Friday, August 17, 2012

Death of Underwater Filming Pioneer Strands San Francisco Short

Instead of being added to a very long list of film and TV credits, the short drama Life and the Lady is now dedicated to the memory of underwater filming giant Jack Gittings. His death from a heart attack on June 15th at age 62 was completely unexpected, leaving both writer-director Michaelantony Dunston and Gittings' business partner Iara Mandyn struggling to pick up the pieces.

Up until that sad summer day, Gittings had been assisting Dunston with underwater training and lighting at his specialized Fathom Films facilities in Woodside, California. The movie is about a young woman who, while apparently drowning, begins to have a conversation with what she perceives to be “death.”

“It’s as if death came and challenged this production by taking away our main supporter and friend,” Dunston says. “Jack will be sorely missed and right now, I am still not sure what to do about the underwater portion.” Gittings' accomplishments were numerous. Here's how Mandyn described part of his legacy in a fall 2011 article:

There were few underwater camera housings available in the early 70’s, so Gittings (pictured) made his own from raw Plexiglas... Around the same time, producers in Hollywood were looking to improve the quality of underwater scenes. Gittings teamed up with fellow cinematographers Jack McKinney, Al Giddings and Stan Waterman and spent years solving the problem.
The result was a dome port that revolutionized underwater optics. The technology was first used on the 1977 film The Deep. The film was also Gittings’ first big Hollywood break; he was asked to work on-set training Jacqueline Bisset to dive.

It gets better. After Gittings permanently relocated to LA and began teaching at a dive shop, he hooked up with Ron Howard and shot some test footage for Splash. He convinced one of his dive masters to audition for a role in the film, and mercifully, Daryl Hannah agreed. It was also around this time that Gittings founded Fathom Films, in 1982

RIP, Jack Gittings and best of luck Michaelantony Dunston with the completion of that film in his memory.

[Fathom Films]


  1. Jack had a huge heart when it came to helping others and underwater work. Thanks for acknowledging this fine human being!


  2. My name is Dariea Garibaldi. I just found out recently that Jack passed away and am extremely saddened by this news. I am the 1 that Jack. Had working on the Splash project. Jack was. My manger and he launched my career for me when I was in High School. I worked as a stand in and double and did stunts for "I ]asinger on over 15 projects and ended up casting for films and producing them thanks to Jacks training and advice through out the years. I learned a lot from Jack and am sorry he is gone. Best regards Dariea

    1. Hi Dariea:

      Thanks very much for sharing your memories of Mr. Gittings. And since Blogger doesn't let me edit/fix typos in reader comments, I think you mean there "...stunts for Kim Basinger." RIP.

  3. Hello my name is Terry Thomas,
    I too am sad to hear my old friend and video produce'n cohort Jack has left the planet. I new and worked on many video production with Jack for almost thirty years - I worked with him to build one of his studios in San Mateo and we worked together to build my studio then in Danville Ca., he was a good dude and he will be missed. If you can tell me any more about his attack I would appreciate it.
    Terry Thomas.