Bolívar Sánchez Diving & Marine Coordinator during a watershoot
Working with water in a studio. Photo courtesy of Bolívar Sánchez.

Bolívar Sánchez was born in the USA, and raised in the Dominican Republic where he lives and works (most of the time). He is currently a Marine and Diving Coordinator and has worked in television and film for the past six years. Some of his notable works include; Caught, The Mummy, and 47 Meters Down.

What is a Marine and Diving Coordinator?

Besides sourcing out boats, water equipment that a project needs and water locations, for me this job can be broken down in 3 parts: 

Bolivar Sanchez and Director, Brennan Shroff
Bolívar Sánchez with director, Brennan Shroff. Photo courtesy of Bolívar Sánchez

Safety: As a Marine and Diving Coordinator you are responsible for the safety of all the crew and cast that are in or near a water environment. On a general level, after getting to know the story and the director’s vision, the Marine Coordinator will recommend locations, always thinking about what is the safest way possible to achieve the director’s vision. 

A lot of this takes place during pre-production, but on shoot days, we are always paying attention to weather patterns to make sure we can go out and shoot on a safe environment. 

Efficiency: Shooting in water environments is usually 4 times slower than a normal shoot. So I need to think ahead of the schedule to make sure everyone on my team knows what is coming up to make sure that the shot is more efficient. 

If it is an underwater shoot, we set up the logistics in a way that we can shoot as much as we can in a short amount of time. This is because we have a policy of 4 hours total bottom time for all cast and crew. 

This puts my position in close contact with the First Assistant Director who keeps close attention to the time it takes to make a shot or to complete a scene.

I believe that communication is efficiency, so I always keep very close communication with all Head of Departments to understand their needs during a shoot. This way I can provide a safe and efficient way that will allow them to do their jobs. 

Results: At the end of the day achieving the footage, and not compromising the director’s vision, in a safe manner is what we do and take pride in.

Tell us about your scuba diving experience.

I started diving a long time ago with my best friend at his suggestion and it took over my life. I am a Dive Instructor, Technical Cave Diver, Trimix Diver, and CCR Trimix Diver. I haven’t kept count of my dives, but I’ve gone as deep as 100 meters.

Bolívar Sánchez with Vin Diesel at the beach
On-location with Vin Diesel for a GQ photoshoot. Photo courtesy of Bolívar Sánchez.

How did you get into the film industry? Did you scuba dive first, or were you working in the film industry prior? 

I have been an avid photographer for most of my life, and when I started diving it made sense to take pictures and shoot videos underwater too.

I started shooting marine life but transitioned to shooting people underwater. This gave me a lot of experience with working with non-divers underwater. Even though it was all breath-hold and shallow water, it gave me an understanding of how to calm someone in order to achieve an image.

I was lucky enough that Pinewood Studios, in association with Lantica Media, decided to build a state of the art Water Tank in the Dominican Republic to service film projects.

After training in the UK for a while, Diving Services DR was born and I have been doing this ever since.

Split-level photo with boat and Bolivar Sanchez
Scoping out the set. Photo courtesy of Bolívar Sánchez.

What qualifications do you need to become a Marine and Diving Coordinator? Is there a specific course to take? 

There is not really a course you can take. The best course is being in the ocean for years and having a safety-driven mentality. I took the diver’s route, but I have friends that do this job and have more of a sailing background.

Bolivar Sanchez working in the water
Working with cameras and water. Photo courtesy of Bolívar Sánchez.

Tell us about your role in the movie ’47 Meters Down’. Many scuba divers either love or hate this, what are your thoughts?

I was the Dominican Republic Marine and Diving Coordinator. If there is a course for this job then this film was it. I learned a lot from doing this project. We shot both on location and at the water tank and were able to use a lot of elements: wave machines, underwater set decoration, opacifier for the water, and even prop sharks. 

I understand why some divers hate the film, but we have to take into account that films that have diving in them are usually not made for divers, because we can see some stuff that doesn’t make sense. But in this case, the director who is actually an avid diver and knows a lot about diving took some liberties to make the story move along. I personally think it worked and is a good film to sit back and enjoy.

Working on a film shoot with Bolivar Sanchez
Organizing the set. Photo courtesy of Bolívar Sánchez.

What is the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job? 

The best part about this job is that every shoot is different. At the same time, that is the most challenging, as there is no magic formula for this job. For every project, you have to break the script apart, have long conversations with the director and the heads of departments.

Oh, and the Producers… that’s ALWAYS a challenge! 

Describe your most memorable diving experience. 

I can’t really choose, but if I have to, it would be my first dive. Somehow, I knew this was a thing I was going to do for the rest of my life. I enjoy being underwater as it is my safe place. It could be deep in a cave system, 100 meters below, or just diving in the Water Tank hovering at the bottom blasting music through the underwater speaker system. I never take for granted being underwater… Continue Reading

Aerial shot of the water tank in DR
Aerial shot of the water tank. Photo courtesy of Bolivar Sanchez

Read Part 2 of Bolívar Sánchez’s Interview