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How that iconic Shark Week shark jump was filmed

Shark Week begins Sunday, and there’s on iconic image that, even when it isn’t actively used in promotional material, seems to represent the Discovery Channel’s annual summer stunt best.

And it was filmed by Tony Sacco, the DGA-award winning director of The Chair.

He was on episode 37 ofThe Jay and Tony Show Show podcast in late May, and talked about filming this shot:

So how did he get it? “You’re actually pulling a decoy behind the boat about 30 feet, of a [baby] seal,” he explained. (When I rewatched the promo, I noticed for the first time the cable visible in the first few seconds as the shark grabs the decoy.) “You sit for hours and hours and hours at the back of a boat, and hope that it hits.”

Sacco appeared on the podcast—produced by the company that produces GigolosLate Nite Chef Fight, and Restaurant Stakeout, among other series—before leaving for South Africa, where he was filming two shows for Shark Week.

It was filmed with a Phantom camera, which records 1,000 frames per second. “It’s always recording, so when the action’s done, you hit record and it backtimes,” he said.

Still, he’s had plenty of missed shots. “It’s tough concentration to sit in the back of a boat with freakin’ water hitting you, and you’re going up and down, and you’re staring at the viewfinder, so you’re watching the horizon.”

As to this particular shot, Sacco said, “You’re pointing the camera and hoping that the shark does something really fucking cool. This one, it was really rough waters, big swell, and it was a big belly breach, and it went sideways completely out, and in, and it was fucking awesome, and I was lucky to be the one holding the camera.”

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.