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“ONCE YOU PUT A SHARK IN A TORNADO, ALL BETS ARE OFF”: A Q+A with Director Anthony C. Ferrante

Sharknado still

The shark film has become one of cinema’s most durable subgenres, and the tireless folks at The Asylum have contributed four entries in as many years to the ever growing tally of toothy predator flicks. Their latest, debuting July 11th on Syfy (9/8c), unleashes the mother of all disaster movies by combining two of nature’s most vicious forces into one horrifying threat: a SHARKNADO.

Syfy’s promo copy promises, “Super tornadoes suck sharks up from the ocean floor, hurling them at LA,” which is a dramatic over simplification of the insane ride in store for those brave enough to venture into the windy waters in this, The Asylum’s most adventurous outing yet. Simply stated, SHARKNADO is the most exciting thing to happen to shark films since THE REEF chilled audiences with real shark encounters in 2010, and manages to at once feed off of, and defiantly rise above, most of its brethren in the staple sub-category it is born of.

Anthony C. Ferrante, one time FANGO scribe and directorial deviant behind BOO (2005), THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (2007), and this spring’s Asylum outing HANSEL & GRETEL, helmed the ambitious effort, and sat down with this reporter (who, full disclosure, has a cameo in the first reel) to talk about practical vs. CGI,  destroying the Santa Monica Pier, and why the world looks awfully amazing from inside the mouth of the ocean’s greatest predator.

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 FANGORIA: How did SHARKNADO come about?

ANTHONY C FERRANTE: I directed a film for the Asylum called HANSEL & GRETEL, and they were looking for another project for me. I had never done a big visual effects movie, which is something they wanted me to do, and they told me about SHARKNADO, which I thought it sounded awesome. There are common elements in lots of these movies, and I was impressed that SHARKNADO didn’t have any of the military people or scientists you normally spend so much time with. It is just these average people dealing with the threat of a tornado full of sharks as it destroys Los Angeles. It sounded fun, we had some great visual artists on board, and it was a chance to work with some cool actors.

FANG: Are you a fan of shark films? There have been so many…are you keeping up with them?

FERRANTE: You would think that someone heading into a shark movie would go back to JAWS, the granddaddy, but I didn’t go that route. I watched a few of the films The Asylum did before this, and chose to watch JAWS 2, 3D, and THE REVENGE to see where those failed. Thunder Levin wrote our script, and he put a couple JAWS references in there, so there definitely are nods, but I went to the sequels before shooting.

FANG: Did you come across anything that inspired you in any of those entries?

FERRANTE: There is this brilliant idea in JAWS 3D, where there was a guy getting sucked into the shark, and he’s struggling to get out from behind the teeth. It was poorly executed, but it was such a great idea. I have always felt I would love the opportunity to try something like that. The other reason I wanted to go back to JAWS 2, 3D, and THE REVENGE, was that it was a time before digital creatures, so the sharks used were all practical. I wanted to see how they were making use of practical elements.

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FANG: How is SHARKNADO similar or dissimilar to the shark films that came before it?

FERRANTE: SHARKNADO isn’t a movie that’s just about the attack. There is a big shark attack, there is a beach attack, and certainly plenty of that kind of stuff, but there are lots of other things happening that you might not expect from a shark movie. It starts with what you know, and it begins to build in ways you’ve never seen before. One of the things we wanted to play with was, how do we have a shark infiltrate someone’s home? We did that. There’s a tornado full of sharks. We made that happen. If you have a serial killer or a regular monster, you can do a lot of things, but when you are dealing with sharks, you are limited to what you can do with them. Once you put them in a tornado, all bets are off. You are only limited to your imagination at that point.

 FANG: Your cast is diverse, and includes a headline mainstay…

FERRANTE: Tara (Reid) has been a wonderful supporter of the film. Ian Ziering, Aubrey Peeples, and Cassie Scerbo were great. Having the chance to work with John Heard was amazing.

FANG: You chose to use both practical and digital FX…

FERRANTE: I give a lot of credit to the digital FX crew working on this. There is a lot of complicated stuff, and we threw a bunch of crazy ideas at them, and they have delivered some incredible shots. From the start, I wanted to do as much practical as possible, but this isn’t a movie that could be accomplished completely practical. I wanted to marry the physical and digital as best we could, and I think we found a great balance there. One of the things that worked really well was practical fins. That made a world of difference. We have a nice practical shark. Plenty of makeup fx. There is some stuff where I experimented during some pickup time with fake blood in the water. We have a shark attack on the beach, so I wanted to do something interesting with that, where we put a Hydroflex camera in the water, which is something that you usually don’t see on a film like this. This is a disaster movie, too, so we were thinking about cool things to do with tornados in addition to sharks.

FANG: What an incredible sandbox to play in as a filmmaker!

FERRANTE: This is one of those movies you jump into and just do all you can with it and have fun. It is about going for it. A friend of mine, who is in the film, saw the first cut and commented, “This is the movie that doesn’t know it can’t do that.” What he meant is that it is a movie that is trying to be so ambitious, going to places you wouldn’t think a movie like this could go, and it just keeps getting crazier as it goes. The first twenty minutes sees three huge action set pieces, including the destruction of a major Los Angeles landmark that we actually shot on. I think I can safely say SHARKNADO is the end all be all when it comes to sharks-attacking-a-city-during-a-disaster movies.

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- By Justin Beahm

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About the author
Justin Beahm http://www.facebook.com/justinbeahm
Justin Beahm is a writer and filmmaker whose roots in the genre stretch back to his impressionable early days exploring the monster classics and poring over well traveled issues of Fangoria.
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