As a horror movie buff during his East Bay childhood, Anthony Ferrante (B.A. '92) fantasized that he'd one day make movies that scared people. Now, as director of the travel frequently to Los Angeles (where he now lives with his wife campy and wildly popular Sharknado series on the SyFy and daughter), reporting from film sets for horror fan magazine cable TV network, he’s found an unexpected reward — Fangoria. “Unlike studio movies, the low-budget ones just let you making people happy.
“They’re silly,” Ferrante says of the low-budget features about a tornado of Jaws-like sharks unleashed on a series of American cities, starting with Los Angeles, where a freak cyclone sucks them into the water system. “People get together and have fun, kids love them. They make them yearly [viewing] events.”
Indeed, for Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, aired in July, diehard fans held viewing parties, cheering on stars Tara Reid and Ian Ziering as they slashed angry sharks — and whales and cows — with chainsaws. With the gleeful ridiculousness of Sharknado now a nationwide cultural phenomenon (one scene in Sharknado 4 features a Chippendale dancer hip-thrusting a bloodthirsty sea creature back into the storm), Ferrante is fielding offers to direct comedies, and living his dream. But he received his filmmaking foundation at SF State.
“San Francisco State filled in the gaps with things I wouldn’t have been introduced to, like foreign and art house films,” says the Antioch native, who first took film classes at Los Medanos Community College. “I came in narrowly interested in genre [filmmaking]. State gave me film theory and opened my eyes.”
Ferrante wrote his first full-length script while attending SF State and learned "practical things," like how to put together a cast and crew. As a student he also found the freedom and flexibility to travel frequently to Los Angeles (where he now lives with his wife and daughter), reporting from film sets for horror fan magazine Fangoria. “Unlike studio movies, the low-budget ones just let you hang out,” he says, adding that spending time on set exposed him to all aspects of filmmaking — makeup, costumes, special effects — so that when he got his own low-budget opportunity, he’d be ready for anything.
Sharknado was born after Ferrante had written and directed his 2005 feature Boo and many shorter films. He and his writing partner Jacob Hair were cooking up pitches for the SyFy channel when Hair threw out the title Sharknado.
“I knew from the beginning there was something special about the title,” Ferrante says. “We just decided to full-on make the craziest thing possible. And the actors were on board. They played it straight. That’s why it works.”
Next up is a thriller filmed in August at Los Medanos College, Forgotten Evil, about a woman suffering amnesia after a blunt trauma to the head, vaguely aware that the man who tried to hurt her is back in town. Ferrante is stretching in new directions: There are no supernatural elements in the script, he says, and Forgotten Evil is not big on special effects. But he’d go back to the absurdity of Sharknado in a heartbeat.
“We’re just waiting to see if SyFy will greenlight Sharknado 5,” he says.