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Sci-Fi on the Cheap

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the zombies-are-after-us dept.

Sci-Fi 353

lowbudgetfun writes "NYTimes.com is reporting on the Sci-Fi channel's huge investment (28 films for $21 million) for original B movies. Includes quotes from B Movie hero, Bruce Campbell." I especially liked this line from the article: "Shot on budgets ranging from $1 million to $2 million, Sci Fi's movies are made in money-saving locales like Bulgaria, Romania and Missouri."

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Wait! I'm from Missouri! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028361)

I know it's a crappy place to live, but comparing us to Bulgaria? Thats a little harsh.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028376)

If you're talking about scenery, I'd say Bulgaria is a hell of a lot nicer than Missouri.

Article Text (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028398)

July 10, 2005
B Movies Invade Your TV!
By LEWIS BEALE

"ATTACK OF THE SABRETOOTH." "Bloodsuckers." "The Man With the Screaming Brain." And, most indelible of all, "Mansquito."

A combination of outrageous genre concepts, low-budget filmmaking and sensationalized titles like the roll call above are all part of the Sci Fi Channel's attempt to establish a presence on Saturday nights, when a good number of potential viewers are out, asleep or watching reruns. The programming strategy has been a major success, with numbers that far exceed anyone's expectations.

"Alien Apocalypse," Sci Fi's biggest Saturday hit, attracted 2.7 million viewers in March. That may be a pittance for CBS or NBC, but it constitutes a major audience for a niche network. And besides, said Steve Sternberg, a television analyst at MagnaGlobal USA, "Friday and Saturday have become very weak nights for the broadcast networks," which, he explained, "have not been able to draw enough viewers with original entertainment series. Cable networks can flourish with much smaller audiences. Original horror and sci-fi movies seem like the perfect programming for Saturday night."

"They're good at the 'D' word, demographics," said Bruce Campbell, a star of B movies who also wrote, directed and starred in the "Screaming Brain" film, to be shown in September. "I think they're micromarketing," he said, "which in this fragmented world makes sense. They're saying, 'Who's at home on Saturday night?' "

The answer might be surprising. Nearly half of Sci Fi's audience is female, and in the highly sought-after 25-to-54-year-old demographic category, Sci Fi is the No. 4 basic cable network on Saturdays, behind TNT, USA and TBS.

Sci Fi's foray into Saturday night mayhem began in 2002, when network executives realized that cheap, independently made genre pictures, an important element of their programming mix, were hardly being produced any more. So, said Tom Vitale, the Sci Fi Channel's senior vice president for original movies "We had a choice of recycling older movies or going out and trying to create original movies ourselves. We went back to these producers who made genre movies, and asked them if they wanted to make them with us."

People like Ken Badish jumped at the chance. Mr. Badish's company, Active Entertainment, will have produced nine Sci Fi movies by the end of 2005, high-concept features like "Mansquito" (experiment gone awry creates man-mosquito hybrid!), and "Alien Lockdown" (government science produces horrific slime thing!).

The most important element of a Sci Fi film, Mr. Badish said, "is a topical film that has relevance to our audience."

"In a film coming up," he added, "stem cells are key to the plot; in another, it's mad cow disease. Secondly, there's a good story. Like we're shooting a 'Jaws'-kind of movie featuring a giant squid. We make a reasonable use of C.G.I., because the audience wants that escapist thing. And we add emotional content, so the audience can feel for the characters."

Often that amounts to borrowing shamelessly from works like "Alien," "The Fly" and "The Thing" and then adding ideas gleaned from Scientific American or Wired.

Shot on budgets ranging from $1 million to $2 million, Sci Fi's movies are made in money-saving locales like Bulgaria, Romania and Missouri. They're cast with B-list celebrities like Luke Perry and Stephen Baldwin, with the occasional big-picture actors - Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davies of "Lord of the Rings" - making an appearance. The network pays $750,000 for domestic TV rights, and the producers make their money back through international and DVD sales.

But are the films any good? Critics have not found much to praise, though some seem to have tried pretty hard. Virginia Heffernan of The New York Times said "Chupacabra: Dark Seas" (monster runs amok on a cruise liner!) was "founded on broad clichés, overacted and clumsily blocked." But she added that the casting of serious actors like Mr. Rhys-Davies and Giancarlo Esposito "provides evidence of self-respect," that "someone has tried to make a coherent, passionate and traditional B movie." Entertainment Weekly opened one of its reviews by noting, "There are better things on tonight, but none are called 'Mansquito.' "

The critics' disfavor doesn't seem to bother the folks behind the films, who have no pretensions to high art. Bonnie Hammer, the Sci Fi Channel president, likes to refer to the pictures as "popcorn movies for those who love the genre," adding, "Viewers come for the ride; it's a guilty pleasure." Jeff Beach, whose Unified Film Organization has made 20 films for the network, calls them "high-concept action-adventure movies with elements that are fun, whether a creature or a disaster."

