The Director of 'Sharknado' Explains the Joy of 'Sharknado'

Sharknado, the low budget, Tara Reid-starring movie premiering on Syfy this Thursday, is pretty self explanatory. "Sharks in a tornado," the movie's director Anthony C. Ferrante told the Atlantic Wire in an interview Monday. "It has a simple explanation then you are off and running." The concept is so delightfully absurd, and so direct about it, that the movie already has a legion of online fans. Sharknado may just be—if Ferrante has anything to say about it—the perfect antidote to the self-serious summer blockbuster. "All these summer movies out there that take themselves way too seriously—some of them are really good—but there's that sense of fun that I think audiences want every once in a while," he said. "We try to deliver." 

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Ferrante is well aware that the idea of a tornado full of sharks is completely ridiculous. "But there's a sincerity in its ridiculousness," he explained. And perhaps it's that sense of sincerity that has won the movie some high-profile boosters on social media. CNN's Jake Tapper tweeted about it. R.L. Stine, king of campy young adult horror, wondered: "Another classic?" And New York Magazine television critic Matt Zoller Seitz said: "I am almost ashamed to admit how much I am looking forward to SyFy's July 11 movie SHARKNADO."

The movie's set-up goes something like this: a hurricane on the Mexican coast brings a bunch of sharks to Los Angeles, where they wreak havoc on the flooded city. Eventually a funnel cloud forms, picking up the sharks, thus giving birth to the sharknado. "If Jaws is 'just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water,'" Ferrante explained, "this is 'just when you thought it was safe to go to your living room,' 'just when you thought it was safe to take your kids to school on a school bus,' 'just when you thought it was safe to look up at the sky and have a bunch of sharks rain down on you.'" How the hell does a sharknado happen, y'know, scientifically? Well, "there is a logic to it within the framework of our movie," Ferrante said. And Ferrante thinks a real-life sharknado is at least more likely than some other recent cinematic catastrophes: "I’d say the chance of a sharknado happening is probably bigger than a zombie outbreak."  

A self-described "horror" guy, Ferrante was drawn to the project because he was looking for a change of tone. "One of the things I really wanted to do was something that was a little lighter and had more visual effects," he told us. "Sharknado was the perfect opportunity." Ferrante tried to push the limit of what his low-budget, 18-day shoot could get him. In the first twenty minutes alone he managed to cram in a shoot-out on a boat during a storm (complete with shark attack), a shark attack on a beach, a wave crashing through a bar, and the partial destruction of the Santa Monica Pier. "We definitely tried to top ourselves more so than anything else," he said. "There is no reference point for Sharknado."

Ferrante told us toward the end of our interview that he's not "bashing" the big-budget blockbuster movies out in theaters this summer, but in a season when Superman is a headcase and the Lone Ranger has to contend with some serious historical atrocities, it will be a welcome change of pace to see Beverly Hills 90210's Ian Ziering—fully committed to his role, Ferrante said—facing down a flying shark with a chainsaw. "You’re with us at that point or you’re not with us," Ferrante said.