How did you first get involved in the asylum and what drew you there?
I guess what drove me there was just trying to find some work. I had a friend who was a friend of David Latt who’s one of the partners at the Asylum. I had known David for a year and had tried to get him involved in a couple of my projects and he hadn’t really been interested. This was before the asylum became “The Asylum”. He was just putting the company together and they were actually an art house film distribution company in the beginning. They didn’t start out as what they are now. So I just knew David and I don’t think he took me very seriously because all I really had to show was a student film and a couple of scripts and so it was after I finally got my act together and raised the money to make an independent feature called Mutant Vampire Zombies from the Hood…
Yeah and I showed that to David and I said ‘Hey I want to make movies with you’. By then the asylum was the film factory that they’ve become and so it all sort of came together and I guess he liked that film because he said okay well we’ll put you on the list of people who we want to work with and then the next time we need a pitch or something we will contact you. So maybe six months or a year later I got an email from their director of development saying “Hey we need an illegal street racing movie” because I guess fast and the furious 5 was about to come out and they wanted something that would ride it’s coat tails.
And so I came up with a patch for a movie called Two Hundred Miles per Hour: Midnight Racers and they liked it but they said “we can’t shoot this at night”. You know you need lights to do that and we’re trying to save costs. So the whole midnight racer thing I didn’t quite understand…
Maybe Midday Racers?
Yeah. So I wrote this script and I was under the impression that they were also interested in me to direct it but then I found out they already had a director so they said “okay, the next one you’ll direct.” And so Two Hundred Miles Per Hour got shot and it was fine and then they needed to do a battleship movie, because Universal was coming out with Battleship.
And I didn’t know anything about what universal’s battleship was going to be except obviously it was somehow turning the game into a movie. But they wanted a movie that they can call battleships. Plural.
So I came up with a pitch and they liked it. We met and we talked about it and we agreed that I would write and direct this movie. I had seen a bunch of the asylum films and I went into this thinking that if I didn’t make the best asylum movie ever made I should probably be shot.
So when the film was finally made I’d like to think it was the best asylum movie made up to that point, but whether it was or whether it was just top five, I don’t know. But they liked it, everybody liked it. They thought it was well done. Some of us, me and Mario van Peebles especially were a bit disappointed in the visual effects. I remain very proud of everything I shot for that but I was not pleased with a lot of the VFX that I think might look a lot cheaper than it otherwise would have.
That’s the film that went on to become American warships.
Yeah. So it was gonna be called Battleships and then it was going to be called American battleship and I believe the reason it became American Battleship…well I got one reason but I think there’s another reason for that. The first reason was that in Japan, which is a big market for them, they like American things. But the real reason that I found out later is that at that point they were really getting into the “video on demand” market and those menus tended to be listed alphabetically. So they liked titles to begin with a number or with A. So we called it American Battleships but then apparently one of their foreign distributors decided to change the title in their market. I think it might have even been U. K. to be honest. Decided to change the title to just “battleship”. Universal got wind of that and decided to sue.
So the irony of all this is that our movie was going to be airing on the sci-fi channel which is owned by universal, so they’re suing themselves. But in the end we had to change the title to American warships and the marketing art work had to be changed. But the lawsuit never really had anything to do with the content of the film. I didn’t copy what they were doing because I didn’t know what they were doing. I knew I had to make a movie that had a battleship in it.
And ironically our movie has one battleship in it and their movie has many American warships. So really we should have switched titles but obviously, they weren’t interested in that.
I mean it started out as a story about the US versus a rogue North Korean Stealth Ship. And then like halfway through the development process I get this call from The Asylum and it’s one of those magical only in Hollywood calls that you get once in a lifetime and it said that “we like what you doing so far but we want you to change the bad guy. We want them to be space aliens”.
And I thought that was just hilarious because I’ve been writing a very realistic movie about naval warfare.
Closer to the actual game than either film ended up being?