"B movies don't mean bad," said Mr. Campbell, who starred in the classic "Evil Dead" films. "They're just operating on a limited budget and are trying to be entertaining. You go to the Sci Fi Channel, you see a high-energy thing."

And viewers are seeing a lot of them. The channel produced one original movie in 2002. This year there will be 23. Next year, 28. That's more than some major studios produce, and at a bargain basement price of $21 million - total.

Coming soon: "Heat Stroke" (aliens are producing global warming!), "Magma" (government project goes awry; Earth's core begins to overheat!) and "Black Hole Terror" (black hole threatens to swallow the Midwest!). Sci Fi has also announced "Fire Alien," a fire-breathing alien feature starring - who else? - William Shatner.

Even Internet hoaxes can lead to Sci Fi movie ideas. Last April, a bogus report circulated about a strain of malaria that quickly killed its victims and then restarted their hearts, turning them into violent zombies for several hours. Now in development at the Sci Fi Channel: a movie with the possible titles "Zombie Resurrection" or "Revenge of the Undead."

All this, and the promotional budget is virtually nil. "In traditional movies of the week you would have to promote it and market it each week," Ms. Hammer said. "We have a built-in audience. Our fans will come to us first, so we don't have to market it."

But, Mr. Vitale added, Sci Fi is also "trying to reach a mainstream TV audience." He added: "Look at CBS: they did 'Spring Break Shark Attack.' We are sort of zigging where the other networks are zagging. If you are home on Saturday night, you are looking for that escapist experience."
--
Fairfax County? [fairfaxunderground.com]

MOD UP plus comments (3, Insightful)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028578)

Someone mod this up so those of us without NYTimes logins can read.

The critics' disfavor doesn't seem to bother the folks behind the films, who have no pretensions to high art. Bonnie Hammer, the Sci Fi Channel president, likes to refer to the pictures as "popcorn movies for those who love the genre," adding, "Viewers come for the ride; it's a guilty pleasure." Jeff Beach, whose Unified Film Organization has made 20 films for the network, calls them "high-concept action-adventure movies with elements that are fun, whether a creature or a disaster."

I think this is a very good point. There are many among us who will bemoan the fact that the shlock that the Sci-Fi Channel puts out makes our favorite genre look bad. Remember that it's not called The Thoughtful Science Fiction Channel, it's the "Sci-Fi" Channel. It's supposed to be a watered-down "lite" version of science fiction in the same way that "lite" cookies bear only a passing resemblance to a delicious full-fat treat. Yes, the movies they are making are terrible but look at what's out in theaters these days. It seems half the movies are horror films. That entire genre is largely a collection of poorly-executed guilty pleasures used by younger demographics as an excuse to get out of the house and indulge in a guilty pleasure. But, as has been cited on slashdot many times before, the movieplex is becoming an increasingly unpleasant experience. Sci-Fi Channel is simply providing an alternate venue for these low-quality thrillers. I think the Sci-Fi Channel has got a great idea. Now, I'm sure as hell not going to watch any of this crap myself. But that doesn't stop me from being impressed that Sci-Fi has finally started to get its act together.

GMD

MOD PARENT DOWN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028757)

Copyright violation.

Wow, none of that is science fiction (3, Insightful)

Urusai (865560) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028893)

...just 1950s type monster flicks, by the sound of it. Thank you SciFi for taking the Sci out of Fi. Leaving us with Fi. I guess.

Re:Article Text (3, Informative)

spike hay (534165) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028941)

"They're good at the 'D' word, demographics," said Bruce Campbell, a star of B movies who also wrote, directed and starred in the "Screaming Brain" film, to be shown in September. "I think they're micromarketing," he said, "which in this fragmented world makes sense. They're saying, 'Who's at home on Saturday night?' "

I love Bruce Campbell.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (2, Insightful)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028402)

I know it's a crappy place to live, but comparing us to Bulgaria? Thats a little harsh.

He didn't say "crappy", he said "money-saving locales". That doesn't mean it's crappy.

For example, you can take holidays on the cheap if you go to resorts in the former Yugoslavia or Albania: the hotels there are luxury hotels, the beaches are clean and the resorts are relatively free of tourist crowds, yet they're not nearly as expensive as on the other side of the Adriatic.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (2, Funny)

An Tse (643951) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028452)

Yes, but think how much money you will be able to save on make-up for your extras. Dental damage appliances in particular.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (5, Funny)

wankledot (712148) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028558)

And some might say that comparing Bulgaria to Missouri is harsh.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (1)

broody (171983) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028576)

Speaking as an urban American, I've been to Bulgaria and Missouri and I prefer to travel to Bulgaria. Get over it!

