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Snow Shark movie being filmed in WNY

Photo by Michael O'Hear
Qualiana and his crew on their seventh day of filming.

By Sharon Osorio


Lockport, NY –

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the snow, there's a movie about a snow shark being filmed in Niagara County.

"Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast" is an independent film directed by Sam Qualiana of Lockport. He won the Filmmaker to Watch award at the first Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival last year for a short film. And now, he's taking on a feature-length movie.

"It's a story of some animal biologists that went out trying to discover why all the disappearances of animals were going on 12 years ago and they were attacked by a creature and disappeared and were never heard from again," says Sam Qualiana. "And now, since then, this town has had some things come up but they've kept it a secret, but now it's happening again on a larger scale."

What's going on involves a shark that barrels its way through the snow. Just like that other shark movie, the audience will be warned of the upcoming carnage by seeing the shark's ominous fin gliding atop the surface. But in this film, the surface is snow. And yes, Qualiana says you are allowed to laugh.

"I want them to kind of get mixed emotions," says Qualiana. "Be afraid, but at the same time you won't completely take it seriously. It is supposed to be a little cheesy but reminiscent of those movies that were intended to be scary, but were cheesy."

While the killer shark may be fake, creating one big enough to eat the actors is an artistic feat in itself. John Renna of JFR Productions in Buffalo is heading the creation of the shark.

"It's really an impressive script, a great idea," Renna says. "It's going to be big, I think. It's already gained a life of its own, a lot of people are getting excited about it and I'm one of them. As soon as I heard about it, I signed on right away, and this is going to be a lot of fun."

Renna, who is also acting in the film, also created make-up effects and design for the Slaughter Haus at Final Fear, the haunted house attraction at the Hamburg Fairgrounds. But this will be his first life-sized shark.

"When we get to the main form, that's when we start sculpting the form down to fit," Renna says. "And using different skins and layers and colors and things to make it look alive and real, give it life instead of just being a puppet."

Another hefty challenge is filming in the snow. The crew is filming on the weekends in Lockport, Royalton and Akron. Some days have challenged them with very little snow. Other days have been frigidly cold and windy, like the day we spoke. And when a scene needs another take, the crew sometimes has to move to a new patch of snow. "It all depends on how fast the shot is," Qualiana says. "Usually we do have to go to fresh snow though. So, whenever we're doing a fin scene, if the fin goes by and it looked horrible, we have to reshoot it. We have to move over to another location real quick and try to cheat it whatever way we can so it looks believable."

When the full shark is complete and ready for its close-up, look out Lockport.

"We're going to have to find big patches of open snow," says Renna. "As of right now, I'm working on land mines that are made of fake blood and air compressors that on command, you blow blood 15 feet in the air and it looks like the shark's eating, and you can blast blood all over the place, so I'm guessing Lockport is going to be red instead of white by the time we're done."

Qualiana and Renna met at the Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival in October. Both men believe gore has a niche here in Western New York. Festival organizer's cite Buffalo's "bloody cinematic history" beginning in 1981, when the now-famous Harvey Weinstein wrote and produced a horror film here called "The Burning." Weinstein's "The King's Speech" just won four Oscars.

Renna adds that gory or not, many movies can be made in this area on a much smaller budget.

"We're trying to make Buffalo into a mecca for independent films where independent filmmakers can come here and spend little amounts of money to make big movie things happen here that you can't do in Hollywood," says Renna. "Not to mention the fact that in Buffalo, we don't need snowmakers; we have our own snowmaker. We have all four seasons. If you want it to look tropical, August and some shipped-in palm trees - it's a tropical setting."

Qualiana says the filming of Snow Shark should cost about $7,000. Post-production will cost more.

One way he's raising the money is through a website called indiegogo.com. He's also using Facebook and YouTube to create a buzz about the film.

And with Qualiana being all of 24 years old, he hopes this movie will lead him toward future success.

"Hopefully I'll be making films and getting paid for it, that's the goal," Qualiana says. "Follow the dreams and make money doing it, so that's what i'm shooting for."

Qualiana hopes Snow Shark will be completed by this summer.