Rifftrax Takes on Sharknado — One Week Only

Posted on February 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

sharknadoIt’s a perfect combination. Rifftrax, the funniest movie commentary creators of all time, have brought their genius to “Sharknado.” And it is online for just a week. The stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 give us their thoughts on the social media phenomenon “Sharknado” in “Sharknado: RiffTrax Live.” Join Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett live and onstage at the historic State Theater in Minneapolis as they provide their hilarious commentary to The Asylum’s original shark-filled worldwide sensation in front of a nationwide audience. RiffTrax Live offers non-stop laughs and also includes a live riff of the classic short – “A Case of Spring Fever.”

Related Tags:


Internet, Gaming, Podcasts, and Apps

Interview: Courtney Baxter, Actress, Producer, and Just Out of Her Teens

Posted on October 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Pennsylvania native Courtney Baxter attends Pace University in Manhattan as a double major in Economics and Film Studies.  In her early teens, Courtney filmed over a dozen national commercials and also appeared in television shows such as Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, and Criminal Minds.  At 16, Courtney became an Executive Producer/lead in the drama “Reco” which garnered many festival nominations and wins.

She has received widespread recognition for her character “Meghan Cleary” on the Onion News Network, leading her to become the backstage host at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards.  As an 18 year old, she Executive Produced and starred as Eve in the horror feature film “Hallow’s Eve” which was recently picked up by eOne for 2013 US and Canadian distribution.  2012 brought other feature and short film acting and producing opportunities in films such as Night Has Settled, ImagiGARY, and Parallax.

In 2013, Courtney appeared as “Serena” in the reboot of “All My Children” and will appear  as a guest star in the new MTV show “One Bad Choice” this fall. Courtney produced and starred in the independent feature “Chasing Yesterday” in the fall of 2013 before filming the cult-phenomena Sharknado 2 in early 2014. Sharknado 2 premiered on SyFy on July 30th 2014 and has since become to the most watched SyFy movie ever!  With “Sharknado 3” in the works for 2015, Courtney is eager to end 2014 strong with the production of “Donny Brook!”  Many thanks to Courtney for taking time for an interview about what it means to be a producer and what she’s learned.

People are often confused by all the different producers listed in the credits.  Why did you want to become a producer at such a young age and what exactly do you do?

Copyright Courtney Baxter 2014
Copyright Courtney Baxter 2014

The role of a producer can vary under different titles and for different projects.  A lot of time when I am on set solely as an actress, I do not get the full experience of making a film because my responsibility was simply to show up, and act!  I found myself wanting to make projects of my own, and producing came very naturally to me. In the most basic explanation, a producer puts the film together.  Producers find financing, hire the crew, scout locations, handle contracts and insurance, manage the budget and make sure everything runs smoothly on set.  Right now I am an associate producer on the upcoming feature Donnybrook.

Why do you think people love the “Sharknado” movies so much?

For one thing, the word “Sharknado” is super fun to say!  I think the Sharknado phenomenon found success by being commercially appealing, ridiculously self-aware, fun, and super entertaining.  Undoubtedly, much of the Sharknado’s success comes from the crazy amount of social media attention.  Sharknado is everywhere, you couldn’t avoid it if you wanted to!

How do you think the phenomenon of tweet-watching has changed the way we look at television?  Do you have a favorite “Sharknado 2” tweet?

I think that live tweeting is an awesome way for people to communicate and connect.  It is one thing to hear that 3.9 million people that watched Sharknado 2 on its premiere night, but it is absolutely incredible to see the millions and millions of people who not only watched the film, but took the time to write something about it.  As for my favorite tweet, I tweeted a picture of the scene when Kelly Ripa kills a shark by stomping on it with a stiletto, and she retweeted it.  Made my night.

How has what you have learned in your economics classes helped you as an actress and producer?  

One thing that is cool about studying economics is that everyone can benefit from understanding how the economy works.  We are all consumers, and it is really interesting to look at the economic choices we make, and feel confident in making fiscally responsible decisions.  The film industry has a major impact on the US and global economy, and when it comes to making a film, a lot of choices must be made.  By grounding my studies in business economics, I can produce films with good quality with a reasonably lower budget.