Right. But it ended up actually helping my story because I was really having to tie myself in knots explaining how North Korea could have this advanced ship that is so far beyond anything we have and once it became space aliens who were trying to make everybody think it was North Koreans in order to start a war it off, it suddenly all sort of fell into place and the script started to be a lot easier to write.
When that came out they were all very happy with it and then a few months after the film was done we were sitting around talking about what I would do for them next. We talked about a giant monster movie which I sort of worked on for a bit but then turned it over to some other writers and I got intrigued by this very little science fiction story called AE. Game of Thrones was in that second season at that point and I was actually in love with it and I was really excited by the idea of creating a whole world in this movie. And of course creating an entire world on an asylum budget is tricky.
But I wanted to do that. I also thought I could do it in a small way, tell a small story that wasn’t as reliant on visual effects as American warships was and so I wouldn’t have to worry about sort of getting screwed by the effects. So I started working on that and then The Asylum came to me and they said “you know, we really want to do is this movie called Shark Storm” and I said “Why would I want to do that haven’t we had enough shark movies and enough storm movies” and they said “okay we’ll find somebody else” and they went away. Then like a month later they came back to me. I wasn’t aware at the time but in the interim they had had a meeting with sci fi where they pitched their Shark Storm idea and they said “that’s great but we have a better title for it”.
So they came back to me like a month later and said “forget Shark Storm, now its called Sharknado. And I said “what do sharks have to do with the North Atlantic Treaty organisation.” I was imagining sharks battling the army in Europe or something I couldn’t quite figure it out.
An alliance of sharks!
Yeah. So they said “No no no, SharkNADO, a tornado of sharks”. So I said “Well that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and as long as I can do it that way I’m in” Because the asylum has a habit of playing everything absolutely straight even though their production budget would tend towards the campy side. They like everything played absolutely straight and “believable”. There was just no way something called Sharknado could be done that way.
And they said “yes, we understand something called Sharknado has to be a bit ridiculous”. So once I had their permission to have fun with it I went off and wrote this is ridiculous over the top script. And I was very pleased with it and I had a great time writing it. It was a lot of fun. But as I finished it I realised I’d written the script for a hundred million dollar film and I was still kind of burnt from my experience on American warships and I didn’t want to do another film where the visual effects could let me down. So I said “Hey guys you know I’m happy to work on the script as needed but I don’t think I want to direct this one”. It had been part of my deal, to direct it. I’m going to go and do AE. And as it turned out they were both scheduled to shoot at exactly the same time. So I would have had to choose anyway.
So I was off in Costa Rica in the jungle for a couple months shooting AE while they were trying to find a director for Sharknado. And the great irony, well I guess not “irony”. but the great coincidence of it is…nobody wanted to direct Sharknado. They couldn’t find anybody to star in it either. No actor in Hollywood want to play Fin Shepherd and they offered it to everybody.
Finally they talked to Anthony C. Ferrante. So he came in for a meeting because they wanted to talk to him about directing. He saw Sharknado on the on the board, because they have a big white board in their office with a list of all the films that are about to be made. And he said “what on earth is this”. And they said “that’s a movie we’re doing for Sci-Fi called “Sharknado” and he turned to them and says “I invented that”. And they were like “what?”.
So it turns out a couple years before Anthony and a partner had been writing a script for a movie called leprechaun’s revenge which eventually became red clover. In that script there’s a scene where two characters are hiding in an office as the leprechauns wreak havoc on the town. And one of them says to the other “I hope our town doesn’t go the way of that other town. They never recovered after the Sharknado hit.” And it was just a throwaway line of dialogue. And someone at Sci-Fi saw that and they latched on to that and they said “Hey we should do a movie about that. About the Sharknado. So Anthony was never even aware that this was happening until he walked into that meeting so it was all kind of kismet. Rather than have them sue them or something they hired him to direct the movie and I guess the rest is history.
So in terms of those early movies is that the kind of brief that you would get. “We need a street racing movie” or “we need something called this”?
