I would kill a man to write for The Asylum. That’s not hyperbole: I would straight stab a guy, in cold blood, with a shank carved from the back end of a toothbrush, if doing so would get me in an elevator for thirty seconds with an Asylum executive.
For those of you who don’t know what the Asylum is, this article from the Pacific Standard ought to help paint a picture. Basically: they’re “the guys who made Sharknado” — and just about any other schlocky Hollywood mockbuster, Syfy Original creature-feature, or straight-to-redbox slasher flick you’ve ever scoffed at while looking for something to watch. These guys are a nuclear-powered super-mill of low-rent knockoffs, and they know it, and they embrace it, and goddammit, I want to be a part of it!
From the Pacific Standard article:
The films themselves tend to play it straight, even when they’re patently absurd. “I wish we could be more self-aware when we’re making these movies, but it’s, like, a rule,” says Jeffery Lando, another ultra-low-budget filmmaker, who directs movies for the Syfy network.
Lando follows a strict formula for its movies of the week: an eight-act plot structure, laced with kills every seven minutes, plus a plot recap disguised as dialogue an hour into the feature to brief viewers who are just tuning in. “But the main rule is: You don’t go for the funny,” Lando says. “You’re not supposed to make fun of the movie.”
The sheen of seriousness is another trick for maximizing the film’s reach. In Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp,’” she drew an aesthetic line between “naïve and deliberate” camp films. “Pure Camp is always naïve,” she wrote. “Camp which knows itself to be Camp (‘camping’) is usually less satisfying.”
Taking the naive route allows low-budget films to appeal to both informed genre-movie nerds who get laughs out of feeling superior to the film, and unsuspecting mainstream viewers who are right at the film’s level […] and then there are those viewers who are dumb enough to watch the movie, but smart enough to be offended. Ward describes a typical Asylum critique: “I hope everyone involved in this production dies and their families die.”
“It’s a parody of the studio system,” [David Michael Latt, co-founder of the Asylum] says. “We’re making fun of the commerce side of this. “You made your movie for $200 million? I’ll make it for 20 bucks.” ”
I mean come ON! How can you not fall in love with that? I sure did.
So imagine my delight when, this time last year, I logged on the Asylum’s website and saw that (gasp!) they had a section where they would accept unsolicited submissions from writers! I made it my mission to submit one pitch every day, until they either hired me, or personally contacted me and asked me to stop.
But there was a catch. They only wanted pitches in two categories: “martial arts” and “latino action”.
Well I’ve never written a martial arts movie before, and I’m as white as the driven snow, but why should that stop me? I cracked my knuckles and got down to business. I tapped the well and accessed a black, ugly part of my creative powers–the Dark Side of screenwriting –and every day, I sent one pitch for a movie so bland, so schlocky, so offensively bad, that after only ten days The Asylum closed that part of their website and stopped accepting submissions. And while I can’t prove that my pitches were solely responsible for that, to this day it tickles my ego to know that yes, they almost certainly were.
So without further ado, here are Ten Pitches So Bad The Asylum Rejected Them.