If you could go back in time to star in one favorite movie, what would it be?

Well I don’t know how this would work out, but I think it would be really cool to have starred in Forest Gump…and not as Jenny.  I would want to be Forest.  Then, of course, the obvious answer would be starring in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or just about any Alfred Hitchcock movie.

What’s the best advice you ever got about acting?

One life lesson that I always stand by with acting, is that no one can work harder for yourself than you.  The best acting advice, is to listen to whoever you are interacting with, and if it is just you in a scene, then listen to yourself. It keeps you present, and helps you take in each moment.

Which director you’ve worked with taught you the most?

Oh that is a tough one!  There are two directors who have not only taught me lot about acting, but also how to communicate effectively.  I think the relationship between a director and an actor is a really incredible thing because as an actress I put all my trust in the director. Steve Clark is a brilliant artist and filmmaker; I worked with him on Night Has Settled and I was amazed at how he could pull out such raw emotions in each actor’s performance. Joe Pernice directed our feature film, Chasing Yesterday and I was able to be there with Joe for every step of the way.  When Joe is directing, he knows exactly what he needs out of myself and out of the scene, and he knows how to finish a film right.

You have been involved in several different initiatives to help your community.  Is one of them closest to your heart? 

Absolutely, The Andrew L Hicks Jr Foundation was started in August of 2010 after Andrew, one of my classmates at Henderson High School in West Chester PA, was killed in a tragic accident.  Andrew had an infectious nature and dedicated his short life to helping others.  Upon Andrew’s passing, his incredible family started the foundation with the goal of connecting the underprivileged youth of Chester PA with the youth of West Chester PA in an effort to build relationships, create service opportunities, and help unite the two communities.  I have been working with the foundation since 2010 and have loved every second of it!  My favorite tradition is being a chaperone at Camp Paradise.

 Tell me about “Chasing Yesterday” — what is it about and what do you hope audiences will enjoy most about it?

Chasing Yesterday (formerly known as Running on Empty) is a coming of age story about a former college track star, who has fallen into a dangerous cycle of drinking and self-prescribed depression medicine after his girlfriend dies in a car accident.  My character, Jenny, comes into the picture and convinces Junior to get his life back on track by entering a half marathon.  Chasing Yesterday is a movie that people of just about any age can enjoy.  There are lots of laughs and some tender moments that stay grounded in my good friend (and lead actor) Eric Nelsen’s performance.

Related Tags:


Actors Interview

Interview: Thunder Levin of “Sharknado” and “Sharknado 2”

Posted on July 30, 2014 at 7:37 am

One of the highlights of Comic-Con was the chance to catch up with Thunder Levin, screenwriter of the sensation, “Sharknado” and the sequel, “Sharknado 2,” which premieres tonight on Syfy.  The original was remarkable for its over-the-top storyline and even more for the Twitter-nado it inspired.  In an era of time-shifted consumption of media, it was a rare example of a genuine event broadcast, with sharing OMG reactions online was part of the fun.  He is always fun to talk to and I hope I get to talk to him again for “Sharknado 3.”sharknado 2

Isn’t it the ultimate compliment to have the Rifftrax guys provide snarky commentary for your movie in the theatre? Is that kind of being a musician and having Weird Al take you on?

Absolutely and I went to see it and it was just hilarious.  They were remarkably respectful and good natured.  They were in on the comedy of the inherent material and it’s just great.

Are you expecting another twitter avalanche for film?

I don’t know if it’s going to be like it was for the first one. I’d like to surpass that, I’d like to crash Twitter this time, but that might be asking for a bit too much. The last time it was so organic.  They see us coming this time. So we’ll see, but I’m sure it will be a big thing. The first communal TV movie. It’s like having a theatrical experience with a thousand people in one room.

Tell me where we begin on this one.

