July 11th 2013 is a day that will live in infamy.
Well not really, but it got your attention. Why that date in particular you may ask? It was the date that Sharknado originally aired on the Scifi Channel in the US, and then everything went a little nuts.
While the ratings for the original airing were a little below average for a Scifi Original, over the next two weeks due to the ensuing Twitter storm the film was aired twice more, the last airing (on July 27th, 2013) set a new ratings record for Scifi and the projected earnings for The Asylum for that year quadrupled.
What does all this have to do with me? At the time I was under rolling contract with The Asylum as a Visual Effects Artist.
My name is Paul, and this is my Sharknado story...
I had only been with Asylum (and only been a full time VFX Artist) for around three months when we got the movie title and list of shots that needed to be completed. The title alone had my colleagues and me in hysterics. Asylum are known for the ridiculous, but this was way beyond anything we’d seen before. And it was ambitious as balls.
The shot list was massive and everyone was brought onboard to work on the thing. Usually there would be a team of around 4-8 people working on a film, all depending on availability and complexity. For Sharknado we had 12-16 (I can’t remember the exact number because it was a while ago and since then I’ve worked on 60 or so movies).
So, big team (for us), really tight deadline (around 6 weeks) to get the thing done, and it was tough but so much fun. Especially with it being only my second ‘full time’ movie.We were throwing out shots left, right and centre, mostly giggling all the time at the insanity of it all. Working at a pace pretty much unheard of at the time, sleep was very much a luxury.
This is the part of the story where I defend something that is brought up on every Asylum/low budget movie. The VFX aren’t ‘A’ studio quality, and they never will be for the simple reason: big budget movies have multiple studios and literally hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people working on them, and they get around 12-18 months to work on them. So when you compare the time frames/resources, it’s fairly easy to understand.
At this point in this little re-telling, we’re at the end of May 2013 with a deadline of June 4th looming over our heads. My friends (who live all over the country) and I have a ‘standing’ holiday planned every year where we get together for a camping trip. This holiday is slated in for around May 29th to June 3rd every year. So I have a decision to make: do I skip out on my friends and not see them for another year?
Or do I have a very hard think and come up with a solution? I went with the latter and came up with something that in hindsight is quite ridiculous. One of my friends and I hired a van and loaded it up with all our camping gear and as the campsite had electric hook-ups, we also loaded up my dining table, a chair and most of my work gear.
Yes boys and girls: I spent a lot of that weekend working on Sharknado from inside of a tent in the middle of a field. Looking back it was surreal, but the work got done and we all the deadline with literally seconds to spare (the deadline was 2am UK time, I sent my last shot off at 1.59:48am. Yes, that is accurate––it’s a number that will stay with me forever).
So then we had a week off to recover, the movie aired, aired again, and then aired again. Then the world kinda exploded in a weird Sharknado frenzy. We knew it was silly and at the time just thought of it as another ‘Asylum Classic’, but wow, were we ever wrong. It was bloody everywhere and it wouldn’t go away. Remember: this is a low budget made for TV ‘B’ movie and it has merchandise (some of which I now own), and this doesn’t usually happen.
It was mental and none of us were prepared for the attention it received.
When someone asks ‘What do you do for a living?’ and you say VFX Artist, they want to know what you’ve worked on. If it wasn’t for Sharknado I wouldn’t have a movie to mention that people have heard of as it’s quite a ‘niche’ audience.
Respond with Sharknado and you’re an instant celebrity.