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (1)

Poeir (637508) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028607)

Yes, to Bulgaria. :)

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028628)

Obviously there are ignorant pigs even in the Slashdot community ! Hey Missouri guy, have you even been to Bulgaria? My educated guess is NO.
Bulgaria for sure is much much nicer than your Missouri, even than California, Florida and New York taken together. Your media here really does a terrible job about keeping you informed about the rest of the world !
Just take an advise from a Bulgarian who is a Phd from a top 10 US school and works at a very high place here, and do not show your ignorane in such an ugly way next time if you are not competent.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028629)

Here's another US citizen who criticizes a country without even having visited it.

Ambrose Bierce got it right when he said that war is God's way of teaching geography to americans.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (1)

tazan (652775) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028684)

I don't have to visit it. Per captia income $2600. No thanks, I'll stay in Missouri.

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028863)

How can you count the income if you know nothing about their cost of living? You don't expect Bulgarians to spend their money in the US, do you?

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (1)

dechev (880757) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028969)

Right, but here even the Per capita income is higher, you give all of your money for health insurance, car insurance, house insurance, house mortgages, car loans, student loans, federal tax, state tax, city tax, etc ...

Speaking from experience, if your salary here is $8000/month you will not live better than a Bulgarian with a $800/month.

"Ignorantia non est argumentum."

Re:Wait! I'm from Missouri! (1)

Shihar (153932) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028703)

I agree with parent. Is there really a need to compare Bulgaria to Missouri? I have been to Bulgaria and it really is not that bad such that you need to compare it to Missouri.

Outsourcing to rural america (2, Interesting)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028362)

Was that not an old slashdot article, apparently that works for sci-fi movies

I would boast about them.... (1)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028370)

Couldn't read the article. Most are made by Nu Image and UFO films and are nothing to write home about.

Although Mansquito was awesome in its sheer stupity.

Re:I would boast about them.... (3, Funny)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028393)

Although Mansquito was awesome in its sheer stupity.

No, Mansquito was awesome due to the offalistic explosion of awfulness that inhabited the plot and burst out at random intervals.

Re:I would boast about them.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028437)

I like the sound of stupity better...

Ever been to St. Louis? (5, Funny)

Scott Lockwood (218839) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028371)

It's the perfect place to shoot a remake of, "The Day the Earth Stood Still".

Re:Ever been to St. Louis? (1)

aCapitalist (552761) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028634)

Or Escape from New York

MST3000 (4, Funny)

datadriven (699893) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028374)

Great we can get new episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000

Re:MST3000 (3, Interesting)

chiph (523845) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028403)

I nominate Snakehead Terror [scifi.com] as the first one for Tom Servo & friends to review.

Chip H.

Re:MST3000 (3, Insightful)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028493)

Oh, if MST3K is ever revived they'll have plenty of material to work with. [schlocktoberfest.com]

Re:MST3000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028752)

MST3K went downhill after Joel left. Mike was funny and all, but I mean come on, ditching the invention exchange was just down right sacreligious. Gone are the days of the vendigut.

Missouri (0)

xlr8ed (726203) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028385)

I'm from Missouri, you insensitive clod

Re:Missouri (4, Funny)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028394)

Watch out for the mansquitoes.

Re:Missouri (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028464)

Explains the tin-foil suit and the fishbowl on your head.

Re:Missouri (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028465)

Why did Missouri join the Union?

Because Missouri loves company.

Re:Missouri (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028474)

Bulgaria and Romania is joining the European Union in a couple of years. We might consider to accept Missouri as well if you will behave and make some progress...

Re:Missouri (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028512)

They don't call it the show me state for nothing.

Re:Missouri (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028664)

Well, I'm from Bulgaria or Romania, you insensitive clod!
Oh, wait...

Bad Attitude (5, Funny)

zeridon (846747) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028399)

Hello lowbudget ... although the article matybe is interesting (as for the news is) i kinda don't like attitude. What is the funny thing about bulgaria. I LIVE here and i am proud. I have net and probably win more money compared to our standards than you. What makes you think you are better than me. I don't intend this to be flame ... but i feel outraged

Re:Bad Attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028408)

he wasn't making fun of you. if you are offended that Bulgaria is a low-cost place to film movies.. then maybe you should get an attitude adjustment.

you are the one who is coming off as the real a-hole with your attitude.

Re:Bad Attitude (1)

RautenkranzMT (634613) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028418)

All he is saying is that it is cheap to film in Bulgaria. That is hardly an insult to the country.

Re:Bad Attitude (2, Informative)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028422)

The sale price of SF network is in dollars, so this way they can get better actors/sets/environment in another country where the prices are lower, and sell it in their own high priced dollar country. It does not make you backward, but probably more realistic. The high incomes in the US are not realistic compared to the skills of the people. The low incomes for the experts in Bulgaria are also not realistic (should be higher), but for now you can higher an expert in Bulgaria for about 25% of the price of the US expert.

Re:Bad Attitude (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028425)

What is the funny thing about bulgaria?

Q: What's the difference between one dollar and one lev?

A: One dollar.

