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Meet Micho Rutare and David Latt, the producers who developed Syfy’s viral sensation Sharknado via The Asylum, an all-in-one studio, production company, distributor and financer. For the Burbank-based banner, the campy classic-to-be marks the latest in a long line of monster movies — 2-Headed Shark, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, among other more family-friendly projects — with the massive wave of social media attention taking the company by surprise.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Rutare, head of development at The Asylum, and his production partner Latt to discuss the nuts and bolts of Sharknado, attention from Mia Farrow and what’s next: 3-Headed Shark Attack and the third film in the Mega Shark franchise.
The Hollywood Reporter: Will there be a sequel to Sharknado?
Micho Rutare: We want Damon Lindelof to write the sequel. He said he would, and I don’t know if he’s serious or not, but we can do it right now. In all seriousness, it’s really Syfy’s call, but we certainly would do it.
David Latt (Laughing): We’re going to skip to No. 3, it’s easier that way; two is always a letdown, but three is the mea culpa! Anything is possible. You should see the emails we’re getting. It’s not off the table. Ian Ziering paved the way for the next installment to have Johnny Depp. He’s a trailblazer, so we’re going to go out to Depp next time. It’s going to be a tough negotiation to get Ian back, but we’ll figure it out!
THR: What’s next for you?
Rutare: We have 3-Headed Shark Attack on the development slate, and we’re going to keep making shark and creature movies, Lifetime and family movies. We also have a trilogy in the works. We’ve done two Mega Shark movies and up until yesterday, it was our calling card. Now we’re doing the third installment — Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, and we start production soon. It may be an acquisition, but it’s just us distributing it right now, it’s not connected to Syfy at this point. We haven’t cast it yet, but we’re shooting within the month (laughs). You’ll see that there will be names in there, that’s just how we roll. We’re also doing a contest at Comic-Con in San Diego that whoever is the most uber-Mega Shark fan will get a role in the movie and be killed onscreen.
THR: Any thoughts on a title for a potential sequel?
Latt: We’re going to have to negotiate with Mia Farrow to star in the film so it might be Mia Farrow Presents … But we’re going to come up with some titles, and I’m sure it will be a very obvious title like the first one (laughs).
THR: Were you expecting the viral success?
Rutare: We’ve done quite a few of these shark movies, so it is quite a bit of a surprise that this is the one that tapped into the zeitgeist. There’s always a bit of Twitter response, but this was surprising that it exploded to this proportion.
Latt: I don’t know why we don’t get this of buzz when we do Lifetime movies, but it’s just so unpredictable. I wish I could say that we were geniuses and we knew all this, but the bottom line is we’re shocked and surprised and delighted. We shoot two or three movies every month, and Syfy and Lifetime are our great partners, and for Lifetime we do a lot of thrillers and we do a lot of genre films, and we make to order. For Syfy, we do fun movies like this or even more serious dramatic monster movies like Zombie Apocalypse and Rise of the Zombies. But nothing like this.
THR: How do you come up with these titles: Sharknado, 2-Headed Shark, Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus? Does the title come first or the script?
Latt (Laughing): Usually! Sometimes it does. With Sharknado, we were developing a film called Sharkstorm and we went to Syfy with it and they were developing something with the same concept as Sharknado, and they asked us to do it. We loved the title and just ran with it. We put our plot in the story, so it was a true collaboration. On Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, that came from a Japanese treatment that was called Mega Shark vs Giant Squid.
THR: What kind of budget did Sharknado have?
Latt: Sharknado is around the $2 million mark. We don’t break the bank for any one person or prop; we work backward and get cast from there. For this ensemble cast, including John Heard, it made sense for either the material or their time.
THR: How much of the budget was spent on VFX?
Latt: If you read the Sharknado Twitter feed, about $20 was spent on effects. We’re a studio and we have everything in-house and don’t farm anything out. A few hundred thousand dollars went to visual effects if you look at where the budget played out. We had 800 visual effects done in two months. On top of that, there are seven other movies in postproduction at the studio that range from 100 to 300 visual effects each. A couple years ago, we put a ceiling on the visual effects for our movies because it was running the department thin and we wanted to make deadlines. So we said for the Syfy shows, 300 was a good number, and let’s keep it there. They were happy with that. But with Sharknado, they rallied behind it, and when director Anthony Ferrante would suggest things, everyone just threw out the rulebook because they wanted to take it to the next level. Some of the effects are subtle, like putting clouds in the sky because it had to be stormy the whole time and we were shooting in the sunniest winter months that we’ve ever had in Los Angeles; it was 90 degrees in March and completely the wrong weather, so a lot of those are subtle effects. Sharks in this film were probably around 150 to 200 effects shots; everything else was weather-related.
THR: Does it bother you to be associated with a lot of this campy material?
Rutare: No it doesn’t, and the reason it doesn’t is that the camp sensibility is, believe it or not, very difficult to manufacture. The whole point is you raise the question in the audience’s mind: “Are these people serious?” You’re putting an elephant in the center of their living room, and then the elephant farts. That’s a tricky thing to pull off. It takes more seriousness than silliness to do. If you look at Ian’s face throughout the whole movie, it’s the anchor, and it wouldn’t work without that performance and the people on the screen behaving as though they’re in a serious situation even though the audience knows they’re not. If you go too far in one direction, if it’s too serious, it’s just a piece of shit. If it’s too silly, then it doesn’t work and it’s not interesting. So you have to really thread that needle. My job is enforcing the seriousness.
Latt: It never bothers me that we’re associated with making movies. It’s a hard business to be in. We’re in a great space and love what we do. As for the more campy stuff, those are the ones that make the most noise and put us in spotlight, but a good 30 percent of what we do are the thrillers, more serious dramatic movies; talking dog films, Christmas movies (laughs). Things that are invisible to the pop culture part of it.
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