Had the pleasure of chatting to one Shane Van Dyke earlier this week. Now Shane (oh, and yes, he is related to Bert from “Mary Poppins”!), writes quite a few of the Sci-Fi Channel features, including “Street Racer”, “The Day the Earth Stopped” and the upcoming “Transmorphers : Fall of Man”. He’s also an actor, and besides snagging himself roles in most of the films he writes for Latt and company over at Sci-Fi, he’s been in “Shark Swarm”, TVs “Diagnosis Murder” and a couple of “Murder 101” telemovies. But in this case, we were most interested in talking to Shane about his work for The Asylum, and of course, the sequel-not-directed-by-Michael-Bay (in fact, Scott Wheeler ) “Transmorphers : Fall of Man“.
Ok, letâ€™s get this out of the way first â€“ Dick Van Dyke is your grandfather, right? Did it help having a famous relation when trying to get into the acting biz?
Dick is my grandfather, yes. And, sure, I think it definitely helped. In this business, I think any relation you have that can help you get a foot in the door should be seen as a blessing. Itâ€™s a super competitive industry and, even with my family relations, the road has been far from paved for me. But, my grandfather is a legend and I am very thankful to have worked with him, and have had a blast doing so.
You had a recurring role on â€œDiagnosis Murderâ€ didnâ€™t you?
I did. I had appeared for three consecutive seasons as a guest star on the show. After that, the producers wanted to add a regular, younger character to appeal to a broader demographic. They came to me and I was more than happy to do it. Its not often that an actor gets to work along side his grandfather and father. It was a great learning experience for me and we had a lot of fun together.
And now youâ€™re not only acting, but writing films. You do films for the Sci-Fi affiliated production company, The Asylum. How did that come about?
My brother (and writing partner), Carey and I have been writing screenplays for years, and a large portion of our material is centred in the horror/thriller genres. At the time, The Asylum was producing mainly horror films. We were familiar with their work and we read a piece on them in Rue Morgue magazine. Unbeknownst to each other, we both contacted David Latt at The Asylum and he agreed to meet with us. A few months later, we were hired on contract to write our first movie for them.
Obviously the films for Sci-Fi are made to cash-in on other similarly-themed films â€“ Street Racer being Speed Racer, Transmorphers being Transformers. Are you allowed to use elements from the other films, or do you pretty much just give the thing a similar title and then come up with its own story?
Huhâ€¦that had never occurred to meâ€¦but now that I think about itâ€¦! Okay, just kidding. But, if you look at some Asylum movies, youâ€™ll find that the only element strictly similar to its big budget counterpart is the title. Personally, I try to stay away from as many similarities as I can and come up with my own story.
In the case of Transmorphers 2, how similar is it to a Transformers movie?
First of all, let me say that I am a huge fan of Transformers. I think Michael Bay did a wonderful job with it and Iâ€™m looking forward to the sequel. That being said, the only strong similarities between Transformers and Transmorphers (aside form the slightly similar titles!), is the fact that there are alien robots that have the ability to change shape. Transmorphers: Fall of Man is actually a prequel to the original Asylum movie. So the story that was built actually stemmed for what was established in the first one. When writing it, I tried to put Transformers completely out of my mind and craft a story that could stand on its own.
Do you have to write with a budget in mind? In other words, do you have to make sure not to include â€˜too manyâ€™ large robot fights because you wonâ€™t have $150 million to make the movie with?
Absolutely. Budget is always on my mind. Sometimes Iâ€™ll get fired up and really into the script, and the next thing you know, Iâ€™ve written an action sequence that would rival a James Cameron film. So, I constantly have to pull in the reigns. But, with what Iâ€™m limited to because of budget, I try to make up for with story and character. Iâ€™m a big advocate of the theory that you donâ€™t need a huge budget to make a good film. Plot and character can go a long way.
And you play a role in the film too. Who do you play?
I play a former Marine named Jake Van Ryberg. His time at war has caused him to fall into a downward spiral at home. Heâ€™s all but given up on life when his character is called into question as transmorphing robots show up and start killing people.
Was it a relatively quick shoot?
It was miraculously quick. Given some of the sequences in the script, it was shot in an extremely short period. Youâ€™d be amazed with what these guys can do in short time on a shoestring budget.
The Asylumâ€™s David Latt has a good reputation. What is he like to work with? A rather savvy businessman, I hear?
Heâ€™s an extremely savvy businessman. Given the quantity of movies The Asylum produces, and the speed at which they produce them, helming the wheel can be no easy task. So, I give him and his partners, as well their hardworking crew, all the credit in the world. David and I have had a great relationship from the start, and itâ€™s been a pleasure working for him.
What are you working on now? Think there will be another â€œTransmorphersâ€? Heck, can I suggest â€œTerminators Saliva-Nationâ€?
Stay tuned for Terminators! As far as T3, weâ€™ll have to wait and see. Aside from that, my brother and I are hard at work on our own original material. We recently gained representation with Mad Hatter Entertainment and we are in talks with production companies regarding one of our latest specs. From a writing standpoint, our ultimate goal is to become the go-to guys for horror and thriller films. As far as actingâ€¦weâ€™ll see whatâ€™s next!
TRANSMORPHERS : FALL OF MAN is out in June