Re:Bad Attitude (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028539)

Huh, a lev is worth two dollars?

Wow, didn't know the bulgarian economy was that strong!

Re:Bad Attitude (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028426)

bulgaria = homo

Re:Bad Attitude (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028429)

I think the idea is that the "Missouri" being lumped in with far away locales which would be considered lower budget to shoot in than LA. I don't think the humor was drawn from the status of bulgaria.

Even if there was a purposeful dig, i wouldn't take a summary or article posted on slashdot too personally.

-Lee

What's funny about Bulgaria? (1, Flamebait)

kahei (466208) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028440)


What's funny about Bulgaria? Hee hee hee! Get this -- it's full of -- no, seriously -- it's full of guys who when you say it's a cheap place to make a movie
*snort*
Ha ha, sorry, milk went up my nose.
Anyway, these guys, when you say it's a cheap place to make movies, hee hee hee, they totally get all offended and post semi coherent posts on Slashdot! Haw haw haw! No, I shit you not, they really do do that! Hee hee hee... oh, those guys!

No, seriously, I saw one do it today. Ah, those guys kill me.

Cheap place to make a movie, too.

Re:What's funny about Bulgaria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028755)

In post-Soviet Bulgaria, movie make you!

Re:Bad Attitude (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028449)

Bulgaria is not funny. Bulgaria is dead serious. Vulgaria [imdb.com] might be amusing, mind you, and Romania "just makes sense". The densely-forested-small-European-nation is quite cliche.

The real funny part is Missouri.

Re:Bad Attitude (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028500)

Don't feel too bad. When it comes to films anyplace that is not California or New York city is cheap to film in. Basicly the insult is at worst is Bulgaria is not California...

Re:Bad Attitude (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028772)

>> Basicly the insult is at worst is Bulgaria is not California.

Having seen California, this is mostly a compliment.

Re:Bad Attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028904)

Also complement.

Re:Bad Attitude (1)

JuniorJack (737202) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028677)

Nothing funny, just Sci Fi movies shot there with 4th grade actors like Dean Kane suck big time. Well specially if you pay subscription for the channel, you expect something better.

Re:Bad Attitude (1)

DimGeo (694000) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028777)

Actually, you are right. People here in Norway make like 10 times as much as we do back home in Sofia... I mean, Bulgaria. But, prices are 4 times as high. Oh wait...

Re:Bad Attitude (1)

DimGeo (694000) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028826)

And that's why I'm going back! :) Enough is enough, 6 months out of my country are probably more than necessary. The food there is great. No place like home. Ah the food. The white cheese. The tomatoes. The cheese, man, the cheese. White, soft. Mmmm.

I Wish (5, Insightful)

FS1 (636716) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028420)

I wish they would focus on producing more original series to replace the ones they dropped. I also think they should pick up popular sci-fi shows dropped by other networks. Farscape was one of the best Scifi shows on TV. While I didn't really care for Firefly, it has a proven audience. Scifi should be all over this property once the movie is released.

I also wish that they would throw some of that money at JMS, and let him make "The Memory of Shadows" for TV.

They should also focus less on topic such as ghosts and horror movies. IMHO these do not qualify as real scifi.

It did pick up firefly (2, Informative)

stfvon007 (632997) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028635)

The sci-fi channel has picked up firefly, but only the old episodes already made. It would do new episodes except that the movie contract with universal prevents it.

Re:It did pick up firefly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028840)

Airing reruns of a show is not "picking up" a show. "picking up" a show means airing new episodes.

Please learn this and don't spread incorrect information.

Re:It did pick up firefly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028852)

The sci-fi channel has picked up firefly, but only the old episodes already made. It would do new episodes except that the movie contract with universal prevents it.
No, the contract with Fox forbids it. The contract with Universal does no such thing.

Re:I Wish (2, Funny)

GimliGloin (642963) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028971)

I think they made a big mistake cancelling "Black Scorpion".. That was a great show... GSG

Whoop (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028423)

More fodder in the SciFi(TM) tradition. Bound to be plenty of scantily clad women dressed in leather, ken dolls with lots of firepower and very little to say, conspiracy theories about alien abductions, aliens taking over people's bodies, lots of slime, arcade game quality special effects, laughable technobabble, blood and gore. And to think that by not shelling out $60 (or more!) a month, I won't be seeing any of it!

P.S. Heard that this new Battlestar Galactica show was really good, but something about fuzzy robots, people wearing tight clothing and helmet-like hairstyles, and Lorne Green just stopped me from tuning in. That, and the thought of someone updating that stuff for the new millenium (the way they usually do) just made me wanna hurl.

Re:Whoop (1)

danimal67 (679464) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028561)

I haven't been into a SciFi show since ST:TNG, and looking back at it's content now, I probably wouldn't watch that if it were on currently. Anyway, I have to say that Battlestar Galactica is one of the most well done television shows I've seen in years, let alone a good SciFi show.

