Ghost Shark is not writer-director Griff Furst's first Syfy rodeo. Arachnoquake, Swamp Shark and Lake Placid 3 all bear his name as director. (He's also acted in quite a few Syfy movies.) Ghost Shark, though, is the first that gives him writing credit, for the story of a town haunted by the bloodthirsty phantom of a great white (airing Thursday, Aug. 22 at 9/8c). TV Guide Magazine spoke to Furst about the mechanics of a ghost shark kill, how one comes by the title of "Syfy original movie director," and the specter of Sharknado.
TV Guide Magazine: Where exactly did the inspiration for this come from? Did they give you a title and tell you to go nuts or did you come up with this wholesale?
Griff Furst: I went to the Syfy offices in New York, as I do every so often, and presented them 10 pretty campy titles. We sat around the table and discussed them, but that one wasn't on the list of things that my partners and I were intending on pitching. Someone at this table went, "Ghost Shark," and we all went, "Yeaaaah! Ghost Shark! That's appropriately exploitive enough to make it on the air!"
TV Guide Magazine: Do you have a bet with the Sharknado guys over who'll win in the ratings?
Furst: [Laughs] We do! We haven't shook on it yet. Anthony Ferrante, the guy who directed Sharknado, and I, we spoke probably a month before and made a bet of whose would rate better, but we didn't anticipate the Twitter and social media explosion. So that part was left out of the bet. Maybe we need to revisit that.
TV Guide Magazine: Is the shark confined to water or can it float through the air?
Furst: Well, it can appear wherever there is water present. If it's raining, then you have to watch out. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: How do you defeat a ghost shark? You can't exactly chainsaw your way through one of those.
Furst: Well, that is the problem that our heroes face throughout the movie. It's killed several people and several of their friends. They spend a good portion of the film dodging the shark and trying to answer the question you just asked.
TV Guide Magazine: Are we leaning more toward an Exorcist or a Ghostbusters solution?
Furst: More like a Ghostbusters direction. There's no spells or anything like that, it's actually a very logical way to kill the shark. It just takes a while for them to figure it out.
TV Guide Magazine: Since it is a ghost, how exactly does it kill?
Furst: It can make physical contact, just like any ghost that you know. [Laughs] It can kind of choose when it wants to affect something or be affected by something. So it can chomp on you. One of the biggest things in production was, we had to decide if we would actually see him chewing on the victims, since he's semi-translucent.
TV Guide Magazine: What decision did you come to on that?
Furst: The unrated version is a little more gory. The version you will see on Syfy, while still pretty gory, you won't see the carnage inside the mouth. It's a really hard effect to actually do well.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you come upon this career path?
Furst: You know, it was kind of a slow build. I'm an actor, and I had acted in several of these Syfy movies, and I was working on one in particular, which will go unnamed, as an actor. I was watching the director work, and I said to myself, "I can do that." [Laughs] "That looks really easy, what this guy's doing." So I actually spoke to the producer of the film and said "Hey, why don't you give me a shot?" Sort of half-jokingly; I was 22 years old. He said, "Sure!" So they threw me in the chair and the product came out really well, so I've been chosen to do many, many of their films since then.
You approach these movies with kind of a lightness and a sense of humor about them, because you know that you're up against all odds when you're making them. That's kind of the appeal of Sharknado, too. It's not like they're trying to make a bad film, it's just they have to climb Mount Everest with a pair of sandals, basically. So it's kind of half-filmmaking and half troubleshooting, and you're trying to figure out how to make a $100 million movie in no time with no money.
TV Guide Magazine: How short a financial leash do they keep you on?
Furst: Oh, it's all tied to the ratings, so it's whatever the ratings warrant. But it's pretty short. And it's not that it's small in comparison to everything else that's on cable. It's just that the content you're expected to get is so much bigger. You're literally given a $100 million script and one one-hundredth of the budget to shoot it.
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