Writer talks ‘Aquarium of the Dead’

Indie creature feature Aquarium of the Dead is set for DVD release from High Fliers on 28th June 2021 in the UK.

Bloody Flicks caught up with writer Marc Gottlieb to discuss the feature in more detail.

Where did the idea come from for Aquarium of the Dead?
The producers at The Asylum approached me with the idea. They already had a story outline in place from Michael Varrati and asked if I would be interested in taking on scripting duties. I loved the title and after reading Michael’s outline I was on board.

What was the writing process like?
Fast. But that’s not uncommon with a project like this. The outline is pretty much set in stone before I go to draft. When I came on, I had a few ideas I wanted to introduce into the story and discussed those with the producers. After those were approved, I went to work. As for the process itself, Michael had laid a solid foundation for me to build upon so that made my job easier this time around. I got to have all the fun introducing the characters, mapping out the set-pieces, and figuring out who lives, who dies, and – my favorite part – where and how it was going to take place in the aquarium.

Can we consider this a love letter to the films of people such as Roger Corman?
A tip of the hat to Roger Corman, for sure. His films have this quality about them where you can tell they’re made by people with an affinity for the genre and a love of filmmaking. You never leave a Roger Corman film without being entertained. The wilder, crazier, and weirder – the better. I think all of these can apply to AQUARIUM OF THE DEAD and many other films that I’ve made with The Asylum gang!

Did you get to spend much time on-set for the film?
I did not get down to set this time around. I was working on another project.

What sort of split are we looking at for practical and CGI monsters?
I believe the film is almost entirely CGI. I’m always lobbying to get one or two practical shots in on every project I do with The Asylum. There might be a couple of practical FX in there on AQUARIUM, I’ve yet to see the finished film. On TRIASSIC WORLD, a majority of that was practical. I was thrilled and I thought it all looked great. So I’m always throwing my two cents in where the FX are concerned.

What was it like to work with director Glenn Miller, and how much of the story changed once filming began?
I did not get to work that closely with Glenn. He did keep me in the loop throughout the entire production, so I was able to see the location they were using. That helped me to better visualize the story in my head and block it out on paper during the writing process. I don’t think the story changed all that much once production started. It’s possible they altered or cut some scenes during shooting, but you’ll have to ask Glenn that!

As a screenwriter is it difficult to see your work adapted, especially if it doesn’t turn out how you envisioned it?
Not really, not if you’re working with talented people who are all on the same page. I’m always very eager to see how the director and the cast interpret the script during production. If something doesn’t turn out how I envisioned it, well, sometimes it’s even better than what I had pictured. Of course, there are instances where it goes the other way and that might happen for any number of reasons. A scene is cut because they ran out of time to shoot it. The director had an idea or a line of dialogue that he or she liked better, you never know…and that’s fine too. Not much I can do about it at that point is there, haha. Just accept it and move on, knowing the scene played differently on the page and a choice was made later on.

You have previous experience in space from Triassic World and Planet of the Sharks, so did this compare?
The big difference on AQUARIUM was that I was working from Michael’s story. On TRIASSIC and PLANET, those stories originated with me and then I worked alongside the producers and development team to shape and mold them into a movie. So I was working from my ideas when I went to script on those films. But whether it’s sharks or a rampaging dinosaur or undead marine life, I’m having the time of my life working on all of them.

You were also recently part of the Deathcember anthology, how was that experience for you?
I have always wanted to make a giallo. Ama Lea and I are both massive fans of that sub-genre, so when she asked if I would like to work on her segment I jumped at the chance to do it. I ended up writing three different short films and sent them all to her, she really liked the family inheritance take and so we shot FIVE DEATHS IN BLOOD RED. The biggest challenge we faced was telling the story in such a brief period of time, introducing a number of characters and presenting each as the potential killer with only six or seven minutes to wrap everything up. Ama handled that all beautifully and delivered on the super-stylized aesthetic indicative of the giallo but still making it all her own. Our cast was amazing, we got Barbara Magnolfi who worked with Dario Argento and Sergio Martino and she always had great input to offer. I’m really proud of how our segment turned out.

Aquarium of the Dead is released on DVD on 28th June 2021 from High Fliers.

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