Re:Whoop (1)

NarrMaster (760073) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028696)

P.S. Heard that this new Battlestar Galactica show was really good, but something about fuzzy robots, people wearing tight clothing and helmet-like hairstyles...

Well, you're in luck: The new BG doesn't have any of that.

Re:Whoop (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028789)


I rented the recent mini-series DVD recently. I'll admit to being more than a little sceptical but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is good, if perhaps a bit on the melodramatic side, and some of the shooting reminded me of 24, which I detest.

I know you aren't a firefly fan, but my jaw dropped when I saw Serenity fly in for a landing. It's in the early sceene where the lady who becomes president is waiting in the doctor's office. On the left side of the screen for just a moment, Serenity flys in for a landing. I've heard the same people who worked on Firefly CGI worked on BSG -- that little easter egg made it worth it for me.

There are some interesting things with the effects -- I recall in one scene, debris slams into the "camera" and sends it spinning. Anyway, I doubt you'll hate BSG. It isn't Farscape or Firefly quality, but it isn't rotten either.

Don't knock if if... (1)

GuruBuckaroo (833982) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028814)

Dude, don't bash the new Battlestar Gallactica series if you haven't even tuned in. It's as bad as all the fundimentalist Christians bashing "Dogma" as being anti-faith without bothering to watch it. BG has been updated, but in a very low-tech way. It's not the BG of the 70's (thank god), it's actually a very decent show.

This is not exactly a good thing (5, Insightful)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028434)

Here you have one very good reason why SciFi as a genre, is not taken seriously by most people over the age of 12.

I enjoy a good number of B-Movies (and even a few C and D-list films), but I get worried when the predominant type of movie being produced is deliberately low-brow and sets the bar so low in fact, a first year film student could trip over it.

The idea that SciFi can be well-written and produced with some care is hard for many people to accept these days, as all they see is schlock put together on the cheap as fast as humanly possible to give the channel in question a quick cash infusion

In a day when even comic books and fantasy novels are taken seriously by the masses due to the amount of effort put into adapting them to the screen, it nearly brings a tear to my eye to consider that the bargain-bin product coming from The SciFi Channel is pretty much the cream of the crop these days.

I really don't know what I would do if a studio announced they were hiring an extremely adept filmmaker and screenwriter to put The Foundation series into theatres.

Probably cry.

Re:This is not exactly a good thing (2, Interesting)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028636)

The idea that SciFi can be well-written and produced with some care is hard for many people to accept these days, as all they see is schlock put together on the cheap as fast as humanly possible to give the channel in question a quick cash infusion

I posted some comments above [slashdot.org] which address some of your statements. But I'll take this moment to make another point: I don't think most people are really ready for serious science fiction right now. I understand that sounds very elitist. What I mean is not that people aren't smart enough for it; they just want to see some escapist entertainment. We are in a time where many people are very uncertain about the future. I don't what to sound like Jon Katz here but events like 9/11 have really affected people deeply. America is not on an upswing right now. Our economy seems to be stalled, Iraq is not going well, terrorists seem to be able to strike wherever they want. I think most people are very worried deep down inside. That's one reason why the horror genre has found new life. Not because there are lots of well-written, well-directed horror flicks all of the sudden. You have to give people what they want. And right now, people want mindless, escapist entertainment. They don't want something that challenges their way of viewing the world. They want to think about the world in terms of good and evil, right and wrong, black and white.

Y-Create, you and I and most of slashdot may be praying for thoughtful science fiction but the fact is that most people are not. They just don't want to be challenged in such a way -- at least not right now. Now if things turn around in five years time and people are breathing a little easier, that may be the time for the types of science fiction that you refer to to find a larger, more receptive audience. But the timing is just not right. My fear is that even if someone were to do a fantastic job of bringing a famous science fiction novel to the silver screen, it would be a flop at the box office.

GMD

are we talking scifi, or drama? (2)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028733)

enjoy a good number of B-Movies (and even a few C and D-list films), but I get worried when the predominant type of movie being produced is deliberately low-brow and sets the bar so low in fact, a first year film student could trip over it.

Most first-year film student movies I have seen have been worse than anything that makes it near regional TV, much less national.

The idea that SciFi can be well-written and produced with some care is hard for many people to accept these days, as all they see is schlock put together on the cheap as fast as humanly possible to give the channel in question a quick cash infusion

I'm not saying all of scifi network's stuff is gold, but they're fighting a public that isn't in love with the genre; they do a lot of cross-channel promotion, and a big draw are the series/miniseries/movies that they've put together.

it nearly brings a tear to my eye to consider that the bargain-bin product coming from The SciFi Channel is pretty much the cream of the crop these days.

Dude, save the drama fo yo momma. Scifi has always been full of laughably bad movies. It's part of the genre. The scifi cable network happens to be doing a pretty decent job at it- better than most, in fact. Almost half a dozen names instantly come to mind, of excellent stuff they've done. Dune. Battlestart Galactica. Farscape. I'm probably missing a few...

