Monthly Archives: October 2015

Mockbusters: The Asylum Formula

The_Asylum_logo             In 1997, director David Michael Latt and producers David Rimawi and Sherri Strain decided to form a production company to make movies with minuscule budgets, B-list talent, low production values, substandard visual effects, and high profits. The studio is Asylum, and their high profits come from straight-to-video, science fiction B-movie “mockbusters” such as Sharknado, Transmorphers, and Snakes on a Train.

sharknado-poster sharknado2_keyart 1rfAP7A

The “mockbuster” phenomenon started in 2005 when Asylum and Steven Spielberg both released films based on the same property: H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Asylum’s version achieved accidental success when the Blockbuster video chain ordered 100,000 copies of Asylum’s War of the Worlds. This caused Asylum to rethink their business model.

War of the Worlds

The Asylum formula is very precise. In their almost twenty year existence, Asylum has yet to lose money on a release. Their films release straight-to-video, on basic cable networks, and in international markets. They know what their audience wants – catering each film released to a specific market. For example, the studio responds directly to the wants of distributors. Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus was made for a Japanese distributor who asked Asylum for a film where a shark fights an octopus. Another example would be Sunday School Musical (2008), which was requested by a distributor who wanted a low budget, faith-based film.


Their business model relies upon films that have a high chance of being sold and usually ride the coattails of whichever big budget/high grossing film is currently trending. Paul Bales, the newest partner at Asylum, stated, “We don’t make a movie unless we know where we’re going to sell it, so we don’t even start to film until we have a good idea of getting money back.” Similarly, Latt has said, “We don’t make a film for a dollar more than we know we can sell it for.”


Asylum has a proven track record. Amidst the negative press, cheesy performances, laughable effects, and high profile lawsuits, Asylum’s films still manage to turn profits. They know what their audience wants and listen to their distributors and tailor each film to the ever-changing market. This is a lesson all filmmakers can learn from the Asylum business model.

Jesse Timm & Mike Hale


Go Big Or Go Pro!

Don’t have a lot of money in your pocket book, but big dreams of shooting a film? Use a GoPro. Today’s film industry is looking for ways to cut cost on the overall budget of their films. Many directors are using smaller and less expensive cameras to shoot their films. The most popular one being used is the GoPro.

The film Unfriended directed by Levan Gabriadze was shot entirely on GoPros. The use of the GoPro kept the overall cost of the film down as well as giving them versatility in the shots they wanted. The shots for this film were suppose to simulate a computer laptop camera and were achieved easy with the use of the GoPro.

Ouija, a similar horror was shot on the Arri Alexa. It is a much bigger camera and more expensive. Looking at Ebay, you can purchase the Arri Alexa Plus body for $28,000, but the GoPro Hero 4 goes for $385. Also Unfriended was more profitable overall. Unfriended had a $1 million dollar budget, and grossed $62 million, while Ouija had a $5 million dollar budget, and only grossed $50 million.

Other big budget films have used GoPro for certain sequences of the film because of the versatility of them. Need for Speed and Furious 7 both used GoPros to capture footage for some of their car chases and other action sequences. They were able to attach the GoPro to the cars easily and made it more time efficient than a larger camera. Also they were able to use multiple cameras in different spots of the cars in order to capture many different angles at once.

The use of the GoPro is making film making easier, cheaper and more versatile for independent filmmakers to make a mark in the film industry.

By: Tia Salajan and Tori Abram-Copenhaver

Sensory Cinema: Viewing Films in 4D

By: Justin Prince and Joe Robertson

Since the advent of moving pictures the film industry has always looked for ways to deliver a bigger, louder or more memorable movie going experiences. Now, it seems that the newest wave of expanding the grandeur of cinema has arrived in the United States.

A partnership between AEG Regal Cinemas and CJ 4DPLEX, a South Korean company, opened the first American 4DX theater in Los Angeles in June 2014. The 4DX theater is designed to put audiences in the middle of the action by using motion and sensory effects synched to the pictures on screen. This isn’t the first attempt at making moviegoers feel as if they are a part of the film they are watching, but the technology may finally match the ambition of the theaters. Smell-O-Vision and vibrating shock seats were viewed as gimmicks and cheap tricks that quickly went the way of the Dodo. 4DX however, boasts three different types of motion effects and eight separate environmental effects to bombard a viewer’s senses.

Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction was the first film to open in 4DX on American Soil. Showcasing extensive special effects and larger than life fight sequences, Bay’s film may have been the best flick to test the 4DX’s viability in the states.

So how did it do? Well the answer to that seems to be pretty damn good. Age of Extinction grossed more than $245 million domestically, $105,000 of that made over 13 days on the 4DX screen. According to that is more than double ($44,000) what the film made on traditional 2D and 3D screens over the same time frame. But, it’s not just Bay’s Transformers that had success, Cinema Blend also reports that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the action film Expendables 3 also saw huge increases in their per screen numbers, 145% and 248% respectfully.

More recently major blockbuster films such as Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World have hit the 4DX screen and with CJ 4DPLEX announcing plans to open up three more U.S. based theaters in Chicago, New York and another in Los Angeles, its safe to say the 4D motion picture movie may be here to stay.

Watch Video of the 4DX in action here:

Short Films: From Humble Beginnings to Major Success

When it comes to movies, it is always about the big blockbusters. What a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of these blockbusters started as short films with minimal budgets ranging only in the thousands. Many of these films have been able to beat the odds and become box office success stories, and even Oscar nominated films. A few of these films include Saw, Evil Dead, District 9, and Frankenweenie.

Saw Original Short

Saw was released as a short in 2003 by Australian director James Wan, and written by Wan and Leigh Whannell, who also starred in the film. They used this as a way to gain momentum for the feature length they had planned. The budget for this film was only US $3,000. It ended up being turned into a franchise which would become the second highest grossing horror franchise in the United States.

Within The Woods – Evil Dead Original Short
Evil Dead was released as a short in 1978, originally titled Within The Woods. It was written, directed, and produced by Sam Raimi with a budget of $1600. Raimi raised the money with donations from friends and family. The film was shot at a farm house belonging to one of Raimi’s friends. It was screened alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which sparked some interest. This short film also ended up turning into a major franchise, and inspired other filmmakers such as the Cohen brothers to produce short films as trailers such as Blood Simple to spark interest in their work.

There are several short horror films that have the potential to become the next franchise. One example is The Babysitter Murders. This was directed by Ryan Spindell, and is gaining buzz on the internet. Another one to look out for is Terrifier, by Damien Leone, which was inspired by his short film The 9th Circle.

The Babysitter Murders Trailer

This gives hope to aspiring filmmakers who wish to make big budget blockbusters, but may not yet have the means to do so right away. Aspiring filmmakers can utilize YouTube and Vimeo, along with other forms of social media, to promote their short films. Even humble beginnings can lead to big success.

Happy Halloween!!

Michael Hunsaker & Courtney Prantl


Could you ever imagine the power to create a professional looking film in the palm of your hands? iPhone has made that dream possible. I’ve never imagined that, as an Independent Filmmaker, I could shoot an entire feature or a short film with the same device I use to call my mom.


In 2013 Apple tried to improve the quality of its camera phone with the iPhone 5s to allow the independent director Sean Baker to shoot a feature length film called “Tangerine.” This movie was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival that year.

Now, we can buy a 4k camera with the iPhone 6s. Which means that you can have a 4.55 ounces smartphone in your pocket ready to shoot a 4K feature. Ryot, the production company, bought it the first day that it was available to shoot the first short film with iPhone 6s in Haiti called “The Painter of Jalouzi.” Darg, a Ryot’s co-founder and one of the filmmakers said in an article in Ryot’s website: “In a relatively short amount of time, we went from terrible pixelated phone photos, to this, which is just as good as cameras that cost tens of thousands of dollars.”


This is a great opportunity for independent filmmaker to shoot good quality films with a small budget and with not much heavy equipment. Even thought, you still needing some of the lengths and stabilizers, you wont spend more than $1,300 comparing to regular DSLR, which is the cost of just the body of the camera.

Three years ago these types of camera phones were used just to shoot family videos. But, one more time, technology has taught us that nothing is impossible. This powerful tool will give us the chance to create cinematic films with low budgets as long as you pay your phone plan.

BTS of The Painter of Jalouzi” BTS of The Painter of Jalouzi


By Amy Sulbaran & Sylvia Monterroso