I admit it. One of my guilty pleasures is watching the original movies they show on The Sci-Fi Channel on Saturday nights. (Or Syfy as it is now known. I’m not sure what the difference is other than it is now worth 13 points in Scrabble.) The top-notch acting, believable writing and breathtaking special effects never fail to bring a smile to my face. (Dang, I almost got through that entire sentence with a straight face!)
As a budding filmmaker, you may ask yourself, “How do I make a Syfy Channel Movie?” For you I present this guide to help get you started on your path to low budget, extended cable glory.
HOW TO MAKE A SCI-FI CHANNEL (SYFY) MOVIE
Step 1: The Premise
This is usually the biggest stumbling block in deciding what kind of movie to make. My suggestion is to play the SYFY Movie Dice Game™. For this you will need two six sided dice. Go ahead and raid your Monopoly game, I’ll wait…
Got them? Good. The first dice is what I call the “Adjective Dice”. This is used as the first part of the title to help set the tone of the movie. This dice is labeled Atomic, Demon, Fire, Ice, Mega and Polar. (See chart below for placement.)
Next, you must decide if you want it to be a creature movie or a weather movie. If you decide to make it about creatures attacking, use the “Creature Dice”. If it is a weather related disaster, use the “Weather Dice”. (See chart below.)
SYFY MOVIE DICE GAME™
|ADJECTIVE DICE||CREATURE DICE||WEATHER DICE|
Roll both dice at the same time and see what movie you are making…It’s that simple! Here are a few sample roles to give you an idea.
Creature Movies Weather Movies
5+2= Mega Shark 6+4= Polar Storm
4+6=Ice Spiders 1+5=Atomic Twister
3+5=Fire Serpent 2+2=Demon Rain
If you can only find one dice don’t worry, you can still play! Just roll the “Creature Dice” and add either the word “King” or “Island” to the end of the title.
Once you have selected your title, check imdb.com to make sure it is available.
STEP 2: The Characters
Now that you have a title and a premise, it is time to start writing the script. Here is a list of the characters you will need.
The Hero: He is usually the Sheriff determined to save his small town at all costs. You need to hire an action star with enough name recognition to sell your movie to the studio execs and your potential audience. REMEMBER: You have a tiny budget, so an “A List” action star is out of the question! Your best bet is to find a former “B to C List” star down on his luck, or the brother of an “A list” celebrity. Popular choices for this role include Stephen Baldwin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Casper Van Dien and (fan favorite) Bruce Campbell.
The Scientist: This role is usually played by a female in her 20s-to early 30s. Though young, she is the world’s leading expert in her field of study. The most important thing is that she looks DYN-O-MITE in a tank top! (You know, like most scientists do!) She will butt heads with The Hero until they finally fall in love.
The Political Authority: This is either The Mayor or The General. The Mayer refuses to publicize the chaos or evacuate the town because it will ruin tourism for (insert town festival here). The General does the same thing as The Mayor, but his purpose is to cover up the Top Secret government experiment that has gone awry and is destroying the town. The main purpose of the Political Authority is to be a dick and elicit cheers when they finally meet their comical death.
The Hero’s Daughter: (Optional) A teenager who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. She shows a little of The Hero’s cunning in the face of danger, but usually ends up getting her friends killed while saving her.
Goofy Wisecracking Science Kid: A member of The Scientist’s research team usually played by a fat guy with poofy hair. He may offer a few good ideas, but his main purpose is to tell bad jokes and be comic relief. He usually offers the funniest tagline as he is dying.
Nerdy Guy: The Scientist’s young protégé, a math, science and computer whiz. He mans the computer and warns The Scientist in the field of the impending danger. He can hack any system with a few keystrokes and would have been smart enough to survive if he didn’t end up sacrificing himself to save the team. (Or the Hero’s Daughter.) This role should be played by an attractive, fit actor with slicked hair, horn rimmed glasses and the optional pocket protector.
Popular Guy and his Girlfriend: Their only purpose in the movie is to teach a moral lesson and lead their friend, The Hero’s Daughter, into danger. He is the handsome Captain of the football team. She is beautiful, whiny and dumb as a box of rocks. When the danger is at its zenith, they decide to sneak off somewhere to have sex, and get killed in the process. (See kids, moral lesson…just say no!)
Bikini Girls: Even if your setting is The North Pole, they must be there. Sorry, some rules just can’t be broken.
Jocks/Fraternity Boys: One-dimensional jerks who are usually the first to die. They are the hors d’oeuvres of the Creature Movies.
The script is done, great! Now let’s talk about the special effects. A quick glance at the budget tells us that ALL of the money was spent securing Stephen Baldwin or Lou Diamond Phillips for the lead. OK, don’t panic, all of your effects can easily be created on the computer. What’s that, you don’t know the first thing about computer modeling? Contact your local film school or ITT Technical Institute and offer a motion picture internship to one of their students.
You now have a computer animation expert working for FREE in exchange for the experience! Your intern can render all of your creatures, storms and even blood effects on the computer and it won’t cost you a dime. It won’t look like Industrial Light & Magic, but look at the money you are saving!
Now where are you going to film your movie? You have no money left for sets or lighting, but luckily, the best location is free. National parks offer large open fields and wooded areas that would look perfect in your movie. The sunlight is free and you do not need to worry about destroying our landmarks since your intern is animating the carnage. They are also open to the public, so you don’t even need to get a permit. (If you see a Ranger, I suggest you run for it though, as they might disagree!)
Congratulations! You are now ready to make your first movie. Good luck, and I’ll see you on Syfy Saturday Night!