Give them a chance, and recognize that people -expect- and often -enjoy- campy scifi movies, so if it's bad, it can't hurt much. If it's good, it'll be that more of a surprise.

Sturgeon's Law (2, Informative)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028828)

as all they see is schlock put together on the cheap

Know your sci-fi: Sturgeon's Law [jargon.net] - Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud.

I smell a rat! and It'll be on budget for 1.5M (5, Insightful)

MrLint (519792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028446)

Every time I see a commercial for one of these cinematic disasters (and I don't just mean the actual disaster films) I cringe, and ask myself why are they wasting money on this crap. To this say I miss 'The Invisible Man' the series. I donno if they ran out of money or budget, but it was clever deep and well written, instead we get another snake of the week movie.

On top of this, SciFi is cutting out the Stargate opening credits [gateworld.net] to get more advert time. I know *I* want sci fi to stay 'on air' so i can keep watching Stargate and BSG, but I feel like I'm getting the poo from a 1 million Genetically modified monkeys on typewriters thrown at me with these movies.

PS. Dear SciFi. the idea of mutant screenwriting monkeys is available for a modest sum.

Mizzou monkeys throwing invisible digital poo (2, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028511)

' I'm getting the poo from a 1 million Genetically modified monkeys on typewriters thrown at me with these movies '

But since it is Scifi Channel, you know it is good glowing digital poo!

' To this say I miss 'The Invisible Man' the series. I donno if they ran out of money or budget '

I can just hear it now: "Guess what? Yeah, they cancelled our project. It turns out that they were so cheap that a show with a guy who isn't there that you never see was too expensive for those skinflints. Hey! Do you think our pilot for "Inside the Black Hole" might go?"

Monkeys, typewriters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028529)

The idea is that if you put enough monkeys at enough typewriters, you will eventually get something great (and, of course, a huge pile of festering rubble). You don't need a huge budget to make a good movie. You just have to be lucky and smart. Consider the Blair Witch Project for example.

In my not so humble opinion, more money should be spent on script development and less should be spent on eye candy. (Actually, as computer generated 'stuff' gets better and better, the eye candy should get cheaper.) The story is what matters. Everything else is just a way to tell the story.

PS. A location is low budget until the locals learn how to milk the producers. The sense of entitlement by the Hollywood actors, techies, etc. when they complain about run-away productions just blows my mind.

Re:Monkeys, typewriters (1)

MrLint (519792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028623)

Umm the Blair Witch Project gave me a screaming headache. I also wouldn't really call it good. It gave me the distinct impression of a rejected Scooby Doo script with the only benefit of the main cast being killed.

Damned meddling kids

Re:I smell a rat! and It'll be on budget for 1.5M (4, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028538)

PS. Dear SciFi. the idea of mutant screenwriting monkeys is available for a modest sum.

Well, my idea is to combine two Steven Spielberg movies: dinosaurs attacking and killing humans (Jurassic Park) with aliens attacking and killing humans (War of the Worlds). See, there are these dinosaurs who have been hanging out in the Amazon and now they've gotten pissed off about the destruction of the rainforest and they're gonna take over. But just as they go on the rampage, alien robots come down from space, and they want to take over the planet too!

So the dinosaurs and aliens start fighting, but then decide that's pointless. They decide to settle their differences with a contest: a kill-a-thon. Whoever can kill more humans during 24 hrs. of carnage and rampage can rule the entire planet. Dinosaurs plus robots? It's like Spielberg, squared... minus his directing ability of course. There are two running body counts on the screen, one for dinosaurs and one for robots.

Title: "DINOSAURS VS. ROBOTS"

Budget: 2 million.

Plus, I already have a concept for the sequel: it's called "DINOSAURS VS. ROBOTS... VS. ZOMBIES!".

already been done (2, Informative)

MrLint (519792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028606)

Dinosaucers [imdb.com]

I'm sad this crap gets ratings (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028451)

There's no redeeming campiness, just horrible writing with poor production values. A standard Dr. Who at least has some good writing, even when there is no budget for visuals. That alien apocalypse tripe was horrible. What a waste of Campbell. I'm sorry to hear this is working for Sci-Fi. In general, their lineup is shabby. I may soon confess that I'm becoming a Galactica convert, but I hate to see Sci-Fi's otherwise shabby efforts being rewarded with ratings. I guess we will never see Sci-Fi for thinkers when crap gets the flies.

Torture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028461)

I have yet to waste more than 10 minutes of my time on any "SciFi Original" productions - the previews are typically enough to make me shrug it off. I thought the 80's was the B-Movie period in history, but the cr4p that SciFi keeps rolling out makes some of those look like works of art. Why they waste money on such large wastes of time and drop great shows like Farscape because of production costs is beyond me. Everything they put out is a bad joke - I hope they seriously don't expect to make money off them when they print to DVD.