The way the asylum basically works is they give you a one sentence description of the movie they need. With battleship it wasn’t even that. They just said they needed a movie that could be called “battleships”. That’s literally all I got and then they said give us three ideas. That’s basically how they work. Three brief pitches of like a paragraph of the story. Remember it’s a weird system they have when they’re doing their ‘mockbusters’. They’re trying to find out what the studio film is going to be about and often they only have a title and maybe a piece of artwork, the poster, for them to figure out what it’s supposed to be about.
But they don’t want to copy these movies and certainly none of their film makers want to copy these movies we don’t want to do knock offs. The asylum’s idea is to piggyback on the marketing campaign basically.
Not to do a satire of the studio film and not to do a knock off it. What they’re trying to satire is the whole studio process that has people believing that you need two hundred million dollars to make a film that people will enjoy. That’s what they’re mocking in the “mockbuster” idea.
How do you feel about the phrase “Mockbuster”?
I don’t care for it. I’ve never made a mockbuster. I’ve never made a film that was intentionally knocking off the studio film.
That’s a business reality for The Asylum. They give me a one sentence description, I come up with stories and they pick one and maybe in the background, after they’ve picked one and they’re giving the story notes as I develop it maybe they’re subtly trying to shape the film to be a little closer to the studio movie
Like the “aliens” note during battleship.
Yeah. That’s something I’ve realized only in hindsight. It didn’t occur to me at the time. That they’re subtly guiding their marketing for this film [to be] similar enough that the studio film that people will understand the connection.
But on AE for example the mandate was a group of refugees from earth have to survive on a hostile alien planet. That was it and they never really guided me much even as this story was developing. They talked about what was realistic and what worked for characters and they didn’t want me to do the flashback sequence as I had a whole subplot with Adrian Paul’s character, Frank Baum, I had a whole subplot where he was flashing back to his life before the alien invasion. Basically increasing the emotional need for him to so desperately want to get back to earth, which I thought gave the film additional emotional resonance especially at the end when he realises he can’t get back to earth. That was the only the only real change from my ideas. The Asylum apparently doesn’t believe in flashbacks as a sort of a general principle.
Yeah they think it’s cheesy and for them of all people to say something is cheesy… And it was only afterwards in the marketing phase that I discovered that AE was actually a mockbuster of…
After Earth, thank you. It was such an unmemorable film that I couldn’t remember the title. I think they started to see the tracking for After Earth and
realized that it was gonna be a bomb and so they didn’t really that actively market it as a mockbuster of After Earth because that wouldn’t help anything. That was a much more personal movie for me. I really got into the science behind it. I think in the final analysis it doesn’t show as much as I would have liked.
You know when you’re trying to shoot a film like that in fifteen days on location in the jungle everything that can go wrong will go wrong and it ended up having to be trimmed down a bit but still I’m pretty proud of that film. Especially for what we what we had, what we were able to do.
I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but with the humanoids we ended up just having bald people with pale skin. They were supposed to be different from humans. They were supposed to be vaguely humanish but they were supposed to have big guys and slender frames and long bony. I actually spent a lot of time talking to you anthropologists and paleo-biologist about how humans might evolve if they were forced to live underground for half a million years and I spent a lot of time talking to physicists about the time dilation factor and how much time would pass on earth if a colony ship was you accelerating at one G continuously towards another world.
And so I am trying to make it as accurate as I could and then of course I was confronted with the asylum budget and a fifteen day schedule. Which then became fourteen days because our lead actress didn’t show up the first day. Apparently there was a miscommunication about when she was supposed to start and so we lost the first day of shooting. It was kind of stressful but even so I’m proud of that film.
It came out in May of 2013 I guess and unfortunately it came out just as The Asylum had lost their marketing person and before they hired a new one. So my film was kind of released without any real publicity push behind it. And at the same time the word of mouth for Sharknado was starting to grow. So I always felt like my little science fiction film really got overshadowed by Sharknado and for those two months between the release of AE and the night that Sharknado blew up, I was kind of resentful of it! Then of course Sharknado blew up and became this sort of global phenomenon or social media phenomenon I guess. So obviously I got over it real quick!
