SyFy Films: Is the world ready?
|NEWS - NEWS ANALYSIS|
A nursery for new movie talent or another underfunded genre ghetto..?
It has just been announced that Universal Pictures and SyFy (owned by NBC Universal) have launched SyFy Films. SyFy will produce one to two theatrical films a year – ranging from science fiction and horror to fantasy – which will be distributed by Universal. The announcement was made by Dave Howe, President of Syfy and Chiller, Mark Stern, Executive Vice President of Original Programming, Syfy and Co-Head of Content for Universal Cable Productions, Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson and Co-Chairman Donna Langley. All parties involved have cited the growing interest in genre pieces, and relish the chance to produce moderately-budgeted projects for a larger release (read: cheap movies make more money).
Which really only makes me ask, “Why?”
I understand the logic and economics behind such a venture. It goes back to the style of filmmaking that Roger Corman started decades ago, by making pictures for far less than what major studios spent on their pictures, and thus making a higher return. But let’s face it, as much of a genius as Corman was, not everything he touched became gold, and going by what passes for original movies on SyFy, I fear for the future of cinema.
While I have established my love for Z-movies and bad cinema, I can’t say that I’ll be plunking my hard-earned cash to see flicks like Sharktopus or Dinocroc in the theatre. Maybe I’m being pessimistic about the sort of product that might come out of this venture. After all, “moderately budgeted” doesn’t have to mean poor-quality. In this day and age of computer-generated effects and digital filmmaking software, it is quite feasible to produce a low-budget film that looks good. However, one can go on the internet and watch independently-made fan films that are of a much better quality than most of SyFy’s films. One reason for this is that fact that SyFy tries to push out a lot of made-for-cable films in a short time. All too often it means derivative scripts full of terrible dialogue, and digital effects that looked dated in the early 90s (the terrible crocodile in Lake Placid 3 comes to mind).
On the bright side, such a venture may open doors for up-and-coming writers and directors looking for a backer for their otherwise un-bankable films. Major studios have always looked for films that are easy money makers, and in this time of economic uncertainty, they are less willing to invest in an original, untried idea, releasing slews of remakes and buying up properties with built-in audiences (novels, comic books, television programs, etc.). Other studios have set up smaller in-house companies with the intention of producing small budget films and hiring fresh filmmakers.
SyFy and Universal have quite an opportunity to help discover the next great filmmaker. They also have the chance to make some fantastic films, if only they can get away from making them on the cheap. With a little time and effort, SyFy Films could be a very lucrative venture - and they may surprise us all and release some very good films. After all, SyFy did produce the intriguing mini-series Tin Man, and SyFy’s sister station Chiller has produced some very entertaining horror films. But for the time being, I’ll remain a little sceptical.
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