Captain Lance Julian remembers when the Titanic sank. He even had a hand in it.
He watched as the sailors on the doomed ship lowered their passengers into the lifeboats, and shivered with more than just cold as he heard the band play their final song. It was all so real, he recalls.
From his perspective, that’s a good thing. After all, it’s his job to create lifelike scenes on the water.
“You really felt this whole thing that was happening,” he says.
With his son Captain Harry Julian, Captain Lance is at the helm of Marine Team International, which provides professional marine consulting and management to top movie and television studios. Since founding the Marine Team in 1994, the company has worked on countless films, including “Titanic” and, most recently, “The Hangover Part 2,” which opened Thursday in local theaters.
Locally, the Julians also own and operate Cruise Naples, a tour boat and rental company that operates out of Tin City. They bought the company two years ago and are working to expand their offerings with new equipment and tour offerings.
Generations of sailors
The Julians hail from New Zealand, and have a long maritime family tradition. Capt. Lance’s great-grandfather was in logging and quarries, and his grandfather was in tugboats. Capt. Lance’s father, Harry, wrote a book called “Sea in My Blood,” and Capt. Lance earned a 10-ton tugboat certification at age 16.
It’s that expert understanding of what does and doesn’t work on water that led the Julians to become blockbuster movie consultants. In 1989, the New Zealand maritime business that the Julian family had owned for years went public; Capt. Lance remained on staff for a few more years until he decided the new arrangement didn’t suit him.
The Julian family moved to Hawaii, where Capt. Lance had first met and fallen in love with his wife, Sharon. Capt. Lance took a job working for a towing and cruise company. Around that time, the Kevin Costner film “Waterworld” was being filmed in the islands. One day, Capt. Lance watched as the film’s production company struggled to move a barge into a harbor.
He knew he could do better. He already had the skills; it was work he did everyday. He also knew he had the correct attitude: Be can-do, say yes and figure it out.
“Everything I’m doing out here, that’s my background,” he says.
Marine Team was formed, and went on to work on “Waterworld” and numerous other Hollywood films and television series, including several of the “Survivor” seasons. “Survivor” is also where Capt. Harry met his wife, Elizabeth, who is originally from Naples; she’s since joined the family business, too, taking over the accounting side.
Nature: ultimate director
Just because the Julians have the seafaring skills doesn’t mean their film work is always smoothing sailing, Capt. Lance explains.
In the case of “The Hangover Part 2,” Marine Team needed to find three Baja 38 speedboats for the film. They also repainted them and outfitted them with bigger engines. All was well until a stunt didn’t work exactly as planned and the production suddenly needed a fourth speedboat.
That’s part of the business, however, especially when working on water.
When Marine Team worked on “Cutthroat Island,” the crew was all set to film a scene where actress Geena Davis rows out to meet her father, who is on an anchored ship. Everything was set up beautifully, Capt. Lance recalls. The sunset was gorgeous.
Then, the camera jammed — and there’s no stalling the sunset.
“It’s not like a studio,” Capt. Lance says. “You have all of Mother Nature working with you. Or working against you.”
Marine Team’s first step in the moviemaking process is to gather all the information about a project — and that means everything. If it’s wet, that’s Marine Team’s problem, Capt. Lance explains, making them responsible for knowing everything from the rise and fall of the tides to finding the right watercraft to appear in the film and as support vessels.
In the movie “K-19: The Widowmaker,” director Kathryn Bigelow wanted a certain class of Russian sub. That class wasn’t available, but Marine Team found another class of Russian sub being used as a restaurant in St. Petersburg, Fla. They snapped it up and added 60 feet to make it look like the Widowmaker. They also hauled it up to Halifax, Nova Scotia, which served as a stand-in for Iceland in the film.
High seas diplomacy
Marine Team scouts locations, makes recommendations and tries to head off legal issues. They also work with the local authorities to make sure they won’t encounter any governmental problems. Not that it doesn’t occasionally happen: When they worked on U-571, they were required to build a full scale U-boat, which “was a lot of fun,” Capt. Lance recalls.
They did the work in Malta, and an American satellite spied them in the process, prompting a visit from the British consulate, wanting to know what they were doing building a sub. Capt. Lance laughs about that. They made some great friends that day, he says, and even ended up getting invited to the Embassy.
Marine Team moves all the time to keep up with the demands of their work, Capt. Lance explains.
It’s not unlike being on a ship.
“You’ve got to be on the ball,” he says.