It’s about a year later and Fin and April were on their way to New York.  April is going to a signing of a book she wrote called I Survived Sharknado and Fin is going to be seeing is sister and his brother in law who is an old friend.

So this one takes place on the East Coast?

Yes, they are on their way to New York City where things just happen.

What is it about Comic Con that makes Sharknado such a perfect fan opportunity?

Well Comic-Con is an over the top event in itself so to take an over the top movie and add it is just adding fuel to the fire I guess.

Is the lady with the Sharknado costume here again this year?

She came back this year and she updated the hat reference the so it’s got the Empire State state building on the top.

What else are you working on?

I’ve created an original TV series called “Dive,” which is “Sharknado-esque” in tone, and I’m working on getting financing for an independent feature called “An Ordinary Hero.”  And I’m writing an novel, quite a change of pace from “Sharknado,” a very dark thriller.  I’ve never tackled that medium before.  I wrote a script that ended up being a trilogy, so I thought, “If I can do this, maybe I can write a novel.”

And “Thunder” is your real name, right?  Where does that come from?

It was the 60’s!


Related Tags:


Interview Writers

Rifftrax Takes on Sharknado — In Theaters July 10

Posted on July 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Even better than Mecha-Shark vs. Godzilloctopus, the mad men of Rifftrax are taking on “Sharknado,” live on July 10 and transmitted in real time to theaters across the country.

Just the thing to get you ready for “Sharknado 2,” coming soon.

Related Tags:


Comedy Live Theater Science-Fiction

Interview: “Sharknado” Screenwriter Thunder Levin

Posted on August 6, 2013 at 8:00 am

Amid all the summer superheroes and blockbuster sequels, no movie has captured the 2013 movie zeitgeist as much as a low-budget movie for the Syfy channel.  Of course, I am speaking of “Sharknado.”  And yes, it is about a shark-filled tornado.  Its tagline is simple, but effective: “Enough said.”

If tweets were box-office receipts, “Sharknado” could win the summer.  Produced by Asylum for $1 million, it has become a sensation, with television rebroadcasts and a one-night special event theatrical release.  And my favorite costume at Comic-Con.  And yes, a sequel is in the works and they’re crowd-sourcing the tagline.

It was a pleasure to speak with “Sharknado’s” screenwriter, Thunder Levin, who is amused, delighted, and perhaps a little bit dazed by the reception for the film.  He told me what a scientist had to say about this idea, what the movie has in common with “Snakes on a Plane,” and the famous fans he was most excited to hear from.

How has your life changed?

I got an agent and I’ve been going on a lot more meetings.  I hope to move forward to bigger and better things.

It’s hard to imagine anything bigger or better than “Sharknado!”sharknado

It depends on how you use the words “bigger” and “better.”

What was your goal when you began to write the script?

To have as much fun as we could.  The script I turned in should have cost $100 million to make.  And they had $1 million.  My vision would have been even bigger.  I had flaming sharks at one point falling from the sky.  And the whole thing was about LA being hit by a hurricane and flooded with water.    We were shooting on sunny days, so it was limited how big it could finally be.  The main thing was to have fun with it and not believe it could ever be too over the top.  The big moment at the end with the chainsaw and anything, there was some concern expressed that maybe it was going to far.  My response was, “It’s called ‘Sharknado.’  We can’t go too far.”

Yes, I think that should be the tagline for the sequel.  Were you presented with the title?

They came to me with the title.  I had made another movie with the production company, Asylum, last year.  Everybody was pretty happy with it and we were talking about what to do next.  They were talking about a movie to be called “Shark Storm.”  I said, “Is this a straight movie with sharks attacking during a storm or is this going to be some crazy storm of sharks?”  They said, “sharks attacking during a storm,” and that didn’t really interest me.  Apparently, about the same time, SyFy had decided they wanted to make a movie called “Sharknado.”  And so somehow the guys from Syfy were talking to the guys from Asylum and they discovered they both wanted to make a sharks in a storm movie.  So they basically combined the projects and kept the better title.  They said, “We want you to write a movie called ‘Sharknado,'” and I said, “What do sharks have to do with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?  Are they invading Europe?”  I was thinking of NATO!

