Inside the storm: A set report from Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

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Jul 22, 2015

"Save The Sharks!"
"Not In My Pool! NEVER Again"
"Vote Yes on Prop Shark"
"Oceans would die without Sharks!"
"Fin 4 Pres"

I don't know if I'm pro or against sharknadoes. The actual storm full of sharks, that is, not the movie.

In holding a series of picket signs with the messages above, shouting along with a mob of angry protesters (including these three above, my colleagues and Chris Regina, Syfy's Senior VP Strategy) as a motorcade drives through the streets of Washington, D.C. and Ian Ziering leaps from one car roof to another. 

Welcome to the set of Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, the third entry of the social media phenomenon and pop culture hit. And I visited the eye of the movie's storm -- premiering tonight on Syfy (Blastr's corporate parent - Ed.) at 9 PM -- at Universal Studios Orlando. 

It is a rainy February day, towards the end of the 18-day The Asylum shoot, and a street on the active theme park is standing in for the nation's capital. But not only is Universal Orlando a D.C. set today, it is also, itself, a setting in the movie.

"I think this is an unprecedented kind of thing where an actual amusement park in a disaster movie or action movie is name checked," said director Anthony C. Ferrante. "We are sending sharks into Universal Orlando, and people are getting eaten by sharks; it was really cool to see the park be very open to it in a way I would not be expected to it.

"We said, 'You know people are going to to die in your park?,' And they said, 'Yeah, but if it’s the sharks doing it, it’s OK.'"

Tara Reid and Chris Jericho shoot a scene on the Universal Orlando set

For Instance, in one scene, wrestler Chris Jericho cameos as the roller coaster operator Bruce. As I watched one scene, Tara Reid's April was urgently trying gain access to the ride, and butted heads with Jericho's safety minded character.

As the scene cuts and resets multiple times, Reid repeats the the same line with slightly different delivery to Jericho while Ziering watches on from off camera. Also, a roller coaster full of extras, and at least two celebrities, looks on.

My guess: This coaster is on the fast track to being chomped.

Jericho's Bruce, or his name, is a fun easter egg to Jaws and both Ferrante's and writer Thunder Levin's love of the 1975 movie. In fact, that iconic shark flick has a presence over the Sharknado production. The protest scene on the Washington, D.C. is part of the Amity Island set on the theme park, and near the old Jaws ride (which is now Harry Potter Diagon Alley).

While Jaws is referenced in Sharknado 3, another Universal property, and theme park attraction, plays a more explicit role in the Syfy movie. In a scene involving Ziering, a memorable moment from a popular disaster film is given the shark treatment that audiences should immediately recognize and enjoy.

Back to the big protest scene. One of the impressive aspects I witnessed was the economy of the production. In my scene, I rushed the camera while screaming, before looping around and subsequently being rushed by Ian Ziering in his Fin Shepard persona. Other extras perform similar tasks such as getting into a shoving match or rocking cars. Ziering and stunt performers coordinate for their action shots as Ferrante directs.

This kind of sequence might take all day, or multiple days, on another shoot. Yet the Asylum operation moves quickly. Despite several takes, the scene is wrapped in a short amount of time (maybe a couple hours). The nature of this means there is at times a frantic pace to shooting, and a scenario where one extra might cross through the same scene. 

"The first day of shooting, for a 12-hour day, we moved to eight different locations within the park and shot multiple scenes," said Ferrante. "That was because they know what they’re doing, and made it easy for us."

But what I didn't see on my set were attacking sharks. Those were added later with effects shots, so most of the time -- with one exception -- it was difficult to know when anyone was being eaten or not. I did witness sharks in the creature shop, in various sizes with different wounds. Most species of the fish were on display, including some that point to the end of the film...and beyond.

Still, it was a successful day on the Orlando set of Sharknado 3. And while you'll have to tune to see who lives, dies, gets eaten, or emerges unscathed, keep an eye out for the Orlando scenes, and one angry but confused protester.

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