Doesn't Look Cheap Enough (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028473)

If only the SciFi Channel followed the original formula for B movies that made them so great: low budget affects the special effects, and even the acting, but not the quality of the story. 99% of the stuff I see on that channel (as I channelsurf) wears all its small budget on its CG.

Fantastic (4, Funny)

gunner800 (142959) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028543)

We didn't have enough Tremors movies.

Oh Tom Servo... (1)

bytor4232 (304582) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028548)

Too bad MST3K went off the air. Fresh meat.

Work in eastern Europe is cheap (2, Informative)

1ini (629558) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028581)

These guys [worldwidefx.net] make the CG effects for some of the Sci-Fi movies. I bet the end result is much cheaper but at the same time with comparable quality. Outsourcing at its finest.

Oh my... (1)

flajann (658201) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028583)

No wonder the Sci Fi Channel sucks lately.

So much to say (4, Interesting)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028625)

Damn, this one hits so many of my buttons...

First of all, some Brucelore... In Albuquerque, "The Man With the Screaming Brain" showed this weekend, and then is showing again in a couple days, with Bruce being present but those tickets all sold out long ago, so... if you snoozed, you losed. Also, Bruce will be at Page 1 Bookstore autographing his book. Of course, I'm sure he's on a whirlwind tour and visiting other cities, so wherever you are: pay attention and you'll get to meet the man, the myth, the legend.

Second: about B movies. In the last few years I've become aware of some local low-budget filmmakers, and I even got to be a zombie extra a little while back. (Maybe calling these "B" movies is a stretch, as they would go ape at the thought of a budget anywhere near the magnitude of a million dollars.) Of these people's work, one thing I've noticed is this: you can't show this stuff on TV. People, you are not seeing the "cream of the crop" on SciFi channel, because the best cheap movies have sex in them. No, they're not porn, but they're not prude either. (Oh, and they tend to be gorier than what even American TV tolerates.) Now, don't get me wrong: these movies aren't great. But they're better than the SciFi channel stuff, and they'll get some sincere laughs out of you if nothing else. Find your local cult video store if you have one, and start talking to people. Find your local filmmakers, and check out the crazy shit they're doing. SciFi channel's movies will bore you to tears after you do that.

Third, about micro-marketing. I amazes me that TV execs are actually asking questions like, "Who's at home on Saturday night?" That is so twentieth century. I have had my Tivo for nearly five years now! Is routine time-shifting (by "routine," I mean even more effortless than VCRs which have been around for decades) still not commonplace? If not, it's making me wonder if I can make money selling fully configured MythTV boxes or something, because people who watch TV need this technology whether they know it yet, or not. ;-) Timeslots, what an obsolete concept.

Economics and politics (2, Interesting)

marcybots (473417) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028632)

Missouri is in the same bag as bulgaria and romania, two nations hit hardest by the collapse of communism. What is hilarious is that this is a red republican state, as are most of the states with the largest percentage of poor people and lowest incomes....they vote against the welfare and social programs that would help them the most...talk about getting what you deserve for considering abortion and gay marriage more important than harsh economic realities.

Re:Economics and politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028721)

Most of the welfare programs I have seen are designed to keep people dependent on government, not to give them a boost to becoming self sufficient. The people who strongly support these programs want an uneducated poor underclass to be permanent. I used the term uneducated because anyone with any clue could see through the scam. This underclass is then lied to in order to keep the elites in power.

Re:Economics and politics (1)

SpiritGod21 (884402) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028915)

I'm not a Republican, but I feel that's irrelevant in the case of this thread. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that when the makers of B-films are looking for a place to shoot, they are not looking at exit polls and political surveys. They are looking for places with low costs and good scenery. Missouri is beautiful, with a very low cost of living. People make a lot less here, but they also pay a lot less compared to other places in the US. (I've been told that $30,000/year in Missouri is comparable to $250,000/year in New York. Haven't taken the time to verify this, though.) So, you can take a bunch of money made elsewhere (like California) and go to Missouri, or Bulgaria, or Romania, and shoot a film cheaply with good scenery. *shrug*

Re:Economics and politics (0)

chadw17 (308037) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028731)

Hard to believe perhaps, but Missouri has a pretty large and thriving population of those who believe in democracy, and vote democrat when we feel it might help the nation and ourselves. We even watch 'The Daily Show'. :) But there is the 55% or so that unwaveringly vote red here that the voice of the emotionally and politically sane are overwhelmed. Also, quite a few do more than consider abortion; we want to keep our remaining rights and believe they apply to people despite differences in creed, preference, etc.

Re:Economics and politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028801)

.they vote against the welfare and social programs that would help them the most.

Perhaps they don't feel the federal government is spending wisely and figure the state and local governments would do better with their dollars, as the constitution specifies in these nonenumerated powers. Democrats better accept that people with differing opionions can be just as reasoned as they, unless they want to keep handing the Presidency to the religious right for the next couple decades.

