Sharks and tornadoes -- served with a side of cheesiness -- seemed an unlikely recipe to create serious Hollywood buzz.

But that's exactly what happened after "Sharknado" hit the Syfy channel recently.

And, in the center of this mad, kitschy storm is Anthony C. Ferrante, Antioch native and the movie's director.

"It's been a bit overwhelming," said Ferrante during a quick meet-up, appropriately in the classic old-school area of Hollywood and Vine.

"It's a movie made with a small budget and in a very abbreviated amount of time but, somehow, it broke out and became successful." Ferrante is stunned at the white-hot spotlight that's been shining on him, his thriller-comedy and its leading stars Ian Ziering ("Beverly Hills, 90210") and Tara Reid ("American Pie").

Briefly, "Sharknado" is about a freak storm that brings thousands of sharks to Los Angeles. And, when the high-speed winds form tornadoes, "nature's deadliest killer rules water, land and air."

"The biggest thrill as a filmmaker is to have people actually see your movies and be engaged. And, this one somehow hit a nerve," Ferrante said.

Make that a huge nerve. The likes of top celebrities like Elizabeth Banks and Olivia Wilde talked about it, and shows such as "Good Morning America," "The View" and "Today" chatted up the wildness.

The early buzz was exciting, but when Mia Farrow tweeted a picture of herself watching his film that's when Ferrante knew they were onto something.


Advertisement

"The night it aired, the social media interaction was unheard of," he said. "It was exciting to see who was talking about our little movie." The movie generated 5,000 tweets per minute on Twitter during the movie's first airing on July 11. And, currently, the Sharknado Facebook page has nearly 19,000 fans.

"I knew we would have people that liked horror movies into it, (but) I never expected we would also interest the mainstream audience.

"We made something cool and quite weird, but I didn't (think) it would take off in such a big way. This is a movie made for television, not a theatrical film, so you expect a certain amount of interest and attention, but nothing as insane as this," he explained via email.

The Antioch High grad and former Los Medanos College student said the most exciting aspect of all this attention is the chance to do other films.

Known for his horror filmmaking, Ferrante also loves comedy and action.

" 'Sharknado' allowed me to do a big VFX movie with a sense of humor. It's now opened up other doors for different types of opportunities, which is really exciting."

While the attention has been wonderful, the making of the film was a challenge considering the 18-day and multi-location shoot.

"On most smaller-budget movies, it's beneficial to stay in one location because you can get more accomplished.

"We were never at one place for more than three days, which is incredibly hard on production. However, the film necessitated that." Locations included a boat, a purposely flooded swimming pool, under LA's Sixth Street Bridge and the Santa Monica Pier.

"It was way too ambitious, but we had a great cast and crew. (We) just jumped into it and didn't look back."

Fresh off the hugely attended and much geek-beloved Comic Con in San Diego, Ferrante said "Sharknado" continued its roll with huge lines of folks wanting autographed posters.

While the overwhelming attention may be new, Ferrante has known he wanted to make films since he was a fifth-grader at Mission Elementary.

"I opened up a newspaper, saw a bunch of ads for films, and decided that's what I wanted to do. I never really understood why. After that, I tried to make that happen."

By about 17 years old, while still a student at AHS, he took a filmmaking class at Los Medanos College, where he made the "Eyes of the Nightwind," a 15-minute horror short.

Around the same time, Ferrante pitched a few horror-films reviews to an editor at this newspaper and had a stint as a movie critic for for some eight years .

Now married with a 10-year-old daughter, Ferrante is an LA-area resident.

The Syfy folks have ordered a "Sharknado" sequel, this time set in New York.

Ferrante is also anxious to make "The Key." "It's what I'm most excited about ... It's a script I wrote with Jacob Hair." The central character is a high schoolgirl, who has a bizarre experience giving her an unlikely power.

"We've created a whole universe for this film and finally there's been some interest in making it now that 'Sharknado' has been such a success."

For the Syfy channel's schedule and possible airings of "Sharknado," visit syfy.com/movies/sharknado.

Reach Trine Gallegos at TrineG@att.net.