With their cast announced and shooting about to begin in New York on Sharknado 2: The Second One, the sequel to Syfy’s surprise sensation, the director looks back on making the first.
It’s a freezing cold February night in Van Nuys and I’m standing knee high in a quarter-filled public swimming pool. A quasi-two story living room set has been built in the pool that we’ve flooded and now a shark (a fake one, that is) has penetrated the living room and attacks our actors Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons and Aubrey Peeples.
It’s an incredibly strange sight that takes the memorable tagline from Jaws, “just when you thought it was safe to go into the water” and turns it on its head into “just when you thought it was safe to go into your living room.”
Then again, with a movie like Sharknado, nothing is sacred. It’s a movie about sharks in a tornado. By air, by land, by sea — they can now get you anywhere. If the tornado doesn’t kill you, the sharks will!
What makes this night so difficult is the freezing temperatures, and the fact that my voice is completely shot. After a week and a half of yelling “shark” to get the actors prepared for the CGI creations that we will place into the film later in post, I can no longer speak. I soldier on even though Simmons can’t stop laughing when my cry of “shark” sounds like I ate a frog.
With an 18-day shoot and the kind of budget that could be blown on craft service for two days on Battleship, Sharknado is my fourth directorial effort. It’s the first chance I’ve been given to handle a huge VFX-driven film (it has 401 VFX shots), big action and some well-placed comedy. We’re trying to do what the big studios do, with a fraction of the time and budget, but with a cast and crew ready, willing and able to go the extra mile to create a fun little movie.
CUT TO: Six Months Later.
Sharknado has transformed into the little movie that could or as Robbie Rist describes it “a movie that doesn’t know it can’t do that” (Robbie also plays the bus driver who is killed by the Hollywood sign in the film). A Syfy Channel Original produced by the Asylum, Sharknado has turned into a full fledged summer sensation. Fuelled by a Twitter frenzy that turned it into a social media phenomenon the night it aired, it’s a movie with no marketing budget, just a lot of grass roots good will and a crazy name that somehow caught the attention of the masses.
We never anticipated the film to go bug shit crazy like it did. Deep into post-production, I turned to my editor and said, “this is a weird movie, no one is going to get it – but at least we’ve made the greatest stoner movie ever.”
And then people got it (maybe we’re now a nation comprised of 90 percent stoners). The original Syfy airing did okay, despite a massive Twitter tweet-in during the initial broadcast. The second airing increased in ratings and so did the third airing. A week later, the movie was screening in over 300 theaters nationwide for a one-time Midnight showing. The film went global and the cast and crew were thrust into the limelight. It was as if we made this summer’s blockbuster, but the movie and the buzz did all the heavy lifting for us. News shows, political shows, comedy shows – everyone was talking about Sharknado. They poked fun at it. They hated it. They loved it. They thought it was so bad it’s good. Parodies followed. Some just simply loved it because it made them happy (as one woman at Comic-Con explained to me). And many scratched their heads at it, unsure what happened and how it happened, but they couldn’t stop talking about it regardless.
What the hell did we do?
We just had a whole lot of fun. Where we didn’t have a money hose to turn on, we came up with creative solutions. When we created new sequences in editing, we turned to stock footage. When we couldn’t license songs, I co-wrote music with Rist. And we built a set in an outdoor swimming pool and froze to death all in the name of Sharknado.
The strange thing about everything that has happened, it’s still hard to believe it happened to our little movie. You always hear about little films that come out of nowhere and become overnight sensations. El Mariachi, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, but you never expect it would be your film.
And that’s the wonderful thing about this adventure. I’m totally appreciative and grateful this strange event happened in my life. It’s been an exhilarating ride. Doors have been opened that never would have been without Sharknado and now, I’m no longer the “horror guy”, I’ve become the “director of Sharknado.” Something that could have killed my career, suddenly gave it added life.
Yes, I survived a Sharknado and I didn’t need to chainsaw my way out of a shark to prove it – I was just smart enough to get someone like Ian Ziering to allow us to dump gallons of fake blood on top of him so he could do the dirty work for me.
Anthony C. Ferrante is senior editor of Geek magazine and currently directing Sharknado 2: The Second One, starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kelly Osbourne, Andy Dick, Judah Friedlander, and Judd Hirsch.