What's hilarious is your ingorance (2, Informative)

tazan (652775) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028869)

I just looked up some facts. Percent of people living in poverty: Missouri 10.1 % Now some blue states Oregon 11.7 Washington 11.4 California 12.9 Illinois 11.8 Michigan 10.8 DC 17.3 Rhode Island 10.7 New York 14.2 Hawaii 10.7

Re:What's hilarious is your ingorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028925)

"poverty" is measured by how well you are doing relative to your neighboors. When you're all neck deep in shit it's no surprised the "measured" level of poverty is lower.

Important (2, Insightful)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028659)

This is really important if you want Sci-Fi to stick around. SciFi really is not cost effective. You'd get the same amount of viewers for a reality show for less than a 10th of the cost. If they pull this off we still have chance to see some shows we might actually like rather than more shows about celebs we don't care about.

$21 mil (2, Interesting)

1eyedhive (664431) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028660)

Put that $21 million into the 3 big shows, $7 mil tob each and watch the ratings jump!

Re:$21 mil (1)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028753)

Or better yet put it into one show and make it really good. Farscape and SG1 both cost about that for one season. Not sure about Atlantis, but I'm sure it's similar.

There's No Logic To The Monsters... (2, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028693)

Sci-Fi Channel is turning the monsters-and-oversexed-teens formula into a cliche. I was watching their Saturday lineup (e.g., snakes, bigfoot, sabertooth tigers), it was all the same. If I wanted to see the same crap over and over again, I would watch the Friday The 13th DVDs that have oversexed teens who are better screamers.

Slashdot Editors (4, Funny)

kilocomp (234607) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028697)

They should have just hired the slashdot editors. They have proven before that they are capable of remaking articles for next to nothing.

support the indies! and they profit (2, Insightful)

johnpaul191 (240105) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028750)

they make a better return on the slew of low budget movies. people will watch them. there is that certain acceptance of lo-fi effects and whatever of a low budget movie... where as with Spiderman or something really expensive people always expect more.

it is also way cool because they get to give money to unknown people to create these movies. there is a lot less risk. i think the coolest effect of this is that they will bankroll projects that may never happen otherwise. some of the movies might suck, but that happens anyway. even brilliant filmmakers have to start somewhere. this can be the launch pad to a lot of writers, directors, actors etc etc etc. it keeps more people working on new stuff.

by making 28 films for $21million they realized they are making a far safer bet than making 3 $7million movies. they also are going right on TV and i guess to DVD. they also have the ability to promote them endlessly to their core fans. they will own the broadcast rights forever. it's a brilliant business model.

Ringworld (1)

krell (896769) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028809)

Missouri is mentioned? I'm wondering if this has to do with the forthcoming "Ringworld" SciFi production. The Gateway Arch would make a good ultra-cheapo looks-like-hell "Arch" of the Ringworld sky. Has anyone in St. Louis seen a fat guy running around in a painted-orange "Puss in Boots" halloween costume?

To the NYTimes, Missouri IS Bulgaria (1)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028812)

It's part of that vast flyover territory between New York and LA know alternately as "Red State America" or "Jesusland." The experience of a place where the locals watch NASCAR, go to church, and believe in patriotism, and where you can't find seared ahi tuna or a decent pesto sauce on a Sunday night is so alien to their life experience that it might as well be in another country. After all, some of the people in places like Missouri actually voted for Bush, something that seems unfathomable to many who work at the NYTimes, since none of their friends did...

St. Louis (1)

MacFury (659201) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028850)

My friend is in one of these B SciFi Channel movies. His part should air in about a month or so. He gets shot by Campell. Good times.

SciFi Ruining Horror (1)

zoldaa (244125) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028946)

I've been upset about this for a while. Alot of these movies have little bits of censored profanity in them. It shows they are made for DVD distribution. Why do I care? Because these movies are not only crappy, but they are flooding the market and backed by enough money that we may see the end of GOOD B movies. What company can compete with the flood of crap SciFi puts out, especially when you realize that video stores work with distributors who deal only with certain companies. Wnat some B movies in your store, we already have a fine line available for SciFi...nobody else gets in.

Master Blasters (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028947)

Also coming to SciFi, Junk Yard Wars meets Burt Rutan. "Master Blasters" punches holes in the sky with all kinds of cool junk. Reality TV with "Who broke Mach 1" instead of "Who got voted off".

Crap Sci Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13028964)

Part of the problem is that in addition to doing "Sci Fi on the cheap" is that it is most often "Sci Fi on the crap" as well.

This isn't to insinuate that they don't have some good scifi content that they have created(I like atlantis and farscape)

fuzzy math (2, Funny)

jumbledInTheHead (837677) | more than 9 years ago | (#13028982)

Could someone explain how they can make 28 movies at a cost of $1-2 million a piece for $21 million. They must have some impressive accountants or something.
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