Luciane Buchanan and Matt Whelan in The Tank
100% shot in New Zealand
16 New Zealand cast
75% New Zealand crew
Shot in Auckland
“As a kiwi coming home to shoot a film here, this was an amazing experience.”
The Tank was brought to life by award-winning New Zealanders, writer, producer and director Scott Walker (The Frozen Ground), executive producer Mathew Metcalfe (McClaren, The Dead Lands) actors Luciane Buchanan (The Night Agent) and Matt Whelan (My Wedding and Other Secrets) with creature effects by five-time Academy Award winner Richard Taylor (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).
The film was inspired by a real life situation, when US based Writer/Director Scott Walker got stranded in New Zealand during the pandemic. During this time Scott and his family moved into their friend's remote beach house that was built on top of an enormous old water tank. When they ran low on water, Scott had to climb down into the tank, “all the time in its blackness I couldn’t stop thinking, what if there were creatures living in there that were going to come out at night and eat my family!?” he explains. This experience and the nightmares that followed acted as the inspiration for The Tank.
Doubling the Oregon Coast at Te Henga (Bethells Beach), West Auckland where Scott grew up.
German/New Zealander Regina Hegemann was cast as The Creature. “Not only has she got the flexibility and the performance, but she has the no-fear attitude needed to play this role” says Scott. Regina worked alongside Shane Rangi (Creature Team Lead) as movement coach through the process. “My background is in circus and my main discipline is contortion. There is a lot of flexibility in my practice and this has really helped me through the film” shares Regina.
“The mental challenge has also played a big part, and that is what contortion is all about. You connect with your body a lot, you know how to move your body, but you also have to get through the challenge of not being able to breathe or pushing past a pain threshold. It is almost meditative in a way, really connecting to being in a state of discomfort and finding enjoyment in that. This is a big part of what has helped me throughout this challenge. ”
“From a performance perspective there's the physicality of being able to get into a certain shape that doesn't look like a human can do” says Scott. “In Regina’s case she has this incredible ability to put her elbows and her knees higher than her hips and shoulders, so she looks like a spider and in that position she can crawl over objects.”
The process of creating the creature was a detailed process. “I really wanted every element of the film to feel like it really happened so everything needed to be grounded in some kind of science or species or something that could make logical sense. It wasn't an open door for us to create an alien that would take the audience out of this experience of a real time, real place and a real event” says Scott. “I thought, what if I was a biologist or PhD student and rewrote a thesis summary of these creatures, genus, reproductive cycle. Where does it come from, how does it live, what phenotype attributes does it have and what does it not have?”
Close-up on the creature in its underwater environment. Designed by Weta Workshop.
Scott wrote and sent it to Richard Taylor and his Creature Team at Weta Workshop as part of their briefing. “I have known Richard for years and wanted to work on something with him for a long time,” says Scott.
“He was the first person I told about it, and he had a similar experience as a child and the subsequent nightmares” so he was really engaged and excited about The Tank.
“Richard and I were constantly messaging with ideas about the creature. We would get into the texture, how animals move - but always coming back to where the science is that would make this potentially real. It gave us a box to operate in, some of the ideas could be really cool but logically didn’t fit within this environment or the story. The creature itself is based on real creatures which have extraordinary abilities.”
Final creature suit head design by Weta Workshop.
Regina wore a creature suit throughout her performance “The suit itself was developed by Richard Taylor and the team at Weta Workshop. They scanned me to fit the suit exactly to my body type and then they worked their magic. It was surprisingly hard, the reality of performing in the suit was quite humbling. With the suit on you don’t have a lot of oxygen flow, you are completely sealed in, and the vision in the suit is very restricted. I am pretty much blind when I perform. I just closed my eyes and focussed on where to move from memory.”
The creation of the creature doesn’t rely on CGI or digital creature replacement “everything the creature does is either a puppet or a person” Scott says. “I wanted to stay in this more practical world, and work with that, which has been terrific.” Sound design, score, grade and sound mix all come together to bring the creature to life “I had an incredible crew come together” shares Scott.
Matt Whelan ventures into the creatures world for the last time.
“Shooting in New Zealand was something I had tried to do seven years ago, and it just didn't happen, it wasn't meant to be, but then we were back here. I already knew most of the creative team, and got back in touch. What didn't happen last time, now got a chance to happen. And it worked out really well.” “The hero of the film starts out feeling like it's Ben, the father, It's really his story. You really like him, he’s not a traditional heroic lead, he’s a regular guy. But the film soon shifts and it becomes the mother, Jules who becomes the hero.”
“We were trying to find someone who had the softness, the motherliness but also had the strength, determination and courage to play Jules.” Luciane Buchanan delivered this and more, and was cast in the role of Jules.
“I wanted someone warm, approachable and really likeable for the role of Ben and when I first met Matt he was that. He’s got a softness and gentleness, and at the same time he's a big guy.” Matt Whelan was cast as Ben. “The big challenge was who was going to play their daughter, we found Zara and she was terrific,” says Scott.
The New Zealand Screen Production Grant
The Tank utilised the New Zealand Screen production Grant. The New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) for New Zealand Productions is part of the Government’s screen incentives scheme. Eligible productions can access a cash rebate equivalent to 40% of Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE).
This grant is capped at NZ$6 million per production unless the production qualifies for an Additional Grant, which is available to productions that can meet additional criteria and have QNZPE from NZ$15 million to NZ$50 million.
The purpose of the New Zealand Grant is twofold:
To build the sustainability, scale and critical mass of the domestic film industry and support the development of New Zealand creatives.
To provide cultural benefits to New Zealand by supporting the creation of New Zealand content and stories.
The New Zealand Film Commission administers the NZSPG for New Zealand Productions on behalf of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
A NZSPG for International Productions is also available and includes a Post, Digital and Visual Effects Grant. Click here for more information.
Oregon, 1978. Ben Adams and his wife Jules are in for a surprise when they inherit an abandoned coastal property that Ben’s recently deceased mother never told them about. Not knowing what to expect, the couple travel to the secluded home with their bright-eyed 7-year-old daughter Reia and dog, Archie.
Untouched for 40 years, the house looms like an eerie relic over land which includes a stunning private cove and beach. The beauty and tranquillity of the place leave the family with the nagging question: why was this property kept a secret for so long?
While Jules rummages through the house looking for answers, Ben goes to repair the buried water tank that supplies the home with fresh water from an underground reservoir. An enormous,dank space, Ben slides down into the darkness, unplugging the blockage, not knowing that in doing so he is unleashing a long dormant creature, fiercely protective of its environment. As terror closes in around the family, Jules finds a diary which reveals the horrifying truth about the disappearance of Ben’s father and sister, but this discovery cannot stop what has been unearthed and the question is now, can they prevent it from happening again?
The Tank is in New Zealand cinemas June 8 2023.