Archive for May 18th, 2011

If you think it’s “good”, then it’s not good-enough

Some of you might have already heard of “The Asylum“. This Hollywood filmmaking studio is known for its cheesy B-movie mockbusters (the SyFy Channel usually broadcasts them, but they can also be streamed via Netflix). Reportedly, the budget for these movies range from $250k to $1 mil, which is ultra-low compared to other productions.

The Asylum usually gets a bad wrap for the low quality of their works, but the truth is that none of their movies so far got in the red. They all made money. Not much money, but enough to sustain the studio and its few employees. Because The Asylum always manages to bring food to their table, I can’t feel nothing but admiration for what they do. Sure, their movies are pretty bad, but they’re still consumers out there who watch them enough to pay for the style.

My problem with The Asylum lies on a side point instead.

My issue with them is the fact that they don’t try hard enough to make one good film per year. If for example they have a budget for 3-4 movies per year, they should strive to exceed themselves for at least one title. The well known LionsGate studios started with the same premise as The Asylum back in the ’90s, producing cheap B-movies. But at some point they created one “better” film, and it brought in so much money, that within 10 years they became of the biggest studios in Hollywood.

Instead, The Asylum writes their scripts within a few hours (usually who ever in the company wants to have a go at it), then they shoot for just a few days (thankfully using the RED One camera as of late), and the post production team only has a 2-3 weeks to finish off pretty complex CGI (which of course they end up looking pretty bad). Basically, these are movies that happen on the go, they have no soul or deep thinking.

What I propose instead, is to keep doing these cheap movies, since they pay the bills. But for one of these movies, for the same budget (I don’t suggest they should increase the budget), they should try to make something awesome. Other writers/directors then and again have surprised us in the last decade, making great movies for less than The Asylum’s movie budgets: Monsters ($500k), “Hunter, Prey” ($420k), Brick ($425k), Napoleon Dynamite ($400k), Paranormal Activity ($15k), Open Water ($500k), Primer ($7k), Once ($150k), In the Company of Men ($25k), A Dog’s Breakfast ($120,000), Dogtooth (250k euros, Oscar-nominated), and… Tarnation (218 bucks).

Obviously, the writing/directing staff they have right now are not up to snuff on innovating with the given budget and time constraints. The company needs new blood. Needs at least one title per year that’s original, and not a “mockbuster”. There are countless talented writers/directors fresh out of college who are able to produce great works under these conditions. Young professionals who wouldn’t mind moving to a third world country for a month or two to shoot their movie for even cheaper. Vimeo is a great place to start hunting for that new blood. It’s time for The Asylum to reach out to the young filmmaking community and for once create something that it doesn’t suck. They have the amount of money needed, all they still need is the will, vision, and possibly a few more weeks of production time.