could be taking place in Anywhere, America. But we’re shooting in L.A., so that’s not easy to come by. There were so many options we almost tried to ‘make work’ by piecing together the front of one house and the back of another and the pool of another, but it became such a scheduling headache.” Night Swim was filmed over the course of only 34 days in 2023.
McGuire finally found his watery nightmare fuel in Altadena, California, an ethnically diverse, middle-class suburban community about 13 miles northeast of Los Angeles near Pasadena. “The house had everything we wanted,” McGuire says. “The yard was wrapped in massive, live oak trees above the deep end that almost feels like a gaping mouth about to swallow you whole. The pool was over 9 feet deep and 44 feet long with a diving board and an interesting silhouette. When I saw the pool looking down from the second story window, it took my breath away. It was everything I imagined.” (Some scenes did require deeper water, so McGuire shot for four days in a 13-foot-deep Olympic sized pool in Chatsworth, California.)
While McGuire did utilize blue screen for some shots, Night Swim was mostly filmed “wet for wet,” as opposed to “dry for wet,” meaning it didn’t rely on computer animation to generate a simulation of water. McGuire and his director of photography, Charlie Sarroff (Smile), used older, wider lenses to make the pool seem as terrifyingly vast as the ocean when it goes into supernatural mode. For underwater sequences, they collaborated with two specialists: cinematographer IAN TAKAHASHI (James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad; Beyonce’s Lemonade) and stunt coordinator MARK RAYNER (Underwater, Inception, Baywatch), whose wet-work team included performers who had just come off Avatar: The Way of Water. “Shooting in water is twice as slow, twice as expensive and twice as dangerous as shooting on land,” McGuire says. “It was a huge logistical challenge. Everything from keeping the water clear enough to have visibility and having the right flashlights to the amount of time talent could safely hold their breath required specific problem-solving and strategies that you’d never even think about until you’re making a movie called Night Swim.”
For swim stunts that involved anything more complicated than a dog paddle, the cast would first study action drawings created by storyboard artist JOHN MCKEY (M3GAN, The Black Phone) then watch Rayner’s divers demonstrate the choreography—which sometimes required the actors to don goggles and linger underwater to observe them before doing it themselves. Each member of the cast did have to pass a basic swim test prior to production, and unlike their characters, the cast always had lifeguards watching out for them during every take.
For early scenes of the Wallers discovering that pool in Night Swim littered with autumn leaves and coated with scummy algae (and for the moment in which Ray accidentally slips into it), production designer Hillary Gurtler (The Craft: Legacy) and the art department team created large vinyl prints that were fitted to the bottom of the pool to create the illusion of dirty water, so as to prevent damaging the pool and to spare actor Wyatt Russell the unpleasantness of flailing in muck. As the pool had to belch up bubbles from undetectable subterranean regions, it fell to special effects foreperson ZAK KNIGHT (The Forever Purge, Insidious: The Last Key) to modify the actual pool in order for it to spew evil dark water. In order to achieve this effect, the team moved the over 27 thousand gallons of water into storage tanks on the street and kept it warm in order to send it back into the pool the next day. Special effects technician CADE FALL (Black Panther, Based on a True Story) then rigged up special hoses and nozzles that could percolate various patterns and sizes of supernatural bubbles from which our evil entities would emerge and return to.
And that’s how they found that pool in Night Swim…..
related feature : Night Swim reviewed HERE