You’ve mentioned the scientific accuracy and the amount of research that you go into for your scripts. I know it’s something that you are quite happy with and with Sharknado I think you said that for two and a half movies nothing happens that is technically impossible, until they get to space that is. Is that an important part of the scriptwriting process for you?
It is. I like doing research. I like making things as accurate as possible because my feeling is the more accurate things are, the easier it is for an audience to accept it. Obviously in Sharknado we’re stretching everything and tongues are planted firmly in cheek. But even so, even in something that ridiculous, the closer it can be to what’s possible, I feel the easier it’ll be for an audience to just go with it.
So yeah I like I like to do as much research as I can. I like my scripts to be as accurate as they can be.
Absolutely. I think across the four Sharknado movies that you wrote there’s a steady progression in terms of stakes and also in terms of the tongue in cheek quality. How easy was that for you to maintain and manage? And what stage did you know there were going to be more Sharknado movies and were you able to pace yourself?
Well we didn’t know there were gonna be more Sharknado movies until the whole thing blew up. That first night that the movie aired on sci-fi it became this phenomenon on Twitter. We were getting like five thousand tweets a minute. It just exploded and celebrities were tweeting about it. Damon Lindelof said that he was going to write a sequel to Sharknado and have it finished before Sharknado was off the air.
I traded tweets with him which was sort of the highlight of my night. I said “well gee I hope you’ll look let me work with you on that” and then I also responded that “that’s cool but I think it should be a prequel, only not quite” which if you’re familiar with Prometheus which had just come out…My friend Jon Spaihts had written Prometheus as a direct prequel to alien. The studio then brought in Damon Lindelof the turn it into a semi standalone movie. So when I said it should be a prequel but not quite, he said “touché” and that made my night.
So we had no idea, there was no plan for there to be a sequel to Sharknado. In fact, after it blew up that night and I woke up the next morning to about twenty messages on my answering machine asking me for interviews. A few days later I was on Good Morning America and I was on Today in Australia and I was on CNN and it was just sort of an amazing surreal experience.
The next morning after all this was happening I called David Latt at the asylum. And I said “Hey you know everybody’s talking about a sequel and we never really addressed that in my contract and so I hope you’ll come to me first if there’s gonna be a sequel”
And he said “Don’t worry, there’s never going to be a sequel. All this is gonna blow over. Tomorrow and there will be some new thing in the news and everyone will forget about Sharknado. It’s never gonna happen.”
And then a few days later sci fi reran sharknado and the ratings went up and then they ran it again and the ratings went up again. This never happened on Sci-Fi. You never get the rerun have higher ratings than the initial airing. I guess it was only like a week later. All of a sudden there is going to be a sequel and it’s going to take place in New York. And that’s how I found out, I saw it on the news! So that next day we all convened and we got our marching orders from Sci-Fi about what they’d like to see included. And then Anthony and I and the asylum’s development person we sort of sat down in the hallway at the asylum and we spent a couple hours talking about things that might be fun.
Then I went off and I wrote a one page story, that I thought would be good. They said “ok, we’ll go with this. But there are going to be a lot of people who are gonna have to weigh in.” Because there’s a whole team at Sci Fi now, it’s a big deal, and they’re all gonna want to have their input, and the principals at the asylum and Anthony. And so hammering out that story line, there were a lot of people involved. But the main thing we decided, is it had to be a bit bigger and it had to be a bit more self-aware and it had to be a bit more tongue in cheek. Basically we wanted to make Sharknado 2 be the movie that the fans seem to be making the first Sharknado into. We decided there would be some celebrity cameos and that it would be more self aware. Basically we just wanted to have more fun and I had a blast doing that. I think writing sharknado 2 was probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing a script and perhaps actually the most fun I’ve had making a movie.
I had fun writing the script because it was taking place in New York and New York is my hometown. So I was able to have a lot of fun and sort of pay homage to my hometown. Whereas the first Sharknado took place in Los Angeles where I lived for lo these many years, but even though I live here I actually kind of hate it. And so the first tornado had a very cynical view of Los Angeles whereas Sharknado two has a very loving view of New York and so I had a lot of fun with that and using all the New York landmarks and finding fun and interesting ways to do that and trying to work the New York Character into the film.
We were shooting in February and it was freezing cold. We were having what they called the polar vortex. We literally shot [during] the most horrible three weeks in New York weather history. The movie, mind you, was supposed to take place in the summer. So the poor actors couldn’t even wear winter clothing in front of the cameras. But I had a blast doing it because there was no pressure on me! All the pressure was on Anthony. I’m used to directing where every decision is weighing you down and if you do anything wrong you can screw up the film and you’ve got to make the schedule and there are a thousand things going wrong and you have to find ways to roll with it and you can’t because you’re on a low budget, so you can’t do everything you want to do, and you’re trying to figure things out on set and you have actors egos to deal with, and this all creates a lot of pressure. So even though directing for me is a very satisfying and enjoyable experience, It’s also very stressful. Whereas this time I got all the fun part and I didn’t have any of the stress. I was just there watching Anthony deal with all that.
So Sharknado 2 was just a blast for me. Even though the Sci-Fi people were weighing in, it was never really too meddlesome. Sharknado 2 came out and it broke the ratings record for a Sci Fi movie and so all of a sudden there was a lot of money involved. So for the network, it became their big defining thing and so there were increasing number of eyes on the project. So as we went along there were more and more chefs in the kitchen and more and more “helpful suggestions”.
So that became a bigger issue on Sharknado 3 and they were still saying “more over the top, more ridiculous, more cameos, more self aware, more pop culture references, but even so we were able to work that into the third one and we were able to bring Nova back. Both Anthony and I were disappointed not to have Cassie Scerbo. So we were able to bring her back for three and the fans really seemed to like that. But there was more interference and it was a more stressful writing process. I was still trying to maintain some tenuous connection to reality. It was still important to me that everything at least be theoretically possible and despite that I was one of the leading proponents of saying we have to have sharks in space. There’s no way we can do this and not have Sharks in Space! So I spent a lot of time figuring out how that could happen! In some bizarre way it was still theoretically possible.
So what I came up with was the space shuttle would blast off and vortex it would create behind it would suck not only the sharks but the water from the ocean up underneath it and so when the sharks got into space they would be shot up there with huge quantities of ocean water as well. So they would be floating in space in the bubbles of water. So that was that was my justification for how it was possible. And I believe that even made it into the final draft of the script but when they shot it they decided it was going to be too complicated or maybe the effects apartment didn’t think they could pull it off on top of everything else they had to do.
I’ve got to say though, there is something just so joyful about just a shark floating through space towards Fin. There’s something very pure about that.
There is. And so I wasn’t I wasn’t exactly heart broken that we couldn’t we couldn’t maintain this semblance of possibility and it was just so much fun.So that that was fine but I I still maintain that up until that point everything that happens in the movies is at least theoretically possible.
You mention the cameos, at what stage did they occur? Were they in your script? Did the director have to fit them into the script as people became available?
It’s all of those and that and everything in between. I would write cameo roles usually not knowing who would fill them. But I would write roles knowing that some celebrity cameo would fill this role. And I would have to create a bunch of them and as the movies went on I had to create more and more. There only a few in Sharknado 2. And there are more in three and more in four.
So yes I would write some parts specifically for that and then sometimes.We would find out you know a couple of days ahead of time “Hey we got this celebrity can you write something for them specifically?” So the Kathie Lee Gifford stuff in Sharknado was sort of put together at the last minute. The Matt Lauer and Al Roker stuff I actually wrote for them from the beginning. But then we didn’t know if we were going to be able to get them so all versions were written for generic news people and then when we did finally get them it was after we finished shooting the rest of the film actually and Anthony went back to New York to shoot that stuff on their stage. He basically took all the different drafts of everything I’d written and merged them all together and picked the best pieces and then he had them ad lib some stuff.
The cameo of Richard Kind, that was done at the last minue. The night before Anthony got a call in his hotel room, the night before we were going to shoot that scene at around midnight. We’d gotten him but we had to shoot him tomorrow and I had to come up with a part for him. He calls me at midnight and I’ve had lifelong insomnia. A few years before Sharknado, I’d discovered Ambien, my doctor had prescribed it to help me sleep. So Anthony calls me about five minutes after I’ve taken my Ambien. I know I’m going to be unconscious in about twenty minutes. I say “you’re five minutes late Anthony, I’m not gonna be able to do it, I’m going to be asleep in fifteen minutes”. Of course, Anthony had too much on his plate, he was just trying to prepare for the next shooting day. So he called a friend of his who’s also a writer, I don’t even know the guys name to be honest with you. In the span of a few hours he came up with that cameo for Richard Kind as the ex-baseball player and the next morning they shot it and it was wonderful. Anthony handed it to me when I got on set and said “let me know if there’s anything you want to change on this and I looked over it. I think I changed a word or two that didn’t feel like it fit in. But otherwise it’s basically what his friend wrote at 2 in the morning the night before.
So it was a whole variety of things. In Sharknado 3 we found out in advance that Penn and Teller were gonna play David Hasselhoff’s astronaut friends. So I actually got to write that scene for Penn and teller and it was a lot of fun for me because they were comedians so I thought “I’ll finally be able to tell a joke”. Because even though the Sharknado movies are very funny, there are no actual jokes in it. So I had this great joke, I thought. To this day I think it’s hilarious. One of his astronaut buddies is telling a joke about Neil Armstrong. Neil could be very serious, so it’s about him telling Buzz “well sure Buzz, but it’ll still look good on your resume”. So I think it’s hilarious telling Neil Armstrong that being the second man on the moon will look good on his resume. I don’t know if that ever got the audience response that I had hoped for but it was the first time I had written an actual joke in a Sharknado movie.
Sometimes we know who it’s going to be, sometimes we just know some celebrity will play this part. Sometimes it’s a thing invented at the last minute. In fact on number 3 we had one day where I was on set and they sent us two celebrities for the same role. Both were there on set waiting to shoot and so Anthony comes to me and says “Thunder, I’ve got two people to play one part. What do I do?” We were out in the wilderness and I didn’t have a computer or desk or anything. But I had my dog with me because he was doing a cameo in the film as a military dog. So I call him over and tell him to stay and I start writing on the back of one of the scripts. I set my script down on my dogs back and I start writing out by hand, taking one part and turning it into two parts. I’m writing dialogue and handing in these hand written pages to give to the actors. So that’s probably the most extreme situation of a last minute cameo. But there’s every conceivable way that they happen.
You mentioned there audience response, have you ever gotten to see one of the Sharknado movies with an audience?
All of them! The first movie, when it premiered nobody knew what it was going to become so I was just sitting at home. I thought I was going to be participating in a live tweet. We had done one for American Warships and maybe a hundred people tweeted. A few of them were asking intelligent questions, but most were just saying how bad we were and how stupid we were. So that’s what I was expecting for Sharknado. Then, of course, it blew up into this whole thing. Then because it had become such a phenomenon, a month later there was a one night only, midnight movie theatrical release of it. So we all went to that and it was this whole red carpet thing and there was a press line. There was a big party and Tara Reid showed up with Entertainment Tonight following her around. So actually at the theatre in downtown LA where was showing they sold out and they added a second and then a third auditorium. So that was an incredible evening.
So I saw it with them, with that audience. Then I saw it again just a few years ago at the field museum in Chicago. Their shark expert did a screening of Sharknado and then a presentation afterwards about the scientific realities behind it. I found out about this and contacted them and they said “sure, we would love to have you come out” so they flew me up to Chicago and I did a Q and A with their shark expert after the movie. But I hadn’t seen it quite some years before that and seeing it with an audience they were laughing through the whole thing. It was great, I had forgotten just how funny it is.
That was great fun, then all the others we had premier screenings. You would do a red carpet thing, and we would live tweet in the theatre. So me and Anthony would have our laptops open in the theatre, probably pissing off the people behind us, but it was part of the whole thing so I think people understood what they were getting into. So all others I saw with live audiences when they premiered.
Why is it, you feel, that these movies take off like they did and were such a big hit for yourself compared to their previous works.
Yeah, well I have a theory about that. My feeling has always been that it was the first of these Sci Fi movies, the Sci Fi Channel Movies, with the crazy mashup titles that actually delivered the sense of fun the title implied. I mean Sci Fi had done a bunch of these movies. There was mansquito and dinocrock, and a bunch of others where they just had mash up titles, but they were always one of two things. Either they took themselves deadly serious or they were over the top, winking at the camera, intentionally campy. What I tried to do with Sharknado was actually the same thing I had done with my first film; Mutant Vampire Zombies from the Hood. Which was try to walk a fine line between those two things. I wanted the audience to be wondering “is this serious? Do they know how ridiculous this is? Do they know? I think they know” and to realise that we were in on the joke, so they are in on the joke too. Both looking at it thinking “this is ridiculous” and thinking “well isn’t this hilarious that they know how ridiculous this is”.
I think just that sense of fun, of non-cynical fun, is what made it work. And of course the title is great. And the marketing campaign, that first poster….I had been concerned that people…not that audience wouldn’t get it but that Sci Fi and The Asylum wouldn’t get it. When I saw the first poster, the film hadn’t actually been shot when the first poster was released, but the script had been written. So I spent several months worrying that this would either be taken too seriously or it was going to be played too much for laughs. I saw that first poster and the tagline was “enough said”. I realised that everybody got it and it was going to be ok. From that point on I sort of relaxed about it.
Also, it was a weird summer for movies. There were a lot of big budget bombs that summer. Pre-manufactured things that audiences were being told “you have to like this. This has to be the big summer movie.” Lone Ranger being the most obvious one. I think audiences were in the mood to discover something for themselves. So they found us and made us their own and you know we’re in a lifetime’s worth of debt to those early Sharknado fans because without them there never would have been sequels, there never would have been a pop culture phenomenon. So I am very much in debt to the Sharknado fans.
So what’s next for you? You seem to enjoy writing more than directing, but is directing something you’d consider in the future.
I can’t believe I conveying that perception because it’s exactly the opposite. I have a thought of myself as a director first and a writer only by necessity. I love directing. It’s a lot harder it’s a lot more stressful but it’s also a lot more fulfilling for me. I always tell people I’m a director. I can remember for years telling people that I could win an academy award for best screenplay and still feel like a failure if I wasn’t directing. Directing is very much on my mind and I will just write for hire, but my main thrust is directing films I have written.
So right now I am developing two feature projects. One is sort of Sharknado-esque. It’s called DeadBeard: a zombie pirate rock musical and it is exactly what it sounds like, a zombie pirate rock musical. So we’re trying to put financing together for that, but I want to get Bruce Campbell to play the title character of Dead Bead. The other thing I’m developing is a very serious, dark science fiction thriller called “Star Child”. Which is kind of Panic Room meets Die Hard in Space.
It’s a very intense, descent into hell kind of story. I’m talking to several producers about that right now the script. The script for both of them is finished. Dead beard we’re still getting the songs written but the actual script for both of them in finished.
I’m sort of simultaneously trying to get both of those financed. I’ve also got some TV projects and a comic book I want to write, and then turn into a TV series. So there’s a lot of stuff, but those are the two main things right now.
Fantastic. Sounds great and I can’t wait to see it!
Thunder Levin co-wrote Zombie Tidal Wave which will be airing on August 17th at 9 p.m. ET, on Syfy.