SCOTT SIMON, Host:
Ever seen "Snakes on a Train," "The Da Vinci Treasure," "Pirates of Treasure Island"? Maybe? You're not sure? That's the point. The Asylum is a film company that specializes in making films that people may think they've heard about. They're released on DVD usually at about the same time that a major studio is spending tens of millions of dollars to promote films with really famous titles and stars. The nice term of the art is tie-ins, though some people call them mockbusters.
Now, here's a clip from "The Hitchhiker" - about four, wholesome, young women who pick up a hitchhiker that run out of gas on their way to Las Vegas.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HITCHHIKER")
Unidentified Woman (Actor): (As character) Oh, no.
SIMON: That could be Sarah Hall, Jessica Bork and Shaley Scott screaming. David Latt is one of the co-founders of The Asylum, and we're here in their office in Hollywood. Thanks very much for being with us.
DAVID LATT: Oh, thank you, Scott.
SIMON: How does your business work?
LATT: I have no idea.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
LATT: We're always busy. The company has to make a movie every three to four weeks. So...
SIMON: Boy, that's quick.
LATT: We have to do that because we're a cash flow company. So basically, what that means is, is that we don't make money until the film is released and it's on the shelf and, you know, that money then - that income goes to make another film. And because it's self-sustaining, we have to keep our output very high.
SIMON: Well, explain to me, for example, the famous Mr. Spielberg, I believe, is making the final sequel - or maybe not final - Indiana Jones. So do you make a film called "Pennsylvania Smith" or something or what?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
LATT: Well, in this particular case, "Indiana Jones" is kind of loosely based on an Allan Quatermain novel...
LATT: ...written a hundred years ago. We're doing "King Solomon's Mines"; we're not doing such a direct tie-in. But, you know, I guess, ultimately, what's going to happen is that people are going to be in the mood for adventure and action, and this film seems to tie-in very well. We're actually putting the most amount of effort into this movie that we're doing.
SIMON: When I first read about your company, I was reminded of, for some reason, all of the talented people who had gotten their start making low-budget horror films with Roger Corman. And I wonder, do you see yourself as a place where - all jokes aside - talented young people can come, get their hands on filmmaking equipment, and learn the nuts and bolts?
LATT: Absolutely. It's a great place to get your start because these kids are here 24/7, you know, pursuing a dream. The person who just directed our last film was our P.A. eight months ago. We hire from within, we support them on what they're doing, and we give them a real pretty intense education of filmmaking.
SIMON: Any of your films ever been nominated for an Academy Award?
LATT: Several - no, wait. No, none, but they've won a lot of awards, you know, in genre festivals.
SIMON: Aren't there what some people might characterize as - do I hear a man throwing up outside or is it...
LATT: It's possible.
SIMON: Okay. I just thought I'd ask.
LATT: Yeah. A lot of things happen here.
SIMON: Are there what some people might characterize as guilty little pleasures to be enjoyed in your movies?
LATT: I don't know how to answer that.
SIMON: I saw a scene in "The Hitchhiker" before we came over to meet with you which involved, I think, putting needles in eyelids.
LATT: You know, here's the thing, when it comes to low budget, there's models that you kind of follow. If you make a horror film, you better make a horror film because you're not necessarily competing with the PG-13 horror films that are going out there. You're going after the market that really wants a horror film. Just like sci-fi, you better put sci-fi in there because you can't compete with the big epic, you know, $100 - $200 million dollar movies. You want to at least satisfy the core audience that's going to appreciate what you're doing there.
SIMON: Mr. Latt, you volunteered that you're in your 40s.
SIMON: Well, by the time you reach your 60s, do you want to make at least one film that's really classy just to show you can?
LATT: I - you know...
SIMON: I'm not saying the other stuff doesn't have potential(ph).
LATT: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I know what you're saying, and it's - when I was in college, I certainly had an idea of the future of what I wanted it to be. And at the time, I was actually dating Larry Cohen's daughter, who is a very famous B-movie filmmaker, and I said, wow, I just don't want to be the guy making B-movies when I'm, you know, his age and doing - that I want to make the important films or whatnot. Now, I look back at 40 and seeing where I'm at, and it's so great. If I never get to the Academy Awards, that's okay because it's not the goal. The goal is to - for me, it's to make the movies and have fun, and I'm doing that.
SIMON: Mr. Latt, so nice talking to you.
LATT: Very nice talking to you.
SIMON: David Latt is one of the co-founders of The Asylum.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE CLIP)
Woman (Actor): (As character) Amanda. Amanda.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR CLOSING)
Woman (Actor): (As character) Amanda.
SIMON: You can see clips from The Asylum films "Snakes on a Train" and "I am Omega" at npr.org.