Syfy Exec Says Network Eyeing 'Sharknado' Sequel, No 'Real Discussions' Yet (Q&A)
The network's Thomas Vitale, executive vp programming and original movies, tells THR that he knew there was something special about the project when the poster went viral earlier this year.
Is a Sharknado follow-up in the works?
Syfy's campy, low-budget movie about, what else, a tornado full of sharks destroying Los Angeles, starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, dominated the TV conversation Thursday night generating hundreds of thousands of tweets, including ones from Hollywood (Damon Lindelof, Shawn Ryan and Mia Farrow) and politics (Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti). At its peak, Sharknado frenzy reached more than 5,000 tweets per minute.
The overwhelming response was unexpected for Syfy, which has broadcast escapist B-movie fare like Sharktopus, Two-Headed Shark Attack, Jersey Shore Shark Attack and Mansquito in the past. Syfy has already scheduled a rebroadcast of Sharknado at 7 p.m. July 18 as a lead-in to the premiere of Frankie Muniz's Blast Vegas. (Another shark-themed TV movie, Ghost Shark, hits Aug. 22.)
Though marketing efforts were nothing out of the ordinary, the Sharknado poster went viral earlier this year — to the surprise of many at Syfy. The one-sheet even addressed the camp factor with a simple tagline seen under the Sharknado title: "Enough Said."
THR talked to Thomas Vitale, executive vp programming and original movies at Syfy, about possible talks for a sequel, why social media blew up and how this affects Syfy's upcoming programming slate.
The Hollywood Reporter: What are the chances of a sequel or a follow up to this?
Thomas Vitale: [Laughs] Everyone — my mom, dad, wife, my kids have asked me that question. Everyone at the office and obviously the producers. The truth is that this has all happened so quickly. It’s been such a whirlwind day. We’ve had a lot of meetings, emails. I’m not being coy, [but] that’s obviously being talked about. There may be some kind of announcement coming forth but there’s nothing going to be announced now just because we haven’t had real discussions with the real people we have to talk to about that.
THR: But it sounds like something may be in the works.
Vitale: I wouldn’t say that. If you want to speculate that Syfy or any network would think about that …
THR: Would you ever do a TV show like this given the response?
Vitale: I think social engagement is very important for all our TV shows. Whether or not you can design a show that would get this kind of buzz on a week in and week out basis … I think a weekly TV series is a different thing than an event. But Syfy is very aware of and very focused on social engagement across all of our programming.
THR: What is the mood over there after last night’s social media frenzy?
Vitale: It was quite a night last night. We all realized this was blowing up and we all got on Twitter and Facebook with each other and started emailing and texting each other. With the advent of Twitter and social media, it’s so much fun to do something, reach so many people and get that instant feedback from the audience. In the old days, like a few years ago, you’d put something on and you’d hear back from viewers and maybe you’d get a letter or a fan email or you’d see something posted online but it wasn’t instant.
THR: Were you expecting celebrities and prolific TV writers/producers to be tweeting about Sharknado?
Vitale: I don’t think I was expecting Philip Roth to be watching Sharknado. Did you see that? Mia Farrow and Philip Roth. That’s just incredible.
THR: Did you come across any funny tweets?
Vitale: Damon Lindelof of Lost was live-tweeting during the whole movie. His stuff was hilarious. He was joking about starting to write a sequel before the movie was over and I think one of his best tweets was “Sharknado: Such a rip-off of Bicycle Thief.” But there were a ton of other Hollywood writers and stars and comedians and it just felt like everyone wanted to be a part of the shared experience, which is also the beautiful thing about social media. This shared experience becomes so democratic. This thing wasn’t just a No. 1 trending twitter topic in the States, it was in the top 10 as far away as Australia. The fun moments are just as important as the serious moments in life, maybe more important. To have so many people come together just to experience something on an escapist level — I don’t want to get too serious about something fun — I think that’s the point of these movies.
THR: Did you do anything different to market this?
Vitale: It’s a good question. We knew we had something here because the poster for Sharknado with the tagline “Enough Said," when that went out on the web a few months ago at the Cannes Film Market, that poster went viral. The buzz had kind of started early. We really just sent this out in a normal way, connecting people to what was already on the web. The strategy was to kind of let the movie do it for itself.
THR: So nothing out of the ordinary?
Vitale: Ordinary stuff.
THR: Why premiere this on a Thursday instead of a weekend?
Vitale: We wanted to do something different this summer and we wanted to try with two original series on Thursday. We had these two series, Sinbad and Primeval: New World, and we figured Saturday would be a good night for them and we wanted to try movies on a different night. It’s not that exciting actually; we just wanted to experiment a little bit.
THR: Thursday is traditionally the biggest day for TV. Was that also a factor?
Vitale: Thursday is a hot night on television. It’s one of the biggest nights for TV. When we wanted to try a different night, we thought Thursday was going to be one we were going to experiment with.
THR: How does Sharknado help Syfy's other properties?
Vitale: I think what Sharknado does is that it shows one part of Syfy’s personality. The major part of Syfy’s personality that results with this is the idea of imagination and Sharknado helps viewers see that humor. Alongside the great, dramatic programming we have, we can also just sit back and appreciate and understand escapism as well.
Sundance: On the Scene