That’s a different species of sharks.  So you have the title, and then what?

They had about half a page of notes, the stuff they’d like to see.  I started from a fairly — I hesitate to use this word — realistic place about what would happen if LA was hit by a hurricane.  We’re in the desert and our streets flood if there is five minutes of rain.  If there’s a big rainstorm that’s the news all day, like two feet of snow in DC or New York.  The city is not equipped to deal with it.  It’s called the LA basin for a reason.  It’s basically a shallow basin.  So, if a hurricane hit Los Angeles, that much rain and a storm surge, the city would basically become like a lake.  How would you get around and all of those problems.  So I started with that premise, and then I added sharks!  And tornados!  And just kept going.  If the ocean is washing into the city, why couldn’t there be sharks in the water?  And if a hurricane spun off a tornado, which often occurs and creates a water spout, why couldn’t sharks be sucked up?  There are verified cases of smaller fish being sucked up into water spouts and being deposited miles inland and so I took that to the next perfectly logical extreme.  I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t find that believable!

Have you heard from any marine biologists or meteorologists about this idea? 

Not directly, but I’ve read stuff online.  Just a few days ago there was a quote from a JPL scientist who said that said it is incredibly unlikely but it is theoretically possible that sharks could be sucked into a tornado.  It would have to be an F5 tornado and and there would have to be sharks there, but I felt vindicated!

How do you create a story for viewers to care about in the midst of a shark tornado?

There was more about the characters in the script.  But we had a very short shooting schedule, just 18 days.  Stuff gets cut, and for something like this the character development is going to have to go because they want the sharks and the killing and all that.  But you have to care about the characters.  Even though the situation is ridiculous, and the way we’re presenting it, the characters themselves have to exist in that reality.  They can’t ever wink at the camera.  They have to be in the moment and this is really  happening to them.  Otherwise it turns into a farce.  It was important to me to make them as real as I could make them, give them a certain amount of background.  I liked the idea of Fin and his ex-wife, the separated spouses, coming together and re-uniting because they have a shared history.  A lot of people thought he had more chemistry with Nova, the gun-toting bartender, but I wanted Fin and his wife to have their past experiences come out and make them work together better as a team.  Nova is from a different generation.  I wanted the attraction between them to lose out to the less obvious but deeper relationship with his wife.

And the actors have to put themselves in the reality of the moment.  Ian Ziering was kind of a revelation for me.  I only knew him from “90210,” and I thought he really reinvented himself as an action star. He could do straight action after this.  I think it’s just a matter of them committing to the reality of the character, no matter how extreme the situation we put them in, they have to say, “What would I do in this situation?”  Really, that’s what acting boils down to.

What has been the best moment for you in the reactions to the movie?

Bleeding Cool picked up on the title last year and the reaction began building from that.  The most amazing thing was trading tweets with Damon Lindeloff during the first broadcast.  He tweeted that he would have a sequel written before the movie was done airing.  I tweeted back that it should be a prequel, and he tweeted “touché” and we tweeted back and forth.  To think that the guy behind “Lost” and “Prometheus” is trading tweets with me, about this ridiculous movie on Syfy, incredible.  And Mia Farrow and Philip Roth tweeted about it!  That’s just bizarre and surreal and amazing.

What is it that captivates people in a movie like this?

I was at the opening night of “Snakes on a Plane.”  The audience I was with had a great time.  They were laughing and shouting out lines and saying, “Hey look behind you!” and “Don’t do that!” and throwing popcorn at the screen.  I know the movie didn’t do very well box office-wise, but the audience I saw it with had a great time.  And I think that’s what happened when “Sharknado” was on, but in a virtual sense.  It all happened on Twitter.

Unlike “Shakes on a Plane,” you didn’t have to face high expectations.  You had the benefit of surprise.

And that’s something we’re going to have to deal with in the sequel.  They’re going to see us coming.  I haven’t figured out how to handle that yet.

Related Tags:


Interview Writers
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik